Story of the Day:
Doubts raised over business rates review: Doubts have been raised about how helpful the government’s review of business rates will be given its “terms of reference” which make it clear it will be “fiscally neutral”, meaning the amount the Treasury generates from the tax will stay the same. The review comes as figures from PwC show the decline in town centre shops accelerated three-fold last year, with 987 net closures compared to 371 the year before. Overall closures of 5,839 were equivalent to 16 a day, with an increase in business rates said to be a key factor in shops shutting. The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has called for the review to introduce a more flexible system that does not penalise success. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We are pleased to see the government taking this review forward as a matter of priority ahead of the General Election and committing to a strict timetable to implement long overdue change. The current system of rates is no longer fit for purpose. It has gone from being a tax on business to a tax on property occupation and it therefore places disproportionate burdens on high street casual dining, pubs and small businesses in particular. The ALMR has repeatedly called for a root and branch reform of a business rates system that currently sees pubs and bars paying 15p per pint in rates compared to about 1p per pint in supermarkets. The UK’s high streets are more highly taxed than any other property market in Europe and this is clearly stifling investment. Currently, the calculation of rental values is not responsive enough to provide up-to-date information. We need a much more flexible system with more frequent revaluations, which is linked to annualised CPI and which has safeguards built in so as not to penalise success or over-performing operators.” However, Jerry Schurder, head of business rates at property agent Gerald Eve, told The Daily Telegraph: “Given this review was first announced more than three months ago in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, hard-pressed firms are well within their rights to ask the Treasury what has taken it so long, especially since all the government is doing is asking more questions rather than offering solutions? The timing of this announcement appears to be little more than a cynical attempt to appear to be tackling a vital issue in the run-up to the election, without having to do anything at all to actually address a tax that is crippling businesses throughout the country. The government is hell bent on protecting the revenue generated by business rates and is again kicking the critical issues into the long grass, showing no real desire for systemic reform.”
More than 80 companies sign up for Propel Social Media Masterclass:
More than 80 sector companies have now signed up for the Propel Social Media Masterclass being held in partnership with Digital Blonde’s Karen Fewell. Attendees include: Spirit Pub Company, Cabana, Everards, Stable Bar and Pizza, Pub People Company, Charles Wells, Bill’s Restaurants, JD Wetherspoon, Admiral Taverns, Amber Taverns, Young’s, Camerons, Ignite Group, Hall & Woodhouse, Loungers, Enterprise Inns, Frog Pubs, Daniel Thwaites, Batemans, Luminar, Burning Night Group, TCG Management Services, Chilled Pubs, Flying Pig & Lobster, Hickory’s Smokehouse, Good Life Diner, Anglian Country Inns, Yummy Pubs, Trust Inns, PubLove, Oakman Inns and Restaurants and Bulldog Hotel Group
. The Social Media Masterclass provides a comprehensive overview of how to make the best use of social media (CLICK HERE
to see the programme). Tickets are £295 for ALMR members and £345 for non-members. Email email@example.com
Technomic – there’s been a 25% increase in small plate menu items in a year: Customers are seeking more flavourful, dynamic options in their dining selections, and UK operators have taken note, leveraging the small-plate trend as a way to showcase a range of flavours and cuisines in a small, approachable package. The trend has led to a 25% increase in small plate items in a year, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor. “Operators have a tremendous opportunity to gain share of stomach by offering small-plate options,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. “Restaurants can be creative with their menus, trying new ingredients and flavours with small plates as a way to introduce new items. Not only that, but it can create a more intimate experience where customers see dining out as more of an event than a meal.”
CAMRA names UK’s best men’s club: CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has announced the winner of its National Club of the Year Competition as Wortley Men’s Club, South Yorkshire, which beat off competition from over 28,000 clubs nationwide. Competition organiser John Holland said: “Wortley Men’s Club is hugely deserving of this prestigious CAMRA award. Not only is it a beautiful period building, but the steward’s commitment to quality real ale and the welcome you receive really is second to none.”
University gives honorary awards to industry figures: Leading figures from the hospitality and tourism industries have received honorary awards from the London School of Hospitality and Tourism, part of the University of West London (UWL). An annual event, this year’s awards took place at the Park Plaza Riverbank London hotel. Recognised for their outstanding contributions to their respective professions, honourees included restaurateur Iqbal Wahhab, Robyn Jones OBE, co-founder and chief executive of CH&Co catering company, Roland Fasel, regional director UK and general manager, The Dorchester and Professor Peter Jones MBE, owner of Wentworth Jones Limited.
Restaurateur Rich Melman opens ‘School for Entrepreneurs’ site: Renowned restaurateur Rich Melman, who founded the hugely influential restaurant company Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, has opened a culinary “school for entrepreneurs” called Intro on the site of his former L2O restaurant in Chicago. The restaurant will feature a new chef every two to three months. The goal, Melman said, is to find talented chefs who are about to strike out on their own and give them the chance to work with a dream team of restaurant mentors – Melman and other Lettuce partners. In addition to being full financial partners in their brief Intro forays, chefs will receive free consulting from Lettuce senior partners going forward. “That’s invaluable,” Melman said. “They’ll always be able to call when crises occur.” Melman picked the name Intro because, he said, the project is all about introductions. He added: “We’re introducing Chicago to new talent they haven’t seen, introducing the chefs to running restaurants through my eyes, introducing the staff to people they might want to work with. And I’m always meeting people who want to invest – this may be where chefs and investors meet. And I bet, in the first year, there will be one chef that we’ll want to partner with. I think everybody wins – I do. If Intro doesn’t make money, but works aesthetically and the kids get something out of it, I’ll be very pleased. And if we make it work and they can make a profit, then it really becomes a lot of fun.” Meanwhile, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises is set to open Nishiguchi, an intimate sushi restaurant. Nishiguchi will be built into a former private dining room next to Intro restaurant, with a scheduled spring debut. The restaurant will have only 40 to 45 seats.
Jamie Oliver website hit by virus for second time: Jamie Oliver’s website has been found to be harbouring malicious software for a second time. Two security companies have independently found evidence that hackers put malicious code on the site. Anyone visiting using a vulnerable browser risks losing login names, passwords and other data, said the security firms. A spokesman for Jamie Oliver confirmed the site had been hit and said it had now cleaned it up. “We have taken measures to clear the offending code and the site is now safe to visit,” said the spokesman. “We are now running a forensic audit to find out more information.” The site first fell victim to hackers in mid-February and that breach was quickly cleaned up. However, said Maarten van Dantzig from Fox-IT, cyber-thieves have returned to the site and planted the virus in the main part of the page. The Jamie Oliver website is visited by about ten million people per month.
Paul Flatters – tapping into millennials is the challenge: Tapping into the millennial generation poses a “real growth opportunity” for many in the food service industry but operators may need to adapt their offer in order to appeal to a group of consumers “who only know a world with the internet”, Trajectory Partnership managing director Paul Flatters has stated. Millennials are not drinking as much as other generations and “they don’t like pubs in the same way,” he told delegates at Propel Multi Club Conference. “If you want millennials in your premises you need to be digital,” he said. “If you don’t have a digital strategy, you don’t have a strategy,” he said. “Millennials follow the ‘SO/LO/MO’ social model (social/ local/ mobile) so they favour spontaneous hook-ups, driven by technology.” Another area of change is the speed by which consumers want products and information. “The same outlet may soon need to be fast and slow at the same time, or at different parts of the day,” he said.
Tessa Jowell – Londoners should receive a £1 boost to the minimum wage: Struggling Londoners should get an extra £1 an hour under a new minimum wage, Tessa Jowell has argued in the London Evening Standard. The Labour MP, who hopes to be mayor, called for a higher statutory rate in the capital of around £7.50 an hour. She said she wants workers to eventually receive the Living Wage, which is voluntary for firms, of £9.15 an hour. Around 110,000 Londoners are paid at or below the minimum wage. She said: “One in five of the people you see are travelling home from a job that doesn’t pay them enough to get by. That’s a scandal.” Londoners on the minimum wage of £6.50 make £12,650 a year before tax. A rise of around £1 an hour would boost this to £14,625.
BB’s Coffee & Muffins chain eyes 40 new UK and Ireland outlets after sale: Businessman Denis O’Brien has sold the BB’s Coffee & Muffins chain to a group of investors for circa €10 million. The chain, which operates around operates circa 50 cafe outlets in the UK and Ireland, has been bought by a consortium of investors assembled by Brentwood Investments, the financial company founded by healthcare technology investor David Raethorne. The new group of investors in BB’s includes the chain’s management, as well as several private investors such as Emmet O’Neill, a nephew of Mr O’Brien who is also chief executive of fuel retailer Topaz. Debt financing for the deal was provided by BlueBay Ireland, an investor established in 2013 by BlueBay Asset Management with cash from the State-owned Ireland Strategic Investment Fund. A statement issued on behalf of BlueBay and Brentwood said BB’s has also raised capital from its backers to fund a further 40 new outlets in Ireland and the UK. The brand is currently contacting property landlords who may have suitable premises for the expansion. Brentwood said it is seeking to acquire “similar Irish companies with strong growth prospects as well as UK companies with the potential for growth in Ireland”. Brentwood executive Matt Scaife said: “We are delighted to back a strong, branded consumer business with a differentiated consumer proposition. BB’s has good growth prospects in the UK and Ireland.”
Company and Markets Authority sets deadline for comments on Greene King acquisition of Spirit Pub Company:
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has set a deadline for comments on the proposed acquisition by Greene King of Spirit Pub Company. The CMA is considering whether this transaction will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and, if so, whether that may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition. The CMA has invited comments on the transaction that should be sent to case officer Neda Moussavi (0203 738 6928; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
) by 25 March.
McDonald’s tipped to start serving super-food kale: McDonald’s is tipped to start serving kale – two months after it released an advertisement pledging it never would. Janney Capital Markets restaurant analysts wrote that ‘one of our industry sources indicates that McDonald’s US plans to roll out kale as an ingredient in its restaurants at some point in the not-too-distant future.’ Janney analyst Mark Kalinowski told CNN the move could mean kale salads and even smoothies may be on the horizon and said the company’s goal is to appear healthier and of a higher quality. “McDonald’s clearly aims to raise consumers’ perception of the quality of its food. Adding kale to the menu in some way could help be a step in this direction,’ he wrote. Six weeks ago, McDonald’s debuted a commercial in which the words ‘Will Never Be Kale” appeared in block letters over the signature burger’s lettuce layer.
Turtle Bay lines up Laura Ashley site: Turtle Bay is lining up an opening at the Laura Ashley site in York city centre. Laura Ashley’s shop on Davygate will close within two months, leaving the company with only an out-of-town presence in York, at Monks Cross. The company has confirmed that its landlord’s decision to convert the property into a restaurant means it is losing its city centre location. A company spokesman said: “It is with regret that the Laura Ashley city centre store in York will close by May 2015 as we have been notified that one of our landlords has obtained permission to convert the store into a restaurant.” A licensing application, made by Caribbean restaurant chain Turtle Bay, was approved in last December.
Tokyo Industries lines up Bradford opening: Tokyo Industries in lining up an opening for BrewHaus and Beer Keller in Bradford. The company plans to convert a vacant unit, formerly Varsity and then Envy and Sky Bar, to include a roof terrace garden with seating for 60 people, two new doors, the blocking up of three windows and a lighting scheme. The site will be next to the Alhambra Theatre and in the same complex as JD Wetherspoon, Flares and a Tokyo nightclub.
Whitbread ends 60-year audit relationship with Ernst & Young: Whitbread has ended its 60-year relationship with auditor Ernst & Young, (EY) with Deloitte taking its place. Following the completion of the audit of Whitbread’s accounts to 26 February 2015, Deloitte became company auditor. Ernst & Young was paid £600,000 for its audit and non-audit work in Whitbread’s last financial year. Whitbread said it had “taken account of the latest governance best practice” in putting the audit out to tender. EY had last won the audit when a tender took place in the financial year 2010/11. Regulation recommends audit tenders taking place at least every ten years, and Whitbread flagged up in its April 2014 annual report that it would put the tender out within the next six years. Simon Melliss, chairman of Whitbread’s audit committee, said: “We thank Ernst & Young for their significant contribution over many years as Whitbread’s auditor and we look forward to working with Deloitte LLP in the future.”
Burger King is cutting soft drink from children’s meals: Burger King is cutting soft drinks from its children’s meals. Following in the footsteps of rival McDonald’s, Burger King said all its children’s meals would come with either apple juice, fat-free milk or low-fat chocolate milk. “We have removed fountain drinks from our kids’ menu boards and they are no longer merchandised as part of kids’ meals,” the company said in a statement. Burger King serves some 11 million people a day in 13,000 restaurants and outlets around the world.
Noble Inns lines up fifth opening: Gastro-pub operator Noble Inns is to open its second Smokehouse restaurant, located in Chiswick, on 6 April. Smokehouse Chiswick will be located on Sutton Lane North. “We are thrilled to be opening Smokehouse in Chiswick, bringing our robust, and gutsy barbecue cooking to the neighbourhood. As soon as we saw the space, we fell in love with it, and were excited to breathe new life into this lovely old pub,” said executive chef Neil Rankin. The venue will also feature a dedicated whisky room. Noble Inns also runs Smokehouse in Islington, the Pig & Butcher, also in Islington, the Princess of Shoreditch and Bad Egg in Moorgate.
Barburrito expands into Wales as it plan to double estate: Mexican restaurant group Barburrito is set to join the restaurant line up at St David’s in Cardiff. This is the group’s first venture in Wales and plans are underway to offer a new and expanded menu when it opens its doors later this month. Morgan Davies, chief executive of Barburrito, said: “We will be launching our 34 cover restaurant at St David’s in Cardiff with a new and expanded menu, which is being tested at some of our existing sites. As the UK’s first burrito bar chain, we continue to invest in staying ahead of the competition and, in Cardiff, we are excited to be launching our new brand and interior designs. St David’s is a fantastic shopping destination and we are delighted to be opening here.” Jim Bishop, newly appointed head of property at Barburrito, added: “This is the first of many new restaurants as we expand throughout the UK with the aim to double our estate over the next couple of years.” Julian Wilkinson, regional director at Intu, said: “Barburrito is a brand that we feel our customers will love and we are delighted that they are to be part of our expanded leisure offer. Wahaca opened its first restaurant outside the south east at St David’s last year and is trading exceptionally well.”
Antic to open Harlesden site next month: Antic London, operator of 35 London pubs led by Antony Thomas and backed by Downing, is to open a site in Harlesden, the Harlesden Picture Palace in Manor Park Road. The site, a former cinema dating back to 1912, was formerly known as the Misty Moon before it closed last year. The venue has been given a refurbishment that includes an interior with an eclectic mix of restored original features, vintage wallpapers, cozy banquette furnishings, film memorabilia and quirky trinkets. The pub will offer an informal soft lounge at the front, main bar at its heart and private dining room towards the rear.
JD Wetherspoon Cambridge pub set to close “for a long while” after fire: A JD Wetherspoon pub on Cambridge’s Chesterton Road, The Tivoli, is set to shut “for a long while” after a fire. A company spokesman told the Cambridge News that the fire appears to have been a gas fire that started in the kitchen, which is at the rear of the property. He added: “The top floor and roof are the worst affected areas, but the roof has burnt through and the fire brigade are stating it is currently unsafe. The ground floor and lower floor have suffered smoke damage, but otherwise remain untouched. We have been advised the pub will need a structural survey before entering. As soon as the fire is out we will get the front doors secured and set about redistributing the staff. The pub is likely to be closed for a long while – there’s a lot of damage.”
Ed’s Easy Diner launches gluten-free menu: Ed’s Easy Diner has launched a separate gluten-free menu and become the first burger chain in the UK to be accredited by Coeliac UK, the national charity for people with coeliac disease. The gluten-free menu is now available across all the company’s 35 Diners, offering approximately 85% of the same dishes as on the regular menu. Ed’s will serve the menu from breakfast to dinner, with gluten-free buns for burgers and hot dogs, both served with the option of fries as well as a selection of malt-free milkshakes and three gluten-free desserts. Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK, said: “We know eating out safely is a top concern for people with coeliac disease, who must follow a strict gluten-free diet for life. We are working with the catering industry to help them deliver good quality menu choices for people with coeliac disease and we are delighted Ed’s Easy Diner is recognising the importance of catering for this market by gaining accreditation from Coeliac UK and offering a separate gluten-free menu.” Andrew Guy, chief executive of Ed’s Easy Diner, added: “We’re proud to offer an industry benchmark for gluten-free dining. As one of the UK’s fastest-growing restaurant chains, it’s important to us to keep our diners’ needs in mind and work to provide as many options for our customers with specific dietary requirements as we can.”
Fuller’s re-opens landmark Guildford pub after refurbishment: Fuller’s re-opened the landmark pub The White House in High Street, Guildford, yesterday after a refurbishment. The pub now has a new conservatory and a newly-renovated upstairs function room provide further space for dining or for private hire. The menu has an extensive burger and hot dog range plus includes sharing plates and seasonal dishes. It also has its own coffee station. Fred Turner, operations manager, said: “The White House is a great pub and this refurbishment has allowed us to make the most of its exciting features. With the fantastic location overlooking the River Wey, means there is no better place to relax by the river.”
Ground Espresso seeks to help community where it buys coffee beans: Coffee chain Ground Espresso is raising funds to build an IT centre to help the Honduran community that provides its beans. The Northern Ireland firm, which has 14 stores, wants to improve living conditions in the area where it buys its coffee. Three-quarters of the population in the Capucas area of Honduras is illiterate and the Honduras Project will provide up to 12 computers, two teachers and the unit to house the initiative. Darren Gardiner, Ground co-founder, said the community had told them investment was needed in education. “The co-operative is focused on programmes which support the community. One of those things is education, making children literate, and going to good schools.”
Caffe Nero update Middle East sites: Caffe Nero has evolved its outlets in the Dubai Mall and Dubai Marina Mall to update them. Caffe Nero division manager Francis Skeat said to Hotelier Middle East: “The store has successfully completed five years and it was time to bring on a new look and feel. Picking up on the new concepts launched in London, we re-designed and enhanced the furniture, flooring and food display, ultimately reinforcing the coffee house experience. We basically built a new store from the scratch. The location of the outlet in Dubai Marina Mall has been moved and we created a brand new Caffe Nero space within the mall’s environment. We faced interesting challenges, but came up with creative solution to those, including height restrictions that led us to create a digital touch screen menu, instead of menu boards, which would hang traditionally over the back of the bar.”
Greggs in NHS hospital is company’s second busiest: A Greggs bakery based in a NHS hospital is the company’s second busiest outlet in Britain, it has been claimed. The counter at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton is often so busy that ropes have to be used to separate queues of hungry customers that can reach 20 people deep. David Loughton, chief executive of Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals, said he had heard on good authority that the bakery at the hospital was the chain’s second busiest. Loughton told The Daily Star Sunday: “There is a cafe in site that sells all healthy food but it gets nowhere near the footfall that Greggs gets. You can understand the appeal. It is relatively cheap.” Greggs declined to comment on the claim.
Businessmen plan £500,000 investment in former Bramwell Pub Company site: Businessmen Scott Randall and Andrew Zacharia have submitted plans to Redbridge Council to renovate the The Traveller’s Friend, in High Road, Woodford Green, a former Bramwell Pub Company site they acquired in 2013 when the company went into administration. Plans include building a single storey modern-day restaurant to the rear of the pub that will serve traditional British food and renovating a former function room on the first floor. If granted, it will be the first time in 20 years the pub has served hot food and had an open function room. The main bar will be re-designed and extended and a complete new staircase built to access the first and second floor.
Douglas Jack – more discounting equals more downgrades: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has downgraded his forecasts for JD Wetherspoon after last Friday’s half-year results. He stated: “H1 PBT fell 2% to £37.5m (we forecast £38.4m), with the benefit of a 4.5% increase in like-for-like sales being outweighed by a 75bps decline in Ebit margins (to 7.3%), resulting in average Ebit per pub falling 5%. These trends appear to have deteriorated further in H2, with like-for-like sales up 1.6% over the last six weeks. We are downgrading our forecasts by a further 5% (on top of January’s 4% downgrade) and our target price to 800p, from 850p. Like-for-like sales growth should have been mostly volume-driven as JDW’s average drinks prices rose by only 1% according to CGA. Such a price increase would be insufficient to cover cost inflation. Ebit margins fell 75bps in H1, to 7.4%, even though the depreciation charge rate fell by 14bps (Ebitda margins fell 89bps). In Q2, Ebit margins fell 100bps to 6.9%, reflecting the fact that the company did fully pass on higher increases in labour, utility and supplier costs. Margins are likely to continue falling. JDW is going to introduce more competitive prices from 18 March for: Lavazza coffee, with free refills between 8am and 2pm daily; breakfasts; and for both Magners Cider (568ml) and Punk IPA (330ml). The aim to triple coffee and breakfast sales over the next 18 months is expected to result in another step-up in labour costs. Although only 12 new pubs opened in H1, JDW expects to meet its revised target of 30 new openings (down from 30-40) over the full year. We are cutting our 2015E forecast by a further 5% (PBT from £81.2m to £77.5m; consensus £79.1m), which assumes like-for-like sales rise by 3.5%, Ebit margins fall 100bps and that 30 new pubs open. We expect margins to continue falling in 2016E, but our assumption of a 10bps decline may be too optimistic. JD Wetherspoon’s average historic EV/Ebitda rating is 7.6x over the last 12 years, during which average Ebit/pub has increased by just 2% in total. In comparison, the EV/Ebitda rating is now 8.8x and average Ebit/pub fell by 5% in H1 alone.”
Freehold restaurant in Bristol has price slashed: The freehold price of the Juniper restaurant in Bristol, for sale through agent Christie + Co, has had its price reduced to £270,000 from the previous £295,000. Having first opened 14 years ago, head chef and owner Nick Kleiner has developed a strong reputation within the Bristol community for his ever-changing menu of eclectic dishes using fresh, and where possible, locally sourced ingredients. Juniper is based in the Cotham and Kingsdown area of Bristol. With Kleiner keen to pursue other projects, the property has been reduced to £270,000 in order to generate a quick sale.
Smoke Stack eyes second site in Bedford: Smoke Stack, the BBQ Grill and Steakhouse brand, will be opening its second site, this time located in Bedford. Smoke Stack debuted its first venue in Stony Stratford in Milton Keynes last year. A post on its Facebook page read: “This is subject to the deal completing but it has been done in principle and we hope to be open within 6-eight weeks’ time!” The location of the new site has not been revealed.
Butcombe Brewery strengthens management team: Butcombe Brewery, acquired by Liberation Brewery at the start of this year, has unveiled changes to its senior team as the company continues to develop a national presence for its ales and ciders. Martin Holland has become national sales director, with responsibility for all multiple business across both the on and off trade. Over the last four years Holland has focused on building Butcombe’s bottled business with supermarkets and wholesalers. Martin Love remains as sales director for all Butcombe’s free trade business, and will spearhead the imminent move into full composite wholesaling. Steve Phillips re-joins the company to work alongside Martin Holland as national account manager. Phillips previously spent eight years at Butcombe helping to build business through pubs across the West Country, before a short spell with Heineken. Guy Newell, managing director of Butcombe Brewery said: “Martin and Steve are both extremely knowledgeable about our business, and the regional and wider national markets. Their combined experience will be significant in helping us achieve our ambition to become the major regional brewer in the West Country, with a national presence.”