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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Wed 9th Oct 2013 - Balans, CG Restaurants, Greene King, Novus and Young’s

Story of the day:

Graham Turner becomes executive chairman at Novus: Former Tragus chief executive Graham Turner – and current non-executive chairman of The Liberation Group – has become executive chairman of London bar and restaurant operator Novus with immediate effect. He succeeds John Kelly as chairman of Novus. Meanwhile, Tim Cullum, who joined Novus as chief operating officer from TGI Friday’s in June has become chief executive with immediate effect. John Kelly said: “Having led the business through an extremely active period in its development, the time has come for me to hand over to a successor. Graham is well known in the sector and brings with him a wealth of experience and a more sector-focussed skill set to the Group which is appropriate for this stage in the Group’s development. I have very much enjoyed my tenure at Novus and whilst it is sad to leave, I do so with the conviction that I am leaving the business in good hands. I have every confidence that the Group will flourish under Tim and Graham’s undoubted experience. Together, they will make a formidable team. I wish the business every success in the future.” New executive chairman Graham Turner said: “I would like to thank John for his contribution to Novus. Novus is a business with some fantastic prime leisure sites in the UK and much development potential. The business now has a complete new team in place, is ready to meet the challenges of the UK leisure market.” New chief executive Tim Cullum said: “I am obviously delighted and thankful for the Board’s vote of confidence in the cultural change and operational focus I have been leading since June, and relish the opportunity to continue that journey as chief executive of this fantastic business, at such an exciting time.”

Industry news:

Carluccio’s first to sign to menu-reading app for the blind: Carluccio’s has become the first restaurant group to sign up to Good Food Talks, a smartphone app that lets the 1.5m blind and visually impaired people in the UK access menus via their phones, either in the restaurant or at home. Restaurants email a copy of their menu to Good Food Talks, which then puts it on its site. Diners log in using the “find restaurants near me” function, and use their smartphone’s text-to-speech software or enhanced screen print to listen to or read the menu. Simon Kossoff, chief executive of Carluccio’s, said: “I think Good Food Talks is absolutely brilliant/ We are delighted to be a founder member of Good Food Talks.” The app is free to users, and restaurants pay a small annual subscription to be on the Good Food Talks database. Good Food Talks can be contacted on 020 7205 4481 or at

Tourism bodies unite to ask for inclusion in party manifestos: Tourism bodies have united to launch a campaign to ask political parties to include hospitality in their manifestos. The Campaign for Tourism will urge the major political parties to acknowledge hospitality’s contribution to the economy in the run up to the next general election. The initiative brings together 33 tourism bodies representing attractions, heritage sites, B&Bs, hotels, restaurants, and destinations including the British Hospitality Association and Tourism Alliance. Letters have been sent to all major political parties highlighting that tourism was not mentioned in any of the manifestos at the last general election.

Pizza Hut lines up launch of three-cheese stuffed crust pizza: Pizza Hut is to raise the ante on stuffed-crust pizza in the US, a product line it pioneered nearly 20 years ago, with the launch of a three-cheese stuffed crust variety on 20 October. Pizza Hut hopes the new launch will push the menu line into a $1 billion category on its own within three years. After winning $300 million in sales when it launched in 1995, stuffed crust pizza now accounts for approximately 10% of Pizza Hut’s sales.

Company news:

Greene King opens new Old English Inns site: Greene King has opened a new Old English Inns site, The Weld Blundell in Ince Blundell, Formby, Merseyside, formerly operated by Orchid Group. There have been 25 new jobs created. The business unit director for Old English Inns, Peter Hebblethwaite, said: “Our ethos is always to modernise the facilities for our customers while remaining respectful to the character of the building. I think we have achieved this careful balance at the Weld Blundell, one of the biggest and most beautiful inns in the group.” The historic pub was formally known as the Ship, as sailors used to walk past it on their way from the port. Meanwhile, another acquisition The Bear in Hungerford, which dates back to the 13th century, has closed this week for a month-long refurbishment.

WaverleyTBS unsecured creditors to get between 8.5p and 9.5p in the pound: Just over a year after wholesaler WaverleyTBS went into administration, Deloitte has reported that unsecured creditors, owed £64.59m, including £40.51m owed to trade creditors, can expect to receive between 8.5p and 9.5p in the pound on the money they are owed – although this is subject to change. Secured and preferential creditors will be paid in full. Deloitte reported it had sold the company’s freehold site in Felling, Gateshead to Lanchester Wine Cellar for £1.05m in June this year. Deloitte’s work on the situation has cost £4.04m.

Whitbread adds to London Premier Inn pipeline: Whitbread has added to its London Premier Inn pipeline by securing a licence for a 150-bedroom Premier Inn in Red Lion Street, Camden. A number of local residents who had opposed the planning application (now granted) attended to voice concerns over the possible impact of the development on the neighbourhood but the premises licence was granted as requested.

New coffee and bread concept offers customers DIY toasters: Two sisters have opened a deli cafe concept, Toast, in Nottingham where customers are provided with toasters on each table to toast their own bread. Katie Mace and Kirsty Swift serve breakfast, lunch and speciality artisan breads at their new venture. As well as toasters on every table, it has bench-style tables to create a friendly atmosphere. Swift said: “When I travelled with my last job to places like Finland and Sweden it was quite popular to have a help-yourself policy. People don’t really sit down and have breakfast together so we wanted to create a sociable atmosphere.” 

Marston’s adds to Scottish new-build pipeline: Brewer and retailer Marston’s has added to its Scottish new-build pipeline by securing a provisional premises licence for the Marchfields Story Homes site, Lockerbie Road, Dumfries. The development is due to open in the summer of 2014. On Monday, Propel reported that Marston’s acquisitions manager, Adrian Blackburn said “a growing proportion” of Marston’s planned 25 new-builds a year will be in Scotland.

Balans reports profit up 47%: The restaurant company Balans, which runs seven outlets in the UK, has reported a rise in turnover of 6.6% to £10.4m in 2012, up from £9.76m the year before. Pre-tax profit was up 47% to £643,000 from £438,000 in 2011.
Zizzi, Chimichanga and Coal Grill and Bar to open at Gloucester Quays next month: Gondola’s Zizzi, Prezzo’s Chimichanga and Coal Grill and Bar will open at the Gloucester Quays development in Gloucester next month. JD Wetherspoon is also set to open its doors in the former Coots cafe, next to the Gloucester Waterways Museum. A spokesman said: “We are very keen to open a pub at The Quays and we are in advanced negotiations. There is no opening date just yet.” PizzaExpress, Nando’s, Ed’s Diner and Portivo Lounge already operate at the site. Jason Pullen, managing director of Peel Outlets, said: “It is a very exciting development for the area. It will offer a completely new place for eating, drinking and entertainment. More big names will open soon too. It will be a key destination for residents in Gloucester and the wider area.”

Dirty Martini and Fire and Stone operator reports turnover up, losses widen: CG Restaurants and Bars, the operator of Dirty Martini and Fire & Stone, has reported turnover rose 45% to £12.62m in 2012, up from £8.66m the year previously. Losses before tax increased fourfold, however, to £1.58m from £396,000 in 2011. The company sold two of its Fire and Stone sites since the year-end, one in Oxford and one in Spitalfields, East London, which contributed 27% of 2012 turnover. It said: “The two restaurants had not traded in line with the directors’ expectations and the disposals will help improve the overall business results in the future.” Gross profit margin dropped to 52% in 2012 from 55% in 2011. Trade at a Dirty Martini site that opened in September 2012 has been “extremely encouraging”.

Kalton & Barlow wet sales up by a sixth after beer festivals: North west of England pubs operator Kalton & Barlow has reported wet sales rose 15.8% in the summer after beer festival activity at three of its pubs, with turnover doubling. Co-founder Edward Barlow said: “(We) held three successful beer festivals at three of [our] Cheshire-based pubs, the Swan in Tarporley, The Dog in Over Peover and The Crown in Goostrey A total of 29 guest ales were supped and celebrated and 6,200 pints were consumed throughout the events and ten pence in every pint was donated to the individual pub’s local charity of choice. It’s been a great summer for us, with our wet-led sales increasing by 15.8% and company turnover was up 105% with two additional sites trading. We’re extremely fortunate to have so much talent and passion for brewing exceptional beer in the area, not forgetting our customers who enjoy a decent pint and really care what they’re drinking – it’s something to be celebrated.”

Hall & Woodhouse chairman – the next generation is showing an interest: Mark Woodhouse, chairman of the Dorset-based brewer and pub owner Hall & Woodhouse, reporting on the company’s “Next Generation Weekend” held earlier this year and attended by 25 shareholders and potential shareholders aged between 16 and 38, said: “I came away with a strong understanding of the talents and objectives of the next generation and, hopefully, they, in turn, were excited and proud to be involved in Hall & Woodhouse. In order to continue to be a growing independent family company for many years to come, the engagement and nurturing of the next generation is essential. We are planning a series of further initiatives, many of which were suggested at the weekend.”

Grain Store voted Sustainable Restaurant of the Year: Grain Store in King’s Cross, North London has been named National Restaurant Awards (NRA) Sustainable Restaurant of the Year 2013, by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA). Bruno Loubet’s new restaurant in King’s Cross, which only opened in July, was placed ninth on the NRA’s Top 100 list and its outstanding efforts to operate sustainably across all areas of the business shone through in its Sustainability Rating. Grain Store’s “veg-centric” menu clearly distinguishes it from last year’s winner, The Pig, in the New Forest, which it pushed into second place this time. The SRA invited all of the Top 100 restaurants, voted for by the NRA academy, to put their sustainability to the test. Grain Store came out on top by achieving the highest score when the SRA rated its sourcing, water, waste and energy saving initiatives, as well as its commitment to treat and engage responsibly with its staff, customers and community.

Everards opens farm shop at village pub: Family-owned brewer Everards is opening a farm shop at food-focused village pub The Queen’s Head in Saddington, south Leicestershire. The new shop is located in a converted outbuilding and will start trading on 11 October. The shop is a joint enterprise between Everards and Queen’s Head tenants Chris Lewis-Sharman and Julian Benton. Everards spent around £12,000 on the investment. In addition, the tenants secured £3,000 of funding from Leicestershire County Council. Everards business development manager Mike Brown said: “The shop gives people more reasons to visit and we think the villagers will appreciate it. It means The Queen’s Head becomes two businesses in one and we think each will feed in to the other. This development ties in with our ‘Artisan’ scheme, where we work closely with local food producers. It could become a template for some of our other rural pubs.”

Inventive Leisure lists Krombacher as world beer interest grows: Inventive Leisure has listed Krombacher Pils at its Revolution and Revolucion de Cuba bars. The listing is a result of the premium bar operator looking to capitalise on the growth of the world beer category. Myles Doran, drinks retail and procurement consultant at Inventive Leisure said: “With the ‘Evolution investment programme’ in full swing, it gives us the perfect opportunity to ensure that in addition to our bars looking stylish, modern and enticing, there are compelling brands for our customers that excite and engage them and make them want to return time after time. We are seeing that the interest in the world beer category shown by consumers shows no sign of abating and by creating a specific world beer menu that showcases interesting and exciting world beers such as Krombacher, we’re catering for that demand. Careful consideration was taken to ensure that the menu hosts a wide and varied list of world beers in terms of taste and style and that the range both educated and excited our customers.”

Nando’s plan for Tunbridge Wells re-emerges: Plans for a new Nando’s in Tunbridge Wells have resurfaced despite previous concerns that it will cause more congestion on one of the town’s most traffic-ridden roads. Last December, the company made a bid to move into the Great Lodge Retail Park in Longfield Road next to Toys ’R’ Us with plans for a 100-seat restaurant. The scheme went quiet when Kent County Council said it would not support any new development while the traffic issues in and around North Farm Retail Park were not resolved. But new plans have been submitted to Tunbridge Wells Council with traffic issues addressed, which claims the project WAS set to go ahead and only postponed after unforeseen safety issues emerged.

Champagne and informal dining concept set to open in the City of London: A new concept specialising in Champagne and informal dining is opening in the City of London in November, offering one of the largest selections of Champagne and sparkling wines by the glass in London alongside a menu of tasting plates. Tirage, located on Bishopsgate, is an all day dining venture from Venezuelan-born businessman-turned-restaurateur Elio Machillanda and his wife Claudia, with Michelin-starred restaurateur David Moore, whose previous restaurants include Pied à Terre, L’Autre Pied and, more recently, Pieds Nus, in an advisory role. Head sommelier Roberto Della Pietra, a Decanter World Wine Awards judge, whose experience includes Roussillon Restaurant in Pimlico, Gauthier Soho, and John Burton-Race’s L’Ortolan in Shinfield, has chosen the 120-strong sparkling wine and Champagne list.

Beer off-licence wins planning permission for bar: The UK’s biggest beer shop, Beers of Europe, has been given permission to expand its operations and put in a bar to serve customers wanting to try before they buy at its site near King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Planning officers had opposed the application over fears that the shop’s expansion would increase traffic at the junction on the A10 that provides access to Beers of Europe’s premises. However, West Norfolk’s planning committee voted the application through unanimously on the grounds that the extra jobs and business generated would outweigh the increase in traffic. The chairman of the planning committee, Vivienne Spikings said: “This is a marvellous opportunity and an example of a business trying to get on. In this day and age five new jobs are important.” The owner of Beers of Europe, Derek Clark, who had been threatening to move the shop to Cambridgeshire if the application was refused, said the plan was not to serve pints “per se”, but tasting samples to allow customers to try before they bought. Clark said: “We have 2,000 products on our shelves and people never get a chance to try and they won’t buy if they don’t so the idea is to offer samples. People have been asking for it for years.”

Young’s hires MasterChef finalist as head chef: London pub retailer Young’s has hired a MasterChef 2011 finalist, Tom Whitaker, to be head chef at the White Hart, Barnes, South West London, which opens today. An extensive refurbishment has seen the addition of a first floor restaurant, the Terrace Kitchen. Whitaker has worked at some of London’s best restaurants, including Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley and Fergus Henderson’s St John, and he has also run his own private dining company and running a series of successful pop-ups including Porklife and the Day Boat Cooperative. Young’s operations director, Peter Taylor, said: “Tom’s passion for seasonal, British food and for offering a quality dining experience is a vision we share at Young’s. Diners can expect great things from Tom’s menu, which will demonstrate the creativity and skill that saw him through to the MasterChef final.” 

McDonald’s in line to turn historic Hampshire pub into a drive-thru: McDonald’s is set to get the go-ahead to convert the Tumbledown Dick in Farnborough into a drive-thru this week. Councillors have been recommended to grant planning permission for a new fast food restaurant on the site of the historic but vacant pub in Farnborough Road. It comes after a long-running campaign to return the former live music venue back to its former glory. Plans for the fast food chain to take over the pub have been in motion for more than a year with discussions between McDonald’s and landowner Bridehall, although a planning application was not submitted until July. Fran Beauchamp, who started the Friends of the Tumbledown Dick campaign which has more than 3,000 online supporters, said she was “severely disappointed” that the plans are likely to get the green light.

More details on “next generation” Walkabout: More details have emerged on the £4m re-built Walkabout in Blackpool, which opens on 31 October after being destroyed by fire in June this year. The venue is moving away from the old “plastic Aussie” look to a more upmarket “Australian city bar” feel. The front will change dramatically with the opening of a balcony area across the full first floor, and concertina windows open up onto the street at ground level. The revamped building also includes a new dancefloor on the first floor and seating areas on the ground floor.

Property agent – village pub would have re-opened a lot quicker without community order: Robin Mence, principal of property agent Sidney Philips, says an Enterprise Inns pub now sold to a builder would have re-opened a lot quicker without a community order on it. The community failed in its bid to buy the Farmer’s Arms, Wellington Heath, Herefordshire, which was on the market for £220,000. It is understood the unnamed builder plans to re-open the venue as a pub. Mence said: “We’ve been told he will run it as a pub. We sold it as a pub. He’s a very nice chap, a local guy, with the best intentions. This pub is not under threat. Without a community order on it, it would have been opened a lot quicker.”

Spirit Pub Company wins two training awards: Spirit Pub Company has won the Best HR Campaign Award and the coveted Gold Award for Best Overall Campaign for its “Training Tree” learning and development programme. The national awards were presented by the Institute of Internal Communications in London on 27 September. The Training Tree, which was created with the employee communication specialist Like Minds, is an interactive website designed to support employees with their learning and development. The website includes videos, workshop programmes and role-specific training information, as well as videos from others about the opportunities and experiences of career development at Spirit. The judges commented: “The Training Tree is a fantastic brand with immediate impact and first-rate materials, It’s eye-catching, colourful, fresh and modern, yet functional too, as the tree forms the interactive menu. Brilliant creativity and, as soon as we picked it up, it made us smile.”

KFC withdraws Organ & Dragon pub plan: KFC has withdrawn a planning application to convert a former Orchid pub, the Organ & Dragon, in London Road, Ewell, Surrey into a restaurant. Epsom and Ewell Council refused the application in December 2012 and also threw out revised plans in March – now a planning appeal has also failed. KFC said: “We are obviously disappointed that our appeal for the Organ and Dragon site has not been successful as we believe that KFC would be a positive addition to the community in Ewell. We respect the decision made by council and have withdrawn our planning application for this restaurant.”

Greene King hosts event for 100 best licensees: Greene King has hosted an event for licensees in its new Premier Partners club, an exclusive club for its top 100 licensee partners. The inaugural Premier Partners event was held at the end of September in Nottingham. The club aims to recognise and reward its members with a mixture of treats and business support. Members receive benefits and perks, including promotions and offers and access to new products first. Simon Longbottom, the managing director of Greene King Pub Partners, said: “This was such a fantastic evening for all concerned. The vision for the event was an opportunity to celebrate the very best entrepreneurs and businessmen and women running our pubs. We certainly did that, and the feedback has been extremely positive.” Henry Cripps, who leases two pubs from Greene King, the Greene Oak in Windsor and the White Oak in Maidenhead, which recently retained its Bib Gourmand status with the Michelin guide, said: “I don’t tend to go to a lot of these things but this was different. It was very enjoyable and clearly designed to make you feel valued as a partner. Most of all, it was about the fact we are all in this together, rather than the ‘us and them’ that is sometimes portrayed in this industry. There was no hard sell and we were able to enjoy good company and a light-hearted, fun evening. I am very glad I went.”

Orchid Pub Company reports 4.7% sales uplift on Grandparent’s Day: Orchid Pub Company has reported that sales rose by 4.7% on Grandparent’s Day (6 October) after the company put a concerted effort into marketing the day. Orchid’s commercial and people director, Simon Dodd, said: “We were confident that Grandparent’s Day would be a big hit for Orchid so we put a huge amount of preparation into making it a true occasion on a par with Mother’s or Father’s Day. While still relatively unknown in the UK, Grandparent’s Day is firmly established in the national calendar of our US counterparts. Orchid pulled out all the stops with special menus, offers and awareness and it paid off, with sales up by £35,000, a 4.7% increase on the day compared to last year.” The top-performing pub was the Moby Dick in Romford with £11,000 of sales during the day, a 11.9% increase on last year. General manager Tina Donno said: “Most of our customers hadn’t heard about Grandparent’s Day before but when we told them about it they loved the idea and turned out in large numbers to celebrate. It also gave us a chance to publicise Christmas. Our staff members dressed up in festive outfits and we took six extra party bookings from Grandparent’s Day customers.” The Bell in Maidenhead, one of Orchid’s Pizza Kitchen Bars, saw best like-for-like growth across the Orchid estate, nearly tripling sales, with an increase of 185.2%. General manager Carol Baker said: “Sundays are usually quiet for the Bell so we jumped on the opportunity working hard to publicise Grandparent’s Day across our social media channels and by word of mouth. By the time 6 October came around everyone was fully aware of the day and its significance. We had parties of ten or more people booked in and there was a fantastic atmosphere – it was really lovely to see several generations all celebrating together. Our team went that extra mile to make it really special for customers, treating it just like Mother’s or Father’s Day.” Orchid’s best performing segment on Sunday was Dragons, up by 27%. Dodd said: “They say ‘preparation is the key to success’ and that was very much the case for Grandparent’s Day. We sent digital campaigns out to our 450,000 loyalty card holders and offered triple points to our Slice, Our Family and Diamond Club customers among other awareness activities.”

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