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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 17th Mar 2014 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Luke Johnson says IPO is ‘an option we’re considering’ as Patisserie Valerie sales rise 21%: Results due to be filed at Companies House this week are due to show that Patisserie Valerie’s parent company saw sales rise 21% for the year to 30 September 2013, to £60.1m, compared to 2012, according to a report in The Sunday Telegraph. The newspaper said Patisserie Holdings, made a pre-tax profit of £4.7m for the year, slipping from £5.9m in 2012. However, adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) rose from £9.9m in 2012 to £12.3m, in a year when the company opened 19 additional stores and its first brasserie. In an interview with the newspaper, Johnson, chairman of Patisserie Holdings, commenting on reports last month that the broker Canaccord Genuity to a look at a potential £150m stock market listing, said: “It’s definitely an option we’re considering. It’s extraordinary how the IPO market has gone from being absolutely moribund for a decade or so to suddenly becoming on fire. It’s really interesting, so, yes, we are watching it with great interest.” However, Johnson given the control of the equity held by himself and Paul May, the company’s chief executive, they are not in a rush: “I think we believe very strongly in the prospects for this business so, whatever happens, we are going to remain very committed, financially and otherwise, for the long term. The truth is, I sold Strada early, I sold most of my shares in PizzaExpress too early, and I’d hate to do that again. Paul and I are both quite young men,” said Johnson, 52, “we’re massively ambitious, so there is lots to go for. And the fact is, look at this economy, it’s on fire. And this has only been in our ownership during tough times.” Patisserie Holdings now has 137 shops across five different brands, 89 of them are Patisserie Valeries, after four acquisitions totally £15m, the most recent being Philpotts, a Chester-based sandwich chain with 23 shops. Market research undertaken for Patisserie Holdings estimates that there is a potential for a further 200 shops. Johnson said: “We’re not in Wales, we’re not in north or southern Ireland, or the Channel Islands. And these days we’re quite weak in London, as we found the rents to be quite pricey.” He revealed that the company had being offered money by local authorities to come into their towns, to help revive high streets, and he said he hoped to open as many stores this year as the company did last. He also revealed that while the company initially spent money on marketing and promotions for new shops, the brand is now so well-known that a simple sign in the window, and the display of slices, “is enough to have customers queuing around the block.”
 

Industry news:

Heineken makes first Smart Dispense installation in south west in refurbished Star Pubs outlet: Heineken has make the first installation in the south west of England of its Smart Dispense system, which claims to produce consistent superior quality beer, in a newly refurbished Star Pubs & Bars outlet. The Famous George in Seaton, Devon, re-opened last week as The Malt House. A seven-week, £125,000 refurb has given the pub a new kitchen, a lounge area with fire and booths, a new bar and upgraded toilets.

Liberis in finals of Alternative Lender of Year Award: Liberis, the small business lender whose chairman is Adrian Fawcett, the former Punch Taverns chief operating officer and chairman of Realpubs, is through to the finals of the Alternative Lender of the Year Award, part of this year’s Credit Today Awards. The company, which has more than 50% of its customers in the hospitality sector, is one of eight companies to be short-listed in the category and the only business cash advance company. It had to satisfy the judging panel in areas including innovation, customer satisfaction, contribution to the sector and good management and processes. Liberis’s chief executive, Paul Mildenstein, said: “We’re extremely pleased to be in the finals and proud to be the only cash advance business too. We think that says a lot about Liberis and how we do business. Business cash advance is a relatively new product in the UK, yet it’s an increasing popular choice amongst small businesses looking for flexible funding that works with their cash-flow. It’s making its mark in the alternative funding sector. ” The judges will announce the winner at an awards ceremony on 8 May at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair, London in front of more than 1,500 people.
 

Company news:

US distress investor ‘to seize control of Tragus’: The American distress investor Apollo is leading a group that is expected to seize control of Tragus, owner of the Cafe Rouge, Bella Italia and Strada chains, according to The Financial Times. The newspaper quoted “people with knowledge of the talks”, as saying that Apollo will enter into a restructuring deal with Tragus’s current owner, Blackstone, that will cut Tragus’s borrowings, of which Apollo now owns a large part after buying its debt on the secondary market. Blackstone had bought some of Tragus’s debt at a discount and decided to sell it to Apollo at a profit, rather than fighting to retain an equity stake in the company, the newspaper said. It said the refinancing deal, is expected to be sealed “in the next months”. Blackstone paid £267m for Tragus in December 2006, using about £167m of debt to fund the deal. Legal & General Ventures, had bought Tragus two years earlier for £90m from the private equity firm ECI, which had purchased it from Whitbread in 2002, for £25m.

Des McDonald plans double-barrelled roll-out of fish and barbecue chains: Des McDonald, the former chief executive of Caprice Holdings, the company behind The Ivy and Le Caprice, is planning to roll out two new restaurant concepts across London, aiming for 20 sites across the capital in the medium term. McDonald’s first solo venue, the Fish and Chip Shop, in Islington, North London, opened in May last year. Since then the 70-seater diner has seen 600 customers at weekends and 150 each weekday, generated sales of £1.5m, 20pc of which is profit. Two more Fish and Chip Shops are now in the pipeline, in Shoreditch, East London, and Fulham, South West London. At the same time McDonald is starting a second venture, the barbecue-themed Q Grill, a 150-cover restaurant due to open with a soft launch in Camden, North London this week. The immediate plan is for Q Grill to also have three locations, with sites in Shoreditch and, probably, Soho. McDonald told The Sunday Telegraph he hoped to turn the two brands into chains, with ten locations each in London, before branching out nationally. He said the biggest challenges have been looking for affordable sites in London and finding supportive banks: “The decision-makers in retail banks seem to be lacking in any entrepreneurial spirit whatsoever and I found that quite shocking and dispiriting. It gets slightly easier as you have a longer track record but still, I firmly believe that for this country to give start-ups that chance, you need to have retail bankers that can at least turn some pages and have a bit more interest in what a business model might be.”
 
TGI Friday’s new menu already a winner: TGI Friday’s is introducing a new menu which has already proved to be a winner. The new menu, which includes brand-firsts such as Creole seafood dishes including mussels and shell-on shrimp, as well as premium fillet steak and marinated and spice-rubbed rib-eye, helped the chain and its head chef and food development manager, Terry McDowell, win the Casual Dining category at the 2014 MIDAS Awards. Friday’s, which was shortlisted against Coast to Coast and Gourmet Burger Kitchen, was crowned the winner thanks to both its current menu and its new upcoming menu impressing the judges at the awards, which took place at The Cumberland Hotel in London. McDowell, who has been nominated for the award previously, said: “We are incredibly excited about our upcoming menu – it is going to be a complete game-changer for Friday’s and marks a real revolution. It’s the next step in our strategy to offer experience-led meals which cater to diners for all occasions. Whether guests are looking for a rich and indulgent celebration meal or a quick bite to eat over cocktails with friends, we have an option for everyone. We are delighted the voting panel recognised the innovative nature of our upcoming menu and voted us winners against stiff competition, in a very competitive sector. We always work really hard to develop our menu at Friday’s and our continued popularity with casual diners is testament this. Our new menu is really set to shake up the industry.” The company said re-certification for all Friday’s chefs is currently taking place to ensure they are working to high standards the brand expects. The new menu is due to be launched in a few months.

Benugo moves into Fitzrovia: Benugo, the award-winning high street cafe group, is opening its 14th outlet in London at the end of this month, on Wigmore Street, in Fitzrovia, central London. The opening comes right after the launch of a Benugo outlet at 62 Buckingham Gate, the new shopping and dining development close by Victoria station in London. The Benugo offer includes “custom-designed” deli sandwiches, salads, yoghurt and muesli pots and freshly baked deli items, to have in or take away. Since the first opening in 1998, Benugo now owns delis across London, including in Covent Garden, the City, Mayfair and Marylebone, and St Pancras International and Waterloo stations. It also runs catering contracts at the Wellcome Collection in London, the British Museum, the V&A Museum, Westminster Abbey and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, among other places.
 
Tesco in hamburger restaurant and pizza delivery trials: Tesco, which bought the Giraffe restaurant chain for £48.6m last year, putting outlets for the chain in some of its stores, is starting a trial of a hamburger restaurant at its store in Osterley, West London next week, according to newspaper reports. The supermarket chain is launching a trial of a pizza delivery service at its new Extra store in Streatham, South London. Tesco’s director for London, Andrew Yaxley, said: “The pizza delivery idea came from the local store manager and is about trying new things.” The store is situated in a social housing scheme containing hundreds of flats, and the trial will initially offer deliveries only to those living in the immediate vicinity.
 
YO! Sushi looking at Belfast site: YO! Sushi is in discussions for a site in the Victoria Square shopping centre in Belfast, the chain has confirmed. Its property director, Kieran Sherlock, told The Belfast Telegraph: “We have identified Belfast as a great opportunity for YO! Sushi and have viewed a number of locations. We are currently in discussion with Victoria Square regarding possible opportunities within the centre and hope to confirm a definitive location in the coming weeks.” The company is already advertising for a restaurant manager and a head chef in Belfast, but would not comment on when it might open or how many people it would take on in total. Victoria Square, which is already home to 12 restaurant chain operations including Cosmo, Chiquito, PizzaExpress and Nando’s, said it had no comment on YO! Sushi’s plans.
 
Mud Crab closes Manchester Felicini’s to launch new Kitchenette brand: Mud Crab Industries, the restaurant group run by Neil Lawrence and Ged Lynch, has closed the Manchester branch of its Felicini’s Italian restaurant chain and opened a new 100-seat restaurant serving a hybrid of American-Asian food, specialising in steamed hirata buns a New York version of Taiwanese street food, in its place under the name Kitchenette. The company said Kitchenette was a culmination of research, customer demand and strategic investment. The menu, as well as the hirata buns at £6.50 to £10, includes main dishes such as beef brisket chilli with cornbread for £8.50, spicy shrimp risotto for £6.50 or £9, a soft shell crab burger for £12 and desserts including lemon and yuzu meringue pie with toasted rosewater marshmallows and pistachio crumbs. A two or three-course lunch menu for £13 or £17 is available, plus a sizeable drinks menu. The restaurant, which also boasts a “bed sheet projection cinema”, is offering 20% off until further notice for visitors who pick up a privilege card.
 
Davy’s creates head of sales post: Davy’s, the London-based winebar chain, has appointed Simon Gaske, former sales manager with the Bramwell Pub Company, to the newly created position of head of sales and marketing. Gaske’s role will entail driving pre-booked sales, digital marketing, customer rewards and online merchant sales. Sarah Weir, Davy’s operations director, said: “I am delighted Simon has chosen to join Davy’s. His experience is wide-ranging and his knowledge of the London market and customers will be a huge asset for building on our already strong customer position.” Gaske, who has also worked for Drake & Morgan, SA Brains, the Draft House and Browns, said: “It’s exciting times ahead with Davy’s, I can’t wait to get started.”
 
Red and Blue Restaurants opens third outlet in Liverpool: Red and Blue Restaurants, the company founded by ex-chef Paddy Smith in 2010, has opened a third venue in Liverpool, Salthouse Bacaro, on Castle Street, with reports that the venue took £3,000 on its first night. The restaurant features an “Italian small plate” menu with dishes including Iberico ham charcuterie boards, fritto misto and chicken saltimbocca with apple, and pizette – mini pizzas with a variety of toppings. The lunch menu offers three dishes for £12.50. Red and Blue’s other outlets are The Salt House Tapas Bar and Hanover Street Social.
 
Purity Brewing bar venture opens in Birmingham: Pure Bar and Kitchen, a collaboration between the chef-patron of Simpsons Restaurant in Edgbaston, Andreas Antona, the managing director of Purity Brewing Company in Warwickshire, Paul Halsey, and a former Mitchells & Butlers director, Martin Hilton, opens in Birmingham tomorrow (Tuesday). The bar, on the corner of Victoria Square and Waterloo Street, will have a range of 14 keg beers, seven cask ales and a selection of bottled beer, while the kitchen will be serving beer-inspired food, either containing beer or designed to complement the beer. Small plates include scotch egg with beer ketchup, and dunkel barbecue beans with crispy pork on sourdough. Large plates include Veltins pot roast cod with Forest Pig chorizo, clams and grains, and steak and frites with Longhorn IPA shallots. Bar snacks include UBU glazed pork pie, homemade pork scratchings and pickled eggs. The meat is coming from the Leamington butcher Aubrey Allen, cured meats from the Worcestershire charcuterie Forest Pig and cheeses from Mr Moyden’s of Shropshire.
 
M&B pub back after three-month flood damage closure: Mitchells and Butlers’ Premium Country Dining Group is reopening The Bathampton Mill pub after weeks of repair work needed when the pub was hit by several feet of floodwater on Christmas Eve. The flood water filled the cellar and caused damage in the kitchen and throughout the bar and restaurant. The pub’s manager, James Childe, said the Mill will reopen at the end of the month with a special reopening party on 28 March. He said: “It’s nearly there but we still have work to do. We’ve completely changed the look of the place and gone back to how it would have looked when it was a mill – it’s going to be very traditional.” A new team has been recruited for the reopening.

Luke Johnson rules out bid for PizzaExpress: Luke Johnson, head of the private equity house Risk Capital Partners, which has holdings in food businesses including Patisserie Valerie, The Bread Factory and Red Hot World Buffett, has ruled out the chances of making a bid for PizzaExpress, the chain where he made his name as an entrepreneur. Johnson and his first business partner, Hugh Osmond, took control of PizzaExpress in 1993 when it had 12 branches, and sold it in 1999, after growing it to 250 outlets. PizzaExpress, now up to 412 outlets in the UK and 56 overseas, is currently owned by Gondola Holdings. However, Cinven, the private equity owner of Gondola Holdings, is reported to be finalising plans for a £1bn sale or float of the business, which includes Zizzi and ASK. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Johnson said he had no interest in making a return to the chain, which, he said, was challenged by low growth and discounting: “I wouldn’t buy it. I did actually at one point, when it was rather smaller, try to buy it back, but I think you can’t go back and repeat yourself, it’s boring. I still think PizzaExpress is a fabulous formula. But the challenge is how mature a business it is, how many more stores can they open? That is the challenge. And also I tell you the other challenge – discounting. We didn’t discount when I was at PizzaExpress, ever. It’s what killed Pizzaland and Deep Pan Pizza – as well as horrible pizzas. You don’t want to be the person that’s paying £7.45 for the margherita and the neighbouring table has got a two-for-one. That’s really annoying, I think.”
 
Orchid puts Bar Room Bar sites up for sale: Orchid Group is selling off ten bars and pubs run under its Black Pubs Ltd subsidiary that it acquired in 2009 when the operator Bar Room Bar collapsed. The ten properties are mixture of three branded Bar Room Bar outlets in Birmingham, Leeds and Wanstead, East London and seven unbranded sites which are currently operated under management by a third party. They are being sold through the property agent Fleurets either individually, in small groups, or as one package and consist of two freeholds, one long leasehold and seven leaseholds. Fleurets said the ten were wet-focused businesses with average sales in 2012 of approximately £630,000 and approximately 83% wet-led for the year. They include The Hole in the Wall, Stratford upon Avon, The Midland Hotel, Liverpool, The Cow, Cambridge, The Paraffin Lamp, Livingston, and The Hill Cotham, Bristol. They were part of 16 sites sold to the Birmingham-based operator that bought the Bar Room Bar name from Orchid in 2007 for £20m, which collapsed in 2009, when Orchard bought them back.
 
Pub operator partners with Theakston to ensure prime cask ale offer: The pub and coffee shop entrepreneur David King is working with the Yorkshire family brewer T&R Theakston to ensure top-quality cask ales at his new venture, The City Tavern in Newcastle upon Tyne. King, the owner of Barhound Ltd, runs the Newcastle city centre bars Barluga and Perdu and the Central Bean coffee shop chain. Since he acquired The City Tavern it has undergone a £250,000 refurbishment and will reopened later this month as a food-led venue with a range of cask ales available. In the meantime, King and his team have been working with Ed Theakston of Edward Theakston Associates to learn more about storing and selling ales. King said: “When The City Tavern reopens later this month I want customers to come and join us in a relaxed and stylish environment. I don’t just want to sell food and drinks that are OK; I want our customers to enjoy great ales and great food made from local produce, so that they’ll want to come back again and again.” Theakston said: “As demand for market share in the drinks retailing and leisure industry gets even tougher with competition coming not only from competing pub operators but supermarkets and other leisure outlets, it is important not to lose sight of delivering a great overall experience. It is obvious that David shares my passion for this quality and desire to run great pubs. Together these pave the way to a profitable business. It has been a pleasure to come up to Newcastle to work with him and his team, as he prepares to open his great new venue and I wish him well.”
 
Punch withdraws plan to build house in grounds of pub: Punch Taverns has withdrawn plans to build a house in the grounds of The Royal George pub in the village of Lyonshall, Herefordshire, after more than 150 letters of objections were received. Protesters claimed that if the plans went ahead, the pub’s car park and beer garden would have been severely affected. In a statement, Punch confirmed that the company had withdrawn the application, stating that its planning consultants were considering comments from the local authority.

Welsh microbrewer launches cider with English craft cider maker: Tiny Rebel, the Newport-based microbrewer, has launched a cider called Rocksteady, in conjunction with Hogan’s Cider of Alcester in Warwickshire. The 5.5% cider is fermented from 100% fresh-pressed English cider apple juice from apples grown in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, and will be sold online and at Tiny Rebel’s bar, The Urban Tap House in Cardiff. Bradley Cummings, director at Tiny Rebel, said: “Rocksteady will be the first in a range of ciders that we are looking to produce with Hogan’s. The popularity of cider is continuing to grow and this is the perfect time to expand the Tiny Rebel brand into a new market.” Allen Hogan of Hogan’s Cider, said: “Rocksteady will be a still, slightly cloudy, traditional cider – a guaranteed thirst-quencher.”
 

JD Wetherspoon results in detail:

JD Wetherspoon taxes and VAT campaign progress: JD Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson reinforced chairman Tim Martin’s attacks on government’s tax policies, while also outlining expansion and growth plans for the future, as the company announced its interim results for the half year to 26 January last Friday. “You can see when you look at the first half of this year, compared to the first half of last year, the total tax take from government for Wetherspoon has increased,” Hutson said. Wetherspoon announced a rise in life-for-like food sales of 10.5% for the six months to 26 January over the same period last year, as bar sales rose 3.6%, helping give an overall like-for-like sales increase of 5.2%, with total sales, including new pubs, rising by 9.1% to £683.2m for the period. Figures showed VAT for the period up from £126.1m to £133.6m, PAYE/NIC up from £34.7m to £38m, and machine duty up from £1.8m in the first half of 2013 to £6.4m in same period in 2014. “Obviously we believe in paying our fair share, but also we believe in a fair approach, and in areas like VAT now the system is simply unfair,” Hutson said. He went to add that Jacques Borel’s VAT Club estimated that if VAT was at 5% then around 700,000 new jobs would be created in the industry. “We will continue to pitch our case,” he said. “We don’t think it is our job to solve the financial problem created by the government fixing an unfair VAT system, but we do think that the combination of increased corporation tax from pub companies like ourselves doing a bit better, and the increased income tax from 700,000 new jobs, goes a long way to bridge that financial gap. Jacques Borel has been successful in making this argument over many, many years in many jurisdictions in Europe, and we think the industry should be joining the VAT Club to support, in particular, Jacques Borel in winning this argument – and we think he can win. We think there is momentum building in this campaign. It took years in France, but we’re hoping to do it a bit quicker in the UK. We’re not expecting something in the Budget this month, but we think that the government is starting to get used to the arguments that we are making. And as I said, no one is saying the arguments are wrong; people broadly seem to agree. The tax burden on pubs has increased consistently and continues to do so, with things like the late night levy and gaming duty. These are brand new taxes mainly for the pub industry, and this tax burden weighs heavy on profits.” Hutson added that the changing sales mix had an impact too, as more sales now came from food, affecting the composition of margins, in that it required more labour to produce food.

Taxation and cost increases: Kirk Davis, finance director, said: “The biggest inflationary pressures we currently face are in increased taxation, over the last 12 months we have seen increases in excise duty, business rates and the introduction of machine gaming duty. Bar and food supplies have increased in the region of 3%, driven by either inflation-related contracts on the bar or general commodity pricing on food.”
 
Property: “We expect to spend a total of £80m to £100m on developing between 40 to 50 pubs this financial year,” Davis said. Wetherspoon has an “increasing bias” towards buying freehold properties, with two thirds of new openings seeing the freehold acquired, and with more acquisitions being made from other pub companies. The future would see its presence in the Republic of Ireland grow too, in line with Scotland, where the company will have a total of 70 sites open by the summer. As for more service station sites, John Hutson said: “For sure there will be other opportunities, but we are not chasing them and no one has come to us yet, but as and when they do, we will look at them site by site. As we thought, it’s performed much like an airport pub, two thirds of sales coming from food. Average sales are a bit under our average pubs, but food sales are higher, twice the company average. Drinks overall are at 30%, with alcohol sales around ten to 20%. However, Beaconsfield is one of the busiest service stations for coaches, and there’s a 105-room hotel adjoined our pub.”

Net debt, including an HMRC £17.5m repayment: “At our half year end, our total net bank borrowing was £499.6m, an increase of £25.4m in the last six months.” Davis said. “We still expect net debt to increase between £70m and £80m this financial year, including a repayment to HMRC relating to the Rank Group’s court decision, estimated at £17.5m [the Court of Appeal ruling that gaming machines are not comparable to VAT-exempt fixed odds betting terminals for tax purposes].”
 
Staff: “Since the beginning of the credit crunch in 2007, we have increased our workforce by about 30%, adding 11,000 new jobs,” Hutson said “Growth in recent years has accelerated on food, and we have been investing heavily in our catering academy amongst other new training initiatives. Staff turnover continues to be at our lowest ever recorded levels, leading to average retention levels increasing all the time. Pub managers, for example, have served with us for over ten years on average.” JDW was voted Top Employer by the Top Employers Institute. Its abolition of compulsory statutory retirement, and its bonus schemes, which sees managers able to earn an extra 50% of their salary in bonuses, were key reasons cited for it taking the top award.
 
A decade of change: Average sales per pub per week are now at around £35,300. “Clearly food has grown to become a more significant component to our customer offer over the last decade – ten years ago our average weekly food sales were £6,000 per pub per week, now it’s over £12,000,” Hutson said. “Having said that, we are still running busy bars, and while the proportion of drink sales is less now than it was ten years ago, we have actually grown our bar sales as well, running to about £22,000 per pub per week, compared to £9,500 to £10,000 a week, ten years ago.” After the smoking ban in 2007, bar sales fell, but have recovered in recent years, he said.
 
Company perceptions: Recent results from the Peach BrandTrack, Hutson said, showed the broad appeal of Wetherspoon within the pub and casual dining brands, with a plurality of consumers (43%) indicating Wetherspoon was their most visited brand. Furthermore, consumers voted Wetherspoon as their favourite big brand, when compared to 17 big brand names, including Nando’s, Harvester, PizzaExpress, Frankie & Benny’s and Pizza Hut. “Clearly we have a lot of outlets, but when consumers were asked the question, of all these brands available on the high street – and the list contained 16 big names – we still come out on top by some way, which is very pleasing,” Hutson said. “We had a record number of pubs in the 2014 CAMRA Good Beer Guide, once again, with about one in three of our eligible pubs now in the guide. We continue to work on things like the food hygiene rating, scores on the doors, which is now a public scheme with people being able to download the app to see who has the best ratings in your area. Our average score is 4.88 out of five, with 90% of our pubs achieving the maximum score of five. Of any sizeable restaurant, bar or coffee shop we are now the top.”
 
Challenges ahead: Hutson said Wetherspoon’s biggest challenge was to keep in fashion: “It’s why we consistently evolve the offer, for instance, this month we introduced Sixpoint Brewery craft beers from Brooklyn. We have other craft beers too and, although not a sizeable part of what we do now, it may be in the long term. That’s our job as good retailers, to find things that people want and to present them to them at price they can afford. Ten years ago we didn’t sell coffee, but we couldn’t imagine not selling coffees as part of our offer now. That’s part of our biggest threat – not catching on to what people actually want.”
 
Trading outlook: “We’re pretty satisfied to where we have got to so far this financial year and continue to expect reasonable outcomes for year as a whole,” Hutson said, predicting like-for-like sales for the year would come in at around 4%. “It’s realistic, although of course we’d like to do a lot better, if we can.” He added that the company took a tactical approach, when it came to dealing with new competition. However, he went on to say that the increase in casual dining brands could be persuading the population generally to eat out more often, something everyone in the sector would benefit from: “We have said before, the proportion of people who eat out in these sorts of restaurants in the UK, compared with the US, is still quite small, and while UK doesn’t have to copy the US, it’s a big market that’s still growing overall, so there is room for quite a lot of people.”

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