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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Thu 22nd Aug 2013 - Brakspear, Brewdog, Luke Johnson, rare steaks and Subway

Story of the day:

Brakspear invests £7.4 million in five pubs and reports 20% profit lift: Henley-based pub operator Brakspear has reported that it invested £7.4 million in buying five new pubs last year and pre-tax profits before tax and exceptionals jumped 20% to £2.74 million. Like-for-like draft beer and cider volumes at its pubs rose by 3.6% in the year to December 31 2012 - total turnover for the year was up by 7.1% to £16.4 million, with operating profit up 12.8% to £4.6 million. The company’s chief executive, Tom Davies, said: “We’re extremely pleased with these figures, which compare favourably to the draught volume declines recorded by many of our competitors. 2012 was a tough trading year for pubs generally, and especially for the many Brakspear pubs with wonderful gardens that sat empty during the wettest summer for a century. The uplift speaks volumes for the talent of our tenants and lessees, who, aided by the increased marketing, training and business support we are now giving them, were able to keep their pubs busy and profitable, despite the unpromising environment.” The company opened The Bull on Bell Street in Henley, which became its first managed pub in March this year. It spent £1.8 million on improvements to its existing estate, including a major refurbishment of the Crown in Playhatch near Reading. It also recruited a marketing manager to create estate-wide promotional activity and help individual landlords market their pubs. It also set up a training programme with free courses on beer and cellar management, wine knowledge, improving food margins, driving footfall and using social media. A second designer was hired to help tenants and lessees with refurbishments to their pubs. Brakspear currently has 145 pubs after four non-core pubs were sold last year, with three more currently under offer. The company said only those pubs that it cannot see as being viable in the long term are considered for disposal.

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

Cerberus acquisition of Admiral Taverns one of top five private equity deals in first half of 2013: The Cerberus acquisition of tenanted operator Admiral Taverns in January is the fifth largest private equity deal of the first half of 2013, according to Dealogic. The deal, in which Cerberus was advised by Sapient Corporate Finance, is the largest deal is the sector in 2013 so far and was worth $324m.

Drinks company 88 Delicious Brands hits crowd-funding target in 56 days: A drinks company, 88 Delicious Brands, has hit its crowd-funding target of £250,000 in 56 days through Crowdcube. The company, which has three different flavoured vodka liquors and two Champagnes that it is aiming to launch in the UK, overshot its investment target by 16%, raising £290,000 from 97 investors. Co-founder Alan Colton said: “We have managed to grab some great investors that have the experience required to help us achieve our next set of goals.”

Food Standards Agency – rare steaks are safe to eat: The Food Standards Agency has written to food writer Charles Campion to explain that rare steaks are safe to eat, following his article in yesterday’s Daily Mail that incorrectly stated that the FSA has ‘issued “guidance” that meat in restaurants should be cooked until no pink remains. The FSA told Campion: “You write passionately about the delicious Basque Sagartoki steaks and how they are served crusted outside and very rare in the middle. You then say that the Food Standards Agency may be about ‘to put a stop to such delectable pleasures’ by issuing guidance which says that ‘meat in restaurants should be cooked until no pink remains’ This is simply untrue. We have issued no guidance that would prevent steaks being served rare, we have no plans to do so and why would we? Steak is safe to eat ‘rare’. Whole cuts of beef or lamb, steaks, cutlets and joints only have germs on the outside, so as long as the outside is cooked any potentially harmful germs that could cause food poisoning will be killed.”

The Guardian hails ‘pizza revolution’: The Guardian has argued that UK restaurants are in the midst of a pizza revolution. Katy Salter noted: “There’s a pizza revolution going on – and it doesn’t involve pineapple or hotdog-stuffed crusts. Authentic, Neapolitan-style pizzas are winning over an army of British fans thanks to mini-chains such as Franco Manca and Rossopomodoro in London and Birmingham, independents PizzaFace in Brighton and La Favorita in Edinburgh, and street food crews Homeslice and Pizza Pilgrims, both of which have recently opened restaurants. (Pizza Pilgrims has also published a cookbook.)”

Cider & cocktail sales soar as Britain’s pubs bake in the July sunshine: Total wet sales rose 12% in UK pubs during the hot week that ended on 13 Juy, insights firm CGA Peach has revealed. Cider sales were up +80% versus the same week in 2012 and cocktails also maintained their position as one of the fastest growing categories in the on-trade with sales up 36% over the same time period. “Great weather is obviously great for pubs, and specifically over-ice or summer-friendly drinks, as these numbers show” said Scott Elliott, director at CGA Peach.

Luke Johnson – too many young UK job-seekers lack key qualities: Sector investor Luke Johnson has argued that too many young UK job-seekers lack basic skills. Writing for The Daily Mail, he said: “The reality is that too many teenagers and young adults do not have the necessary work ethic or discipline for demanding jobs. They lack the ability to communicate or work productively as part of a team. When I recruit for firms like Patisserie Valerie, what I look for are qualities such as reliability, punctuality, honesty and civility. These are essential for any employee who has to deal with the public on a daily basis. But to my regret I regularly find that these basic traits are missing from too many applicants.”

Beer brand owners told to copy Brewdog to grow category: Consumers see beer brands as “all the same”, and brand owners are failing to offer drinkers enough real choice to grow the category, according to the boss of a branding agency. Instead, according to Damian Symons, managing director at the agency Clear, they should emulate the maverick Scottish “punk” company Brewdog, and be “innovative in both product and personality”. Writing in Marketing magazine this week, Symons said: “Beer brands are having a tough time in the UK.” But the decline in sales was nothing to do with tax rises, health concerns or the smoking ban in pubs, he said. “The real reason is, beer brands aren’t resilient enough. They simply aren’t connecting enough with consumers and as a result, they aren’t creating enough value.” A study by Clear on “brand desire” involving 20,000 consumers found that people had views about beer that were similar to their views about energy and telecoms: treating the category as a commodity, failing to differentiate between brands and seeing brands in the market as basically all the same, with “an absence of any meaningful points of difference … All lagers are cool and sociable; all ales are reassuring and respected. No difference means no real choice, and no real choice means no connection to consumers.”

US coffee shop introduces ‘laptop free’ tables: A coffee shop plagued by “internet squatters” who took advantage of its free Wi-Fi to sit for hours over a single cup while working on their computers has introduced “laptop free” tables at lunchtimes to try to ensure people wanting to eat will be able to find a seat. Luigi Di Ruocco, owner of the Coffee Bar in San Francisco, told his local newspaper that after introducing free Wi-Fi to his premises, “one of the unforeseen problems was that people stayed a really long time and others who came in couldn’t find seats”.

‘Perfect weather’ likely to mean bumper cider apple crop: Britain’s cider makers are predicting an “exceptional” apple harvest next month after a cold spring followed by a warm summer set the conditions for a bumper crop. Simon Russell, a spokesman for the National Association of Cider Makers, said: “The great weather has prompted a surge in cider sales and also provided fantastic growing conditions. After most cider makers and growers experienced really strong blossom in the spring, long periods of sunshine have followed. If we have more of the same, plus some rain to encourage strong growth, then both the quality and quantity of the apples could be exceptional when harvest starts next month.”

Company news:

Subway targets UK to spearhead European growth: Subway plans to pick up the pace of openings in Europe by adding as many as 1,000 new locations in 2014 with the UK top of the list of growth countries, Bloomberg has reported. The sandwich shop operator currently has 4,018 stores in Europe and has opened about 500 stores a year in Europe for the past two years, and may add 800 to 1,000 next year. “Europe is the strongest, fastest-growing international market for Subway outside of North America, and will continue to be,” a spokesman told the news agency. The UK is at the “top of the list” for growth in Europe, with a goal to have 2,000 outlets by 2015. Subway has added 63 locations in the UK in 2013 to take the number to 1,544, up from 59 openings in 2012.

Searcys begins supply chain review to mitigate food inflation costs: Searcys, the high-end catering company and operator, has hired consultants Prestige Purchasing to undertake a value chain review. With recent reports predicting food inflation to be 4.2% at the end of the year, the aim is to mitigate overall procurement costs without affecting quality. Prestige Purchasing will examine the complete chain from farm to plate to find value efficiencies that exceed costs associated with food inflation. The value chain review evaluates the business’ operations to find ways to improve its processes. Sourcing, marketing and business strategies are all considered alongside menu development, logistics and staffing to find ways to improve savings without impeding quality. Chief executive Doug Tetley said: “Quality means everything to us. But with food and drink prices constantly on the rise, we need to look at ways to offset these increases. Rather than taking a ‘slash and burn’ approach to squeezing suppliers and affecting the quality of what we produce, we would rather look within our own business. By identifying changes to the supply chain with Prestige Purchasing, we can create valuable efficiencies while maintaining the high standards that Searcy’s stands for.”

Bavarian Beerhouse set to open first franchised site: Bavarian Beerhouse will open its first franchised site in the centre of Bristol on 29 August – it’s also the first to open outside London. Founded in 2005 by Germans Rene and Sabine von Reth in London’s Old Street, the first site came after Rene moved to the capital and couldn’t find somewhere to eat a pork shank with a German beer. The second restaurant followed in Tower Hill five years later.Sabine von Reth said: “For a private business, in rough economy times, we are very proud to have achieved growth without investors.”

M&B hits back over pub closure: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has counter-attacked in its row with the pub company Gregarious over the closure of a popular North London bar. The Bohemia, in High Road, North Finchley, closed suddenly last Friday after what Gregarious said was six months of unsuccessful negotiating with M&B, the leaseholder, represented by Colliers International, for the permanent transfer of the lease. Gregarious director Max Alderman told the Hendon and Finchley Times that Colliers “put up so many barriers it was near impossible for us to come to an agreement. They made unreasonable demands and had no interest in negotiating with us directly. Up until the very last minute we had hoped we would strike a deal but Colliers were adamant they didn’t want us to take the lease.” He accused M&B and Colliers of “sticking two fingers up to the people of North Finchley” in failing to reach an agreement. However, M&B told the newspaper: “During the last few months we have given Gregarious ample opportunity to agree terms and sign a new lease. Unfortunately the terms of the lease have not been met, and the licence agreement expired, resulting in Gregarious Ltd having to leave the property. Looking forward, we will continue to explore opportunities for the site and secure a new tenant.”

Smiths of Smithfield to open spin-off: London venue Smiths of Smithfield is open a spin-off, Smiths, in Spitalfields Market on Thursday 5 September. Smiths will be an all-day dining venue, which will ‘celebrate the best of British’. Smiths will span four floors. The Loft will entertain private diners. The first floor dining room will serve classic dishes. The ground floor will be home to Smiths café during the day and become a late night bar in the evening. The ‘Smiths Basement Bar on the lower ground floor will feature DJs and a programme of live events.

Clothes shop to become Indo-Thai restaurant: The family behind two restaurants in Gloucester are turning a three-storey Regency building in Cheltenham into an Indo-Thai restaurant with a daytime cafe and wine bar. The Ballroom, a former high-end ladies’ clothes store on Montpellier Street, will open as a restaurant with the same name next month. The man behind the new venture is Raja Miah, 51, who runs the Passage to India and Baburchi restaurants in Gloucester with his brother Mozlu, 58.

Ex-Blockbuster set to become Frankie & Benny’s: A former Blockbuster DVD rental shop in Mansfield may become a Frankie & Benny’s restaurant. The Restaurant Group, owner of the Italian-themed chain, has put in an application to Mansfield District Council for change of use which includes an outdoor area with parasols and screening.

Nick Nairn to open Aberdeen restaurant: The man dubbed “Scotland’s first celebrity chef” is to open a restaurant called Native at the Hilton Garden Inn in Aberdeen. Nick Nairn, who was the youngest Scottish chef to gain a Michelin star, has run restaurants in Aberfoyle, near Stirling, and in Glasgow, and currently operates the Kailyard restaurant in the Hilton-owned Dunblane Hydro hotel.

Pop-Up Pub Company wins micro-pub licence: The newly formed Pop-Up Pub Company has been awarded a licence for a micro-pub in Devizes, Wiltshire despite a petition signed by 67 of the town’s residents.The company, founded in May and run by Malcolm Shipp and his business partner Chaz Hobden, the brewer at the Wessex Brewery in Longbridge Deverill, Wiltshire, still has to win planning permission for the new pub, which will be called The Vaults.

Fat Turks to fight in court over right to name: A restaurant called the Fat Turk in Ongar, Essex is suing a rival Fat Turk in Stamford, Lincolnshire over the rights to the name, after claiming to have lost thousands of pounds because of customer confusion over the two outlets. Burak Erceri, the owner of the Ongar Fat Turk, told the said this week: “We have been known as the Fat Turk for two years and been a restaurant for three. We have built up a reputation and registered the Fat Turk as a trademark. It’s not just a case of competing as a restaurant, I am building a brand. I will shortly be bringing out a Fat Turk recipe book and have plans to create Fat Turk branded condiments and sauces. I can’t have another restaurant using this brand image. Aside from this, I keep on getting bookings for people getting me mixed up with the Stamford restaurant. I have had days where I have had several bookings, brought in extra staff and then discovered they all meant to book for the restaurant in Stamford.”

Stonegate to re-open Cardiff pub with ten beers on draught: Stonegate Pub Company will re-open its Cardiff pub the Pen and Wig this Friday (23 August) after a £150,000 Investment It has a new menu and an increase in the range of real ales and ciders from five to ten hand-pulls. Geraint Howells, general manager of the Pen and Wig said: “We’re sourcing some of the best beers and ciders from local, regional and national brewers to ensure that the Pen and Wig remains synonymous with offering some of the best real ale in the city. We also have a promotion whereby Camra (Campaign for Real Ale) members are entitled to a 10% discount on real ales when they present their membership card when they order their drink. When we open, the following real ales and ciders will be available: Weston’s Old Rosie; Gwynt y Ddraig’s Black Dragon; Greene King’s Reserve IPA; Sharp’s Doom Bar; Brecon Brewing’s Twilight Beacons; Tiny Rebel’s Loki; Cottage Brewery’s Hurricane; Otley Brewing Company’s 09; Wye Valley’s Summer of 69 and topping it all off is Marston’s Pedigree. A number of premium, world beers have also been introduced such as Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Estrella Damm.”

Holiday Inn Express in Leeds sold: The Holiday Inn Express Leeds City Centre Armouries has been sold, for an undisclosed sum, to Cannock Investments and Hetherley Developments, by agent Christie + Co on behalf of BDL Ventures. The purpose-built hotel has 130 guest bedrooms and three meeting rooms, sits adjacent to the Royal Armouries and is just a few minutes’ walk from Leeds city centre. The new owners have appointed Chardon Management to operate the hotel under a management agreement. The hotel will remain under a Holiday Inn Express flag. Jonathan Parrish, director and head of investment at Christie + Co, said: “Opportunities to acquire branded hotels — particularly in major UK cities — remain at a premium, so this generated a good deal of interest. We wish the new owner and operator every success for the future.”

Former Admiral Taverns pub set to be reborn as a hotel: A live music venue in High Wycombe which hosted the likes of The Sex Pistols and Fleetwood Mac will be turned into a hotel. Planning permission has been given to convert The Nags Head in London Road, which has been empty for a year, into an 11-bedroom hotel. The planning application, which includes a proposed lounge area, bar and restaurant, was from Salma Uddin who put in for a change of use from a public house to a hotel. A noise abatement notice was served last May. On August 3, 2012 it was closed by Admiral Taverns, who owned it, and the tenants were removed.

Serial entrepreneur buys Suffolk hotel: Serial entrepreneur Dr Adrian Parton MBE has bought the award-winning Ivy House Country Hotel located in Oulton Broad, close to the Suffolk coast, off an asking price of £1.35m. The 20-room, 3-AA Star hotel had been owned by the same family since 1910. Dr Parton, who had recently sold other business interests, completed the purchase within three weeks of agreeing terms. Tim Gooding, of Christie + Co in Ipswich, said: “We remain very encouraged by increasing levels of activity in the regional hotel market, this sale being a good example of a valuable property asset with undoubted additional potential which attracted a good level of demand.”

Brewdog fund-raising hits £2.9 million: Scottish brewer and retailer Brewdog raised £2.9 million of its £4 million current fund-raising target so far. Including two previous offers, Brewdog has raised nearly £6 million from 12,500 investors. ‘Our long-term goal is a public listing, perhaps on AIM,’ founder James Watt told The Daily Mail.

Travelodge completes 10,000 bedroom refurbishments: Travelodge has completed 10,000 bedroom refurbishments under a £57 million renovation scheme. The company reported that a team of 150 was working to refurbish 50 bedrooms every day, with more than 100 hotels now revamped in less than five months. As part of its upgrade, 10,000 bespoke Travelodge Dreamer beds have also been manufactured and delivered.

SSP add five restaurants at San Diego: SSP America has opened five new restaurants at San Diego International Airport, a mix of regional, national and proprietary food and beverage brands. Among the new restaurants are national brands Qdoba Mexican Grill, Red Mango and Peet’s Coffee & Tea, as well as SSP’s own Urban Crave and Camden Food Co brand. SSP will continue to open up additional units throughout the next year, including concepts such as Jack in the Box, Pacifica Breeze, Panda Express, 100 Wines Kitchen and Upper Crust. SSP last year expanded its presence at the airport to 17 locations with a six-concept contract win.

Heineken and Carlsberg see mixed results in UK market: Heineken, owner of the John Smith’s, Fosters and Strongbow brands in the UK, said beer volumes in the UK for the first half of 2013 had fallen “in the high single digits” while cider volumes had fallen “in the mid-single digits”, blaming unseasonably poor weather and “continued low consumer confidence”. Rival Carlsberg, however, said while the overall UK beer market fell by about 4% in the first half, it won market share in the on-trade while losing share in off-licences and supermarkets on the back of Euro 2012 comparatives. Overall, Heineken said that trading in the second quarter had been “clearly below our expectations”, partly because of higher taxes in France. It reported flat underlying first-half operating profits of €1.45 billion from revenues down 1% at €10.4 billion, while net profits were also flat, at €679 million. However, it said, the Heineken, Desperados and Bulmers brands had seen strong volume growth in the UK, while the early signs for its newly launched Foster’s Radler, a lower-strength beer, and some fruit-flavoured variants of Bulmers cider were all “positive”. Carlsberg said the British launch of its Carlsberg Citrus sub-brand and Somersby cider had “delivered good initial results”. Overall, it said, underlying half-year net revenues rose 2% to DKr32.9 billion (£3.8 billion), with operating profits up 4% to DKr4.1 billion. Net profits were up by 5% to DKr2.25 billion after a 1% drop in the second quarter.

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