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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 4th Jan 2019 - Stonegate reports 7.8% festive like-for-like sales growth
Stonegate reports 7.8% festive like-for-like sales growth: Stonegate Pub Company, the operator of 735 drink-led, pubs and bars, has reported 7.8% like-for-like sales growth over the festive period (1 December to 1 January). It reported all its formats and regions performed well during festive trading, following a strong performance over the festive period last year (2017: up 5.5%). On the season’s key trading days, including Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, Stonegate’s sales were up on average 8.3% and in the two weeks from 17 December they were up 12%. Stonegate operates a multiple format strategy, with a portfolio which encompasses a wide variety of predominantly drinks-focused trading formats spanning high-street and suburban pubs, as well as late-night bars and venues. The business invested significantly in upgrading its pre-booking facilities over the course of 2018 – including creating a central call centre hub to handle bookings – consequently Stonegate saw an uplift of 17.8% in the number of pre-bookings on last year. In 2018 Stonegate continued its programme of acquisitions, acquiring Be At One, the specialist cocktail bar operator with 33 bars in prime high street locations, and a further 15 sites from Novus Leisure. These new sites further consolidated the group’s position as a leading high street, managed pub operator in the UK. Simon Longbottom, chief executive of Stonegate, said: “I am delighted to report a strong festive trading period for Stonegate – crowning another year of significant progress for the business. Our like for like sales have increased again driven by our multi- format strategy, relentless focus on customer service and bolstering our market share in our local markets. Our success shows that there is value in a drinks-led, high street focused strategy. Encouragingly, all of our trading formats and regions performed well and it was particularly pleasing to see the sites and brands we acquired in 2018 contributing to this. Our investment in our prebooking facilities resulted in a double-digit increase in like for like bookings enabling us to maximise the trading opportunity from key festive events, such as New Year’s Eve and Boxing Day Football. We have entered 2019 with positive momentum.”

Halo Burger model designed specifically for accelerated roll-out: The founder of vegan burger concept Halo Burger has told Propel he has specifically designed the model for an accelerated roll-out. Ross Forder, a former employee with car manufacturer Tesla, opened his first restaurant, at Pop Brixton last month, as he looked to take advantage of the growing demand for plant-based food. However, he is already gearing up for growth and aims to roll out the concept across the UK and, eventually, abroad. The Halo Burger consists of two hand-formed patties layered with white onion, 100% plant-based American-style cheese, beef tomato, lettuce and a house-made sauce. The offering is based on the Beyond Burger, which is supposed to be as close to looking and tasting like a real beef burger as possible while remaining vegan, with beetroot juice providing the “bleeding” element. Forder, who is vegan himself having previously been a meat eater, said: “This is a first for the fast food burger market. The UK loves its burgers but until now there hasn’t been the advances in technology to create a plant-based burger that tastes and smells just like a meat one. I’m one of those vegans who misses meat products. For some people it’s about reducing their meat intake, for others it’s about being more environmentally and animal friendly. These are the reasons why we are doing this.” Regarding potential expansion, he said: “We certainly hope there’s more. The idea is to spread the message about the benefits of plant-based food and to do that you need more than one site. We are looking to expand very quickly. Initially we’re looking at London but we believe the concept would work across the UK. We’ve designed the model specifically to allow us to scale up. It’s a fairly simple menu – it’s about making a few burgers really well. We eventually want to go international as well – the appetite for vegan food is growing across a huge part of the world.” The restaurant’s name was inspired by Forder’s time at Tesla. He said: “In the car industry a ‘halo car’ is the manufacturer’s stand-out vehicle that epitomises its brand with all the positive connotations. I think it’s a great name – simple and recognisable.”

Propel launches Leadership Summit, open for bookings: Propel is launching the Leadership Summit, which will see a select group of the sector’s most experienced bosses share their expertise on leadership. The full-day event, in partnership with Elliotts, will take place on Tuesday, 12 February at One Moorgate Place and is open for bookings. Speakers will include Will Stratton-Morris, UK chief executive of Caffe Nero, who will talk about building high-performance teams. Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King, speaks about the role of leadership in business turnarounds. Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott will talk to Des Gunewardena, chief executive of D&D London, about the lessons of leadership he has picked up in his career in the sector. Duncan Garrood, chief executive of Ten Entertainment, will give his views on leadership and the customer experience, while Jo Fleet, managing director of Flat Iron, will talk about empowering people and trust and getting the team to “buy in” through clear communication and vision. Mark Jones, chief executive of Carluccio’s, will explain how the company is building the quality and skillsets of its general managers to lead the business out of decline. Simon Townsend, chief executive of Ei Group, will give his views on the challenges of leadership during a period of immense change and Zoe Bowley, managing director of PizzaExpress, will give her top ten tips on leadership. Meanwhile, Loungers founder Alex Reilley will talk about the adaptations involved in growing a business from one site to more than 100, celebrating success and the art of succession, while Ann Elliott will give her views on the power of mentoring to grow talent in organisations. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “With the industry facing such challenging times, effective leadership has never been more important. This is an unmissable opportunity to learn from high-profile leaders in our sector.” Prices are £295 plus VAT for Premium members, £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers. To book, email

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