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Mon 3rd Jun 2013 - Ambrette, Atmosphere and Orchid

Story of the day:

UK coffee sector still one-third the size of Italy; breakfast and coffee both UK growth areas: Research company NPD has reported that coffee shop sales have increased by 5% since 2009 with 1.4bn servings of speciality coffee in the UK last year – still a long way short of Italy’s 5.3bn. Breakfast visits increased by 9% on average every year between 2009 and 2012. Breakfast now accounts for just under 20% of total out-of-home eating visits with Brits making an extra 25.6 million visits each year compared to 2009. And it’s not just take-away coffees driving the growth – on-premises consumption is growing in popularity with visits up 3.5% between 2011 and 2012. NPD’s research reveals that women and young people are leading coffee growth – visits amongst women rose 4.3% in 2012 compared to the previous year and visitors aged 18 to 24 grew by 12% in the same period. Guy Fielding, director of business development for NPD, said: “The surge in breakfast is great news for the likes of Caffè Nero, where this occasion accounts for just over a quarter of their total visits. This is particularly important as snacking is slowing, and this is impacting some of the Quick Service coffee operators. So the enduring popularity of coffee is compensating for the snack slowdown. But in spite of the coffee uplift at breakfast, all the branded coffee players are still feeling the impact of the slower snacking market, most notably Costa Coffee, where snacking constitutes 57% of all visits – the highest among the ‘big three’.” However, it is not just the key coffee chains that are capitalising on the popularity of coffee - sandwich shops and bakeries are now doing the same. Sales of speciality coffee within the Quick Service Sandwich channel has increased from 10.5% to 13%, and within Quick Service Bakery from 6.7% to 11.3% (more than 10% of occasions include a speciality coffee). Fielding added: “There is no doubt that British consumers have embraced a coffee culture and have become far more sophisticated and educated in their tastes. While the core coffee chains were the first to capitalise on this trend, the high street sandwich shops and bakeries, not to mention pubs and even petrol forecourts, are all getting in on the action.” NPD Group’s research shows that out-of-home consumption of coffee is declining elsewhere in Europe, with the biggest decline in Italy. 

Industry news:

Karen Forrester to present at European Foodservice Summit: The chief executive of TGI Friday’s in the UK, Karen Forrester, is the only UK-based speaker at this year’s prestigious European Foodservice Summit, which takes place in Zurich on Tuesday 24 September and Wednesday 25 September. Forrester will present on a re-energising a tired brand. However, the event has partnered with Elliott Marketing & PR to host a social media strategy workshop, featuring Mark McCulloch, formerly of YO! Sushi and Pret A Manger and Vivion Cox, formerly of Skype.

Mintel – ‘here’s the other reasons pubs are closing’; food at pubs bigger draw than drink: A survey by Mintel has found that four in ten Britons no longer visit the pub for a drink although only slightly more than two in ten do not eat in pubs. Dirty lavatories, poor customer service, an unwelcome atmosphere and – ironically – overcrowding are among the reasons cited for not visiting pubs. Dirty loos are a reason cited as a turn-off by more than half of those who do not visit pubs – 64% of women and 42% of men. Chris Wison, of Mintel, said: “Complaining about tax is an easy thing to do but rather than laying the blame externally, pubs should be looking to matters within their control. They should start asking themselves if they are doing enough to justify their prices; can they do more to improve their overall appeal, to improve what they offer, improve the décor?” Mintel found that more than 60% of over-65s never go to the pub and 28% of 18 to 24-year-olds now go elsewhere. The research company also found that while only 60% of the nation go to the pub for a drink, more, 76%, go there to eat.

Enterprise Inns will convert to a Reit if statutory pub company regulation breaks the tie: Enterprise Inns will convert to a tax-efficient real estate investment trust (Reit) if the current consultation on statutory regulation of the pub companies results in breaking the beer tie, The Mail on Sunday has claimed. Enterprise Inns won permission to switch to a Reit in 2008, but never actioned the plan amid the economic turmoil of the time. The Mail on Sunday also reports that the government is recalling pub companies and industry experts to its consultation on the future of the sector amid fears that its decision will be subject to legal challenges as a result of inaccuracies in information used in its consultation document. 

Green Tea and broccoli hailed as prostate cancer superfood: Green tea and broccoli have been hailed as a prostate cancer superfood. Men who were being treated for the disease were given a capsule containing essence of pomegranate, green tea, turmeric and broccoli – at the end of the trial, levels of PSA, which is an indicator of the cancer – were 63% lower than those who had taken a placebo. 

Mail on Sunday survey finds ice contamination at UK restaurant brands: A Mail on Sunday survey has found that ice served in six out of ten of the UK’s best-known restaurant brands contained more bacteria that was found in the water in their toilets. The ice from branches of McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Starbucks, Café Rouge and Nando’s all had higher levels of bacteria than samples of water taken from their lavatory bowls. Experts say it could because they are cleaned more often than their ice machines. 

Starbucks managers go to court in the US over tips: Starbucks managers have gone to court in the US to try and get take a share of the cash left by customers in baristas’ tip jars. At Starbucks in the US, only baristas and shift supervisors get a share of the tips, but salaried assistant managers are now seeking a share of the gratuities. The case, before New York’s highest court, could have broad consequences for the state’s hospitality workers and, ultimately, employees at the coffee chain’s thousands of US retail stores. Starbucks had 413 company-owned stores in New York at the end of its last fiscal year. Company spokesman Zack Hutson said the tip policy is applied consistently across the US, though not globally because laws differ in other countries, he said.

Company news:

Orchid reports like-for-likes up 5.2% over second May Bank Holiday: Managed operator Orchid has reported like-for-likes sales rose 5.2% over the four days of the second May Bank Holiday. Saturday 25 May was the busiest Saturday of the year so far for the company with net sales exceeding £800,000 on the day. The Alexandra in Harrogate and Pickhurst in Kent saw outstanding performances on the Sunday, taking more than £11,000 each in sales. “We expected a strong weekend as we have done a lot of planning and preparation to encourage customers in over Bank Holidays and special occasions, but the sunny weather really gave us an extra boost,” says Simon Dodd, commercial and HR director at Orchid Group. “Outdoor areas were packed full of families and friends enjoying the much-needed sunshine; cool drinks were flowing and thousands of meals were enjoyed al fresco. It all made a very welcome change to the past few months weather!” The strongest results among Orchid’s eight divisions were: Pizza Kitchen & Bar up 26.2%, carveries up 19.4% and the Dragon’s Asian food within a pub division up 11.4%.

Administrator closes 11 Atmosphere Bars and Clubs sites: Balestra in Northampton and sites in Wrexham, Wigan, Warrington, Maidstone and Bristol are among 11 former Atmosphere Bars and Club sites now shuttered by administrator Deloitte. The Northampton site is on the market through Fleurets. Daniel Butters, from administrators Deloitte, said: “Unfortunately, we’ve had to close a number of the Atmosphere Bars and Clubs’ venues which have suffered as a result of reductions in consumer spending and general difficulties in the market. We’re grateful for the continued support of all employees and stakeholders to the business during this difficult time.” A total of 186 employees of Atmosphere Bars and Clubs across the UK have been made redundant.

Rothschild emerges as Byron bidder: RIT Capital Partners, Lord Jacob Rothschild’s investment firm, has emerged as a bidder for better burger chain Byron, according to The Sunday Times. Byron, owned by Gondola Holdings, is through to be worth between £90m and £100m with earnings this year of £8m. RIT is thought to face competition from TDR Capital and Searchlight Capital among others.

Pizza, pies and cider brand eyes fourth site: Dorset-based cider, pies and pizza brand The Stable is eyeing a fourth site, two weeks after securing its third. The Stable has submitted plans to convert the historic former Custom House in Falmouth. Falmouth Town Council’s planning committee is expected to recommend supporting the application today. Earlier this month, The Stable acquired The Hole in the Wall restaurant in Bath off a leasehold price of £175,000 – the site has been closed for a year but was previously operated by influential restaurateur George Perry-Smith. The Stable, which has sites in Bridport and Weymouth, offers stone-baked gourmet pizzas, a range of hand-crafted pies, called “plaits” and 57 different types of cider, with many coming from small, local producers. 

Asda poaches Molson Coors marketing boss: Asda has hired Chris McDonough, former Molson Coors managing director and Muller marketer, as marketing director as part of a restructure of its marketing team. McDonough joined earlier this month and will lead the overall marketing strategy, activity planning, communication planning and creative and execution divisions alongside the insight, pricing and data teams. Asda chief marketing officer Steve Smith told Marketing Week: “I wanted someone with a consumer packaged goods background, but also the ability to move fast and react quickly.” At Molson Coors, McDonough was responsible for the development of brewer’s global “brands and innovation” programme. He joined the brewer as marketing director in 2010.

St Peter’s Brewery up for sale: St Peter’s Brewery in Suffolk, owned by branding guru John Murphy, is up for sale with a price tag of around £15m, according to The Sunday Times. Murphy is understood to have held exploratory sales talks with two potential overseas buyers but is expected to cast his net wider in the hope of attracting more interest. St Peter’s operates a single pub, The Jerusalem Tavern in London’s Clerkenwell.

Mitch Tonks to open new restaurant at the end of June: Restaurateur Mitch Tonks is to open the RockFish Seafood & Chips restaurant in Plymouth on 28 June. Located by the National Marine Aquarium at the Barbican, RockFish is Tonks’s largest restaurant opening to date with 120 covers in the restaurant, 50 in the takeaway and a large external area for another 80. RockFish in Dartmouth won this year’s National Seafish Industry award for Best UK Independent fish and chip restaurant. Both restaurants serve MSC certified cod and haddock as well as local fish from the South Coast Fisheries and from Plymouth fish market The menu features fish and chips and also oysters, crabs, prawns and a host of other seafood. Tonks said: “Our new restaurant is in such an amazing location, beside the National Marine Aquarium and Plymouth fish market down at the Barbican. What better place to eat seafood?”

Marston’s places three Cockermouth pubs on the market: Midlands-based Marston’s has placed three pubs in Cockermouth on the market. The Cock & Bull on South Street, The Swan Inn at Kirkgate and Embleton’s Wheatsheaf have been put up for sale with a total price of £875,000. Nick Huddleston, from CBRE, said that all three of the pubs, which are still trading until a deal is made, would be an excellent investment opportunity. So far, there have around ten people enquiring about each of the properties. “They are all good quality public houses and a good business to move forward,” he said. Meanwhile, Marston’s will open a new-build pub, a Two-for-One called The Longshore in Shoreham, West Sussex, on 17 June. Shay Boyfield, regional operations manager, said: “The reason it is now called The Longshore is because of the longshore drifts in Shoreham, something the area is famous for. All new Marston’s pubs are being named from local icons and we thought this was a nice local name for the Shoreham one.”

Greene King to invest in addition to the Old English Inns estate: Greene King is to invest later this year in the latest addition to its Old English Inns estate of coaching inns, the 39-bedroom Bear Hotel in Hungerford, Berkshire. Business unit director for Old English Inns Peter Hebblethwaite said: “We are looking to improve the reception area and restaurant and to make the bar a more welcoming space for our guests.”

JD Wetherspoon confirms October opening for Abingdon pub: JD Wetherspoon has confirmed it will open its new pub in Abingdon, Oxfordshire on 8 October, creating about 40 jobs in the town. It was given permission to convert the old Post Office at 25 High Street in July last year by the Vale of White Horse District Council. The pub will be called The Narrows, which was the former name for the stretch from the Post Office building to The Square before it was destroyed by fire in 1883.

Paradise gastropub unveils The School of Grub: Gastropub Paradise in Kensal Green has launched The School of Grub, a unique culinary event series, which pays homage to the best of British food and drink, hosted by some of the finest home-grown talent including food producers, artisans and critics. Running through June, The Paradise School of Grub includes a cheese dinner with musician and farmer Alex James (19 June), a butchery course by The Ginger Pig (11 June), Paul Young’s chocolate master class (25 June), and oysters & cocktails with Mother Shuckers & Sipsmith (6 June). The series of events also features a foodie quiz hosted by head mistress Kate Spicer (18 June).

Seafood Pub Company re-opens Kitchen Nightmares pub on Thursday: Seafood Pub Company will re-open The Fenwick Arms on the A683 at Claughton on Thursday (6 June), the pub which featured in an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ TV series. The celebrity chef famously launched his Campaign for Real Gravy from the pub and The Fenwick staff hit the streets serving up Yorkshire Puddings topped with Gordon’s “real” gravy.

Calco package of 78 pubs on the market: A total of 78 pubs that were formerly part of the Calco and Cal Management estates have been put on the market. The pubs are mostly freehold and are located in the Midlands and north of England. Cal Management went into administration on 30 September 2011 and was followed by Calco Pubs in January 2012. Agent is Colliers International.

Ambrette fine-dining Indian restaurant set for expansion plus franchise: Dev Biswal, chef patron of The Ambrette which has sites in Margate and Rye, has revealed plans to expand the Indian fine-dining concept to six sites in the south east and London before embarking on a new business venture under a franchise model. The Ambrette at Rye, which opened in December 2012, is already fully booked throughout the week for lunch and dinner and Biswal believes he has found the winning formula for the restaurant. “It’s a combination of the location, the style and concept of food that we’re offering and the value in today’s market,” said Biswal. “We’ve been in Margate for quite some time, but Rye has been the test for the concept really, and it’s proven to be really, really busy. We’re now looking at good, affluent locations in the south east to set up more Ambrettes - we’re looking at Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, Guildford, Surrey and Canterbury.” Biswal trained at the Dubai Sheraton, before moving to London in 2003, aged 26, for spells at Mangoes and Eriki. He added: “At the moment, lending from banks is not very promising, but our businesses are funding the growth. Each new restaurant is funding the growth for the next one, which is a good way to go as it means we’re not taking too many risks. I think we’d like to hit the tourist spots in central London or the West End. The capital is a real platform for international expansion.” With Masala Zone (seven sites) currently the largest branded Indian restaurant chain in the UK, the chef hopes eventually to move onto a different format of Indian restaurant under a franchise business model. “I’d like to cap our growth of the Ambrette concept to six in the UK and then maybe expand to other formats and try a franchisee model with simpler cuisine, working with fewer ingredients,” he added. “That there is no major chain is due to the way the Indian restaurant sector is structured in the UK, it’s mainly dependent on chefs and nobody has standardised a proven formula which works nationwide. Also, the cooking involves too many parameters, so it can be very difficult to franchise it - we cook with so many different spices and ingredients. But if one gets a formula right for one site, then it’s actually easy to replicate it.” The Ambrette restaurants were recently awarded “Best in the South East” by the Cobra good Curry Guide 2013 - despite not serving curry. The Margate venue was named “Restaurant of the Year” by Produced in Kent.

Antic buys leasehold pub to near 40 sites: London pub operator Antic has bought The Old George, one of the oldest pubs in the East End of London. Previously owned and operated by Sue and Keith Allen, this traditional family pub in Bethnal Green originates from the 18th century, with the earliest available record of the pub found in the accounts of Messrs Truman Hanbury and Buxton. The pub was rebuilt in the late 19th century in the style of the day prior to a final ‘face-lift’ in 1974. Stewart Harkness, of agent Christie + Co , said: “With Sue and Keith Allen wishing to retire from the pub trade, the opportunity to buy The Old George was one that Antic felt it couldn’t afford to miss. The acquisition now brings the group’s total to 39 pubs across London.” The leasehold interest in The Old George was sold for over the guide price of £85,000.

Cau acquire fourth site: Cau – the Argentinian Steak restaurant – has acquired its fourth site, a prime site in Blackheath, London. Cau has acquired a 20 year lease on the Cactus Pit restaurant at Royal Parade overlooking Blackheath Common and adjacent to the new Côte Brasserie restaurant. The premises occupy circa 4,500 sq ft over two floors and the rent is £135,000 pa (an undisclosed premium was paid). Nick Weir, partner at Shelley Sandzer said: “Cau is an exciting new brand which has done extremely well in Guildford. The pitch they’ve acquired in Blackheath is perfect for attracting a young crowd and families.” Cau, which is owned by the Gaucho Group, is an innovative restaurant concept offering extremely high quality cuts of Argentinian steak in a competitively priced and contemporary dining environment. 

Hook Norton starts Silent Customer scheme: Cotswold-based brewery Hook Norton has announced a link with, fellow Oxfordshire company, The Silent Customer to provide a mystery customer programme for its pub estate. Under the scheme, participating pubs will receive regular visits from The Silent Customer who will assess performance against a bespoke set of criteria, including impression of the pub and quality and range of soft drinks and the brewery’s own award winning ales. With support for the programme from Britvic, Hook Norton sees this as a key step in improving standards across its pub estate. Bruce Benyon, Hook Norton operations manager, said: “This programme has been designed, together with The Silent Customer and Britvic, to suit the specific needs of our estate. We are in the process of trialing the scheme in a cross section of our pubs and plan to roll it out across the full estate as soon as we can present its value to tenants.”

Guy Hands’ Hand Picked Hotels reports £6.9m loss: Hand Picked Hotels, the operator of 17 upmarket hotels run by Julia Hands, wife of the company’s controlling party Guy Hands, has reported a pre-tax loss of £6.9m in the year ended 29 November 2012, following on from a loss of £7m the year before. Turnover decreased by 0.7% to £59,911,036. Operating profit decreased to £510,000 from £730,000 in the previous year. EBITDA was £8.3m compared with £8.9m in the previous year. The company stated: “The group is well-positioned for growth as the market recovers, driven by investment that will deliver increases in sales and EBITDA. The ongoing improvement in brand perception together with the continued drive towards excellence in service provision will also contribute to future growth. We are maintaining out investment in constancy upgrading our existing bedroom stock. The group currently holds a portfolio of 949 bedrooms. Additionally, we are seeking to grow our portfolio through the acquisition of suitable hotel assets throughout the UK.” The company’s annual interest bill in 2012 was £7,425,247. The company debt decreased by £17,600,000 during the year to £103,731,783 – the net book value of company freeholds is £97,194,077 and net book value of long leasehold property is £11,304,455. The company has 1,087 employees and the highest paid director earned £207,016. A total of £11,147,548 is owed by the company to Guy Hands and £14,005,000 is owed by the company to Julia Hands.

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