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Fri 21st Jun 2013 - Benugo, Brasserie Blanc and Pesto

Story of the day:

Pieminister plans 20 pie and cider restaurants: Artisan pie-maker Pieminister has unveiled plans to expand a pie and cider restaurant concept to major cities across the UK. The first restaurant in the chain launched at their original site in Stokes Croft, Bristol in March – which carries the slogan “Live and Eat Pie” – and the company opened its second in Manchester yesterday. The pie-maker has unveiled plans to open a further 20 restaurants over the next five years, in addition to its original pie and mash cafés, which would take its total estate to almost 30 by 2018. Jon Simon, who founded Pieminister in 2003 with brother-in-law Tristan Hogg, said: “Our ability to sell our product direct through our own outlets is unique within the national premium pie sector and gives us unrivalled access to our consumer. This enables us to understand their desires and barriers when it comes to eating pies. And our ability to talk face-to-face with our consumers drives new, incremental business to the chilled pie aisles in supermarkets, such as Waitrose and Sainsbury’s, and online at Ocado.” The restaurants will serve alcohol and offer a bar area with more space for dining than in its pie and mash shops. In addition to the pies, there will be cheese boards, craft beers, cider and gin available. Pieminister reported sales up 28% to hit £8.3m in the year to 31 March 2012 with pre-tax profits of £385,000. Simon and Hogg started Pieminister in 2003 on the basis that British consumers would respond well to better quality pies than those on the market at the time.

Industry news:

Christie Group – pubs much more affordable but banks have slowed sale of distressed assets: Christie Group has reported pubs have become more affordable but the sale of distressed assets by banks has slowed. The company said in an AGM statement: “As witnessed by the insolvency practitioners, the level of distressed assets being brought to the market by the banks has slowed considerably. The slow-down has in our view been brought about by the banks’ need to investigate the possibility of any mis-selling of interest rate swaps in order to identify any borrowers whose financial prospects may have been adversely affected. At the present time, this process is ongoing, but we would expect that by the third and fourth quarters of this year, non-sophisticated borrowers and their businesses will have been identified and that normal recovery procedures will recommence and continue in respect of assets, which are the subject of defaulted loans. The sale of trading businesses brought about by loan default is a regrettable stage but a precursor to full market recovery and a necessary cathartic process. Businesses in some sectors are at their most affordable level. For example, the average sale price of a pub in 2012 was roughly on a par with the average house price. Given that at the peak of the market, pub prices were nearly three times that of the average residential dwelling, it can be seen how relatively affordable pubs have become. For buyers with suitable experience who are purchasing established and profitable businesses of all types, funding is readily available on sensible loan to value criteria. Equally encouragingly, our specialist business appraiser, Pinders, is seeing instructions to appraise smaller businesses at their highest level for five years, which bodes well for the wider market recovery.”

Sky wins advertising battle with BT: Sky has emerged the winner from a regulatory battle with BT after Ofcom ruled that the satellite broadcaster does not have to show adverts for its rival’s new sports channels. Ofcom ruled: “Sky is pursuing a legitimate commercial interest. We also consider, given the limited extent of the effects on BT, that Sky’s approach is proportionate to its aim.” BT said it would now concentrate on a separate dispute over its failure to secure a wholesale deal to offer the Sky Sports channels via its internet-based service. A spokesman said: “We are delighted that Ofcom is going to investigate Sky over their refusal to supply us with Sky Sports On YouView. This is a far bigger issue for us than their refusal to show their ads.”

CG Restaurants and Steamin’ Billy Brewing Company joins the ALMR: CG Restaurants, the operator of Tuttons and Fire And Stone, has become the second restaurant company this week to join the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). Fast casual restaurant operator Smith & Western, which has six sites, joined the ALMR earlier this week. Steamin’ Billy Brewing Company has also joined the ALMR. The company, led by Billy Allingham, operates eight sites in Leicestershire. The company’s website states: “All of our pubs offer great character and we’re proud to be able to offer the kind of ideals which make British pubs great.”

Technomic - bakery cafés posted best performance in US fast casual segment: Research firm Technomic has reported that bakery cafés remained the sales leader in the US fast-casual restaurant segment in 2012, despite a strong performance from Mexican concepts that narrowed the sales gap between the two menu categories. Bakery cafés that ranked among Technomic’s Top 150 Fast-Casual Chain Restaurants posted system-wide sales of more than $6.1 billion in 2012—an increase of 10.3% over 2011. That’s an even better performance than was seen in 2011, when sales for bakery cafés in the Top 150 climbed 6.6%.

Starbucks to focus on increasing food sales in the US – 19% of turnover at the moment: Starbucks will focus on increasing its food sales which stand at just 19% of overall turnover at the moment. Troy Alstead, chief financial officer at Starbucks, said that one out of every three purchases in the US already includes a food item and that food sales had been in the low teens a few years ago. The company believes that food sales will increase as it rolls out better pastries from its recently acquired La Boulange bakery. Alstead acknowledged that Starbucks’ food hasn’t always “met expectations”.

Company news:

Marco Pierre White loses pub legal case – and is called a ‘dishonest idiot’ by judge: Restaurateur Marco Pierre White has been described by a judge as a “dishonest idiot” as he was left with a legal bill for hundreds of thousands of pounds after losing a High Court fight with two former business partners. White had sued former business partners Andrew Parton and Peter Featherman over a 2009 deal that he claimed gave him a 38% share of The Yew Tree restaurant at Highclere, near Newbury, Berkshire, in return for using his name. When he did not get the shares, he demanded his name be taken off the restaurant’s name. His business partners, however, claimed that they had been forced to sell the because the removal of his name in January 2011 had resulted in a reduction in turnover. Mr Justice Morgan dismissed his claim and ruled that White must pay all the costs of the case – estimated to be £500,000 plus costs of £240,000. “I find that Mr White’s witness statement is far more reconstruction than it is recollection. He was plainly an unreliable witness,” he said. “Mr White was not straightforward. He was not honest in his evidence. I would also question his intelligence in bringing the claim at all. Mr White has been a bit of an idiot. It may be he has been a dishonest idiot on top. He is a wealthy man. He brought utterly misconceived proceedings.”

Winchester planners give green light for River Cottage restaurant: Winchester planners backed controversial plans for a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall River Cottage restaurant in the city yesterday. A planning committee unanimously approved changing the use of Abbey Mill in Colebrook Street from office to restaurant. It means the River Cottage brand will take on a 15-year lease once the council completes structural improvements. The controversial application was submitted by the council itself rather than the business, and was opposed by local residents and councillors over concerns about noise and traffic problems. But the committee decided the benefit of tourism and finding a use for the building outweighed these concerns.

Birmingham bar operator reports rise in turnover and profit: Six-strong Birmingham-based multiple operator Bitters ‘n Twisted Venues has reported an increase in turnover of 64% to £4.6m across its six venues for the year ending 31 August 2012 with pre-tax also increased by 39% to £458,000. Matt Scriven, managing director of Bitters ‘n’ Twisted Venues, said: “The period has seen an excellent performance for the group and we continue to focus on offering great quality venues in Birmingham. Much of the increase in sales and profitability is due to the maturing of a number of our sites - and the steady sales increase this has seen as a result of greater awareness by customers of what the venues offer. The current year continues to see solid growth across the sites and significant cosmetic investment has been taking place to develop the sites further. Training and development of staff has increased in priority with the appointment of a manager during the year to spearhead new initiatives. Our approach of taking down-at-heel sites, carrying out targeted refurbishments and completely overhauling the food and drink offering has resulted in strong turnarounds at all our sites. Our runner-up spot at the Publican Awards for Best Drinks Offer helped confirm that we are on the right track for delivering great quality, choice and service to our customers.”

Pesto set for first opening in North Yorkshire – at Sprit pub: Pesto in the Pub, the expanding multiple headed by La Tasca founder Neil Gatt and Sara Edwards, is to open its first Pesto restaurant in North Yorkshire later this summer. It will re-open the South Stainley Red Lion pub in Harrogate after a £325,000 joint investment with owner Spirit. Pesto offers a variety of ‘piattini’, which translates as ‘small plates’, allowing diners to share a number of different Italian dishes. The group said that Pesto at the Red Lion will offer “original Italian dining combined with open fires, real ales and a relaxed environment in a stunning setting”.

Brasserie Blanc begins 20 pub expansion with Spirit site: Brasserie Blanc operator Brasserie Bar Co, led by Mark Derry, has begin moves to open an estate 20 pubs in the next three years with a Spirit pub in Orpington. Derry told Propel earlier this year that its first two openings, in Weybridge and Teddington, operated under the White Brasserie banner, have gone from “strength-to-strength”. The company stated: “The basis of this business is a pub offering brasserie-style food, utilising skills and knowledge developed in Brasserie Blanc with a significant drinks-led element. We believe that transferring our skill for running profitable premium casual dining restaurants is the key to success with the pubs, which we think have considerable growth opportunities.”

Wahaca and Eclectic Bars among sector companies to save £5m on property costs: Wahaca and Eclectic Bars are among the companies that have saved £5m in property costs using an out-sourced self-auditing solution, ProNett. Managing Director Julie Centracchio, who used to work for JD Wetherspoon, said: “With ProNett’s cost control, intuitive database and unique in-built self-auditing functions, up to 33% savings on companies’ current spend can be achieved. The beauty of ProNett is that it is so simple to use. But ‘behind the scenes’ it is doing things that not only make life easier for all but it also includes a unique in-built intelligent self-auditing solution. This alone, delivered over £5m in savings last year to our clients.” A new website, explaining how the ProNett system can be found at

Benugo wins £10m contract from Peyton & Byrne: Café and restaurant operator Benugo has won a museum contract worth up to £10m that was previously held by Peyton & Byrne. Peyton & Byrne has operated at the Wellcome Collection since it opened in June 2007. The new five-year deal, which starts in 2014, will see Benugo take over the public catering operation at the Wellcome Collection, the London museum and exhibition venue of global charity the Wellcome Trust.

Jungs opens third site in Windsor: Highly rated café, bakery and patisserie firm Jungs has opened its third site, on Pescod Street in Windsor. The company already operates sites in Gerrards Cross and Beaconsfield. Jungs is run by the third generation of the Jungs family and sells artisanal breads, cakes and pastries with a strong German and Swiss influence.

Fleetwood Pub Company adds site and submits plans to brew: Fleetwood Pub Company has acquired The Royal Oak pub on Lord Street, which will re-open on 21 July after a £200,000 refurbishment. David Shaw, managing director of the Fleetwood Pub Company, said: “It will be run on similar lines to our Strawberry Gardens venue, having the same range of beers and lagers. We have seen sales at the Strawberry increase by 25% so far this year following an increase last year of 40% on the previous year. This continuing growth in sales has prompted us to provide an even bigger range of products for our customers, with a further six hand pumps added to the existing sixteen making twenty two in total. So we will have eighteen cask beers available in total.” Plans have also finally been submitted to Wyre Council build a brewery at the Strawberry Gardens site. The brewery will be run by the newly-formed Fleetwood Brewing Company and it expected to be operational by next January.

Brakspear to open second managed site: Henley-based pub operator Brakspear is to reopen the Royalist in Stow-on-the-Wold as its second managed site. The Grade II listed pub with rooms was acquired by Brakspear last July and closed earlier this month for a major redevelopment. Brakspear plans to reopen the Royalist in September. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “We purchased the Royalist for its outstanding location and rich heritage and are looking forward to developing the site in a way that will maximise its potential. The decision to manage this site ourselves is a relatively recent one, inspired in large part by our experience at the Bull on Bell Street, the pub we opened in Henley-on-Thames in March. The Bull is trading extremely well and we’ve learned a lot about how to successfully operate a managed pub alongside our tenanted sites.” He added: “There is no master plan to grow our managed estate in terms of size or timescale and we are making decisions on a site by site basis.”

Brewdog launches £4m crowd-funding fund-raising: Scottish brewer and retailer Brewdog has launched a £4 million fundraising. Founders Martin Dickie and James Watt have begun a third round of their “Equity For Punks” scheme, with 42,000 shares being offered at £95 each. Their previous fundraising round drew in £2.2m in 2011, with the latest cash going towards paying for the firm’s new brewery and growing chain of bars. Sales are on target to reach £20m this year. Brewdog claims that the latest round will be the “world’s biggest independent crowdfunding initiative”. Watt said: “With the help of almost 7,000 punk investors, Brewdog has become the fastest growing food and drink company in the UK. As we need funds for more growth plans, we never considered a bank or an investment group – it’s another opportunity for our customers to benefit from our growth directly. This is the world’s biggest independent crowdfunding initiative. It proves that there is a viable alternative to the financial establishment, and as the self-interested banks continue to stunt economic growth, people are looking for better places to put their money. With Equity for Punks, beer fans are able to become part of a revolution – not just redefining beer in the UK, but shifting the balance of power away from the banks and back into the hands of the people.” The company, which was founded in 2007, now has 187 staff and a chain of 12 bars, including one in Stockholm.

Prezzo hires property director: Prezzo, headed by Jonathan Kaye, has hired David Street as its new director of property. Street will be responsible for the acquisition of new sites across the UK and the management of the existing estate. He has previously worked for Whitbread as property director and acquisitions director and more recently acted as property consultant to Prezzo and Novus Leisure. Kaye, said: “I am delighted that David has joined the company. He has a wealth of experience and will be a valuable asset to the business as we continue to grow and open new restaurants across the UK.” Prezzo operates 216 restaurants.

Luminar agrees 17 new licence conditions to keep Kingston Oceana nightclub open including reduction of 353 in capacity: Kingston nightclub Oceana will continue to trade after Luminar agreed to 17 new licence conditions. The club had its licence revoked after fatal stabbing and was due to appeal the revocation at a hearing next month – the club has been trading pending the appeal. The 17 new licence conditions include the use of metal detectors, a reduction in the number of people allowed into the venue and changes to the nights the club will open. At least four wardens paid for by Oceana’s owners will patrol local streets on nights when the venue is open, rising to six when the club’s admissions reach 1,000. A machine to check the ID of all customers is part of the agreed new conditions. Other include: a 15% reduction in permitted capacity from 2,353 to 2,000; the WooWoo feeder bar to provide additional seating and a food offering; no licence to trade on Sundays (apart from those preceding a Bank Holiday and six other Sundays per year with prior notice to the police and council); no licence to trade on Tuesdays (apart from six per year with prior notice to the police and council); a reduction in the hours for the sale of alcohol. Luminar chief executive Peter Marks said: “We are pleased with today’s decision, which recognises the efforts we have made to respond to local residents’ concerns and further enhance safety and security at the club. The fact we can now move forward constructively, reflects the efforts the team have made to build strong relationships with the police and local authorities to reduce crime and ensure that we continue to provide a safe environment for the young people of Kingston.”

La Cachette owner expands: The owner of Leeds restaurant La Cachette has bought neighbouring business Bertie’s Banqueting Rooms from owner Brett Woodward. Jon Nichols secured the banqueting business located on Brook Street in Elland for an undisclosed sum with Walker Singleton acting as agents for the deal. He will now take over Bertie’s Banqueting Rooms as a going concern - which will be known as Bertie’s at La Cachette - and will run the businesses side by side with his restaurant La Cachette, located next door.

Multi-site pub company Persona NW re-opens Burtonwood pub: North west multiple Persona NW has re-opened the Chapel House pub in Burtonwood – the pub and the two other pubs in the village had all been closed prior to the acquisition. Local heritage plays a key role in the pub’s new interior – the designer has sourced decoration and imagery featuring the WW2 Burtonwood airbase and images of the Burtonwood brewery. Five cask ales are being served and the plan is to add more guest ales each month.

Derwent sells Hyde Park site for £132m to Hong Kong hotel giant: A Hong Kong hotel group is planning to make its first foray into the UK after agreeing to buy a half stake in a site on Hyde Park Corner for £132.5m. Peninsula Hotels said yesterday it will buy Derwent London’s 50% interest in 1-5 Grosvenor Place, forming a new joint venture with the freeholder Grosvenor. The pair plan to develop the 1960s Belgravia office block, which spans 1.5 acres, into a luxury hotel and residential scheme. Derwent, which has owned the building for almost 20 years, sold half of its share and formed a joint venture with Grosvenor last year, to create a mixed-use luxury scheme. Chief executive John Burns said Derwent decided to sell out after it became clear the building was better suited to a hotel project.

Boutique hotel in Southwold leased by Adnams comes on the market: The award-winning 13-bedroom boutique Blyth Hotel on Southwold’s Pier Avenue, owned by Adnams and leased to Richard & Charlie Ashwell has come on the market. Tim Gooding, of Christie + Co in Ipswich, said: “Hotels in Southwold very rarely come to the market and we’re delighted to have been instructed. We’ve just started the marketing and are pleased to report that we’ve had interest expressed already.” The hotel is on the market as the vendors wish to concentrate on other career opportunities. The asking price for the leasehold interest is £190,000.

Bojangles – breakfast is hard to get right: US restaurant chain Bojangles, with operates 542 restaurants in 11 states on the east coast, has described breakfast as the meal occasion that restaurants struggle to get right. The company produces “in excess of 40%” of sales at breakfast and the company is so breakfast-focused that management strives to put its sites on the going-to-work side of the street when picking venues. Executive vice-president Eric Newman argues that to succeed in breakfast, restaurants also have to be extremely efficient. Customers have to get to work, and don’t have time to deal with a slow line, he said. “They’re less tolerant of breakdowns in service and delays. Serving breakfast requires an additional shift, which creates a new level of complexity. You’ve got to add a whole other layer of management,” Newman added. “Someone’s got to get there at 4:30am because you’re opening at 5:30am.” Breakfast poses a big obstacle for the large chains because they’ve already built major infrastructure around the traditional busy periods, he argued. “The breakfast meal was not a priority as they grew, and now it’s more difficult for them to get in the game. You’ve got to try to do everything else without losing market share in other day-parts,” said Newman. “When you add those layers it’s very hard to do, especially after the fact.”

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