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Mon 19th Mar 2012 - Innbrighton, Harvester and Singer Inns

Story of the day:

Trade body ALMR hits 100 members: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has hit a milestone with the recruitment of two new members to take the membership to 100 operator companies. The new companies to join are: Pebble Hotels, the company led by Ted Kennedy, who sold Mill House Inns to Punch Taverns and who is currently overseeing a number of sector assets owned by IBRC, formerly known as Anglo Irish; and Noble Inns, the award-winning gastro-operator led by Scott Hunter and Maria Larsen, who operates the Time Out Gastro Pub of the Year, the Princess of Shoreditch and re-opened Punch’s Lady Ottoline in Bloomsbury last year after a £500,000 refurbishment. Kate Nicholls, ALMR strategic affairs director, said: “Continuing to grow membership in this way, despite the ongoing difficult trading conditions, is fantastic news – particularly in our 20th Anniversary year – and highlights how relevant our campaigns, advice and support are to managed operators. “The fact that this growth has come not only from pubs and bars but also the modern casual dining and hybrid operators reinforces our position as the voice of licensed retail. “Our membership is up by a third year on year, with growth driven by modern hybrid outlets – late night operators are up by a fifth and the number of casual dining outlets represented by the Association has shot up by almost 600 per cent.” New members to join in the past year include JD Wetherspoon, Spirit Pub Company, TGI Friday’s, Walkabout operator Intertain, Stonegate Pub Company and Amber Taverns. These six companies alone employ around 70,000 people in the UK.

Weekend catch-up:

Cameron to force through minimum pricing: David Cameron will unveil a minimum price for alcohol within days of the Budget, according to The Times. A consultation among Cabinet members on the new alcohol strategy has put the issue of minimum pricing off limits. The Government is expected to launch a consultation on minimum pricing, legislate in 2013 and implement it in 2014, subject to an anticipated legal challenge. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is reported to be concerned about the effects on family brewers, pubs and poorer families. 
Young unable to match parents’ living standards: The Financial Times has undertaken a study that has shown young Britons starting their careers can’t expect to be better off than their parents while those reaching retirement age have never had it so good. The study shows that the real disposable income of those in their 20s has stagnated for a decade. Ashley Seager, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, said: “These figures demonstrate that generational imbalances are becoming so serious they risk alienating the younger generation.”
Half of 2,000 surveyed call for scrapping of beer tax: A total of 54 per cent of 2,010 adults surveyed by Comres on behalf of the Sunday Mirror said that Chancellor George Osborne should scrap any new beer tax to help struggling pubs. The findings come as industry bosses warn that another 500 pubs face closure if the Chancellor pushes further tax rises through this week. Brigid Simmonds, of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “This Sunday Mirror poll shows that the public is fed up with these huge tax rises.”
Sunday trading rules to be relaxed for the Olympics: The rules on Sunday trading are to be eased for eight weeks during the summer to coincide with the Olympics. Large stores will not be restricted to six hours of opening between 10am and 6pm thanks to the relaxation of rules – it is expected to boost retailers’ profits by as much as £90m.
Whitstable entrepreneur selling “lifestyle portfolio”: Whitstable businessman Steve Graham is selling his ice cream parlour, three-bedroom cottage, 1950s beach hut and dinghy for £675,000 as a “lifestyle portfolio”. Graham’s wife recently passed away and he wants a new start. Of Whitstable, he says: “I’d like someone to come and embrace the town – it’s got great sunsets.”
Jamie Oliver to launch 15-minute cookbook: Chef Jamie Oliver is to follow the success of his Jamie’s 30-minute meals book with Jamie’s 15-minute meals.  The book will be published in the autumn – 30-minute meals sold 1.7 million copies.
Tesco to reverse sales declines with “High Street” approach: Supermarket Tesco, which saw its market share slip from 29 per cent a year ago to 28.5 per cent for the 12 weeks to 3 March, will attempt to reverse the loss of customers by creating stores within stores. The Mail on Sunday reports: “It will feel as though customers are walking into a nail bar, a chemist, a shoe bar or a Holland & Barrett. And there will even be store-themed £1 shops.”
Surge of insolvencies expected on 26 March: A recent court ruling means that administrators are likely to plump for 26 March to put a host of companies into administration. It’s the day after commercial rents paid quarterly in advance are due. Court rulings have recently insisted due rent is paid to landlords ahead of other creditors if a company is placed into administration ahead of the quarter day. If the administrator hangs on for a day, the unpaid rent is included in the other creditor claims – and the administrator has three months’ grace.
Low alcohol beers sees sales increase: Sales of low alcohol beer are on the rise among the health conscious. There’s been an increase of 40 per cent in the past year with stockists encouraged by tax breaks on beers containing 2.8 per cent alcohol or less.
Fast casual restaurants in the US defy economy: A report by Technomic, the Chicago-based food service research company, has reported that fast casual restaurants has tripled their market share in the US in the past decade and now account for 14 per cent of all sales in the quick service sector. Fast casuals chins such as Five Guys and Chipotle are among the country’s fastest growing chains.  The fast casual segment is defined by quick service but with higher-quality fare and decor than fast-food chains. One fast casual chain Panera Bread opened its 1500th site last year and saw profit jump by 20 per cent to $136m.
Hobbit pub dispute could be resolved with £63 licence fee: Paul Zaentz, whose firm owns many rights to JRR Tolkein’s work, has stated that threatened legal action over a pub in Southampton called The Hobbit could be resolved with the payment of a £63 fee. A number of celebrities, including Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellan, have voiced support for the Punch Taverns pub since it received legal letters asking for a name change. Zaentz said: “We asked to them to contact us and amicably resolve this and are open to any suggestions they have. I’d be glad to raise a pint with them the next time I’m over.”

Company news:

Innbrighton re-opens second London pub: Innbrighton, the operator of 44 pubs in Brighton led by Gavin George, has re-opened its second London pub after a £200,000 investment. The pub, a free-of-tie lease in East Dulwich, was known as the Crystal Palace Tavern and has been re-named the Great Exhibition. It features pictures of “great exhibitionists” such as John Belushi, Muhammad Ali and the Red Baron. Chief executive Gavin George told Morning Briefing: “We had a fantastic opening night in which we were absolutely mobbed. There’s definitely been a buzz in East Dulwich about the opening of the Great Exhibition.” The opening of the Great Exhibition follows the Britannia in Victoria Park. Added George: “It’s close to Victoria Park and you can see the Olympic stadium.  There will be a big screen in Victoria Park during the Olympics and it’s a very popular summer pub so it’s well-placed to benefit from the Olympics.” Innbrighton, which is backed by private equity firm Graphite Capital, has previously stated its ambition to run an estate of 25 pubs in London eventually. 
Mitchells & Butlers set to open 200th Harvester: Managed pub company Mitchells & Butlers is set to open its 200th Harvester restaurant early next month. The company is to spend £900,000 on a new-build Harvester Salad & Grill at the Pavilions West, Cygnet Park, Peterborough. Harvester senior marketing manager Alex Meyer said: “There will be a grand ceremony to mark the opening as it will be our 200th store.” The120-cover Harvester is expected to open on 3 April. Recent Harvester openings include sites in Star City and The Fort in Birmingham, Carmarthen, and Centrum Burton. The chain won The Evolutionary Brand Award at the Peach Factory’s Hero and Icon awards last November. In the past year it has introduced calorie counts and rolled out a takeaway service across the estate. 
Singer Inns and Taverns takes Plymouth pub: Singers Inns and Taverns, the six-strong operator of pubs, has taken a lease on the Waterfront bar and tavern in West Hoe, Plymouth. The venue, tied to St Austell, will be re-named The Waterfront Pub and Eating House after a planned £200,000 investment and include a coffee shop called The Bean Machine. Dean Singer told This is Plymouth: “Most of the pubs I have are seasonal premises but we control them to make profit. “The problem was it (Waterfront) was focussed on summer and sitting outside.”
Former Laurel operations director opens second hotel: The former Laurel Pub Company operations director Gary Morse has re-opened a second site. Morse and former Laurel general manager Tony Negal opened their first site – the Cathedral Hotel in the centre of Salisbury – four years ago. Now the pair has invested £200,000 re-opening the Castle Hotel in Devizes, a 19-bedroom hotel owned by Wadworth.  There’s a 25 per cent off introductory offer running until 16 April. Loyalty card holders get a regular five per cent off.  Morse said: “We saw a gap in the market for a mid-range pub with reasonable meals and a comfortable atmosphere.”
Ale and gin house opens in Clerkenwell: Former Prue Leith student and chef Marc Dalla Riva has opened the Blacksmith and Toffeemaker in Clerkenwell, formerly the Queen Boadicea. Managing director of Leith Food Solutions Chris Barber has been advising on the opening. Barber said: “This is not a gastro-pub – it’s an ale and gin bar, with a food offer to support.” The London Evening Standard said: “The food, chalked up on a board, seemed fairly basic stuff — scotch eggs, pies — but then proved to offer several substantial hot dishes too at the bottom of the list. Everything we tried was excellent.”
Enterprise landlady welcomes Fuller’s acquisition: Enterprise licensee Sandie Coleman, whose pub, the Old Thatch in Stratford, has been sold to Fuller’s by Enterprise reports that her former company is selling the “jewels in the crown” to raise money. She said: “I’m proud to say the Old Thatch is one of the jewels. As we are a family-run business it will be good dealing with a family-oriented landlord. I am so pleased that the Thatch is back in the hands of a beer brewer because at the beginning of its life in 1470 it was the brewery for Stratford.”
Stonegate Pub Company converts Skegness Litten Tree to Yates’s: Managed operator Stonegate Pub Company has spent £150,000 converting a Litten Tree in Skegness, Lincolnshire, to a Yates’s.  The pub is offering free toast to anyone eating breakfast there in the first month.
Bristol restaurateur secures fourth site: Bristol restaurateur James Savage is to open his fourth site – he will open the Lido Kitchen at the Portishead Open Air Lido. He already operates gastro-pub The Spotted Cow, The Bank and the Big Chill Bar in Bristol. Nathan Muir, former chef at Terence Conran’s Bibendum, will lead the kitchen team – he previously also gained a Michelin guide entry for the New Inn at Blackwell. The venue will re-open at the end of this month.

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