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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 22nd Feb 2013 - Oakman Inns, Small Batch Coffee and Ian Payne

Story of the day:

Marston’s chief executive becomes Keel University Pro-Chancellor: Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay has been named as the next Pro-Chancellor of Keele University. He will initially join the University’s Council in April before taking up the role of Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council from 1 August 2014, for a four year term. He will succeed Malcolm Peckham, who was appointed Pro-Chancellor for a two year term of office last year.  Findlay said: “I have been impressed by the people I have met at Keele, their enthusiasm, and the plans in place to develop the University further from a strong base. The opportunity to work with Keele is attractive, and I believe that I can assist in developing appropriate responses to some very significant challenges in higher education. The fact that Keele is in Staffordshire is relevant to me: Marston’s is a national business, but our heart is in the Midlands.  Helping to champion a respected university in the region appeals. I am interested in what the University does, and the wider contribution made to society by institutions such as Keele. At Marston’s, we recruit graduates each year and many of our people are below the age of 25: this is a difficult time for young people to find suitable employment, and I am keen that, at Marston’s, we do what we can to help.” Keele University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Nick Foskett, said: “This is a key role within the University structure and in Ralph Findlay we will have a highly experienced business leader, who will make a major contribution to the success of Keele as we look to the future and plan our strategy for the years ahead. We launched a national search to find our next Pro-Chancellor and from an exceptionally strong field of candidates Ralph was unanimously recommended. Marston’s priorities for differentiation, innovation and operational excellence match our own values very closely and as such we believe that Ralph will make a significant impact as the higher education sector continues to face many uncertainties and we look to meet the challenges ahead.”

Industry news:

Horse meat scandal turns shoppers veggie: The boss of Asda, Andy Clarke, has reported shoppers have switched to vegetarian meals in the wake of the horse meat scandal. Clarke added: “Meat-free products have also seen a lift. There’s no excuse for something criminal happening in the supply chain. This has dented trust and I am absolutely committed to rebuilding that.” Meanwhile, research by Consumer Intelligence has found that one shopper in four has resolved to buy less processed meat since the scandal broke. The research also found that just one in five has started buying less meat overall. 

Curry pioneer to receive a blue plaque: The man who introduced curry to the UK is to be recognised with a blue plaque. Indian born Sake Dean Mahomed opened the first curry house in London in 1810 and lived the majority of his life in Brighton – and campaigners will place a plaque outside his Brighton home. Enam Ali, founder of the British Curry Awards, said: “I think it is important to remember and recognise his contribution.”

Sainsbury’s follows the lead of Tesco and converts pub into convenience store: Sainsbury’s has followed the lead of rival Tesco in converting a former pub into Plymouth’s first convenience store. The supermarket has spent the past six months converting the shell of what was once the Mutley Crown into a 2,200 square foot Sainsbury’s Local branch. Since the first Sainsbury’s Local began trading in Hammersmith, London in 1998, more than 300 have opened nationwide.

Research shows organic tomatoes are healthier: Organic tomatoes are healthier than their conventionally grown counterparts, new research suggests. Despite being smaller, they are packed with higher amounts of vitamin C and compounds that may combat chronic diseases, the findings show. The study found tomatoes grown on organic farms were 40% smaller than those produced conventionally. However, their concentrations of vitamin C were up to 57% higher, and ripe fruits contained well over twice the quantity of phenolic compounds.

Developer fined £3,000 for pub demolition: A property developer that demolished a pub without giving a council proper notice has been ordered to pay almost £3,000. Chiltern District Council took developer Clearview Homes to court for the failure to issue a proper notice prior to the demolition of The Red Lion Pub, in Chestnut Lane, Amersham, taking place in July last year. The pub was knocked down just days after it was sold by Spirit to Clearview Homes. The company admitted an offence under the Building Act because it did not wait the statutory six weeks before carrying out the work.

Starbucks – we will double Asia staff to 40,000 within five years: Starbucks plans to more than double to 40,000 its employee numbers in Asia Pacific over the next five years, a sign the Seattle chain expects coffee consumption to accelerate despite the slowing of major economies in the region. In 2012, consumers spent $9.3 billion at coffee shops in the Asia Pacific region, up 66% from five years before, according to data provider Euromonitor International. Starbucks is the largest operator in the region, with more than a quarter of the market share by coffee sales.

Heineken launches “interview” advert: Heineken has borrowed from ‘The Apprentice’ for its latest UEFA Champions League advert with the brewer launching an online video documenting what it describes as “The first job interview you can’t prepare for.” The short film shows Heineken’s search for an individual from 1,734 applicants to fill a vacant role on its Champions League team. It follows several job seekers as they try to complete a series of odd tests including having to hold their potential boss’ hand while walking to the interview room as well as dealing with a fire. Three participants were then chosen to go through to a public vote on Facebook and Twitter, with the winner emerging from votes cast.

Company news:

Small Batch Coffee Company opens sixth site – and training lab for baristas: Small Batch Coffee Company of Brighton opened its sixth neighbourhood site in the Seven Dials area of Brighton yesterday. The new site, which started life as a Barclays Bank and, in recent years, has been both an art gallery and wine bar has undergone an extensive refurbishment creating a coffee bar on the ground floor and state-of-the-art training lab and tasting room amongst the old bank vaults in the basement. The latest addition has been reconfigured by local award winning architects, Chalk, using recycled wood from other renovation projects. It is the first barista training lab in Brighton. Small Batch Coffee Company has grown from a single unit at the back of Hove station in 2011 and has a pipeline of other venues that will see it achieve its target of 10 outlets within the next 12 months. Small Batch Coffee Company has recently been voted one of the top 50 coffee houses in the UK.  The business is owned and managed by founder Brad Jacobsen while chaired by local entrepreneur Nigel Lambe, who also owns the WJ King microbrewery in Horsham.

Raymond Blanc makes cash contribution to save pub: Chef Raymond Blanc has made a cash contribution to a community campaign to buy The Bull, a Greene King pub on the market in Great Milton. Within a week of The Bull being placed on the market more than 100 people had committed a total of £200,000, with contributions ranging from £500 to £20,000. Villagers have gone on to submit an offer on the pub, which they say has been accepted. The total raised so far is £250,000, with the final target £320,000. They have now created their own company, Great Milton Community Pub Ltd. Blanc, whose Manoir restaurant is close to The Bull, said: “I am pleased to support a much- needed village amenity. Finding the right landlord who can create a welcoming ambiance is key. With so many villagers providing financial support they obviously appreciate the need for a successful pub.”

Oakman Inns to open The Beech House in mid-April: Award-winning Oakman Inns and Restaurants, headed by Peter Borg-Neal, will open its new bar and restaurant, to be called The Beech House, in Beconsfield, Buckinghamshire in mid-April.  The site was previously a retail unit but Oakman acquired planning permission for a change of use and for an extension. It is undergoing an £800,000 fit-out before opening as the company’s seventh site.

Whitbread wins hotel and pub restaurant go-ahead in Stourbridge: Whitbread has won planning permission to build a Premier Inn and pub restaurant in Stourbridge. It’s been given consent for an 80 bedroom hotel, 122 space car park and pub restaurant on Birmingham Street next the River Stour. The hotel, across the river from the council’s civic amenity site, will be built on a brownfield site formerly occupied by Cox Hire. Members of Dudley’s development control committee voted to approve the application after council planning officers gave their blessing to the scheme.

Nando’s and Harvester line up for Wirral scheme: Harvester and Nando’s are set to open sites in Wirral as part of a multi-million pound scheme. The brands will launch at the Croft Retail and Leisure Park next year. The openings, which will create 145 new jobs, are planned after park owner Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) was granted permission to revamp the The Croft, while bowling alley The Bowl was given the green light to relocate.

Radical Reverand ‘ashes’ Starbucks store: A radical Reverend has ‘ashed’ a Starbucks outlet in Sunderland as part of a personal Lent protest against corporate tax-dodging. Chris Howson, a Sunderland Minster Reverend, is encouraging people to ditch companies like Amazon and Starbucks and support local businesses. He started his campaign by ‘ashing’ Starbucks in the Bridges. Marking something with ash is a sign that it needs to repent and is traditionally done on Ash Wednesday. He said: “I will start making sure that I publicly denounce Starbucks as much as possible for the next 40 days, starting with the public ashing of the store.”

Sushi and sake bar opens in Harrogate: A sushi and sake bar has been launched in Harrogate’s Ripon Road after a £150,000 investment. The Kaiten Sushi and Sake Bar, is a partnership between restaurateur Cindy Cheung and  Japanese chef Tim Yip. The new venture has grown from weekly Sushi evenings at Royal Baths Chinese Restaurant, which is run by Cindy Cheung and her mother, London restaurateur, Monica Ng and her husband Hak.

PizzaExpress Irish freehold on the market: Dublin Docklands Development Authority is to selling the freehold of PizzaExpress’ Milano restaurant at 1 Longboat Quay at the Grand Canal Dock in Dublin. Pat Campion of agents HWBC is quoting €1.75 million for the investment to show an income yield of 8.2%. The premises are let to Milano on a 25-year full repairing and insuring lease from 2007 with five yearly upwards-only rent reviews. The tenant has a break option in 2022. The premises are currently rented at €150,000 per annum and the next review is due in 2017. PizzaExpress runs 12 Milano-branded sites in Ireland. 

Vendor of Llandudno hotel comes up with novel ideas to attract buyer: The vendor of a 25-bedroom All Season’s Hotel in Llandudno, for sale through Christie + Co, has come with a host of novel inducements to find a buyer. Not only has the asking price been significantly reduced by £55,000 to £495,000 but the owners of the hotel are also prepared to offer other incentives to serious buyers. First, is the possibility of a part-exchange for a residential property - subject to contract and valuation. Second, is the possibility of a five-year loan, subject to status and valuation. Finally, the owners are prepared to consider a buyer who would prefer to take a short-term lease. Martin Davis, director at Christie + Co said: “This is a genuinely generous offer from our clients and will hopefully help us generate serious interest.” 

Ducasse opens chocolate boutique and factory: Three Michelin-starred French chef Alain Ducasse has entered the chocolate market with the opening of Le Chocolat, a bean-to-bar chocolate boutique and factory. His new venture offers both a shop and a small chocolate factory and will be led by chocolatier Nicolas Berger. It’s located in a fairly industrial type building near the Bastille that was once home to a garage, and the public can observe the chocolate-making through a glass partition from the shop area. Food writer David Lebowitz said: “They plan to produce a variety of chocolates and bonbons seasoned with spicy piment d’Espelette (Basque dried red pepper), pine nuts, prunes marinated in Armagnac, passion fruit-coconut, and lime.”

Punch executive chairman – difficult trading compounded by lack of investment: Punch’s executive chairman Stephen Billingham has told The Financial Times that difficult trading conditions in the sector have been compounded by a lack of investment. He said: “The problem is under-investment in the estate and part of our strategy is that we just have to spend money. Spit and sawdust is not where it’s at - people want a decent environment to go have a drink.” Punch wants food sales to account for 35% of sales, up from 20% currently. Added Billingham: “We’re trying to encourage pubs to put a food offering on - we want to see our partners (tenants) have a diverse income base.”

Loch Lomond whisky business put on the market: One of Scotland’s last remaining independent whisky producers Loch Lomond has been put on the market. The company produces 43 million bottles of whisky a year and sales are around £18m a year.

Michelin-starred chef unveils opening date for third site: Simon Rogan, who runs a pub and restaurant in Cartmel in the Lake District, will open a new restaurant, The French, at the Midland Hotel on Tuesday 12 March.  Rogan said: “I’m aware of how much interest there has been around the menu, and I can assure people we’ll be using the best of British-only produce and ingredients.”

JD Wetherspoon gets go-ahead in Maldon, Essex: JD Wetherspoon has won planning consent to open in Maldon, Essex (population: 15,513) occupying the former post office, which has been empty for five years. The planning go-ahead was given despite an impassioned plea from ‘Keep Maldon Unique’ creator, Gillian Crawford, who asked members to consider the health implications for the town, the smokers that could spill out onto the narrow pavement, and the possible impact on the independent character of the town. One councillor said: “In an ideal world there wouldn’t be any big businesses on the high street and we’d have something that would better fit in with Maldon. But if we reject this we’ll do so looking at the town through rose-coloured glasses - that just isn’t where we are and that’s why I’ll be supporting the application.”

Controversial Costa Coffee site in Southwold opens: Costa Coffee has opened its controversial Southwold High Street branch.  The town council and more than 600 people objected to the company’s plans to take over the former Fanny & Frank clothes shop amid concerns it could harm the town’s “unique character”. Store manager Glenn Crane, who previously managed the Costa Coffee outlet in Tesco, Beccles, said the shop had been busy since opening at 7am: “We had workmen in at 7.10am wanting coffee. We are surprised at how busy it has been.”

Stonegate re-opens Farnborough pub with food focus: Managed operator is re-opening its Squirrel pub in Farnborough, Hampshire  today with a greater food focus after a £155,000 refurbishment. Changes include stone flooring, eclectic furniture, warming open fireplaces and feature chandeliers aimed at giving the traditional pub a quality feel, befitting its new food-led operation. Offer will include 50% off food on Mondays, a grill night on Tuesdays and a gourmet burger night on Wednesdays when freshly grilled burgers are £7.95.

Marston’s plans Shrewsbury opening: Plans have been unveiled for a £3 million hotel and restaurant development in Shrewsbury that could create about 100 jobs. An area of vacant land off Battlefield Road could be transformed into a pub and restaurant run by Marston’s Inns and Taverns, a drive-thru KFC takeaway and a 27-bedroom hotel. The combined pub and restaurant is expected to create about 45 jobs, with a further 40 created by the fast-food restaurant.

Everards appoints Nigel Allen to the board: Leicester brewer and retailer Everards has appointed Nigel Allen to the board as financial director and company secretary. Chairman Richard Everard told staff: “Nigel joined us from Enterprise Inns in October 2011 as ‘Executive Director – Finance’ and since his arrival has contributed enormously to the business with his technical ability along with a personal style that compliments the company so well. Nigel’s appointment coincides with a very exciting time in our history as we look forward to the continued growth of the business and, in the fullness of time, the introduction of the next generation of the family into the company.”

Geronimo Inns launches Geronimo Club: Geronimo Inns has launched the Geronino Club offering members a range of privileges. These include a 10% discount at its three Heathrow airport pubs, bottomless tea and coffee, a slice of cake with the second coffee, discount off the first ten gig tickets at either The Elgin or The Half Moon, free nibbles when members buy a bottle of wine and entry into a monthly draw for a £50 bar tab.

Llandudno operator buys third site: An operator of two coaching inns in Llandudno has bought a third hotel.  Trevor Mitchell, whose company already owns the Chatsworth House and Loretta hotels in the town, has bought the Bay Tree Hotel on North Parade, which has been empty for nearly three years since the previous owners retired. He said: “It’s a beautiful building in a good setting, and because of its location between the promenade and the town centre it has a good footfall which means it will attract passing trade. We’re stripping it out at the moment and refurbishing with all new decor throughout, and a new kitchen.”

Zouk threatens withdrawal from Bradford: Three-strong curry operator Zouk has threatened to sell its Bradford site after the local authority rejected a plan to create a bigger restaurant and cookery school because of a lack of parking. Bradford Council turned down a planning application from Zouk for a new-build restaurant and cookery school at its base in Leeds Road. Owner and chairman Peter Bashir wanted to demolish the existing restaurant and, using a derelict former pub next door, construct a new two-storey development over the two sites. The application said the development would create jobs, help regenerate the area and provide training for local schools and colleges. Tayub Amjad, operations director at Zouk, which has restaurants in Leeds and Manchester, said: “There’s not much development taking place in Bradford and when someone is prepared to put their hand in their pocket, Bradford Council is not prepared to support it. To be honest I am looking at selling up and moving out of Bradford.”

Greene King to open Hungry Horse in Southport: Greene King is to open a new Hungry Horse in Southport’s Waterfront development in May. A Greene King spokesperson said: “Building work is expected to start later this month.” The Hungry Horse will join Genting Casino and Finos Tapas Bar in the £30m development on the Marine Lake.

Star Pubs and Bars rolls-out ambitious mystery customer programme: Following a successful trial in 450 pubs, Star Pubs & Bars, the operator of 1,200 tenanted pubs, is rolling out what is believed to be one of the biggest and most in-depth mystery visitor programmes in the leased pub sector to help its lessees ensure their retails standards are of the highest quality. The company stated: “The quality, credibility and usefulness of the feedback to lessees is critical for Star Pubs & Bars. In a new departure for the leased sector, only evaluators with industry experience such as former pub operators are used to undertake visits and, using their expertise in pubs, the programme not only identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each pub through the eyes of a customer but also highlights new business opportunities.” Under the £300,000 scheme, which is delivered by licensed trade specialists ABV Training and provided free to lessees, pubs will receive an average of two unannounced visits during 2013. After the first, lessees benefit from an independent report scoring their pub in over 80 different areas from a customer’s perspective as well as providing suggestions for enhancing and growing their business. Following a review with their BDM support is provided to lessees to address recommendations prior to a second mystery visit to assess the impact of any improvements. Chris Moore, property and strategy director for Star Pubs & Bars, said: “Delivering consistently high retail standards and an offer which caters for the full range of customer needs is key to driving up sales. Managed pubs tend to do very well in both of these areas. Where a lessee can achieve the same and combine it with the special, unique atmosphere of an independently operated pub, it creates an unbeatable customer experience and ultimately a more successful business. Being a licensee is an incredibly busy job, with countless demands on your time in an industry where customers have ever increasing expectations. Those who participated in the trial were very appreciative of the customer insight they received and for ideas from industry professionals on how they could further grow their trade.” The results of the mystery visitor programme will also allow Star Pubs & Bars to easily identify trends in the business, spotting opportunities that other pubs could benefit from and helping to identify and deal with any issues early on.  Added Moore: “A passion for quality is at the heart of all we do and this programme helps us and our lessees deliver this on many levels. We anticipate the initiative becoming an ongoing programme for us after 2013.”

Stonegate chairman hits milestone birthday: Stonegate Pub Company chairman and industry veteran Ian Payne is celebrating his 60th birthday. He tweeted, “Now officially reached old git status”, with a picture of a chocolate birthday cake and a bottle of iced Veuve Clicquot.

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