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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 7th Mar 2012 - No Saints, McDonald's and Snug Bars

Story of the Day:

No Saints lines up 20 nightclubs: No Saints, the company set up by former Luminar nightclub company boss Stephen Thomas, has a pipeline of a further 20 nightclubs. The company has a total of 120 nightclubs that it has been offered and fit its criteria – it is in 'legals' on 20 sites. Thomas told Morning Briefing: “We don’t need investment - we’ve been using our own money. Landlords are very supportive and refurbishment of sites costs in the region of £50,000 to £70,000. I think we’ll end up with more than 20 – I was never going to run a small business.” No Saints is to open its third Wonderland nightclub, a former Liquid nightclub in Basingstoke, on 5 April - it will join existing sites in Sutton and Mansfield and a smaller capacity Wonder Lounge site in Banbury. Wonderland is run by Thomas’s son, Stevie, and has an Alice in Wonderland theme – he leaves a trail of carrots around town prior to opening to create interest. Thomas is personally overseeing the Greene Room cabaret bar format and live music concept Jam House. The next Greene Room will open in Cardiff and have a 500 capacity compared to the 200 capacity of the first site in Milton Keynes. Thomas told Morning Briefing that plans to open Chicago Pizza Pie Factory sites have been put on hold while the company focuses on nightclubs.

Propel Opinion:

Veteran nightclub operator Stephen Thomas, who, by his own admission, stayed too long as boss of Luminar, seems to be benefiting from the fall-out from the generally distressed nightclub sector by picking up discarded sites for almost nothing. There’s a lot of input this time around from son Stevie. Thomas senior describes himself as the mannequin of the business – the provider of the business framework for which Stevie is able provide the appropriate clothes in terms of nightclub styling and operational relevance.

Industry news:

Academic – pubs crackdown led to more home-drinking: The crackdown on cheap drinks in licensed premises has led to more people drinking at home at the beginning of a night out in town and caused a rise in alcohol-related crime, a top academic has told a conference. Over a six-month period more than 600 people who had been arrested were surveyed. Two-thirds aged between 17 and 30 had consumed alcohol at home before going out – the majority said they were drunk by the time they reached a pub or nightclub. Some 83 per cent said they had bought beer, wine and spirits from a supermarket – 40 per cent were later arrested for violence-related offences. Dr Adrian Barton, of the Plymouth Business School, said: "There is clear demand for cheap early evening drinks, and it is possible that reducing the availability of these in licensed premises has contributed to the rise in 'pre-loading'."

Pill developed to make alcoholics drink less: A pill has been invented that induces alcoholics to want to drink less, a science conference has been told. The pill is understood to work by blocking mechanisms in the brain that provide alcoholics with enjoyment. Alcoholics that took the pill, together with counselling, more than halved the amount of alcohol they drank each day, the European Psychiatric Association congress in Prague was told. The pill is in trials.

Hard-pressed drinkers turn to home brew: Supermarket chain Tesco has reported a 70 per cent increase in the sale of home-brew kits as drinkers stay away from the pub. Morrisons has reported a 26 per cent increase. Since 2004, beer duty has increased by 50 per cent.

Panera Bread offers best franchise value: A survey of best-value franchise operations in the US has ranked Panera Bread, which sells homemade bread made on the premises and made-to-order sandwiches, the best value food service franchise based on survival rates, in particular. Placing fourth in the top ten of all franchises, Panera Bread franchisees have only had six closures in the last three financial years – franchisees receive 1,129 hours of training. McDonald’s placed sixth.

Dardens in estate-wide social media update: American restaurant chain Dardens, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, is to move all its brands to a single new technology platform. It plans to allow the sharing of guest data across brands for marketing purposes, improve its “to-go” ordering system, offer online and text-ahead seating, sell e-gift cards and look at creating a customer loyalty program. The company admits it has lost much of its appeal to consumers in their 20s and 30s. Chief executive Clarence Otis told the Dow Jones Newswire: “We don’t think that without this kind of platform we’re going to stay relevant to the younger demographic as guests or as employees.”

The Guardian hails craft beer’s return to restaurants: The Guardian has reported that real beer is making fresh inroads into restaurants, with upmarket burger chain Byron launching a refreshed craft beer list yesterday. Pride of place at Byron is Byron Pale Ale, brewed for the chain by Camden Town Brewery. The newspaper adds: “We live in a post-CAMRA world where beer is at its most exciting not in pubs but in a growing network of urban craft beer bars. In their enthusiasm for US and world beers, strong beers, stylistic hybrids, bottled and keg bees these bars constitute a definitive break with traditional real ale culture.”

McDonald’s debuts healthy Happy Meal campaign: Fast food giant McDonald’s will debut its new Happy Meal television advertising campaign in the US this week with an emphasis on active lifestyles and nutrition messages, including automatic serving of apple slices and kid-sized portions of French fries. Chief marketing officer Neil Golden said: “For the first time, 100 per cent of our national marketing efforts to kids will include nutrition or active-lifestyle messages.”

Company news:

Fiveeightzero founder starts new company: Dan Crouch, who is involved in Project Tokyo at Mitchells & Butlers, which saw the London bar expertise of his London-based Fiveeightzeero business injected into provincial M&B sites such as Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds and Spanky Van Dykes in Nottingham, has set up a new company called Fiveeightsix. Crouch, who set up Fiveeightzero with Giles Standing, is partnered by Michael Nicholas, who runs Camden Bars. The new company is running two freeholds, The Satwell Arms in Dalston and the Lock Taverns, and a leased site, the Three Crowns in Stoke Newington, which has a nightclub attached.

Bar/gallery opens in Stoke Newington: The trend for opening “bars with a twist” has a new addition with the opening of The Palatine in Stoke Newington. Operators are Michael Ward and Alice Nevermore. Alice said: “As we are primarily a bar, we are able to offer very low commission on the art work and make it really affordable for emerging artists to show off their work.”

Garry Mallen plans further investment at former Enterprise site: Gary Mallen, who runs nine pubs through his company GC Mallen, is planning to invest a further £100,000 in developing a former Enterprise Inns pub he re-opened last November after a £400,000 investment. Mallen acquired the freehold of the Lord Northbrook in Lee, Kent, in exchange for relinquishing the lease of an Enterprise pub in Wimbledon it wanted to re-develop. The Lord Northbrook is trading well as a community pub with a good food offer after Mallen’s investment. Now Mallen has won planning consent to add a glass conservatory to the site. The Lord Northbrook won the title of “Worst Pub in South London” in an online review before it was acquired.

Dorbiere faces opposition over Burton investment plan: Dorbiere, the north-west operator of 52 pubs, has met stiff opposition to a plan to extend the Elms in Burton’s Stapenhill Road to create a restaurant area. A total of 320 locals have signed a petition objecting to the loss of the “traditional feel” of the former Bass pub.

Locals rally to buy Greene King pub: A community served by the last pub in a village never Sevenoaks has clubbed together to try to buy it. Greene King put the The Windmill in Weald on the market last summer with an asking price of £395,000. Donations from members of the Save the Windmill group are reported to “cover” the asking price.

Bassett Pubs seeks Bristol site: JW Bassett, the nine-strong multiple operator led by Jon Bassett, is seeking to expand its footprint further east by acquiring a pub in Bristol. The company has six pubs in Wales – two in Newport and four in or around Cardiff - and would like to add a second pub to its existing site in Bristol. Bassett told Morning Briefing: “We had a good February – we were around six to seven per cent up on last year when we were also 15 per cent up.” Bassett Pubs operates four Mitchells & Butlers franchises. The company is also looking hard at Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company freeholds on the market. “There are some really good buys.” Bassett Pubs acquired a Punch freehold, a site just outside Cardiff, from the disposal estate last year.

Draft House bags fourth site: Draft House, the draft beer concept led by Charlie McVeigh, has secured its fourth site. The company, which saw investment from Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners last year, has picked up a site on East Dulwich’s Lordship Lane. Selsian negotiated on behalf of Draft House to secure a new lease on a fitted bar with 2,200 square feet of trading space over the basement, ground and first floor of the site.

Shepherd Neame buys Kent hotel: Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has bought the Camden Arms Hotel in Pembury, near Tunbridge Wells, from Enterprise Inns for an undisclosed sum. It is the third recent addition to the hotel estate: it acquired the The Bell Hotel, Sandwich, and The Fayreness Hotel, Kingsgate last year, the latter bought from Thorley Taverns. These purchases make Shepherd Neame the largest independent accommodation provider in Kent, with more than 468 rooms across its managed and tenanted estate. Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Shepherd Neame, said: “The Camden Arms Hotel is a strong addition to our high quality accommodation portfolio.”

Marston's line up Morecombe: Marston's looks set to build a new pub restaurant at Morecombe FC's Globe Arena after it bought half the vacant plot of land at the front of the football club's stadium. Marston’s is reported to be preparing a planning application for Lancaster City Council, to go in before the end of March.

Snug Bars reports trading rollercoaster: Snug, the six-strong pub operator led by Giles Fry, has reported a three-month trading rollercoaster. Like-for-like sales were up by 33 per cent in December, then dropped to a low single digit figure in January before jumping up by 35 per cent in February. Fry, whose company opened sites in Godalming and High Wycombe in the past six months, said: “On the whole I’m very optimistic – there’s not a better place in the world to be trading in the next six months.” Fry said the company would be banking cash for the next couple of months before looking for its next site. “We’d like another two sites this year,” he added.

White Horse Brewery opens second Everards site: White Horse Brewery has re-opened the former Buck and Bell pub in Banbury, now re-named the White Horse, after a £180,000 refit. The venue, which features ten hand pumps, is the 23rd pub in the Project William initiative, which has seen Everards partner micro brewers to open pubs.

TCG reports King’s Feast sales growth: TCG, the managed pub company headed by Nigel Wright and owned by private equity firm Alchemy, reports total sales up between 100 and 200 per cent at its five King’s Feast community pubs. King’s Feast, which, for example, features 21-day age steaks for £7.75, is a broadened community pub offer - food sales increase from ten per cent to 25 per cent of total sales post-conversion.

Hall & Woodhouse offers £15,000 community chest: Dorset brewer and retailer Hall & Woodhouse is offering community groups in West Sussex a slice of £15,000 to help fund initiatives. Last year, the company handed out £15,400 in grants of between £300 and £3,000. Chairman Mark Woodhouse said he “passionately believes a company cannot succeed without the support of its community”.

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