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Tue 20th Aug 2013 - Beef jerky, Brasserie Bar Co, Pizza Hut and Spirit

Story of the day:

Gatecrasher fined over 656 litres of fake vodka at Leeds site, which will not re-open: Gatecrasher Clubs and Bars, the four-strong nightclub company that went through a pre-pack administration at the start of August, has been fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £2,095.67 costs for selling industrial alcohol as vodka at a student freshers week event in Leeds. On September 11, 2012, West Yorkshire Trading Standards officers visited the company’s Bed nightclub on New Briggate, Leeds as a result of a complaint that the premises were selling counterfeit vodka. The officers found 656 litres of fake spirit labelled as “Premium vodka”, which the manager had just removed from sale that evening as a result of customer complaints. The drink was tested by the West Yorkshire Public Analyst and found to contain isopropanol, tertiary butanol and chloroform, none of which should be in vodka. All the bottles were subsequently seized by Trading Standards officers. The investigations revealed that the drink was obtained through a broker as a “cash deal”, arranged through the head office of Gatecrasher Clubs and Bars, which is based in Sheffield. Meanwhile Gatecrasher will not re-open the 700-capacity Leeds Bed. The venue, which featured a VIP area, five bars and two main rooms when it opened in 2011, closed its doors for summer as usual earlier this year. ATC Properties, which owns the Arcade that houses the nightclub, is thought to be planning to turn some of the space into smaller retail units. A spokeswoman for Bed Club told the local newspaper: “The location and configuration of the venue no longer matches with the current management team’s vision for clubbing. The venue is too small and despite the proposed development of the Grand Arcade, the parent company’s strategy moving forwards is for large capacity clubs in city centre locations.” The Gatecrasher nightclub business underwent a pre-pack administration after finding itself unable to pay its debts, which include £3m to Barclays Bank and £500,000 to HM Revenue & Customs.

Industry news:

Propel Multi Club Conference: The next Propel Multi Club Conference takes place on Thursday 7 November at One Moorgate Place. London. Operators can claim up to two free delegate places by e-mailing jo.charity@propelinfo.com

David Cameron – the sector has made a good argument on VAT, but…: David Cameron has admitted that the sector has made a good argument on reducing VAT but has set out the problems in reducing it. Taking part in a live radio chat in Manchester where he was asked about the issue, he said: “It’s a difficult one this. We introduced the new VAT rate because we had to deal with the budget deficit. When I came to be Prime Minister we had the biggest budget deficit of virtually any country anywhere in the world – it was a similar size to Greece. So we have to deal with it. You can’t only deal with it by cutting spending, you have to look at taxes as well so VAT was one of the taxes that went up. There are always good cases for cutting VAT on individual items. The leisure industry and the hotel industry make a good argument but as do a lot of industries – people say why not cut VAT on repairing houses – so there are lots of arguments for cutting VAT. So people have to come up with a very good one before it gets accepted. There’s a lot of things we can do to encourage tourism to make sure Britain becomes a great destination that doesn’t involve cutting VAT, which would be expensive.”

US fast food worker plan national strike: US fast food workers are planning a national strike on 29 August. A Facebook page to publicise the event states: “We’ve had enough of struggling to get by on minimum wage or barely more, so we’re walking off our jobs to demand $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.”

Pelican launches cloud-based procurement solution: Pelican, the procurement and supply chain management specialist, has launched Pelican Purchasing Intelligence (Pi). Pi is a new cloud-base procurement solution that is designed to provide complete visibility, management and control over purchasing spend, budgets, stock valuation and supplier invoices. Shabaz Mohammed, Pelican managing director, said: “Pi is a unique solution that provides total visibility, management and control over your purchasing spend, budgets, stock valuation and supplier invoices. Pi displays your purchasing data as easy to understand, detailed graphs, helping you to see what’s actually happening to your supply chain within your business, at any time.”

Two US brewers launch high alcohol beers: Two large US brewers, Miller Coors and Anheuser-Busch InBev, are launching high alcohol beers to recapture share from growing liquor brands. Miller Fortune, which will debut next year at 6.9% ABV with a marketing strategy aimed at luring millennial males during evening drinking occasions. The new beer follows A-B InBev’s recent launches of Bud Light Platinum and Budweiser Black Crown, which are both 6% ABV. The aim for brewers is to reach variety-seeking drinkers whose habits lead them to the liquor shelf and away from beers their fathers drank.

Carlsberg signs five-year live music contract: Carlsberg UK has secured a five-year contract with the world’s leading live entertainment company, Live Nation. The partnership will see Carlsberg UK’s Tuborg brand continue its ‘Official Lager’ status at Live Nation’s UK festival portfolio including Download, Hard Rock Calling, Wireless, Creamfields, Global Gathering, Magic Summer Live and Festival Republic’s events Reading, Leeds and Latitude. Somersby Cider, Carlsberg UK’s recently launched cider brand, will further complement Live Nation’s festival drinks with ‘Official Cider’ status.

Company news:

Pizza Hut prepares for 40th anniversary with digital push: Pizza Hut is to use social media and mobile marketing to give customers a more personal online experience and recapture its “vibrant” tone of voice. The restaurant brand is working on a series of digital initiatives that will put “localised content” at the heart of its brand building activity on social networks, in-store and online. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ location-based promotions will launch in the coming months that serve fans restaurant-specific content including targeted discounts and promotions. Activity featuring comedian and TV personality Paddy McGuinness will also run across the brand’s social media channels later this year as part of a wider advertising push to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Victoria Clarke, head of digital marketing at Pizza Hut Restaurants, told Marketing Week: “The Pizza Hut brand is going through a lot of change at the moment and we’re using digital as the primary outlet to communicate those developments to customers. By focusing on content and putting CRM at the heart of what we do, we feel we can stand apart from rivals. Domino’s are fantastic at what they do online, but its not the right approach for us. Their proposition is built around direct response and ecommerce, whereas ours is slight trickier because we’re trying to get visitors to come into our restaurants and not order online.”

Richard Giles opens fourth Spirit leased pub; Inglenook Inns & Taverns takes second Spirit leased site: Multiple pub operator Richard Giles has re-opened his fourth Spirit leased pub, The Turf and Feather pub in Warrington after a co-investment. The refurbishment included new toilets and car park with the trading space being opened into an open plan area. Sports feature heavily at the pub with many guests being keen Manchester United football supporters and Warrington Wolves rugby league followers. Meanwhile, Inglenook Inns & Taverns has opened its second Spirit site, The Knavesmire pub in York after a £260,000 joint investment with the company. The new-look pub has four individual rooms: a cask tap room with a minimum of eight cask ales always available; a games room where every pub game can be played from darts to bar billiards and skittles; a dining room and a Live Sports Bar. Martin McTigue, business development manager for Spirit Leased said: “This is the second pub Inglenook Inns & Taverns have with us now and we’re looking forward to really making the pub central to the community and to those visiting York.”

Nando’s in Chelmsford serves up Beyonce chicken order: A Nando’s branch in Chelmsford has served singer Beyonce’s entourage more that £1,400 worth of chicken. The food from Nando’s in Chelsmford was for the singer and her entourage after she performed as the headline act at the V Festival in Hylands Park in the town on Saturday night. The order was made by telephone for takeaway and included 58 wing platters, 48 whole chickens, 12 veggie burgers, 24 coleslaws and 24 rice dishes – totalling £1,444.10.

Brasserie Blanc reports sales up 9% in July: Brasserie Blanc operator Brasserie Bar Co, headed by Mark Derry, has reported like-for-like sales were up 9% in July compared with the same month in the Olympics year. Derry told The Financial Times: “It’s a double-whammy summer so far. Firstly because it is against a backdrop of last year’s Olympics ‘walkout’ and second because of the prolonged great weather we’ve been having.”

Whiting & Hammond produces second in-house magazine: Gastro-operator Whiting & Hammond, led by Brian Whiting, has produced the second edition of its own glossy 92-page quarterly magazine, Gastro, for customers. The company produces 5,000 copies of the magazine for distribution among its seven pubs – and to give out at out-reach events it takes part in. Whiting told Propel: “It’s been a great success – ticked every box for us. It has succeeded in encouraging customers to try out other sites. It costs me 90p a copy and we produce 5,000. It just seems like a no-brainer once a quarter. I’m effectively paying for the print cost while the media house we work with keeps the revenue. We’ve just started work on or third edition.”

West Midlands gets first micro-pub: Licensing permission has been granted for the first micro-pub in the West Midlands, which will open in Aldersley, Wolverhampton in three to four weeks after the owner agreed to close at 10pm every night rather than 11pm. Gary Morton, owner of the new pub, Hail to the Ale, in Pendeford Avenue, Aldersley, who runs the six-year-old Morton Brewery in Essington, Staffordshire with his wife Angela, said he wanted to make a compromise so he could move forward, after people living locally raised objections. The micro-pub was granted planning permission in June, and was given a licence on Wednesday. The licence conditions include restricted opening hours on bank holidays, when the pub can only open from midday to 5pm. The premises will have space for 30 drinkers and will serve only beer, cider and fruit wines. There are believed to be around 18 micro-pubs now open in the UK, with the definition of a micro-pub generally being a one-room premises selling only cask beer and cider, with no food except traditional snacks and no TV, juke box or gaming machines.

Beef jerky entrepreneur turns down Peter Jones investment: Beef jerky entrepreneur Joe Walters, who appeared on Dragon’s Den on Sunday evening, has turned down an investment of £50,000 for a 24% stake in the company. In a Dragon’s Den first, producers allowed an outside investor, BrewDog co-founder, James Watt, to match any offer made by the judges leaving Walters looking to the Dragons for £37,500 to secure 16%. Walters received four offers from the Dragons, but finally accepted an offer from Peter Jones for £50,000 for 24% of his company. However, since filming the show Jones and Walters have parted ways. Watt kept his word to invest in the Texan’s business – and its flagship product ‘Original Texan Jerky’ is available to buy at BrewDog bars from today.

Birmingham cider maker Aston Manor Brewery reports sixth successive year of double-digit growth: Cider maker Aston Manor Brewery has reported sales up 13% to £120.2m in the year to 31 December 2012 – sales were just £29m in 2005. The company, which owns the Frosty Jack’s, Knights and Kingstone Press brands, called 2012 a “significant achievement in a generally stagnant economy”. The majority of the increase in 2012 came from the domestic market which generated £115.9m, compared with £101.7m a year earlier. Sales to the rest of Europe slipped slightly from £4.4m to £3.2m but more than doubled around the globe to £1.1m. Aston Manor, established in 1983, currently exports to about 15 countries, including the US, Russia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Thailand. “To complement this, 2012 has also been a year of real progress for our organisation as a whole. We have invested significantly to increase our capability in strategic selling, strategic procurement, demand and capacity planning, and organisational design,” a directors’ report accompanying the newly filed accounts said. “Aston Manor also continued to make significant capital investment throughout the year, particularly in relation to developing the capability of our factory in Tiverton (Devon).” Underlying operating profit climbed from £2.4m to £4.1m and pre-tax profit reached £2.7m, up from £1.6m but still behind the more than £4m earned in 2009 and 2010. A dividend a £1m was paid for the year, the same as in 2011.

Gregarious closes Bohemia site in London: Gregarious, the operator of leasehold London pubs formed by investment company Downing to buy the former Antic leasehold site out of administration, has closed its Bohemia site after failing to agree terms on an assignment of the lease post-administration. A spokesman told Propel: “The company was in negotiations with the landlord over the assignment but ultimately it was not possible to reach agreement, on what the company felt were onerous requirements, before the six-month licence to occupy expired.”

Simon French “strongly reiterates” Spirit ‘Buy’ recommendation: Panmure Gordon analyst Simon French has “strongly reiterated” a ‘Buy’ recommendation on Spirit shares. He said: “Spirit’s financial year ended on Saturday and we expect the group to have performed strongly enough in Quarter Four to meet market expectations of circa £56m profit before tax. Given the best July weather for seven years and the mixed comparatives from last year’s Olympics we think the group should have generated circa 4.5% like-for-likes sales growth in the managed estate and flat like-for-like net income in the leased estate. We roll our valuation year on 12 months to CY 2014E and this generates an increased Target Price of 110p (from 93p) and implies circa 50% potential upside; we therefore strongly reiterate our Buy recommendation.”

Buyer sought for King’s Head Theatre: An angel buyer is being sought for the King’s Head in north London, which houses a 100-seat theatre, to secure its future. Stephanie Sinclaire, who has run the Islington venue since the death of her husband, Dan Crawford, eight years ago, is understood to be in preliminary talks with one potential partner from the theatre world. Sinclaire told The Independent: “There has been an on-going search for a guardian angel for this well-loved venue, or a partner. There’s potential for a philanthropist stepping in who just loves theatre. And a board could be put together to look after everything with me on it. I’m going to be 60 soon and one has to think about things. Part of me is bereft about the idea of letting it go. The perfect solution would be a collaboration.” The plan would be to use additional investment to expand the 110-seat theatre by another 100 seats, making it a “viable commercial space”.

Giggling Squid to open between four and six sites in fiscal year to April 2015: Giggling Squid, the Thai concept headed by Andy and Pranee Laurillard, plan to open between four and six sites in the fiscal year to April 2015 as it aims to become an 80-strong chain within seven years. Said Andy Laurillard: “A few isolated pockets aside, the south east never entered a recession and downturns bring as many opportunities for business as upturns bring problems. If restaurateurs are seeing fewer customers its because they’re going elsewhere.” The most recent launch, Reigate has been turning away customers since it first opened its doors on 17 July, with queues forming down the High Street a common sight. All branches report brisk trade, with most recording record monthly takings. Monthly group turnover consistently tops £100,000. “We are prepared to encounter growing pains when we reach double figures and have to put in a middle management tier,” Andy added “But are already benefiting from significant economies of scale and each new opening is better than the last, as we learn how to tweak the marketing. But we will remain food, rather than brand, lead – it’s all about getting the food right.”

Christie + Co set 6 September deadline for Menzies Hotels bids: Agent Christie + Co has set a first-round offers deadline of Friday 6 September on the Menzies Hotels portfolio. The group operates over 1,500 bedrooms across 15 hotels, in a portfolio of predominantly 4-Star hotels. Jeremy Jones, director of corporate hotels at Christie + Co, said: “The response of the market to the availability of Menzies Hotels has been highly encouraging. This is an excellent opportunity to acquire a profitable hotel group which provides an excellent platform for further expansion.”

Wagamama and Coal Grill and Bar to open at Xscape Milton Keynes: Two new restaurants, Wagamama and Coal Grill and Bar, are to open at Xscape Milton Keynes. The new restaurant space has been created through a reconfiguration of ground and first floor space. Wagamama has taken a 3,700 square feet space – the annual rent is £136,900 per annum. Coal Grill and Bar has also taken a unit alongside Wagamama of 3,530 square feet at a rent of £141,200 per annum. Henry Wilson from Shelley Sandzer said: “We had a great deal of interest from varied leisure occupiers keen to acquire space at Xscape. Wagamama is a really strong brand and Coal Bar and Grill is rapidly gaining a good reputation and fan base, so we expect both to trade well.”

Liverpool bar entrepreneur opens Motel: Liverpool bar entrepreneur Rob Guttman, who created iconic venues Korova and Alma da Cuba has opened a new bar concept called Motel. Gutmann said Motel will fuse the spirit of American graphic novels with a post-punk edge while offering a Taco dining experience. He said: “Motel is a manifestation of all my personal dive bar, Americana-based fantasies.” Guttman, who opened Blue Bar and Grill in 1998, is credited with revitalising the Albert Dock as a popular drinking destination. He was declared bankrupt late in 2010 with personal debts of £2.6m but many of his former bars, including Blue Bar and Alma de Cuba, continue to operate under different ownership.

Chef John Paul McLachlan plans deli development at first site: Chef John Paul McLachlan has bought leasehold interest in Bunney’s deli and cafe in the East Lothian coastal town of North Berwick. Daniel Arrandale, Associate director of Christie + Co in Edinburgh, said: “Bunney’s came to the market around March and generated significant interest, resulting in a closing date with multiple offers received. The level of interest was expected due to the prominent town centre location and the level of trade generated, particularly since the business was re-branded as Bunney’s in 2010.” The successful purchaser is John Paul McLachlan, the highly regarded executive chef of the ‘John Paul at the Marine’ restaurant, located within the MacDonald Marine Hotel & Spa in North Berwick. In 2012 he was crowned Hotel Chef of the Year at the Scottish Hotel Awards. McLachlan said: “It is a great location in the heart of town and offers me the right facilities to develop a new venture, soon to be re-named ‘JP’s Deli & Cafe’. The business will remain much the same, but my plan is to develop a much wider range in our deli with a strong emphasis on locally sourced produce.”

St Austell plans £1.5m Exeter brewpub: A vacant warehouse building on Exeter Quay is set to be transformed into a new pub restaurant and micro-brewery. St Austell Brewery plans to invest £1.5m in converting the derelict 19th-century warehouse after buying it on a leasehold basis from Exeter City Council. The building in Commercial Road was formerly home to the Mambo nightclub and Tiffany’s lap-dancing club but has been empty for about two years. St Austell Brewery is currently revising a planning application for the stone building and hopes to begin renovation works in early 2014, with the as-yet unnamed pub opening by next summer. Adam Luck, estate director for St Austell Brewery, said: “We are delighted to have acquired a new site in this vibrant area of Exeter where there is such a lot of development right now with new venues on the Quay and the recently opened Haven Banks activity centre just across the bridge on the other side of the river.”

Half of Tall Trees Hotel is demolished: Half of Yarm’s iconic Tall Trees Hotel has been demolished. The three-star Tall Trees Hotel, just outside Yarm, closed in June with the loss of 50 jobs. The main hotel part of the complex, which once hosted a number of high-profile conference events in the 1980s and 1990s, is still standing. However, some of the other complex buildings have been demolished. Owner Javid Majid, said the issue of what to do with the property was being discussed. In its heyday Tall Trees was visited by ex-Prime Minister John Major and pop star Chesney Hawkes. Tall Trees was originally a country residence, which was converted into a small hotel in the 1960s. By the time it closed it was a 120-bed hotel and a well-known wedding venue. The nightclub closed in 2010.

Mitchells & Butlers saves “significant sum” after out-sourcing fleet management: Pub and restaurant operator Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has saved a “significant sum” after outsourcing management of its national fleet of 500 vehicles last year. “We have made significant five-figure savings already through the use of CLM’s contract management solution,” said M&B’s director of corporate procurement Darrell Wilson.

Landmark south Belfast site to re-open as The Albany: A landmark pub and restaurant, Lily’s in south Belfast is to be relaunched as The Albany. The venue, which started out as TaTu under the ownership of Bill Wolsey in the early 2000s, and was then renamed Monzu, will receive a £700,000 overhaul and extension, including a licensed patisserie and roof-top garden in an empty shop next door already owned by the company. A spokesman for the new business confirmed that Calla House is the tenant of The Albany, supported by private investors, while Drinks Inc is the landlord.

Hot dogs lead Americanisation of UK menus: Hot dogs have nudged scampi and chips from their top 20 ranking of the most popular dishes in eating out establishments, as the nation’s love of all-things-American continues to influence British menus. New research from hospitality consultancy Horizons reveals that hot dogs, albeit with a gourmet twist, are now featured on 85% more menus than they were last year. Pulled pork dishes, chicken wings, and ribs have also seen significant growth on menus, as has the use of American descriptions such as ‘black & blue steak’, ‘cobb salad’ and ‘slaw’. The most frequently listed main course on British menus remains beef burgers, with an impressive 13% growth this year. Steak is also becoming more popular, with rib eye, rump and sirloin steak all showing year-on-year growth. Traditional favourites such as mixed grills, beef lasagne, Sunday lunch and chicken curry show the greatest decline. “We have been surprised by these Menurama results, which show a significant growth of meat-based, American-style dishes across the menus of a broad selection of eating out establishments,” commented Horizons’ director of services Nicola Knight. “Since last year we have also seen a decline in the use of healthy eating descriptions, perhaps as operators steer their menus towards indulgence. “Previous Horizons research has shown that cash-strapped consumers are eating out more as a treat or a celebration than as an every-day occurrence. The research also reveals that consumers are getting less meat in their meals than they did previously. Beef burgers are at their lowest average weight since the survey began – 6.35 oz vs. 7.69 oz. in Summer 2010, a decline of 17%. Likewise, sirloin steak, fillet steak and gammon steak are being served in smaller weights that last season (-8%, -7% and -4% respectively). The average price of a main course burger in pubs, restaurants and hotels is £9.27, with a hot dog averaging £6.12. “Against a backdrop of rising food costs and squeezed consumer spend, the reduction in weight of key meat dishes demonstrates that operators are having to become more savvy with regard to menu and price engineering. This could explain the huge growth in hot dogs on menus – they are relatively cheap to produce and operators can easily add value to them enabling them to charge more,” said Knight. The top ten main course dishes most frequently listed on menus are: beef burger; pizza; chicken burger; fish & chips; rump steak; roast chicken; roast chicken; rib eye steak; chicken curry; sirloin steak and Sunday lunch. Menurama analyses the menus of 115 chains including pubs, restaurants, quick service outlets and hotels. Tracking the changes taking place on menus offers a unique insight into food trends and customer preferences. Other findings of Menurama (summer 2013) include: The top ten main course dishes most frequently listed on menus are: beef burger; pizza; chicken burger; fish & chips; rump steak; roast chicken; roast chicken; rib eye steak; chicken curry; sirloin steak and Sunday lunch; Another US export, the food reality TV show Man vs Food, where Adam Richman eats his way across America, is now influencing menus in the UK with examples including (Wo)Man Vs Burrito Your Way at Hungry Horse; gourmet-style hot dogs include a Chilli Dog from pub chain Hungry Horse, with beef chilli, diced jalapenos and mustard mayo; Marston’s menu features a Mac N’ Cheese Hot Dog, with macaroni and cheddar cheese; while Wetherspoon’s has a Gourmet Hot Dog with chilli con carne, cheese, onion rings and chips; Menurama reveals the use of a wide range of terms referring to ethical sourcing, responsible production and food quality with homemade and free range the most widely used terms. Usage of many others is decreasing, with the terms MSC-certified, dolphin-friendly and hormone-free completely disappearing from usage.

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