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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 30th Nov 2012 - Marston’s, Orchid and Ossett Brewery

Story of the day:

Novus reports record profits; subdued trading since the Olympics; looks to buy 30 to 40 units over the next few years: London-based Novus Leisure, the operators of 52 premium bar and restaurants, has reported Ebitda up 50 per cent to £16.7m for the 53 weeks to 27 June. Sales grew 25.4 per cent to £133.8m, with like-for-like sales up 12.2 per cent. Chief executive Steve Richards said: “Our market leadership in London and ongoing appeal of our premium venues to the affluent 25-33-somethings, together with a high food element and our pre-eminence in generating revenue from our pre-bookings system have all contributed to our ability to significantly outperform the market. We anticipate that the London market will remain buoyant for the foreseeable future and over the next few weeks we are looking forward to a strong Christmas performance. We have a growth strategy backed by LGV Capital and Hutton Collins to double our central London portfolio over the next few years. With access to significant funding from our new owners we will strengthen our existing cluster footprint by acquiring between 30 and 40 outlets over the next few years, enhancing and extending Novus’ market leading position in the London premium bar market.” The company said trading since the summer had been subdued but Christmas 2012 bookings are substantially up on a strong year last year. Novus also reported it is “active in acquiring new assets and engaged in a number of processes”. Its balance sheet was strengthened materially following its acquisition by LGV Capital and Hutton Collins in July 2012 - bank debt reduced from £79.9m (at 1 July 2012) to £37.5m. A total of £1m has been invested on the further development of its platform in the most recent financial year. The company added: “A further £1m of investment is earmarked for this year which will see the launch of a app and ‘state of the art’ CRM system.” The company invested £4.5m across its 52 existing sites during the year, with investment focused on adding further bookable space such as private dining rooms and private booths. Over 30 per cent of Novus’s total capacity of 36,000 is now ‘bookable space’ and the company intends to increase this to 40 per cent within 12 months.

ALMR National Restaurant Show Study Tour in Chicago open for bookings: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has opened its study tour to the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago in May 2013 for bookings. Next year’s visit takes place between Thursday 16 May and Monday 20 May. The ALMR launched its first study tour trip to the NRA show this year, with the trip led by Propel Morning Briefing managing director Paul Charity. The NRA draws 58,000-plus industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 countries, all seeking the newest innovations and up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues. The ALMR trip provides: insights from industry experts on the rise in fast-casual dining, social media, new and emerging brands, menu development, staff management and a host of other issues – with 70 free education sessions; involves a tour of Chicago’s hottest concepts and a market overview briefing sessions from US experts. ALMR chief executive Nick Bish said: “Our first trip in May this year was a tremendous success with our attendees reporting they had benefited enormously from the visit to the Show and the chance to study the key trends in the innovative US market.” Paul Charity, managing director of Propel Info, said: “The NRA show is a fantastic opportunity to find fresh inspiration and understand the emerging trends shaping the fast-changing US market.” To book a place, e-mail Jo Charity on or call her on (01444) 810304. Places are limited.

Industry news:

Shaftesbury reports unusually high demand for restaurant space in the West End since mid-September: Property owner Shaftesbury, which owns 500 properties in Carnaby Street, Covent Garden, Soho and Chinatown, has reported unusually strong demand for restaurant space. Chairman John Manser said: “Demand for all uses across our portfolio has remained strong, resulting in continuing low levels of space available to let, and rising rental income. Since the summer the West End has become even busier and we are seeing unusually high levels of interest from retailers, restaurant operators and other businesses seeking to come to our areas.” The company bought £44m of property in the West End in the year to the end of September, including six restaurants and bars.

Company news:

Ossett Brewery signs up for first Punch Taverns pub: Ossett Brewery, which operates 18 pubs, is to open its first Punch Taverns pub, The Flowerpot, in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, on 14 December, as a traditional ale pub after a £360,000 joint investment with the tenanted pub operator. Joint managing director Jamie Lawson told Morning Briefing: “Punch Taverns has become a forward-looking company that has re-shaped the way it works with smaller companies like ours. The deal on The Flowerpot is one that Punch would not have done five years ago. Punch is now very progressive and there are great deals to be done with them – we’re already looking at a couple more Punch sites.” The Flowerpot is free-of-tie on cask ale and Ossett will offer nine handpulls with four of its own beers and five guest ales. Lawson said the Flowerpot is being taken back to its former glory with the reinstatement of many of its characterful features. Punch regional operations director Richard Woodward said: “Ossett is a fabulous operation and is passionate about all aspects of its business and the partnership at The Flowerpot is very exciting for us.” Ossett operates mostly freeholds plus a couple of pubs it tenants from private landlords - and one site that is part of Everards’ Project William estate. 

Marston’s open third Revere pub today; trials small lodge motel: Midlands-based Marston’s is opening its third premium destination pub under the Revere Pub Company banner – The Lost and Found in Bennetts Hill, Birmingham. The move is being compared to the development of Mitchells & Butlers’ Premium Country Dining pubs. Marston’s has tasked its Hammersmith Brands division, headed by Colin Sadler, which looks after Pitcher & Piano and Bluu sites, to oversee development of the pubs under the Revere Pub Company banner. The first two sites to be redeveloped and re-opened are The Hogshead in Westbourne, near Bournemouth which will re-open as The Libertine and Ye Olde Saracen’s Head at Balsall Common in the West Midlands. Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay told Morning Briefing that trading at the first two openings has been “encouraging”. The company will review trading at the first three openings in the New Year with a view to as many as a dozen conversions in 2013. Meanwhile, Marton’s is trialing its first two small lodge motels at new-build sites in Chepstow and Aberystwth. The lodge investment is funded by a freehold sale and leaseback with the adjoining pub restaurant remaining freehold. The company’s disposal estate is now 400 pubs, worth an estimated £260,000 per pub, with a target to generate between £30m and £40m over the next three or four years.

Marston’s reveals brand evolution: Marston’s has reported that its brands and operating formats are undergoing evolution. Its Two for One format has introduced hand-held tills to increase the speed of service and that there is has been a re-focus on presentation and quality. In addition, there has been margin investment in staff incentive, which have shown to trigger behaviour change. The Milestone format, which will see 15 new builds in 2013, is now selling one in three meals from its rotisserie and an intimate “pubby” feel has been developed with the use of real fires. Meanwhile, Pitcher and Piano is seeing six per cent sales growth.

Wetherspoon airs latest positive and negatives of customer feedback: JD Wetherspoon has published its most recent positive and negative customer feedback in its in-house magazine distributed across the estate. Customers praised its beer festival (the choice of beers and the addition of cider), new openings (the quality of the buildings), smiling service and the value of Christmas meal offer. Critical comments have been received on: coffee queues (“lots of suggestions for us to have a dedicated coffee server to speed up service for those wanting a pint”), staff shortages (“try as we might, it seems that customers think that, most of the time, we need a little extra help”), dirty tables (“still an area to be addressed”), cold food (“fair to say fewer complaints but still a few trickling in”) and availability (“a few of you commenting on poor availability of dishes on the menu”).

SA Brains to convert Cirencester pub to “fine wine and dining” venue: SA Brains is converting The Bear Inn in Cirencester’s Dyer Street to a “fine wine and dining” venue – the site is due to open before Christmas. A recruitment advert states: “The Bear Inn will be one of Cirencester’s most exciting drink and dining experiences, mixing contemporary style with great quality British cuisine and refreshing beers and wines. It is the perfect venue for all occasions. We have put our love, passion and genuine admiration for food in to our wonderfully versatile menu. It’s fresh, authentic, imaginative – great quality that’s affordable.”

Gadd family expands with better burger concept: Sam Gadd, son of Durham leisure entrepreneurs Nigel and Deborah Gadd, who operate the highly regarded Zen Asian restaurant and Gadds Townhouse boutique hotel in the city, has opened a better burger concept called Tango Burger House in the city in partnership with Helen Inman. “We have had a soft opening so far, to enable us to test out the operation of the business but the feedback has been great,” said Sam. “Customers are already saying it’s the best burger they have ever had which is particularly pleasing as we spent a lot of time ensuring our dishes are appealing, of very high quality and offer real value.” The restaurant occupies the site of the former Italian restaurant Melanzana on Elvet Bridge. Tango Burger House serves aged prime cuts from the Wallington Estate cattle in Northumberland.

Orchid set for “Big Weekend”: Manager operator Orchid is set to hold its Orchid Big Weekend this coming weekend, 30 November to 2 December, with pubs across the estate holding special events. Chief executive Rufus Hall said: “The Orchid Big Weekend is fast approaching and we’re really living up to our Company Value of “Create an Enjoyable Place to Work”. It’s hard to put into words the effort and ingenuity that everybody is showing - I can’t wait to get out and about next weekend!” Events include football matches, a 1970s-themed party, singing competitions - and one pub, The Quantock Rise, Luton, will have staff play acting as characters from Fawlty Tours.

TLC Inns recruits 1,000 new customers through Groupon ice rink offer: Award-winning TLC Inns has recruited more than 1,000 new customers through Groupon thanks to an offer on skating in relation to its synthetic ice rink installed for the winter at the company’s White Horse pub in Ramsden Heath, Essex. The company, led by Steve Haslam and Jo Drain, offered family tickets to skate on its £20,000 synthetic ice rink – it sold 209 group tickets, covering five people, for £10 each, which will mean 1,045 guests visiting the pub. Haslam said: “Around 70 per cent have booked a table in the pub to eat and we estimate average spend-per-head across the 1,000 extra customers will be upwards of £10. It’s been a great way to get word out about the ice rink – we’ve also seen a spike in visits to our website during the Groupon promotion.”

Head of Steam to open north east premier world beers bar: North east multiple Head of Steam, headed by Tony Brookes, is to re-open Tilleys Bar in Westgate Road, Newcastle, as the north east’s premier world beer bar. It will have 150 different bottled beers on sale all at the same time, from local breweries and around the world – some exceptionally rare in the north east. Four of the north east’s most popular breweries have also been invited to brew one-off beers with “huge hoppiness”. The venue requested beers with at least 150 International Bittering Units (IBUs) – beers with IBUs greater than 45 are regarded as being heavily hopped and can be quite bitter. “It is likely that these special brews will be lip-smackingly bitter”, said Anthony Ellis, assistant manager. The breweries to take up the challenge are Tyne Bank, Brew Lab, Anarchy and Allendale.

Enterprise Inns reports 450 pubs negotiate partial tie release in most recent year: Enterprise Inns has reported that 450 pubs, both new and existing agreements, negotiated a partial release from the tie in the most recent financial year. A spokesman told Morning Briefing: “It is Enterprise policy to offer flexibility in the agreements with publicans on the purchasing of some product categories. Since 1 October 2010, 977 pubs have benefited from this, and some 3,500 specific category releases have been granted.”

JD Wetherspoon lodges Alnwick pub plan: Managed operator JD Wetherspoon has lodged a planning application with Northumberland County Council to convert Alnwick’s Corn Exchange into a pub. The aim to turn the Grade II-listed building, which has stood empty for around two decades, into a venue with capacity for 400 customers. But Alnwick Chamber of Trade (ACT) has said it will fight the plans, voicing ‘huge concerns’, including fears it will have a ‘major impact’ on the town centre. Alnwick has a population of 7,940.

Baa Bar launches loyalty card: North west operator Baa Bar, led by Elaine Clarke, has launched a loyalty card called Essentials, giving customers who subscribe to the scheme numerous exclusive offers and benefits, including big discounts on selected drinks. The swipe and save Essentials card allows cardholders to earn points every time they buy drinks. “This is a really great added value scheme for all our customers. If they spend £1, they automatically receive ten points. Once they have accumulated 750 points they are sent a voucher for free drinks or special Baa Bar merchandise. The cards also enable Essentials members to beat the queues on busy nights,” said Iain Hoskins, Baa Bar’s marketing and brand manager, who was responsible for developing the scheme . “Available at the bar for a mere £3, the cards easily pay for themselves many times over. Once they’ve bought the card, they manage their accounts online via the Baa Bar Essentials dashboard. All they have to do is sign in to the account and enter a valid e-mail address and password. Once logged in customers can view their points total, update personal details and most importantly redeem points for vouchers,” said Iain. Essentials was also used to promote the Baa Bar brand to thousands of university students across the north west during freshers’ week earlier this Autumn. There are now eight Baa Bars in the portfolio in Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham with the latest addition recently launched in Leeds.

Stephen Terry plans Cardiff restaurant: Award-winning chef Stephen Terry has reported that he plans to open a second restaurant in Cardiff next year. The location has not been confirmed but Terry has indicate he will avoid the city centre. Terry’s existing site is The Hardwick in Abergavenny, one of Wales’s most highly rated. Terry said he hopes to open a bakery and shop selling local produce alongside his Cardiff opening.

SSP plans more Beer House sites after Charing Cross success: Transport hub foodservice experts SSP has opened a second The Beer House, its craft beer concept, at London Waterloo station after the success of its Charing Cross Beer House, which opened a year ago. The concept offers 50 bottled and draught beers. The Beer House brand aims to raise the bar for station pubs. It offers beer expertise and a host of food and beer matching recommendations to improve the drinking experience for passengers and local residents. It also has an extensive food menu providing twists on classic pub food such as Beer House Krakauer Dog, together with a small-plate grazing menu for time-pressured customers including Sticky Ribs, Pulled Pork Baps and Mini Burgers. Sarah Jezard, UK chief marketing officer at SSP, said: “This brand was developed to capitalise on the growing trend in the market of consumers looking for something interesting and different as the craft beer movement continues to gain momentum. With a drinks range to shout about and a great food offer too, The Beer House concept is part of SSP’s continued drive to raise the game both for station pubs and for the local community. The success of the Beer House brand is set to continue with two more openings due soon, including one at London Paddington in December.”

Propel Opinion on the Beer House concept by Paul Charity: The Charing Cross Beer House offers a Victorian-style shop window to the concourse that stresses its craft beer credentials. Attractive lettering trumpets its retail offer – craft beers, more than 50 of them, from around the world: “Beers from Germany, Beers from Belgium, Beers from Brooklyn”. The Beer House’s bottled beer menu lists eight “favourites” – four of which hail from our shores. The “Beer is the Hero” credentials are underscored by menu “beer pairings”. And the menu itself is a return to basics, consisting of five types of pie and The Cheese library – a ploughman’s with a choice of four cheeses, each with a couple of beer recommendations. Décor has an authentic Victorian tinged feel to it with bottled beers proudly displayed by the bar in earthenware sinks. Customers are offered to chance to try before they buy with the draught beers. And there’s a permanent offer to try three one-third pint glasses of beer for £5. It’s an interesting beer-based offer that has points-of-difference galore.

Carluccio’s tipped to take Lincoln site: Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s is tipped to move into the site of The Lamb and Flag pub on Lincoln High Street. Local media reports suggest Carluccio’s is set to open on the site in March next year.

Lincolnshire leisure entrepreneur buys landmark building: Lincolnshire multi-site operator Matthew Clark, who runs pubs and clubs in the county, has bought the landmark Assembly Rooms building in Boston from the local authority. Declining to be drawn on his exact plan, Clark told the local newspaper: “A nightclub is not that dissimilar to what the Assembly Rooms used to be. I’ve been thinking it could be a good venue for years. If it became anything which would be dubbed a nightclub, I would hope the trading environment would reeducate people into what such a venue should be.”

Domino’s to add People’s Pizza to the menu: Domino’s UK will add a pizza invented by 37 year old Maria Tyrrell, from High Wycombe, to its menu next year. Featuring a combination of chicken in an Argentinean style chimichurri marinade with yellow and red peppers, Maria’s Chimi Chicken pizza uses her family’s very own authentic chimichurri sauce recipe. The pizza won a national competition run by ITV1’s flagship award-winning daytime TV show – This Morning, in conjunction with Domino’s Pizza.

Greene King applies for new-build pub in Weston, Somerset: Greene King has applied to build a new-build pub on the Weston Gateway development on the outskirts of Weston in Somerset. In the application the company says it will be similar to a farmhouse and barns in appearance, ‘reflecting the former history of the site as part of a large agricultural holding’.

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