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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 25th Jan 2013 - Carluccio’s, TGI Friday's and Wok&Go

Story of the day:

On-trade beer sales drop 4.8% in fourth quarter of 2012: Punishing tax hikes caused beer sales in the on-trade to drop by 4.8% in the fourth quarter of 2012 – while beer sales in the off trade dropped by 7.5%, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA). The BBPA’s Beer Barometer showed overall beer sales saw a 6.2% decline in the quarter and that “there a pressing need for a review of the government’s controversial policy of above inflation tax hikes for beer” in the Budget in March - as industry, MPs, and the public are all now demanding. The fall in consumption means that 138 million fewer pints of beer were enjoyed in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the year before. Analysis from Oxford Economics indicates that a duty freeze in March would save 5,000 jobs in the sector this year, which employs almost one million people - mostly younger people in Britain’s pubs. In recent weeks there have been growing calls for a change of government policy. On 1 November 2012, MPs voted for a review of the escalator, which has so far been refused by the Treasury. This followed a petition signed by over 100,000 calling for government action. The Industry is calling for a freeze in beer duty in the March Budget to protect pubs, jobs - and government revenues. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “These figures show that the government needs to stop its full-on tax assault on our vital beer and pub industry. We’ve had tax hikes of 42 per cent since March 2008, which is hugely damaging and completely unacceptable for such an important manufacturing sector. Instead, we could be protecting and creating jobs at a time when the country most needs it.”

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Propel Multi-Club conference: The first Propel Multi-Club conference takes place at One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA on Tuesday 19 March and multi-site companies can book two free places each on a first come, first serve basis - more than 100 places have already been booked so far. The speaker list will be unveiled later this month. E-mail to book places.

Industry news:

Eat Out magazine names top companies: Prezzo, led by Jonathan Kaye, won Restaurant Company of the Year while Oakman Inns, led by Peter Borg-Neal, scooped Pub Company of the Year at the Eat Out magazine awards held last night. Team of The Year went to TGI Friday’s, with Cabana winning New Concept of the Year. Red Hot World was honoured for Marketing Campaign of The Year and Café Ode won the Environment Award. The Business Turnaround Award went to La Tasca and Be At One scooped the Best Use of Technology award. Nation’s Favourite Pub Brand was won by JD Wetherspoon with Jamie’s Italian winning the Nation’s Favourite Restaurant award.

Cameron takes a swipe at Starbucks as it reports record profits: Starbucks reported record revenues on Thursday as the company suffered another dig from prime minister David Cameron on the company’s tax bill. The company’s “busiest holiday season ever” drove revenues 11% higher to $3.8bn in the first three months of its fiscal year compared to the same period last year. Profits were 13% higher at $432.4m. The news comes as David Cameron took another swipe over tax avoidance by Starbucks and others at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday. “Companies need to wake up and smell the coffee, because the customers who buy from them have had enough,” he told business leaders.

Host of companies engage with work placement initiative: A host of companies will attend a planned Pub and Bar Perceptions meeting next month to hear how they can get involved in an ambitious plan to create 15,000 work placements. Operators attending include Bramwell Pub Company, Charles Wells, Drake & Morgan, Fullers, Glendola Leisure, Intertain, Punch, Spirit, Stonegate Pub Company, TGI Friday’s and Young’s. Perceptions Group Chairman Keith Knowles said: “It is great to see operators of all sizes engage with this initiative. It brings the collective power of the pub and bar sector together which will enable us to communicate to the national, business and lifestyle media the great opportunities that our industry has on offer. We are looking to create 15,000 work placements over the next two years. This will serve as a lifeline to the many young people searching for a meaningful career and as a pipeline of talent into our dynamic and diverse industry.” There is still time to register for the free briefing event that takes place on Tuesday 26 February, 10.15am at The Slug & Lettuce, County Hall, London SE1. Contact or call 0208 605 3544.

Sky targets customers with free Thursday offer: Sky is looking to attract customers from rival TV providers by offering them the opportunity to sample its content for free every Thursday for 12 weeks. The broadcaster placed a cover wrap on yesterday’s Metro newspaper to flag the promotion. The advert lists the first set of programmes it will air free of charge, which includes Modern Family, Bradley Wiggins: A Year in Yellow, Elementary and Game of Thrones.

Company news:

Karen Forrester joins the Carlson Restaurants executive team: Karen Forrester, managing director of TGI Friday’s in the UK, has joined the executive team of parent company Carlson Restaurants - recognition of the consistent growth and business transformation of the UK arm. Forrester will continue in her UK role, delivering the ambitious plans in place for the brand in the UK, but will also “leverage her vast knowledge and experience to benefit Friday’s internationally”, the company said. As part of a restructure, the UK will also now become its own free-standing business unit reporting directly to the Carlson executive team. She said: “I’m really proud that the UK has been recognised as such an important part of the global business, and I’m very much looking forward to being able to share key lessons with the group at an international level.” TGI Friday’s has 55 restaurants in the UK. Carlson Restaurants owns, operates, franchises or licenses in more than 900 restaurants in 60 countries. Meanwhile, TGI Friday’s will open its first Liverpool city centre outlet at Merepark’s £160m Central Village development. The brand has taken 7,650 square foot of space on the development’s Plaza level and will be situated within the new Central Station extension. It joins pan-Asian restaurant Cosmo, Coast to Coast, Zouk Tea Bar & Grill and Chiquito.

Punch Taverns – there is still equity in the business: Punch’s new executive chairman Stephen Billingham, who is stepping up to an hands-on role in the wake of chief executive Roger Whiteside’s decision to leave to join Greggs, has insisted there is still equity left in the business. He told the Financial Times: “Without a doubt there will be a pub business at the end of this (restructuring) - our view is that there is still value in the equity. This business is not rudderless - Roger has done a very good job but once someone sees another opportunity a quick change is the best thing for everybody.” Turnaround director Neil Griffiths is set to become the company’s new chief operating officer and Billingham told The Times that he is candidate for chief executive once restructuring talks with bondholders are completed. The Times also reports that Whiteside’s salary at Greggs will be in line with existing chief executive Ken McMeikan’s at £470,000 – a £30,000 increase of his Punch salary. Greggs chairman Derek Netherton said Whiteside had played a role, as a non-executive director, in developing a group strategy in what had been a period of significant change for the business. “He is very well respected within the company and his appointment will enable a smooth transition in what is still a challenging consumer environment,” he added.

Nando’s looking for an advertising agency: Nando’s, the restaurant chain, is on the hunt for an agency to handle its advertising. The brand, which has most recently worked with Wieden & Kennedy, is conducting the search via The Observatory. Nando’s appointed Wieden & Kennedy to handle a print and digital campaign last year. The work, called “find yourself”, aimed to show that people can have a spicy chicken dish tailor-made to suit them.

Former M&B chief executive joins Le Bistrot Pierre board: Former Mitchells & Butlers chief executive Adam Fowle, has joined the board of French restaurant chain Le Bistrot Pierre as a non-executive director. Fowle, who is also chairman of Bramwell Pub Company, has consulted at the company for the past 18 months. Fowle, stepped down as chief executive of M&B in March 2011. Le Bistrot Pierre opens its tenth site in March in Plymouth.

McDonald’s – we expect like-for-likes to be negative in January: McDonald’s has forcast global economic uncertainty and a contracting eating-out market would continue into 2013, after a year that saw a 1% decline in profit. Chief executive Don Thompson said McDonald’s expects January global like-for-likes to be slightly negative. The company said it would continue making adjustments in 2013 to its menu pipeline and global marketing efforts, while deploying its capital where new restaurants, remodels and upgrades to technology would drive sales and profitability. “We needed to re-establish value - and we did that in 2012,” Thompson said. “As we move into 2013, we need to take it to the next level with our menu and secure more customers, but we need to make sure we don’t price ourselves outside people’s pockets.”

Mrs Mustard restaurant closes after six months: An unusual restaurant in Durham inspired by the inventor of mustard has closed just six months after opening. Mrs Mustard, which opened in Durham City last July, paid tribute to a Mrs Clements, who is credited with inventing modern-day mustard at a mill nearby in 1720. It specialised in serving mustard with everything, even offering a mustard cocktail.

Nando’s wants to join branded restaurant rush in Horsham: Nando’s has made it clear that it is keen to join a host of branded restaurants by opening in Horsham. The small West Sussex town has seen the arrival of a large number of branded restaurants in the last 18 months, including Giraffe, Ask, Cote, Bill’s and Wagamama, with Pret A Manger opening one of its new generation coffee-focused sites. Horsham also hosts a PizzaExpress and Strada on West Street, home to all the new openings. The only departure from the foodservice scene in Horsham has been Starbucks which closed its site last year after eight years of trading. Gary Duncan, Nando’s regional director, told a local newspaper: “It’s no lie that we’re looking to open a restaurant in Horsham, having spent the last year looking for a suitable site. The public’s support for a Nando’s in Horsham has been overwhelming, with many local fans taking to our website and Facebook and Twitter pages to voice their support.”

Fuller’s reports digital boost and provide detail on Bath acquisitions: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s, which yesterday posted 4.5% like-for-like sales growth in the nine weeks to 19 January, has reported an improved digital platform helped boost sales in the second half of 2012. The company launched individual websites last May for all pubs with customers able to book tables and bedrooms online as well as take 360 degree tours of each site. Managing director Simon Emeny told Morning Briefing: “Over the summer moths we were really hit by the wet weather. It all came together for us (at the end of last year). Food performance gained a real momentum and London returned to normal (after the Olympics).” The food offer at Fuller’s was boosted by the appointment of Paul Dickinson as head of food. “Our unique selling point is fresh food prepared on the premises – it’s a point of differentiation with other managed pubs.” Fuller’s also reported the completion of the acquisition of two managed pubs in Bath from Marston’s for £7.5m – The Huntsman and The Crystal Palace. Emeny said: “They’re both wonderful pubs – former Eldridge Pope sites. We will concentrate on introducing our own standards in areas like the cellar and introduce out own menus – and look at investments in the future.” It is thought Marston’s sold the site, a year after the company sold Fuller’s five previous sites, to invest in its new-build openings. Emeny reported that one of the five Marston’s site, the former Bluu venue that was converted to The Token House had got off to a slow start last summer but had enjoyed a “fantastic” November and December. Panmure Gordon leisure analyst Douglas Jack, issuing an “Add” recommendation with a Target Price of 825p, said: “As usual, Fuller’s shares trade at a premium to the rest of the licensed retail sector, which is justified by Fuller’s low leverage, above-average track record and the high quality of its asset base (85% freehold; orientated to London and south-east England). The rating is also supported by an upgrade track record, which we expect to continue, supported by improving like-for-like sales and incremental expansion.”

Stonegate re-names Hogshead in Hornchurch after £200,000 makeover: Stonegate Pub Company has re-named its Hogshead pub in Hornchurch after a £200,000 makeover. It is now known as The Sutton Arms – and doubled the number of cask ales on offer to four. The new name was chosen by customer Adam Parkes and references the name given to the nearby airfield which was known as Sutton’s Farm during the First World War. General manager Mehmet Erguven, who has worked at the pub for the past two years, said: “We’re really excited about the changes, which include a new colour scheme and layout, new seating and furniture which will increase the number of people able to dine with us.”

Wok&Go set to open tenth site in Leeds: Wok&Go, the Asian restaurant chain, is to open its tenth site in Leeds at the Merrion Centre. The 1,100 square foot restaurant, opening in spring, will offer a range of Asian dishes from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China and Japan. Wok&Go was founded by Des Pheby in 2007 and the group now has ten restaurants across the UK and one opening in Kuwait in March. “This is our tenth restaurant in the UK and it’s great to be opening it here in Leeds,” said Pheby. “The Merrion Centre is the perfect location for our offer. This part of the city centre has a good mix of offices, retail, bars and clubs, which means there are plenty of shoppers and office workers during the day and visitors to the city at night. We can provide a freshly cooked, healthy meal to eat in or take away.”

Johnny Rockets plans five more openings in UAE: American diner chain Johnny Rockets plans to open five new restaurants in the UAE this year. The 1950s-inspired chain, which is known for its singing and dancing staff and retro decor, announced that it would increase by June the number of its restaurants in the country from eight to 13. The California-based company said the new openings would be located in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Chester Bars to re-name historic Nantwich nightclub after refurbishment: The newly formed Chester Bars is to re-name Gregory’s nightclub in Castle Street, which was acquired from Atmosphere Bars and Clubs towards the end of last year. Permission has been granted for the owners – operations director Nigel Woodhouse and investors Philip Archer Jones from The Sugarmill in Stoke-on-Trent and Jim Wooddisse, a previous owner of Gregory’s – to alter the existing internal layout of the club in what will be the first phase of a ‘complete and long overdue’ refurbishment of the entire premises. The club has been called Gregory’s for more than 30 years, with only a spell of less than five months in 2005 when its name was changed to Lava & Ignite. Chester Bars has appealed to the public for suggestions on a new name for the nightclub with refurbishment work starting this month.

Gary Rhodes opens Plymouth restaurant: Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes has opened a new restaurant, Rhodes @ The Dome in Plymouth. Rhodes said the £1.5 million restaurant would offer locally-sourced produce at affordable prices, promising it will not be an exclusive “fine dining” outlet. He added: “I want to give people food with flavour, simple dishes with attention to detail. That’s so important and the chefs here are learning that. I want people to feel comfortable to come in for a coffee and a cake, they don’t have to go for the whole three course experience.” The 16,000 sq ft Plymouth Dome visitor centre opened in 1989, and pulled in more than 2.3 million visitors before being shut seven years ago.

Carluccio’s becomes the largest restaurant company to receive two stars from the SRA: Carluccio’s restaurant group has been awarded Two Star status by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), the largest restaurant group to achieve this rating. Carluccio’s joined the SRA as a founding member in 2010. In 2011 the SRA awarded Carluccio’s its first Sustainability Star for the work it had done on sourcing, environment and social responsibility. Following further improvements and a sustainability rating in 2012, the SRA awarded the 69-strong group Two Stars, out of a possible three. Carluccio’s is committed to addressing sustainability actions across all aspects of sourcing and environmental practices and ensuring good staff conditions and a strong connection with the restaurants’ surrounding communities. Commendable initiatives at Carluccio’s include an audit of their seafood to ensure that fish listed as ‘Fish to Avoid’ according to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) were removed from menus. The company has also improved on energy saving, now uses eco-friendly cleaning chemicals and makes contributions from every cup of coffee it sells to the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK). Simon Kossoff, chief executive of Carluccio’s, said: “By changing the way we behave as a business, we are aiming to improve both the social and environmental impact of our operations. We know this is just the start of a long journey for us with much more work to do, but we’re proud of the steps we’ve taken so far.”

Luminar launches skinny cocktails: The UK’s largest nightclub company Luminar is launching a new look cocktail menu featuring a range of skinny cocktails. Rolling out to Luminar’s 56-strong nightclub estate from mid-January, the ‘Treat Yourself’ cocktail menu includes traditional favourites such as Mojitos and Pink Ladies, together with the new lower calorie options which contain less than 220 calories each. The three skinny cocktails, priced at £5.95 each, include the fruity Orange Blossom, made from Cointreau orange liqueur, elderflower cordial, lemon juice and soda; the pick me up Slim Wings featuring a combination of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, raspberry sour, apple juice and sugar free Red Bull and a classic Raspberry Collins packed with Gordon’s gin, Chambord Raspberry liqueur, lemon juice and Agave syrup topped up with soda. Nicola Rae, senior commercial buying manager at Luminar, said: “The trend for skinny drinks is growing in the late night sector with customers now opting for diet and sugar free options of popular drinks. Adding a range of skinny cocktails to our existing offering is a natural choice. They offer customers a healthier alternative to our traditional range without sacrificing any of the taste.” In addition to the Skinny cocktails, botanicals and florals feature heavily on the menu, with elderflower and gin based drinks offering customers a lighter, fruitier option.

£8m plan to convert Truro’s Old County Hotel in hotel unveiled: Details of an £8 million plan to turn Old County Hall in Truro into a four-star hotel were being made public this week. The detailed plans submitted to Cornwall Council would turn the landmark grade two listed Truro building into a spa with swimming and hydrotherapy pools, three thermal suites, six treatment rooms, a beauty room, relaxation lounges, a fitness suite and exercise studio. The main former debating chamber would become a bar and there would be a 120-seat brasserie, conference and meeting facilities, including a function suite for weddings and larger business events. Owner Nigel Carpenter said the renovation would lead to the creation of 100 jobs. He added: “The new hotel and spa will allow the people of Cornwall to enjoy a new, higher standard of facility and experience a historic building that has so far been hidden ‘behind closed doors’.”

Burger King in u-turn on horseburgers: Burger King is to throw out millions of beef-burgers supplied by the horsemeat scandal firm — a few days after insisting it was unaffected, The Sun has reported. The Sun said: “Managers have been told to box up Whoppers, Angus burgers and patties in a safe area and mark them with an X to ensure they are not sold to customers. An internal memo also insists they “clean and sanitise” pans and sinks and throw away dishcloths used in the process.” The burger scandal broke on Tuesday last week after horse DNA was found at ABP Foods’ Silvercrest meat processing factory in Ireland. Just last Thursday Burger King said: “We confirm Burger King will not be withdrawing product. This is because Burger King only sources 100% UK and Irish beef and ensures the integrity of our production line.” The Sun added: “Three days later a memo from vice president Tracy Gehlan ordered 485 restaurant managers to remove all Silvercrest burgers — but not until replacements from a different supplier had arrived. At that stage “all unopened boxes of Silvercrest Foods product must be marked with a large ‘X’ and ‘Do Not Use’ to indicate that it is prohibited from being opened or sold.” The memo said worried customers were to be told Burger King was taking all the “necessary precautions” to ensure quality.” Burger King’s PR agency Cohn and Wolfe told The Sun yesterday: “The previous statement sent on Thursday was accurate at the time of issue. But over the weekend Burger King decided as a precautionary measure to replace all ABP products in the UK and Ireland with those from an alternative supplier while it completes a thorough independent investigation.”

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