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Fri 15th Jun 2012 - Bruce Bars, M&B and Friday Opinion

Story of the day:

ALMR – pub trade will not bankroll Premier football spending spree: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers has put Sky and British Telecom on notice that the trade can’t bankroll their record spending spree. The two companies have paid just over £3 billion – a 70 per cent increase – for football rights starting in the 2013-14 season. Strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said: “Pubs and bars got a bad deal from the last auction process in 2009 – not only were prices hiked across the board, but most ended up having to pay more to Sky to continue to secure the must-see matches. Indeed many thousands missed out on key England games – and Theo Walcott’s goals - because they were unable to pay the additional premium Sky demanded. With BT having 18 of the 38 first choice picks, it is vital that the two providers work together to deliver a seamless, cost effective service to commercial customers.” The Association has carried out an annual assessment of Sky charges and take-up, actively campaigning on this issue since 2000. In 2009/10, although the average Sky subscription increased slightly to £15,000 per annum, the survey saw expenditure on Sky across the pub sector falling by 55 per cent following the introduction of the new rights package, reflecting lower uptake with just 39 per cent of pubs subscribing, the lowest level in a decade. Nicholls added: “We have just come off a fantastic season, with a thrilling climax to it, and pubs once again becoming the natural home of live sport. Let’s not ruin it with sky high price hikes.”

Industry news:

Government throws the economy a £140bn lifeline: The Bank of England and the government has unveiled a scheme to provide £140bn of credit to kickstart the economy. The money will be made available to banks on condition they pass it on directly in the form of cheaper business loans and mortgages. 

A month of rain to fall in the next two days: Nearly two inches of rain – half the average for the month - are forecast to fall today and tomorrow. The Environment Agency said: “The heavy rainfall is expected to spread into central and north eastern England on Friday, with heavy showers to follow throughout the day and into Saturday.”

Cask Ale week dates unveiled: Cask Ale Week, the annual event aimed at encouraging pub and customers to spotlight and try cask ale, will take place between 28 September to 7 October. The strapline will be “Only in Britain, Only in Pubs” to highlight the unique nature of the cask ale offer to be found in pubs. 

Wall Street Journal notes trend toward portable food: The august Wall Street Journal has reported on a trend in US foodservice towards creating items that are easier to eat in the car and on the go. Fast casual restaurants are introducing dishes like bite-sized fried chicken in containers that fit in a car's cup holder and tightly rolled sandwiches that are easy to hold and dip in sauce. Popeyes began selling Dip'n Chick'n last year after market research revealed people were very interested in a fried, boneless chicken snack that could be eaten “just like chips and dip”. Popeyes cut chicken so it curls up into a small scoop when cooked, creating the best-selling limited-time menu item in company history at that time.

A new restaurant quarter set for Bath: A new food area that features six new restaurants in the centre of Bath should be open before Christmas. These six restaurant units will be created in a £12m scheme in the vaults under the 19th-century railway station, in what developer Multi says will be a “fantastic” scheme. Multi is understood to be in advanced talks with a mix of well-known names and local operators.

Company news:

Bruce Bars buys Enterprise freehold: Bruce Bars has become the second sitting tenant, after Thorley Taverns, to acquire the freehold of the Enterprise Inns pub it occupies in the wake of the decision by the company six months ago to sell top-end sites to reduce debt. The company bought the lease of The Three Crowns in Stoke Newington earlier this year – and has now bought the freehold for £2.2m. Bruce Bars is now looking to add to their portfolio and will consider freehold or leasehold sites in London. The company, run by Michael Nicholas, already owns and operates eight pubs in the north London area including The Pub on the Park in London Fields, as well as The Enterprise and The Monarch in Camden. Paul Tallentyre, director of pubs at agent Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “Multiple operators with a strong cash flow are continuing to snap up sites as we approach the end of the first half of the year. As with the recent news of Spirit releasing 100 pubs into the market, Punch Taverns and Enterprise Inns continue to off-load sites, creating welcome movement in the market. The London pub market remains very buoyant and high premiums are continuing to be paid for good London assets although outside of London we expect the market remain very challenging for some time to come.” 

Mitchells & Butlers to open second Tuk Cho in August: Mitchells & Butlers is to open its second Tuk Cho, its Asian food concept, in Chiswick in August. Tuk Cho is described as an “exciting, colourful journey into the heart of Asia's famous street markets without taking the long journey into Asia itself”. The first Tuk Cho site opened in Ealing last December.

Chris Evans barman sells freehold: Andrew Carey, the publican who featured in Chris Evans’s Channel Four talk show TFI Friday, has sold the freehold of his north London pub, The Haverstock Arms in Belsize Park, for £2 million. It’s been bought by Southover Properties, which plans to develop the property and re-let the nine bedrooms. Once refurbished, the ground floor and basement will be re-let for a restaurant or bar opportunity. Carey has retired from the licensed trade. Agent was Davis Coffer Lyons.

Activist investor sells Young’s shares: The activist investor Guinness Peat Group, the investment company winding up its portfolio of assets, has sold its stake in Young & Co’s Brewery for £54.1m. A clearly delighted Young’s stated: “Given Guinness Peat’s stated intention to realise its portfolio of investments, we view this successful placing as a very positive outcome. It recognises the strength of Young's as an investment proposition and should increase the overall liquidity of the shares. We welcome the news, and our new shareholders to Young's.”

Caffé Nero expands into Poland: Caffé Nero, the coffee shop operator founded by Gerry Ford, has taken a majority stake in the Polish coffee shop operator Green Coffee. The Polish firm has nine sites in Warsaw and there are now plans to open as many as 100.

Bloomberg reports TDR Capital eyeing 1.75bn euros of fund-raising: The backer of 550-strong Stonegate Pub Company, private equity firm TDR Capital is considering a plan to raise 1.75bn euros for its third European fund, according to Bloomberg. The news agency claimed that TDR Capital expects to start marketing TDR Capital III in the second half of 2012. The prior fund, TDR Capital II, raised 2.2bn euros in 2006.

Hadengrove buys first pub: Hadengrove, a new company set up by Duncan Watson-Steward, who previously ran a gastro-pub in Belsize Park, has acquired an Enterprise lease on The Star pub in north-west London off an asking price of £80,000. The pub was sold by David Coffer Lyons on behalf of multiple operator Neil Gregory, who owns The Royal Oak in Shoreditch and The Spurstowe in Hackney. The business currently composes 65 per cent wet sales and 35 per cent dry sales and has a 12.30pm licence – and has a passing rent of £35,500 per annum.

Couple create skills centre at second pub: Simon and Edith Berry have opened their second pub, The Eagle and Sun in Hanbury, an Enterprise pub, with a focus on giving youngsters the chance to make their mark in the hospitality industry. The Berrys, who also run The Gardeners Arms, will over-see a team of trainees and college graduates, giving them their first real chance of working in the industry. As well as chef, bar and waiter or waitressing skills, those who take part in the scheme will also be able to learn about business, marketing and profit and loss accounting so they will be able to handle all aspects of running their own pub. Simon said: “We will be tapping into the raw talent the area has to offer and, hopefully, in a couple of years, they will be able to acquire all the skills they need to successfully run their own pub.”

Nextep Inns founders set up new company: Peter and John Knowles, the founders of three-strong Nextep Inns, have set up a new company, Ipay-U, which provides tax benefits for employers and employees. The Ipay-U umbrella company engages freelance workers just as any other business employs staff. The employees are engaged under an ‘overarching’ contract of employment. Their services are then provided to third parties, with employees enjoying full employment and statutory rights. Due to the temporary nature of the work at different sites, this method of employment enables staff to claim legitimately incurred expenses, such as travelling and subsistence, to be set against tax. The ensuing reduction in tax and national insurance payable results in the employee receiving a higher level of net take home pay than otherwise would be the case. Peter Knowles told Morning Briefing: “For an employer with 120 staff working 40 hours per week at the minimum wage, the employer would save £46,488.00 employer national insurance per annum.”

Extel releases details of “best” leisure sector analysts and companies: The main annual Extel survey of City leisure analysts and firms has been released. The survey is compiled from votes cast by customers. The top three rated analysts were: Jamie Rollo, of Morgan Stanley, Vicki Lee, of Barclays, and Matthias Desmarais of Exane BNP Paribas. Top three companies are: 1 Morgan Stanley; 2 Barclays; 3 Credit Suisse. A source said: “Most people focus on the main Extel survey results, rather than the small & Mid Cap part. That's because only a fraction of investors vote in the small / midcap part, as most investors do not solely invest in small caps. Also, most analysts who cover pubs & restaurants also do the larger stocks such as Compass, hotels and travel.”

Carluccio’s starts work on Peterborough site: Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s has begun work on its new site in Peterborough, which is expected to open in time for Christmas. It will occupy the site of the former Harriet’s Tearoom, in Cumbergate off Cathedral Square, next to The Queensgate shopping centre. Sam Eastwood, centre director at Queensgate, said: “The opening of Carluccio’s will significantly enhance and complement the burgeoning catering experience around Cathedral Square which has proved so popular with city visitors.

Former Slug & Lettuce re-opens as a sports bar: A former Slug & Lettuce in Southport as re-opened as a sports and real ale bar, The Sandgrounder, after standing empty for four years. The site was run as a Yates’s and underwent a £250,000 refit to become a Slug & Lettuce that closed a year later. The Sandgrounder has had ten 50-inch plasma screen TVs installed.

Overseas news:

Whole Foods drives to get more local: Whole Foods, the supermarket, deli and eatery that opened its seventh UK site just off Piccadilly Circus at the end of last month, is seeking to underscore its local credentials. It plans to open a new site in Brooklyn, New York next year, that has a 10,000-square-foot roof-top garden. “You can't get more locally grown than that,” says David Lannon, executive vice president of operations. In Hawaii, the store has opened a fish bar that serves locally caught, sustainably sourced fish chopped with items such as onions and soy sauce to create an “emotional connection” to what locals ate as kids. The site also has three porches where customers can sit, eat and socialise. “It brings folks full circle to their memories of growing up in Hawaii,” added Lannon.

Work underway at Las Vegas Hakkasan: Construction has stated on a new Hakkasan restaurant in Las Vegas Strip, a 75,000 square foot restaurant to be built on five floors in the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. The restaurant will replace the Studio 54 nightclub. Hakkasan first opened in London in 2001 and currently has US locations in Miami and New York City. Further openings are planned.

Las Vegas entrepreneur invests in Pie Face: Wynn Resort chief executive Steve Wynn has bought a $15 million slice of Pie Face USA, the US off-shoot of the 75-strong Australian-based bakery-café chain that recently opened its first US unit in New York’s Times Square. Wynn acquired 43 per cent of issued and outstanding shares of Pie Face USA’s common stock in a private placement. The Pie Face concept, which is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, specialises in savoury and sweet handheld pies along with coffee, sandwiches, wraps, soups and pastries.

Friday Opinion:

Subjects: Digital communities, alcohol consumption
Authors: Tim Foster, Kate Nicholls

How we’re building a new community through digital by Tim Foster: In the past month we have embarked on a new venture within our boutique pub company - Ssshh, a secret supper club. Whilst our aim is to keep it a secret, it needs to be a secret a lot of people know! Big budgets don’t exist in our company; squeezing every penny into pounds is how we have survived and thrived so far. Ssshh is no different - the virtual world allows us to play at little cost and it’s also a great way to have some fun. Whilst the focus has been on digital platforms to spread the word and build our community of like-minded individuals, traditional media has still been at the heart of the concept. Photocopied spy packs, business cards and people, actual people, are our traditional media platforms. There is still a fundamental link required between the use of this media format and the virtual world, in my mind. Our virtual world consists of the following tools; we have a website, basic, a little quirky, created and managed by me. We have a Facebook account, a twitter account, a Google analytics account, a QR creation account, a blog, a bulk SMS and email supplier and our own internal data management software linked to our till systems across all sites. Sounds a lot, but all light manageable systems. So our campaign began with a tangible, tactile business card, something we could ‘pass on’ like Chinese whispers. If you were travelling on a tube, sitting on a park bench, reading a cookery book in Waterstones, buying a rail card from the electronic machines in Euston or St Pancras or approached by someone handing you a card and saying Ssshh with one finger over their mouth in the last week of May or since, you have heard of us. By using the QR code on these cards I expand the landscape of media exponentially. As a consumer you bounce from print to web, from web to Facebook, from Facebook to twitter, from twitter to Google to wherever - you are now engaged with my community. The QR code is already dead in many media minds. New platforms have arrived, more exciting, developed, creative, but to me inaccessible. I can create my own QR codes, change the intended links and most importantly see what is happening, where. The statistics tool allows me to see how many scans occur on an individual day and where they were scanned, whether or not my campaign is working. The good news is, it is. Our ambitions are modest, we have time on our side, we are not looking for a record-breaking success story. We are sticking to the concept and developing with it. By the end of the first day I will have 100 people in my community on Facebook, 33 or so followers on Twitter and the beginning of a community, but one that reaches far further than just those numbers. Currently somewhere out there in the ether 55 people right now are talking about us on just one platform. Daily, more come in, wanting to be part of something - in this case, us. Obviously the virtual world lends itself to our idea. Last night I had one of my gnomes escape from Ssshh and spend a night on the town. As much as I would love this to be true, in reality it isn’t. However, this morning, 69 of my community were talking about it - fun. The communities we are building have only just begun, but watching it grow is fascinating. Next week the bloggers will invade, have an opinion and cascade the content to thousands of information hungry fans. Our reach to new communities will potentially double daily, all from the touch of a button or two. 
Tim Foster is co-founder of Yummy Pub Company, which launched the Sshhh Supper Club above its Somers Town Coffee House venue near Euston last week


A twist in my sobriety by Kate Nicholls: It is not often that a Health Minister stands up to defend the government’s alcohol policy without it making headlines. But that is exactly what happened this week. You would be forgiven for having missed the fact that Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister was grilled by the Health Select Committee on Tuesday. Normally such sessions are headline news for all the wrong reasons – booze Britain, binge drinking and the collective hangover of alcohol related crime and disorder – with the blame laid squarely at the alcohol industry’s door and the insatiable demand that something be done. So, why has there been so little coverage? Well, first, the Health Minister was balanced and fair in her assessment of the problem, the efforts of the industry to promote responsible retailing and consumption and the need to target action on alcohol related harms, not alcohol per se. The only sound-bite the Minister did give away was the fact that nine million people were drinking over the recommended guidelines – something the health lobby tried to leap on as a matter of concern. But is it really? Dig a bit deeper and it appears the only thing we are guilty of is bingeing on sobriety. According to a YouGov poll, 65 per cent of people always drink within government guidelines, and 21 per cent don’t drink at all. The government’s own statistics show that fewer and fewer people are drinking to excess. The proportion of men drinking over the recommended guidelines is down 17 per cent over the past decade and that of women, down 19 per cent. Overall consumption is down 20 per cent. Just to put that nine million headline into context, what it really means is that 43 million people in this country drink sensibly and never exceed recommended drinking guidelines of three units a day. What is more, 53 million already have at least three alcohol-free days a week, already complying with the government’s latest proposals. It all begins to sound a bit Puritanical, doesn’t it? So whilst the government is right to keep these measures under regular review, it is also right to adopt the balanced, holistic approach favoured by the Minister this week. Quoting headline figures about the minority without putting them into context risks over-stating the scale of the problem and scare-mongering. What we should be celebrating is that the overwhelming majority of people drink responsibly and consume alcohol safely as part of a healthy lifestyle. Our role as retailers is to make sure that alcohol is sold and consumed responsibly – and the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary both agree that the safest and friendliest place to do that is in the pub. But this is also about individual behaviour too – with 70 per cent of alcohol now consumed away from the supervised environment of the pub, our politicians are right to be concerned about those who continue to drink well in excess of all sensible drinking guidelines and are resistant to the current health messages. And who are these binge drinkers? The feral youth of Daily Mail infamy? The ladettes falling over in town centres? Well, think again as it is the 16-24 year old age group where consumption is falling fastest. The proportion drinking in excess of current guidelines is down by a third for men and a quarter for women. No, the YouGov poll shows that the hardest and most harmful drinkers are middle-aged Tory voters in London. Now would you like to talk statistics Minister? 
Kate Nicholls is strategic affairs director for the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers

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