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Mon 11th Jun 2012 - Gordon Ramsay, Carluccio’s and Hillbrooke Hotels

Story of the day:

Gordon Ramsay makes Ebitda of £3.3m in the UK: The Gordon Ramsay restaurant empire made Ebitda of £3.3m in its UK restaurants on turnover of £38.05m in the most recent year, up from £37.90m the year before. However, the company lost £800,000 on its Australian operation which saw turnover climb to £7.8m in the year to 31 August 2011, up from £3.57m the year before. Results for the full year, which saw the company open its largest venture to date, The Bread Street Kitchen in September last year, show a pre-tax loss of £4.4m after £2.4m of re-organisation costs thought to be linked to the departure of his former business partner Chris Hutcheson. There was also an impairment charge of £2.1m against revalued assets and the writing off of a £1.7m loan to The Warrington in Maida Vale, a gastro-pub now sold off. Companies House documents show Ramsay has a personal guarantee of £3.5m against the business. The company says it expects improved Ebitda in the current year thanks to full year trading from The Savoy Grill (opened in November 2010) Petrus (acquired in December 2010) and The Bread Street Kitchen. It added: “The group has enjoyed strong trading since the year-end, increasing the number of covers at each site and improving profits through operational efficiencies.” Ramsay injected a further £3.8m of his own money in the business during the year taking the total value of his loans to the company to £9.2m. The company, which has 694 staff, sold its Murano restaurant to chef Angela Hartnett and ended its Melbourne, Australia operation during the year – there’s a sum of £1.53m in the accounts from the sale of business operations.

Company news:

Host of firms compete to buy Novus Leisure: The Sunday Times has named four private equity firms keen to buy a stake in Novus Leisure. The four firms are: Blackstone, LGV Capital, LDC, the private equity arms of Lloyds Banking Group and Silverfleet. Novus Leisure, which runs 52 venues, is on track to hit £19m of EBITDA for the current financial year ending this month. Sales in the first six months of the year grew to £74.1m from £55.8m the year before.

JD Wetherspoon founder - doing nothing on beer duty is not an option: Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon, has insisted that “doing nothing (on beer duty) is not an option” after a British Beer & Pub Association table showed that UK beer drinkers pay the most tax of any of the 16 qualifying countries for this year’s Euro championships. Martin said: “Doing nothing is not an option. British beer drinkers pay 40 per cent of the Euro beer tax bill when consuming only 13 per cent of the beer sold in Europe. A beer tax break will create much-needed jobs. With u-turns from Number Eleven all the rage, the Chancellor still has time to amend the Finance Bill to halt the beer duty escalator.” Beer lovers in host country Ukraine pay four pence in every pint to their taxman, while Chancellor George Osborne takes 55 pence from every British pint.

Carluccio’s opens site in Teddington: Carluccio’s opened a new site in Teddington on Friday taking the total UK estate to 61 sites – the venue is a former Brasserie Gerard acquired as part of a package of four from the Paramount Restaurants estate. The company has opened in Liverpool and Marylebone so far this year and has seven further openings lined up for 2012 – in Dorchester, Bath, Berkhamstead, Meadowhall, Colchester, Peterborough and Watford. In the company’s most recent financial year to 25 September 2011, turnover climbed 14 per cent to £84.7m and pre-tax profit was £5.8m, a sharp rise from £3.4m the year before. 

Hillbrooke Hotels opens seventh pub with bedrooms site: Hillbrooke Hotels, the specialist operator of pubs with bedrooms linked to country estates and headed by Christoph Brooke, has re-opened the historic Stag and Huntsman in Hambleden. The pub now has nine bedrooms, six more than before, a third bar and new toilets. The restoration, which was paid for by the Hambleden Estate, was carried out under the auspices of heritage architect Ptolemy Dean in order to maintain the charm of the pub, which dates back to 1810. The Hambleden estate is owned by Swiss multi-millionaire Urs Schwarzenbach.

Orchid boss renews calls for government support: Rufus Hall, chief executive of 300-strong managed pub company Orchid, has renewed his call for government support for the pub sector. Reflecting on the Thames pageant in his blog, Hall said: “As I watched the flotilla on Sunday I couldn’t help noticing the number of pubs on the banks of Thames. There are more than 200 on the river with some more than 500 years old. I don’t think there’s any other business left on the river that are 500 years old – docks are gone, boathouses closed, warehouses shut, brothels made illegal – but the pub survives. The pub really is part of our history and maybe the government should support our industry so that pubs can continue at the heart of our communities for the next 500 years.”

Essex operator opens third site: Essex businessman Mark Stevens, who operates two venues in Brentwood, has invested £220,000 in opening a new tapas bar in Billericay. Harry’s Bar has opened in the former Emporium shop in Billericay High Street. Harry’s Bar owner Mark Stevens was inundated with complaints from residents when he unveiled his plans, but says the opening is now being supported by locals. Stevens also owns Bar West One and Murphy’s Sports Bar in Brentwood.

The number of Welsh breweries booms: The number of independent brewers in Wales has increased fivefold in just a decade as demand for local cask ale continues to increase. Chairman of the Association of Welsh Independent Brewers Buster Grant told the Western Mail there were now 60 independent breweries in Wales. “If you look at 10 years ago there were about a dozen in Wales – it’s a massive increase,” he said.

Soho House suffers fire at Electric Cinema: Soho House, the company headed by Nick Jones, suffered a fire at its Electric Cinema premises in Notting Hill on Saturday. It is thought that the fire started in the venue’s kitchen’s extractor fan system. A Soho House spokesperson said: “An investigation is now being carried out and damage is being assessed.” The premises are expected to be closed for a week.

US better burger segment grows by 21 per cent in a year: The US “better burger” segment grew by 21 per cent last year to hit total sales of $2.2 billion in 2011, according to research firm Technomic. The research house defines better burger restaurants as using fresh meat and making hamburgers to order. Former chief executive of McDonald’s Ed Rensi, who now runs his own five-strong better burger chain, Tom and Eddie’s, with fellow former McDonald’s executive Tom Dentice, argued that the rise of better burger was about the burger’s ability to sell for a wide range of prices. “There’s a niche in any industry you can fill and have a very nice business,” he told the Chicago Tribune.

PizzaExpress teams up with The Times: PizzaExpress has teamed up with The Times newspaper to offer readers a free bottle of wine when they spend £20 or more at participating restaurants. The offer is valid between Sunday and Friday until 17 June. 

Indigo Leisure takes second Greene King site: Brighton multiple Indigo Leisure has taken a second Greene King site in Brighton – the former Hop Poles. The company already runs Greene King’s Eagle venue in the city. The Hop Poles was run by Tony Leonard and Dominic McCarten for 12 years. They left after a rent dispute with Greene King and the venue was run for three months by Martin Hayes as a Cask Ale and Kitchen venue.

Work starts on Peter Andre’s second coffee shop: Work has begun on the second branch of New York Coffee Club, the concept founded in East Grinstead by Peter Andre and his brother Danny. The first site opened in November last year and received a lowly one star out of five in a food hygiene check in February. Last week, the cafe earned a five-star rating. In a statement on his website, Peter Andre said: “As the owner, I feel very proud to receive this five-star rating and we take pride in our cleanliness, great coffee and great service.”

Roastery and coffee bar opens in Cirencester: A roastery and coffee bar inspired by Australian cafe culture has opened in Cirencester. Rave Coffee, based in Love Lane, supplies the general public and local businesses with wholesale product as well as having a bar where customers can drink freshly roasted coffee and a full range of Teapigs organic tea. “We came back to the UK with the passion and drive to roast coffee similar to that we experienced and enjoyed in Australia,” said owners Rob and Vikki Hodge.

Greene King falls foul of planning regulations: A retrospective planning application by Suffolk-based Greene King has been rejected by planners in Hampshire. New Forest District Council has issued an enforcement notice that instructs the company to remove new facilities at The Testwood pub in Salisbury Road, Totton. A number of improvements to the pub, including the provision of a timber-framed shelter housing an outdoor dining area, were made without planning consent. Greene King has lodged an appeal and claimed the enforcement notice is invalid because it was not signed by the council’s head of legal services, Grainne O’Rourke. A Greene King spokesman said: “An appeal has been lodged because we believe our customers have greatly benefited from the improvements to this popular pub.”

Re-modelled Lincolnshire pub hires Cinnamon Club chef: The former Laceby Arms pub is undergoing a £100,000 transformation to create Mitu's Restaurant, Bar and Alfresco Dining, which will open in about four weeks' time. The 120-seater restaurant will comprise of three rooms; one for parties, relaxed dining, a traditional lounge, and tiered decking space outside. New chef is Abbas Zahra, a former chef at the prestigious Indian restaurant, The Cinnamon Club, in London. The opening is the second by Mitu Ahmed, who also owns the Me2Raj in Cleethorpes.

Chinese Buffet to open fifth site: Chinese restaurant chain Chinese Buffet is to open its fifth venue at a site in Preston’s St George’s Shopping Centre next month. Peter Wu, managing director of The Chinese Buffet, said: “St George’s Shopping Centre was a natural choice for us due to its prime location in the heart of Preston’s retail district.” The 9,200sq ft unit will occupy three floors. The Chinese Buffet group already has sites in Bolton, Wigan, Wakefield and St Helens.

Weekend catch-up:

Doctors call for ban on alcohol advertising: An alliance of more than 30 medical bodies and charities have called for a ban on alcohol advertising on television and sports sponsorship. The alliance has submitted its view to the House of Commons health select committee, arguing the move is needed to tackle the “growing burden” on society caused by an “alcohol problem claiming 15,000 lives a year”. Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, has said “extreme measures” are needed to tackle alcohol consumption, which has become the leading cause of death among young men – it accounts for 27 per cent of deaths among those aged 16 to 24. Sir Ian said: “Britain’s attitude to drink has changed dramatically so that it has become all-pervasive, always available and constantly marketed. In terms of consumption, we need to change the norms, to get back to where we were 20 or 30 years ago.”

North-east bars take part in Google trial: A new Google service is bringing Newcastle’s historic bars and restaurants into people’s living rooms with a pilot scheme. Google Places is a version of Street View which lets internet users see where they are headed for a big night out. One of the first venues to benefit from the scheme is The Centurion bar at Newcastle’s Central Station. The pub is one of the most historic on Tyneside and now a 360-degree virtual tour of the premises is available online.

Consumers turn to cash: A report by the British Retail Consortium has revealed that consumers are increasingly using cash to ensure they are in control of their budgets. Cash was used in 58 per cent of retail transactions last year, up from 55 per cent in 2010. An average shopping basket reduced by £2.48 year-on-year to £10.45 as shopper exerted tight control of their purse strings.

No return of late May weather expected this month: The Met Office expects summer weather may not arrive until July. A spokesman said: “It looks like we are going to see a period of more settled weather around the latter part of June but there is not a clear signal that we are going to see a warm spell like we saw in May again before the end of June.”

Red sauce beats brown sauce in survey: A survey by Ask Jeeves has found that 50 per cent of those taking part reported they preferred tomato ketchup with 34 per cent voting for brown sauce and the remaining 16 per cent undecided or preferring no sauce.

Cod will vanish in ten years: The European commission has forecast that popular fish species such as cod and mackerel will all but disappear within ten years without swift action to prevent overfishing. The report claims that nearly 50 per cent of Atlantic fish stocks and more than 80 per cent of Mediterranean ones have already been exhausted. On current trends only eight out of 120 fish would be at a sustainable level in a decade’s time, the commission has argued. 

UK Groupon deals delayed to ensure compliance: Demands by the Office of Fair Trading in March for Groupon to ensure it complied with consumer protection laws has led to delays in processing deals. The company has beefed-up its UK compliance team and now keeps a weekly log of customer complaints. But some customers have reported delays in processing their offers as Groupon ensures it meets the OFT’s guidelines.

US restaurants enjoy first quarter traffic rise: The US restaurant sector saw a one per cent rise in the first three months of 2012, the strongest footfall increase since spring 2008, according to The NPD Group. The US market research firm also reported that American consumers increased spending at restaurants by three per cent in the first quarter, with more than half of that gain coming from rise in average bill-size. NPD restaurant analyst Bonnie Riggs attributed much of the quarter’s relative strength in restaurant traffic to an unseasonably warm winter, including the warmest March in decades.

Tesco reports like-for-like sales decline in the UK: Supermarket giant Tesco has reported like-for-like sales reduced by 1.5 per cent in the quarter to 26 May. The company, has, however, hired a total of 4,300 additional new staff to work in fresh food and beers, wines and spirits departments in every Extra and Superstore. Chief executive Philip Clarke said: “Tesco has performed robustly in the first quarter despite subdued consumer confidence in all our markets.”

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