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Thu 16th Apr 2015 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Easter delivers 5.1% sales boost for restaurant and pub groups: Collective like-for-like sales for managed pub and restaurant groups over Easter were up 5.1% on Easter 2014, Coffer Peach Business Tracker figures have revealed. However, the strong Easter performance followed a weaker March, when trading was marginally down on last year. Like-for-like sales in March at the 30 companies in the tracker sample were down an average 0.3% on the same month last year, ending a run of 23 consecutive months of positive like-for-like growth for the sector. 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: “The particularly strong Easter showing right at the start of April will have helped overcome any disappointment among operators with the essentially flat performance in March, with restaurant chains having the most to feel happy about.” Casual dining brands collectively enjoyed a 7.6% like-for-like sales increase against Easter last year, with managed pub groups up 4%. The Coffer Peach figures compared trading over the four days of 3 to 6 April this year with the 2014 holiday weekend of 18 to 21 April. Martin said: “Since Christmas, sales growth has been slow but steady, so the Easter figures will be particularly welcome, and it may be that the more disappointing March numbers are down to people waiting for Easter to go out in force to eat and drink. So far this year, restaurant groups have in general been out-performing pubs. In March they still saw like-for-likes edge up 0.7%, while pubs were down 0.7%, with pub restaurants particularly having a tougher time. This may in part be down to the investment cycle with the effect of much of the spending on pub revamps in recent years now beginning to wear off, while casual dining chains are now more active in rolling-out and reinvigorating their brands." Total sales, reflecting new openings, across the Tracker cohort were up 3.7%, with casual dining groups up 6.6% in line with their increased roll-out activity. Collective like-for-like sales for the full 12 months to the end of March were up 2.0% on the previous year. Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “Eating and drinking out is benefiting from very-long term growth. We have seen an evolution of the market with many structural changes, particularly with the continued re-positioning of many pubs. During March we saw a small decline in like-for-likes. However, this was compensated by strong Easter trading, both of which showing the influence the weather has on our sector. The long term trend remains very strong.” Jarrod Castle, leisure analyst at UBS Investment Research, said: “The 12-month moving average for like-for-like sales inside the M25 is now 2.5% up, while outside it is 1.6%. However, London and the UK regions have recently seen more similar levels of like-for-like performance.”

Industry News:

US restaurant sales beat £150bn in a quarter for the first time: The restaurant sector in the United States broke the $150bn quarterly sales barrier for the first time in the first quarter of 2015, Nation’s Restaurant News has reported. Preliminary figures from the US Census Bureau show eating and drinking place sales totalled $50.4bn on a seasonally-adjusted basis in March, up 0.7% from February's $50.0bn. The March increase came after two consecutive months in which sales remained essentially flat, which was due in part to the impact of winter storms in some parts of the country. Overall, eating and drinking place sales totalled $150.4bn in the first quarter on a seasonally-adjusted basis, up $2bn from the fourth quarter's sales volume of $148.4bn.
 
Crowdcube reports 31,000 new investors join platform in first quarter of 2015
: The crowdfunding platform Crowdcube has reported that 31,000 new investors joined its investment community in the first quarter of 2015 taking the total to 158,000. According to estimates used by the UK’s financial regulator, FCA, equity crowdfunding was worth around £84m in 2014, up from £28m in 2013. Luke Lang, co-founder of Crowdcube said: “We’ve had a very busy and very successful first quarter, with over 15,000 individual investments made from our investors. As well as a record amount invested through the site, we’ve attracted more than 31,000 new investors to our investor community, which now stands at over 158,000 people, and raised £17.5m for British businesses. We’re extremely optimistic that 2015 will be our best year yet, as we see crowdfunding become an increasingly popular options for investors and businesses alike.”

Cheese sandwich most popular lunch choice: The cheese sandwich is the most popular workday lunch in Britain, research has revealed. A study into the lunchtime eating habits of 2,000 office workers found three in ten tuck into the same thing for lunch each work day. The results showed 32% eat an identical lunch every day and have done so for more than four and a half years on average. The study, which was commissioned by Lurpak, found 12.30pm is the most common time for people to start their lunch break. Although half of those polled felt fed up or bored by their lunch choices. The biggest reasons to stick to the same lunch each day were "it’s convenient" and "it’s my routine". Thryth Jarvis, senior brand manager at Arla Foods which makes Lurpak, said: “Lunchtime should be something we look forward to, yet this research shows that the traditional lunch hour may be a thing of the past with Britons taking just 35 minutes on average for their break." The top ten lunch choices are: 1 cheese sandwich; 2 ham sandwich; 3 chicken sandwich; 4 salad; 5 other sandwich; 6 tomato soup; 7 pasta; 8 vegetable soup; 9 wrap; 10 microwaveable meal.
 
Personal injury lawyers probe Toby Carvery norovirus incident: Personal injury lawyers have got involved a suspected norovirus outbreak at a Toby Carvery pub and restaurant in Exeter. A hundred customers and staff fell ill at the Toby Carvery and hotel in Middlemoor in the run-up to Easter. The personal injury firm Irwin Mitchell said it has been approached by ten people. The restaurant, which had temporarily reopened on Friday, is currently closed. An Irwin Mitchell lawyer, Amandeep Dhillon, said: “We have now heard first-hand accounts of the issues which people have faced after falling ill following visits to this pub and are now making our own enquiries to learn more about these problems. Through our work, we have seen numerous cases in which people have been forced to take time off work or faced further disruption in their lives as a result of illness outbreaks, as well as how such issues can leave victims with long-term health complaints.”

Burger King franchisee looks to expand delivery trial after success in Hull: The  Burger King franchisee CPL Foods is looking to expand its home delivery service after a success in Hull. The Burger King restaurant in the St Stephen's Shopping Centre in Hull was one of only eight locations nationwide chosen to take part in the three-month trial in February. CPL Foods, which also manages a second branch in Prospect Shopping Centre, is now hopeful the service will be expanded throughout the city and possibly into the East Riding of Yorkshire. The service was so popular with Hull residents that the firm was forced to recruit more drivers after only a week. Reshad Heetun, operations manager at CPL Foods, said the group has trialled the home delivery service at another of its franchise sites, in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, where it has also proved popular. "When Burger King announced plans to trial home delivery, we jumped at the chance to trial this in Hull," Heetun said. "There is a great community feel in the city and we wanted to provide more to our customers." The home delivery trial currently only delivers to a limited area but CPL says its popularity with customers means it will likely expand to other parts of the city later this year. Heetun said: "It has been successful to date and we hope to see this part of the business expand. The service has been used by a real mix of people. It's certainly been very popular with students, families and singles during the evenings, but we have also seen huge popularity with office workers and businesses during lunch-hour." Customers can make orders through the Burger King delivery website, but a minimum order of £14 is required. The delivery service is currently available every day from noon to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm.

Company News:

New Moon Pub Company plans eight Beef & Pudding sites after securing second in Liverpool: New Moon Pub Company, which is currently seeing like-for-like annual sales growth of 18%, has secured a second site in Liverpool, the former Noble House in Brunswick where it will open its second Beef and Pudding in July. It is now planning to grow the brand to eight sites. The company’s first Liverpool site, at the Old Blind School on the corner of Hardman Street and Hope Street, is due to open in June. The Beef & Pudding opening in Liverpool, which will take the company to eight sites in total, is expected to be followed by a Beef & Pudding opening in Chester. Co-founder David Mooney told Propel: “Beef & Pudding is a great concept and fits pretty much into any building. It would be brilliant to bring suet to London eventually, that would be the cherry on the cake but there’s lots of regional growth for us first.” New Moon Pub Company has also begun preliminary talk on finance options. Mooney said: “We’re adamant that we don’t want to dilute our equity at the moment but that is likely to change as we expand the Beef & Pudding brand.” Co-founder Paul Newman told the Liverpool Echo “We came looking for a site in Liverpool this year and now we have two, with plans for a third next year. Liverpool is perfect for us, and Beef and Pudding will sit well with the existing businesses in the area. We knew we wanted a site in the area around Castle Street up to the waterfront, and the old Noble House site is perfect. It’s a site that we know already and that will work well with Beef and Pudding. We can’t wait to get started.” New Moon is also close to securing a site in Manchester for its Mockingbird “pan-Gulf” brand, which features Mexican Gulf food from Florida to Mexico. “We call it dirty food, cleaned up,” Mooney said.
 
McDonald’s Devon and Cornwall franchisee claims to be West Country’s 11th largest employer: White Rose, the McDonald’s franchisee led by David Wynne, which turns over £30m a year and runs 12 sites in Devon and Cornwall, is claiming to be the West Country’s 11th biggest employer, with a staff of 1,000 people, half of which are part-time. Wynne is to spend £500,000 refurbishing the McDonald’s restaurant in the West End of Plymouth next month, and is also looking for new locations and more staff. Wynne said the restaurant in lower New George Street will undergo a major upgrade that will be rolled out to all his restaurants by mid-2018. He is also planning further investment in Plymouth, creating a double lane at the Plymstock drive-through, after a double lane slashed waiting times when brought in at the McDonald's in the Plymouth suburb of Derriford last year, and has seen the restaurant at Marsh Mills, Crabtree, Plymouth serve 162 cars in one record-busting hour. Wynne is eyeing opportunities to open a sixth Plymouth McDonald’s in the Camels Head/St Budeaux area. He created 50 jobs last year as sales grew 5.2% in Plymouth. Wynne said. “We're the 11th biggest employer in Devon and Cornwall, and probably taking on another 25 this year in Plymouth and more across the group.”

Meantime launches online store with 72 items of merchandise: Meantime Brewing Company of Greenwich, South east London has unveiled its new online store, which carries more than 50 products, including a full range of its craft beers and an array of newly launched Meantime merchandise, Customers will be able to order beer and merchandise for delivery anywhere in the UK. It has 72 items of exclusive merchandise from beanies, hoodies, T-shirts and glassware to branded cycling jerseys, playing cards, phone cases, umbrellas and even a Meantime dog lead. For the first 30 days, Meantime will also be offering a free gift with every purchase and with no minimum spend.
 
Cosy Club site in Taunton for sale for £1.06m-plus: The freehold of the building that is home to the Loungers-operated Cosy Club in Taunton, Somerset is on sale for offers in excess of £1.06m. The freehold of Hunts Court, a Grade II prominent landmark in the heart of the town, is on offer through Greenslade Taylor Hunt. Duncan Brown, commercial partner at Greenslade Taylor Hunt, said: “This is arguably Taunton’s most attractive building, let to a strong tenant on a lease to expire in March 2030 with no breaks. The rent, which is equivalent to £75,800 per annum including ground rents from the seven flats on the upper floors, has recently been reviewed and we believe there are strong prospects for growth over the coming years, as supported by other rents within Taunton’s now thriving town centre.”
 
Abokado reveals five-site pipeline as it hires an operations director: The healthy eating brand Abokado has revealed it has five sites in its pipeline as it announced Richard Zivkovic will be its new operations director, a move meant to strengthen the company's management team in support of its rapid expansion. Zivkovic joins Abokado from Costa Coffee, where he was regional operations director. Before that he held senior roles as head of operations at Pret A Manager, as operations director at Be At One and at the Restaurant Group. Mark Lilley, managing director of Abokado, said "We’re really excited to have Richard on board. He was the outstanding candidate for this role, having gained a wealth of experience during his 20 years in the restaurant sector. This is our first board-level ops hire and builds on our previous appointments of a head of talent and head of coffee, which we made during 2014. His appointment will also free up more of my time to concentrate on securing our pipeline. We have our next five stores in build or legals which will take us to 28 sites."
 
New brands to open next month in 11,000 sq ft of space at Euston: A host of new brands will open next month at Euston station in North London after a £12.5m mezzanine level project to create more space at the terminus. The Euston station balcony development scheme will include more than 11,000 sq ft of food and beverage space, with a new balcony level providing passengers with an area to sit and eat. Among the outlets due to open are Mi Casa Burritos, Itsu, Leon, Fine Burger and the Duke of Grafton pub. Some 71 million passengers travel through Euston ever year, according to the latest station usage figures.

Turtle Bay seeks head of people, begins recruiting for Bournemouth opening in June: The Turtle Bay chain of Caribbean restaurants, which is backed by Pipe Private Equity, is looking for a head of people to take charge of its HR function. The job description for the role includes providing full and comprehensive generalist HR advice, engaging all managers and operational teams and implementing HR strategy; reviewing current HR policy and devising dynamic and relevant ideas; monitoring and managing performance across the company; managing all employee relations and overseeing the recruitment and selection process; working alongside the recruitment manager; and working with Learning and Development to create an "energetic" L&D environment. Turtle Bay's recruitment process includes putting potential recruits through limbo dancing and jingle-writing exercises. The chain, founded by Ajith Jayawickrema, is currently up to 15 outlets, and is actively recruiting for an opening in June at the Citrus Building in Madeira Road, Bournemouth. Other openings lined up include Bromley, York, Cardiff and a second venue in Manchester.
 
Liverpool multi-siters to open Japanese concept: A group of Liverpool multi-site operators are to open a new Japanese soul food concept called Miyagi on Bold Street in the city. It will serve Japanese style food with buns, skewers, fried chicken, small plates and ramen. Co-owner Alex Hannah said: “We’re calling it Japanese soul food meets ghetto Asian. It’s what some people might call fusion. Basically it’s Asian comfort food, served to a Motown soundtrack.” Hannah and his partners already operate the Mexican restaurant Lucha Libre in Wood Street, Liverpool as well as three other venues, Berry and Rye, Jenny’s Bar and Aloha. The venue is expected to open next month.
 
Zaks opens first new outlet in ten years: The Norwich-based American diner chain Zaks is opening its first new outlet in ten years, in Thetford, Norfolk. Zaks Thetford Diner will open in the former Bridge pub, Castle Street, on 13 May. Liam Warren, restaurant manager at Zaks Thetford Diner, said: “Our new Thetford diner is the next chapter in the Zaks story – diners in Norwich have been enjoying our authentic taste of America for nearly 40 years, so it’s great to be branching out of the city and bringing our burgers to a whole new audience.” The new restaurant has two specially invented dishes giving nods to its location, the Dad’s Army burger, honouring the town’s role as a location for the series, and the A11, a burger with "dual everything" in recognition of the new improved A11 road. The new diner has created 40 jobs, 17 full-time and 23 part-time. Zaks is owned by Blue Sky Leisure, which also runs Kelling Heath and Woodhill Holiday Parks, in North Norfolk. Its three Norwich branches are Zaks Waterside Grill and Bar, Zaks Mousehold Diner and Zaks Poringland Diner.
 
Enterprise launches Community Heroes Awards for 2015 with three times as many cash prizes: Enterprise Inns is tripling the number of licensees who will receive cash prizes to spend on their local communities in its Enterprise Community Heroes awards, now in their fourth year. The number of publicans who will won money to benefit local causes and projects is increasing from 18 in 2014 to 54 in 2015. Publicans from Enterprise’s 18 divisions will be judged in an initial round where first, second and third place winners from each one will be selected for prizes of £3,000, £1500 and £500, with the cash used to support their communities. All first-place divisional winners will then go onto a second round where a panel of guest judges from across the industry will come together in September to select the national community hero and runner-up. At an awards ceremony on 6 October the outright winner will be presented with a trophy and an extra £3,000 (making £6,000 in total) with the runner-up receiving a further £2,000 (£5,000 in total) to spend on boosting local community initiatives. James Armitage, Enterprise's sales and marketing director, said: “Due to the overwhelming response we had last year, when entries increased by 66% compared to 2013, we wanted to recognise, reward and support even more publicans and their communities across the country. Initiatives don’t have to be big, they just have to be positive, and with more prize money on offer for community projects, we are confident entry levels for the Community Hero awards 2015 will reach a new all-time high,”
 
Pitta brand to take Pret A Manger site in Croydon: The global pitta bread chain Pita Put is to open on the site of the former Pret A Manger in Croydon town centre, South London next week. Pita Pit, which has branches in Manchester and London, opens for business on Monday 20 April. The brand started in Canada in 1995 and now has more than 500 branches around the world. Pret decided not to extend its lease in North End when it came to an end. A Pret spokeswoman said: "We're currently looking for great alternative spaces locally and are continuing to trade through our George Street shop as normal."

Two-site Chestnut Group hires training and development manager with two Michelin star background: Chestnut Group, the two-site pub operator established in May 2012 by former banker and financier Philip Turner, has hired former Midsummer House manager Simon Warr as its first training and people development manager. Warr has spent the last eight years at Daniel Clifford’s two Michelin star Midsummer House. Warr said: “The Chestnut Group gives me the platform to train, motivate and inspire others and help younger members of the team, some of which will be new to the industry. I was attracted to Chestnut because it is at such an exciting stage in its development; still very new but with a solid base and lots of energy. I also admire the fact that the group has prioritised people and training and given me the opportunity to make a long-lasting contribution to the future of the business.” Turner said: “People are our key asset and therefore need to be our key investment. No matter how good the concept, product or the marketing is, a customer’s goodwill is won or lost on the actual experience and this is almost exclusively down to how they are made to feel by the people they meet and by whom they are looked after. We have grown very quickly and we haven’t always got it right. Far from being “unskilled” jobs, the front-of-house roles make or break a business. With Simon’s experience and enthusiasm, we aim to ensure that every member of the Chestnut team has the training and support required so that every time a customer visits a Chestnut site, they can expect the same great experience.”

Starbucks expands digital tipping to Canada: Starbucks is expanding the digital tipping feature to customers using Starbucks mobile apps in Canada. This feature allows customers to show their appreciation to store partners (baristas) by leaving a tip through the Starbucks app for iPhone or the Starbucks app for Android. After completing a transaction via mobile payment, customers who have enabled notifications within the Starbucks app will be prompted to leave a tip if they choose. Customers will have the option to leave a tip in the following denominations: $0.50, $1.00, $2.00. This amount can be completed or edited within two hours after the original transaction. Digital tipping has long been a top suggestion on MyStarbucksIdea.com, an online community for people to share, vote, discuss and put into action ideas on how to enhance the Starbucks Experience. 

The Savoy opens gourmet takeaway on the Strand: Melba at The Savoy opens this week as the ninth food and beverage outlet at The Savoy, a Fairmont Managed Hotel. Located directly on the Strand at the corner of Savoy Court, the gourmet counter will be open seven days a week and offer a selection of pastries, sandwiches and hot and cold beverages to take away, along with gift items and an extensive selection of a new Savoy signature; éclairs. The menu at Melba is created by executive pastry chef, Ludwig Hely, and designed to cater for the ever-increasing footfall along the Strand with the ‘finest, gourmet take-away experience in the Northbank area’. The menu includes: Comté and Black Forest ham croissant; apricot and almond Danish pastry; orange peel and dark chocolate pain au chocolat; jarred breakfasts; fruit salad and British sandwich classics, with prices ranging from £1.50 to £5.25.
 
Fuller’s wins inaugural beer marketing awards grand prix: The London brewer Fuller Smith and Turner has won the grand prix at the inaugural Beer Marketing Awards 2015 for its "Made of London" campaign. The brewery was awarded the top prize for its advertising campaign for its flagship London Pride beer at a ceremony in front of guests from all sides of the beer, beer marketing and beer retail business in the Old Trumans Brewery in Brick Lane, Shoreditch. Author and journalist Pete Brown, one of the organisers of the awards, said the judges were impressed by what Fullers had done on a comparatively small budget. Other winners at the awards included Marston's, which took the title for best integrated campaign for its "Live a Life of Pedigree"; Shepherd Neame, which won the "Best Broadcast Advertising" award for its Spitfire "Bottle of Britain" campaign; BrewDog, for best use of social media; Heineken, for best business-to-business campaign; Greene King, for best PR campaign; Wychwood, for best stunt or event; and Budweiser for best use of sponsorship. David Cunningham won the award for most outstanding individual contribution for his work as director of the "There's a Beer for That" campaign.

Michelin-starred chef to launch consultancy service after closure of restaurant: A Michelin-starred chef is to launch a consultancy service after the closure of his restaurant in Dorset, the only restaurant in the county to hold the honour. Sienna Restaurant in Dorchester, owned by Russell and Elena Brown, is due to close on Saturday 25 April, 12 years to the day since it opened. Russell Brown is to launch a new venture, Creative about Cuisine. The business will offer a bespoke consultancy service for restaurants, hotels, cafes and food producers as well as one-to-one chef coaching, menu and recipe development. Brown will also be teaching and doing various guest chef dinners around the country.

Brasserie Blanc searches for Cardiff site: Brasserie Blanc is looking to open its first site in Wales, and is searching for a site in Cardiff. It is working with the Cardiff office of the international property advisory firm Bilfinger GVA on potential locations. The company identified a site in 2010 – the former Ebenezar Chapel on Charles Street – but did not proceed. A spokeswoman for Bilfinger GVA said: "We can confirm that we are assisting Brasserie Blanc in a new search for premises in Cardiff."

Shepherd Neame to create 20 jobs when it re-opens flagship hotel next month:
The Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame is to create 20 new jobs when it re-open the Royal Wells Hotel in Tunbridge Wells after a £2.4m refurbishment. Work began on the Grade II listed 18th century hotel in January and it reopens on Thursday 7 May. It is the single largest refurbishment project ever for Shepherd Neame, which took over the hotel in 2012. Improvements include the introduction of an orangery and courtyard garden, an extended Wells Bar, expanded main ground floor function room, and four new en-suite bedrooms, taking the total to 27.
 
Costa Coffee hires new press office agency: Whitbread’s Costa Coffee brand has hired One Green Bean to run its press office, taking over from the incumbent, Lexis, PR Week has reported. Lexis had held the account for more than seven years. One Green Bean already works with Costa on consumer projects. As part of the new appointment the agency will deliver press office campaigns to support seasonal activity and product launches, along with media and influencer engagement. The account will be led by One Green Bean's managing director, Matt Buchanan, and a team of five, reporting to Costa UK and Ireland's PR manager, Kate Clarke. She told PR Week: "After an extensive pitch process, we were impressed by One Green Bean’s strategic rigour and unique approach to PR which aligns well with our ambition to create a proactive and unified content delivering fresh, consumer-centric ideas.”

Krispy Kreme to open in Drake Circus, Plymouth: A new Krispy Kreme kiosk is to open at Drake Circus in Plymouth next week, at 9am on Tuesday, 21 April. Doughnuts for the kiosk will be made and delivered from Bristol every day. Judith Denby, chief marketing officer at Krispy Kreme, said: “We can’t wait to spread the Krispy Kreme magic in Plymouth later this month. Drake Circus is a great location for our kiosk and we look forward to welcoming shoppers for doughnuts.” The Krispy Kreme team will be giving away doughnuts in Plymouth in the week ahead. Greg Lumley, director at the Drake Circus Centre Director said: “We are very excited about welcoming Krispy Kreme to Drake Circus. The brand is fun and vibrant and we know it will prove popular with families and students." Krispy Kreme currently operates 53 stores across the UK and has a presence in more than 600 cabinets with retail partners including Tesco stores and the service station operators Moto, Welcome Break and Roadchef.

The Restaurant Group lines up Preston site for Frankie & Benny's: The Restaurant Group is eyeing an opening for its Frankie and Benny’s brand at a retail park in Preston. The company has applied for a licence to serve alcohol seven days a week from 10am to midnight. at Deepdale Shopping Park. The nearest other Frankie and Benny’s is at the Capitol Centre in Walton-le-Dale. Its future is uncertain after developers applied for permission to demolish the restaurant along with the Vue cinema, which is located alongside it.
 
McManus adds to Northampton pub estate: The McManus Pub Company has added to its estate of pubs in Northampton with the acquisition of the 18th century Shipmans pub in The Drapery, which closed last year. The pub, a narrow, three-storey building that is Grade Two listed, is now undergoing a refurbishment which Paul McManus, co-owner of the Northampton-based chain, said would open up the back window to let more light in. McManus said he was hoping to maintain the quirky history of the pub, which was built in 1790 by the Shipman family. It is believed to be haunted by a former landlord, Harry Franklin, who took his own life in the pub in what witnesses described as a “gruesome manner” more than 100 years ago. McManus said: “In the plans we have been allowed to put the toilets upstairs to give a bit more space. There are also some wine and sherry taps that we are planning on keeping.” The pub will be selling a range of real ales as well as spirits and wine. McManus now runs 19 pubs, all but three in Northamptonshire.
 
Developer applies for fifth Costa Coffee outlet in Bath: A planning application for a new Costa Coffee outlet in a separate building next to a new Lidl supermarket in Lower Bristol Road, Bath, has gone in to Bath and North East Somerset Council. The application is also seeking permission for three new retail units in the listed Herman Miller building on the site, two of which will be occupied by Poundland and Pets At Home. Costa Coffee currently has four cafes in Bath.
 
Wildwood, Ask Italian and Bill's competing to recruit for Taunton openings: The Wildwood, Ask Italian and Bill's restaurant chains are all recruiting for openings shortly in Taunton, Somerset in what amounts to a very substantial boost to the town’s branded restaurant offer. Wildwood is looking for a head chef, a supervisor and other staff for the restaurant it is opening after a £1m renovation of the ground floor and basement of the 18th century Market House in Taunton, with an opening expected by June. The restaurant will have more than 120 covers, some outside. Bill's, which is opening in Cheapside, is looking for a sous chef and an assistant manager while Ask, which will be opening in the former Taunton Post Office in North Street, is advertising for team members. No dates have been announced yet for the Bill's or Ask openings.
 
Peyton & Byrne reports £2.5m loss, Business Growth Fund investment: The contract caterer and cafe operator Peyton & Byrne has reported a loss of £2,563,000 in the year to 30 March 2014 on turnover of £22,830,000. The company made a profit of £222,000 the year before on lower turnover of £18,717,000. The most recent year saw exceptional costs of £1,008,000 in relation to its “mutually agreed contract termination” in Brighton, producing a site operating loss of £309,000, an impairment charge of £638,000 and professional fees of £61,000. Peyton & Byrne said that the year had seen the addition of two eight-year contracts at the Imperial War Museum in South London and the opening of the Byrne retail bakery in Greenwich, South East London. The company said: “Both launches have exceeded expectations and are set to be valuable additions to the business. Additionally, the company has secured three new public catering contracts, subject to contract, for 2015 and 2016, adding additional turnover of £7m.” It reported that the Business Growth Fund (BGF) had invested further £1.7m in the business to enable planned expansion. BGF has provided loan notes totally £4.15m (2013: £2.55m) upon which interest of £227,000 was charged (2013: £70,00). In addition, BGF charged a monitoring fee of £50,000 (2013: £18,000) in the year.

Tampopo forecasts better year after losses: The Asian brand Tampopo has reported a pre-tax loss of £173,000 in the year ended 30 June 2014 on turnover of £6,898,000. The company made a pre-tax profit of £1,627 on turnover of £7,074,000 the year before. It said: “Performance was affected by external factors with major infrastructure development adjacent a number of sites in Manchester (Metrolink) and Central London (Crossrail). The current financial year will deliver an improved level of performance, with store like-for-likes up 7% year-to-date. In December, the company began the implementation of initiatives that have both enhanced the customer proposition and improved profitability. The 2015 calendar year is viewed with cautious optimism.”

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