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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 8th May 2012 - Technomic, Punch and ULG

Story of the day:

Technomic survey – UK consumers looking for more flavour: A survey of UK consumers by research company Technomic has found more than a quarter of all surveyed consumers (28 per cent) are more interested in trying new flavours now than they were a year ago. This trend is strongly driven by younger consumers aged 18-34 (43 per cent). Technomic argues, in its UK Flavour Consumer Trend Report, that the findings signal the need for restaurants and their suppliers to stay on top of flavour trends in order to reinvigorate classic offerings with innovative twists. “Operators are always looking at new ways to differentiate their brand,” said Technomic vice president Darren Tristano. “Incorporating unique flavours into existing menus can be a low-cost and effective way to grow sales and attract new customers. Focusing on food taste and flavour is a powerful long-term strategy.” Another key finding of the survey is that 39 per cent said they would be more likely to visit a restaurant that offers new or innovative flavours, up from 35 per cent in the previous study. The survey also found 31 per cent of consumers are willing to pay more for restaurant meals that showcase new and exciting flavour profiles. This is an increase from 28 per cent two years ago. Consumers aged 25-34 are the most likely to indicate a greater interest in ethnic flavours and cuisines (40 per cent) up from 33 per cent in just one year. To buy a copy of the report contact David Wilkinson on

Weekend catch up:

MPs told to sober up: Binge-drinking isn’t just restricted to youngsters in town and city centres. Now, it is the turn of Parliament to come under the spotlight after House of Commons’ Speaker John Bercow said more MPs are seeking help for alcoholism than ever before. He also said some other MPs were afflicted with “other addictions” and needed treatment. Bercow plans to introduce new measures to curb excessive drinking including raising the prices, closing the bars earlier and training staff to refuse service to drunken MPs and their guests.

Fury over foie gras ban: Chefs in California are up in arms over legislation that will ban foie gras from 1 July. The move is supported by animal rights groups as well as one of the state’s best-known chefs. According to a report in The Times, Wolfgang Puck, who runs Sprago, a Beverley Hills restaurant and who also cooks at the Oscars, has stopped serving foie gras, claiming: “Our conscience feels better.” Puck then came under fire for serving force-fed duck liver at a private party. Opponents to the ban claim that it will only make foie gras “go underground”. They cite a similar ban in Chicago where restaurants got round the legislation by giving away the delicacy, but charging customers for the toast or croutons.

Stay slim with black pepper: Scientists have found a new way of tackling obesity. According to new research, black pepper could help people remain trim because it stops fat from forming. Piperine, which gives pepper its taste, disrupts the activity of the genes that control the development of fat cells, claimed researchers at Sejong University in South Korea. The research was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 
London’s best for cocktails: London has seven of the top ten cocktails bars in Britain, according to an article in The Sunday Times written by Pub & Bar editor Paul Wootton. Topping the list was 69 Colebrooke Row (also known as The Bar with No Name) in Islington, which is credited for using a laboratory above the bar that resulted in “inventions of wonder, some of which defy the laws of physics”. In second place was The Artesian Bar at The Langham Hotel in the West End that was cited as having a vast array of rums and a cocktail list described as the best in the world. The highest non-London venue was Bramble Bar in Edinburgh, which was ranked third and described as having “a serious cocktail pedigree”. In descending order, the others were: Connaught Bar in Mayfair; Milk & Honey in Soho; Whistling Stop in Shoreditch; Portobello Star in Notting Hill; American Bar at The Savoy Hotel near Covent Garden; Bon Vivant in Edinburgh; and Raoul’s Cocktail Bar in Oxford.

Tobacco firms square up against the Government: Tobacco firms have warned the Government that it will face a bitter legal battle if it continues with a plan to ban branding on cigarette packets. Alison Cooper chief executive of Imperial Tobacco said her company and others would fight health secretary Andrew Lansley’s consultation document that planned to strip colourful logos and branding from tobacco product packaging. Cooper also warned the ban could make it easier for criminals and counterfeiters to flood the market with fake products. 

Company news:

JD Wetherspoon to build its biggest hotel in £4m Ilfracombe scheme: JD Wetherspoon is to invest around £4m building its biggest hotel - with 54 bedrooms - in the seaside town of Ilfracombe, Devon. The company has demolished the derelict Collingwood Hotel in preparation for the scheme. The company originally gained permission in 2008 to redevelop the prominent Victorian era Collingwood but it decided too much money would be needed to make it sound again. The new-build plans looks to create a new fit for purpose building “of equal prominence and architectural quality.” The drawings for the new scheme show a tiered “Art Deco” style building with a balcony area around the first floor in a “stand-alone” design. It’s due to open early in 2013.

Punch Taverns – happy to do bespoke deals: Punch Taverns, the tenanted company that plans to focus on 3,000 core pubs and sell 2,000 others, is prepared to do bespoke deals with tenants on pub lets, chief executive Roger Whiteside has told the ALMR’s 20th anniversary conference. Whiteside said the company has introduced leases that reward out-performance by tenants. But he added: “The team is empowered to do any bespoke deal that will make a pub fly. We no longer want to be the biggest pub company, we want to be the best. We will have 3,000 of the best pubs in the UK and we need the best people running those best pubs.” Referring to a planned £700,00 investment by Punch at a pub in York, he added: “We’re prepared to put our money where our mouth is (on investing in the estate).”

ULG set to launch new brasserie concept: On May 11th, Urban Leisure Group (ULG) will launch Central & Co - a contemporary brasserie and bar in Great Marlborough St in London’s Soho. The brasserie will be open all day serving British dishes, small plates, afternoon tea and more. The interior will be decked out with art deco lighting, mirrored walls and marble tables. ULG is headed by Hezi Yechiel and Dan Kattan. It will become the company’s seventh site in the capital. Another opening is planned for later in the year.

“Supermum” to open restaurant in south west London: Former City fund manager Nicola Horlick, dubbed “supermum” by newspapers for holding down a high pressure job while raising six children, is funding a new restaurant in Barnes, south west London. Horlick and business partner Adam Byatt will be opening Georgina’s on Barnes High Street on 14 May. Byatt also runs Trinity – a restaurant sited in Clapham Old Town. Georgina’s head chef is Greig Hunter who spent three years at Trinity. Hunter’s menu will be based around dishes, such as fresh salads, sea bream with harissa, and chargrilled meats from the barbecue.

Harbour Restaurant expands service: A landmark pub on the north Cornwall coast has added two new business streams. The Harbour Restaurant in Port Isaac is now offering an outside catering service for weddings and other special occasions as well as a home delivery service for meals cooked at the 15th century pub. The ventures are the brainchild of proprietor/chef Emily Scott, who has been joined by sous chef Megan Brigstocke to help with the new business streams.

Enterprise Inns to sell sites at Allsops auction: Enterprise Inns is looking to raise up to £3,250,000 by selling three freeholds at an Allsops auction on 21 May. The company is selling: The Prophecy on Wimbledon’s Broadway, used as a private members’ club, with a guide price of £1m to £1.1m – it's let to Raw Scott on a rent of £79,758 per annum; The Dysart on Petersham Road, Richmond-upon-Thames, with a guide price of £850,00 to £900,000 – it's let to Reylink on a rent of £56,500 per annum; and Bluebells on Sunningdale’s London Road, with a guide price of £1.15m to £1.25m – it's let to Gallanbur on a current rent of £87,359 per annum. The sales are consistent with earlier auction freehold disposals where a free-of-tie lease is in place. 

Morning Briefing Diary:

The rise and rise of eggs Benedict: JD Wetherspoon twitched upmarket two months ago with the introduction of eggs Benedict on the breakfast menu at the very reasonable price of £3.49. How are they selling? Boss Tim Martin tells Diary: “We’re selling 20,000-a-week, which is 40,000 eggs per week. After becoming the world number one seller of Pimm’s, I set the team the challenge of becoming the number one seller of eggs Benedict.”

When business partners get religion (and greedy): It’s the usual thoughtful stuff from sector investor Luke Johnson in his Financial Times musings. Last week, he was pondering the question of business break-ups. The world of business can throw curve balls from all manner of different directions. He writes: “Frequently partners separate because one undergoes a midlife crisis. This might involve a new marriage, discovering religion or a mental breakdown. I became involved with PizzaExpress because a key franchisee became a disciple of an Indian guru, ultimately triggering our purchase of the business.” But he’s had his share of misfortune as well: “Cheating partners are disturbingly common – I’ve lost count of the number of tales I’ve heard of rip-offs committed by long-term allies. I suffered from one recently, who looted a modest restaurant operation I backed.”

Whiting & Hammond boss done good: It’s gratifying when you can show a former employer that you’ve moved on to bigger and better things. Brian Whiting, ex-chef and boss of top-notch south-east gastro-operator Whiting & Hammond, hosted his former boss at the Savoy Hotel, chef Anton Edelmann, to lunch at his rather stylish former wedding venue Stanmer House (now converted to a Whiting & Hammond site) the other weekend. “Anton Edelmann was very impressed – place was buzzing and full,” tweeted Whiting. And Diary hears that takings at Stamner House, a fair drive out of Brighton central, are marching ahead with record consecutive weeks despite the very wet weather. 

Demand for “eatertainment” fuelling “breastaurant” sector: The growth of US chains that only employ attractive waitresses – Hooters, Twin Peaks and Brick House - and has been linked to growing demand for “eatertainment”. Industry analyst Bob Derrington says: “One subset of that is young males who are looking for something more than just food.” Really? Meanwhile, it’s also always nice to know who coins new sector terms. For this one, we have food-service research firm Technomic’s vice-president Darren Tristano, who, apparently, forged this neologism back in 2007. 

Payne traces history of pub hospitality: Stonegate Pub Company chairman Ian Payne provided a tour de force commentary on the history of the pub at last week’s ALMR 20th anniversary conference during a debate on the “The Pub of the Future”. He told attendees: “I’m the biggest pub person around – Jesus was born in one. I was there – and I’ve still got the rash from the straw.” And he also provided a quick and straightforward lesson on how the landlord/tenant relationship can be made harmonious. He reported he’s bought two village pubs that faced closure – and lets them out. He sets rent at “ten per cent of turnover on a free-of-tie basis”.

Gizza a job: It’s been an obvious struggle to fill the chief executive’s job at Mitchells & Butlers. But executive chairman Bob Ivell has a couple of decent CVs on his desk at long last. He took part in last week’s panel discussion at the ALMR’s 20th anniversary business day with Stonegate chairman Ian Payne and Wetherspoon’s Tim Martin and the latter had some good news for Ivell. “We’re both applying for the chief executive’s job,” Martin told him.

Words have been exchanged: Must be galling for brand owners to see supermarkets loss-leading on their products. But do they ever complain? Diageo on trade channel director for the UK Martijn Van Buuren, speaking at the ALMR’s conference, reports that the company has in fact had “some unpleasant dialogue” with offending companies. And were they listening? He points to a lack of loss-leading activity over Easter as a sign they were.

It’s a small world: Diary had lunch with John Roberts, former Fuller’s beer division boss and now non-executive director of new Clive Watson and David Bruce’s new vehicle City Pub Company. Turns out that Roberts was taught economics at degree level in Nottingham, back then by none other than CAMRA leading light and Castle Rock Brewery boss Chris Holmes. And, Roberts reports, he was involved in the opening of Holmes’s first pub in Newark, petitioning for support from locals when the opening faced opposition. He recalls a particularly messy opening night party…

Go ahead, fill your boots: Punch chief executive Roger Whiteside was in a wry mood at the ALMR conference talking about the opportunities for multiple operators within the estate. He spent most of his time espousing an “open for business” message, with the company offering all manner of lease flex and a willingness to co-invest. But he added that for those not tempted to tenant a Punch pub there are 2,000 freeholds available. He reported that he anticipated that operators would buy some of these sites, invest in them and might even “crow” a little about their success. And how does Whiteside feel about this? A good thing, he reported, because it would drive traffic towards its disposal estate. 

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