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Fri 5th Feb 2016 - Update: M&B, Geronimo, Columbo, Nando's, GK, Enterprise et al
M&B to convert ten more pubs to Sizzling Pizza & Carvery format after 55% increase in sales at first ten: Mitchells & Butlers has opened ten Sizzling Pizza & Carvery businesses in the last six months, and plans to invest in converting a further ten sites into the new concept by the summer. Sizzling Pizza & Carvery offers stone-baked pizza, made from 100% fresh dough, alongside a freshly carved carvery, including unlimited vegetables, a help-yourself salad bar and a sweet shop, ice cream and candy station.The new concept has seen Mitchells & Butlers pioneer integrating a pizza and carvery offer aimed at roll-out across its existing current Crown Carvery businesses. Sizzling Pizza & Carvery has wide guest appeal, seeing more guests visit to enjoy the carvery offer and also the theatre of stone-baked pizza ovens serving up 100% fresh dough pizzas. This has resulted in Mitchells & Butlers seeing an increase in footfall across these locations delivering a 55% increase in sales. Helen McGregor, operations director for Crown Carvery and Sizzling Pizza & Carvery, said: “Overseeing the transformation of our Crown Carvery estate into a new Sizzling Pizza & Carvery is a joy to watch, not only from seeing the amazing returns being delivered, but also through the engagement from our teams and guests. Every new business is buzzing with excitement and we’re seeing many more new guests join our regulars for a great meal out.” The new Sizzling Pizza & Carvery locations currently open include The Sandbrook in Rochdale, The Gap Inn in Nottingham and two in Blackpool; The Squirrel and The Tramway. The Windmill in Denton and The Pig and Whistle in Preston will open in March, with more locations to follow over the coming months.

Geronimo Inns invests £3.3m into two new sites at residential developments in London: Geronimo Inns, the gastro-pub operator owned by Young’s, has invested £3.3m into two new sites at residential developments in London. The company launched the Leman Street Tavern in Whitechapel today (Friday, 5 February) and is following that with the opening of The Guard House in Woolwich next Friday (12 February). It has spent £1.5m on The Leman Street Tavern, situated at Berkeley Homes’ Goodman Fields in Leman Street, The 5,000 square foot pub has 191 covers across five areas – The Chambers private dining room, The Snug, The Lounge Bar, The Back Bar and The Pass. As well as food, it has a wide selection of craft beers and premium ales and bitters on tap, a varied wine list and cocktails with a focus on bourbon, whiskey and rum. Meanwhile, The Guard House, which Geronimo has invested £1.8m, is based in the old Guard House building, dating back to 1787/88, at the Royal Arsenal Riverside in Woolwich. Part of the Berkeley Homes’ redevelopment, the 5,060 square foot pub and dining room will have capacity for 220 people across four different areas: The Mess, The Glass House, The Deli and The Dining Room. The Guard House will have a casual bistro feel with all-day kitchen and will include communal tables and banquette seating as well as smaller tables for two and bar stools. The pub will serve traditional, hearty food, while gin cocktails will have prominence on the drinks menu with a wide selection of bitters, ales and an expansive wine list. Retail director Patrick Dardis said: “The partnership with Berkeley Homes presents us with some fantastic opportunities and these two locations are the perfect example of that. From the busy city location of the Leman Street Tavern to the historical, regeneration project at The Guard House, these are two very different but equally exciting pubs.”

CAMRA – more than a third of UK pub closures are in London, ten a week: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which revealed this month that 27 pubs a week closed in the second half of 2015, has published new research that shows London is losing more than a third of them. The figures show London has been losing ten pubs every week as landlords struggled to fend off developers and contend with rock-bottom supermarket prices. The number of pubs in London fell by 497 in 2015 from the previous year – a net figure that takes into account all new openings, meaning the true number of closures is likely to be significantly higher than ten a week. CAMRA spokesman Tom Stainer said developers “eyeing” pubs as housing was one of the biggest threats, and he called for more stringent planning laws. He told the Evening Standard: “They are soft targets for developers, especially in London where property prices are so high, and it can be very profitable to convert a pub into six or seven apartments.” Stainer also said cheap alcohol in supermarkets made life difficult in the industry. He said: “Pubs are responding, but all pubs need to bear in mind that they are a luxury. People want to feel they are actually getting an experience, whether that’s unusual beers or good food. Pubs really need to raise their game if they’re not providing that.”

BrewDog to shut all UK bars as staff gather for BlackOut Day on 29 February: BrewDog will shut all its UK bars and gather staff for a get-together on Leap Day (Monday, 29 February) as part of its inaugural BlackOut Day. A BrewDog spokesman said: “We are having one almighty get-together as a team. Our Ellon brewhouse will power down and cease production. Every single UK BrewDog bar will close for the day. Hundreds of our people will down tools and gather together on BlackOut Day. Closing your entire business for one day to focus on your people and assembling everyone from over 30 different locations at once is pretty revolutionary, we think.” BrewDog said BlackOut Day would consist of brainstorming on how to improve the company and a “serious amount” of craft beer for all concerned. The spokesman added: “We can’t wait to put the extra day in the calendar to the best possible use – to spend it with the people who make BrewDog what it is. As without us, we are nothing.”

Columbo Group closes Jazz Cafe in Camden for refurbishment to return venue to 1990s heyday: Columbo Group, led by Steve Ball and Riz Shaikh, has closed the newly acquired Jazz Cafe in Camden for refurbishment as it aims to return the venue to its 1990s heyday. The company plans to revitalise the Parkway site, which has hosted a mix of world-famous acts, including Bobby Womack, Chuck Berry, Lee Scratch Perry, Amy Winehouse and Courtney Pine. It said the 450-capacity club would open again in May. Columbo added there will be no major changes to the interior, but said the venue needs a refurbishment and an improved sound system. Ball told the Camden New Journal: “They had a monthly programme and I remember I’d get really excited each month about what gigs I could get to see in the 1990s. It was so forward thinking, with a mix of vintage and new acts. They had reggae, soul, funk, hip hop and jazz – whoever was managing it ten, 20 years ago was doing a frankly excellent job. It was the best live music venue in London – and we want to make it so again.” As well as the Jazz Cafe, which Columbo bought from Live Nation, the company owns nine other venues across London.

Enterprise Inns shares dip on debt worries: Shares in Enterprise Inns trickled lower today (Friday, 5 February) as investors began to fret over the pub operator’s stretched balance sheet. Analysts at Barclays slashed their stance to underweight with an 80p target price, causing the shares to fall 0.75p to 86.25p. They warned investors dumping high-yield bonds in the oil and mining sectors might also target pub stocks, which are among the most indebted on the stock market. That could be bad for Enterprise, which was picked out by the broker as the most vulnerable pub group because it has the highest debt-per-earnings and a big refinancing to complete in the next couple of years.Cheaper petrol and no interest rate rise in the near future might lead to more pints pulled, but Barclays fears for the introduction of the National Living Wage in April and its move to a managed estate.

Laine Pub Company planning up to 25 sites in London: Brighton-based Laine Pub Company, led by Gavin George and backed by Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners, has said it is planning up to 25 sites in London having just opened its eighth venue in the capital. It currently operates 36 pubs in Brighton, but is looking to make further inroads into the capital, where it has opened the Watson’s General Telegraph in Honor Oak Park. George told Imbible: “We have a plan for 25 sites in London, but it’s not fixed. Much depends on the availability of sites in a very competitive market. We are acquisitive and would hope to secure one or two in 2016.” Of the style of venues under the Laine name, he said: “Part of the skill in creating a successful [pub] is in making it original and independent. Our sites are experience-led and hopefully the experience is different every time.” The Watson’s Telegraph, which involved the conversion of The Rose pub, features 20 taps, 12 of which are devoted to craft beer, including eight on rotation. The other six are for cask ales and cider. The food is from head chef Dan Burrell, previously of Jay Rayner-adored Zest.

Oriental food report – pubs missing out on growing sector: A food report published in time for Chinese New Year has found pubs are missing out on the huge growth of Oriental food in the UK. Oriental grocer Wing Yip commissioned the Oriental Food Report, which highlighted that even though 94% of people have eaten Chinese food at home or in a restaurant, few eat Oriental cuisine in a pub. Only 7% of Oriental food users ate it at pubs at least once a month, with most doubting they would find a credible option on the menu. The independent research was conducted via an online survey of more than 3,000 consumers and included data from Horizons and CGA Peach, with the latest Horizons figures highlighting that only 1% of pub menu listings were pan-Asian main courses. However, consumer appetite for Oriental food has continued to grow. Pan-Asian listings on branded restaurant menus have risen by 9% in the past three years, with more than 4,000 Chinese, Thai and Japanese restaurants in the UK – an 18% rise in the past five years. The report highlighted consumer tastes were becoming more adventurous, with 39% choosing to eat Thai food and 20% Japanese. Horizons said sushi now represented a quarter of all pan-Asian menu listings. Brian Yip, managing director of Wing Yip, said: “Whilst the number of Pan-Asian restaurants is growing, there is an opportunity for pubs to do more and maximise the trading opportunity by offering a wider choice of quality Oriental food.”

Health officials report 105 cases of salmonella, some linked to Greene King pub: Health officials investigating a salmonella poisoning outbreak that is connected to a Greene King pub restaurant say there have been 105 cases reported. Public Health England (PHE) said some of these cases were linked to Greene King’s Grove Farm pub, at Enderby, near junction 21 of the M1. It is understood the cases occurred in a limited geographical area, between April and December last year. Grove Farm was closed before Christmas and all bookings over the festive period were cancelled after a number of customers fell ill. The pub reopened early last month after “intensive cleaning” and a variety of tests which the owners said included a negative result for salmonella. However, it has now closed its doors again while work is carried out on the pub’s drainage system. PHE said no further cases had been reported since the pub shut in December. Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable disease control for PHE, said the move followed further sample testing. He said: “We continue to work closely with Blaby District Council and Grove Farm to investigate an outbreak of salmonella in the area. Working with environmental health, we have conducted extensive tests in the kitchen and public areas at the pub. After further sampling, Grove Farm has decided to close, in order that drains can be excavated and the drainage system investigated further. No new cases of salmonella have been reported to PHE as part of this investigation since the pub reopened. We will continue to work with environmental health and Grove Farm to ensure all public health actions have been taken.”

Nando’s and Bella Italia part of Wigan hotel and restaurant hub plan: Nando’s and Casual Dining Group brand Bella Italia are included in plans for a hotel and restaurant hub in Wigan. An application for a three-storey development at Robin Park is being considered by Wigan Council. As well as the restaurants, the plan includes a 68-bedroom hotel for an unnamed “national multiple, budget hotel operator”, Wigan Today reported. The application comes only weeks after plans for a retail unit expansion were granted for a separate section of Robin Park, which will include a KFC drive-thru, Subway and Costa. The closest Nando’s venues to Wigan are in Leigh and Bolton.

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