Story of the Day:
Ralph Findlay – there’s a sea change going on in the pub sector: The chief executive of Marston’s, Ralph Findlay, has argued that a sea change is going on in the pub sector, which is starting to be perceived as a source of innovation and job creation. Findlay reports that big and small companies in the sector are creating many jobs, and this is a useful platform to press for lower taxes. Writing for Propel’s Friday Opinion, Findlay says: “There are encouraging signs of life in the economy, and the pub sector’s relationship with government – as evidenced by a budget described as being from ‘the most beer and pub-friendly government seen in a generation’ – is improving. Most of us applaud this improved relationship, while pointing to some very significant issues still to be addressed, not least that pubs and brewers still suffer a very high overall tax burden, but the fact is that the pub sector is again being seen as innovative, generating profitable growth – and jobs. This is a sea change. The point on jobs is critical to the government’s more ‘pub-friendly’ policies, and is important: it will be the key to further tax cuts in future. The numbers are too big to be ignored. At a meeting with George Osborne at Marston’s last week, just three pub businesses, Marston’s, Spirit, and M&B, described how they employ 65,000 people, are investing around £250m in pubs in 2014 alone, and have around 4,000 apprenticeships up and running, with more planned. Add in Greene King, JD Wetherspoon and Whitbread, and you begin to see that there is a transformation taking place in the pub sector. The excitement felt by commentators about innovation in the beer market, a very important one for Marston’s, is more than matched by what is happening in pubs. This is an exciting time for the pub sector, but significant challenges remain. Some pubs remain structurally challenged, by location, demographic changes or lack of amenity, and such pubs will continue to struggle. At Marston’s, in the few years up to the end of 2015 we will have sold more than 500 pubs, the consequence of years of high taxation, legislation and changing market trends, as we focus on improving the quality of our pub estate through a process of disposal and reinvestment. Over half of our employees are 25 years old or younger, and they have joined an industry which is competitive, vibrant and recognises the need to offer careers as well as jobs. George Osborne has this week said that the government is committed to ‘full employment’, saying that tax changes will help achieve it. If that is true, this can only be good news for a pub industry in which job creation is already running ahead of the market. Increasingly, it is clear that lower tax equals stronger consumer demand and more jobs. Making a positive case for tax cuts that stimulate job creation in our sector – VAT, employer taxes, duty, business rates – becomes a plan with a purpose.” (See the 11am Friday Opinion e-mail for the full article.)
M&B-Greene King merger rumour resurfaces: Talk of a merger between Mitchells & Butler and Greene King has re-emerged, around two years after it last surfaced. The Daily Telegraph’s City Diary said: “Can we expect to see Aviva, the superyacht owned by the Bahamas-based currency billionaire Joe Lewis, steaming into London soon to allow its maverick owner to shake up the stockmarket? Rumours are swirling that Mitchells & Butlers, the pub chain for which Lewis launched an audacious (and failed) takeover attempt in 2011, is eyeing a merger with the rival pub company Greene King. Bankers from Deutsche Bank are reportedly working on making the potential deal shipshape.”
Just Eat shares rise on debut: Shares in online takeaway Just Eat rose by as much as 10% on its market debut yesterday before closing up 8.85% at 283p, valuing the company at £1.59bn or more than 100 times underlying earnings. Just Eat priced its shares at 260p – at the top of the range the company was seeking and above what it wanted in January. The initial public offering makes Just Eat worth more than Domino’s Pizza, which was valued at £916m at the close of trading on Thursday.
Dublin restaurateur passes crowd-funding target for tortilla factory: Dublin restaurateur Philip Martin has passed his crowd-funding target on Crowdcube. He was looking to raise £60,000 for 10.14% of the equity in Blanco Niño. So far, £91,600 has been raised. Martin is founder of the successful Mexican restaurant Little Ass Burrito Bar in Dublin. Blanco Niño aims to establish an authentic corn tortilla factory in Dublin, producing high quality unadulterated and sustainably produced corn tortillas, tortilla chips and masa haina for the European market. Blanco Niño intends to supply the retail, foodservice and food manufacturing sectors in Ireland and the United Kingdom in its first year. Expanding into the wider European market on a phased basis thereafter. Blanco Niño is now “overfunding”, looking to raise £200,000 for 20% of the company.
NHS trust defends counselling sessions in Costa Coffee: An NHS trust providing mental health services for children and young people in west Kent has defended offering patients counselling sessions in Costa Coffee. The Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said it wanted to ensure its child and adolescent mental health services were “as accessible as possible to young people”. However, the MP for Tunbridge Wells, Greg Clark said he and parents were left surprised and worried by the offer of psychiatric sessions for youngsters in coffee shops. Clark said he had been contacted by worried parents and even the trust’s own staff. “Some have even been told by this trust’s management to conduct psychiatric assessments with vulnerable teenagers in public places such as McDonald’s and Costa Coffee rather than use proper consulting rooms in Tunbridge Wells,” he said.
ASA bans WKD Facebook adverts: A series of Facebook adverts for the alcopop WKD have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority after they were deemed “irresponsible”. A complaint was made by the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council which claimed the advertisements were likely to appeal to the under-18 market and implied that alcohol could enhance confidence, was capable of changing mood and behaviour and was a key component of the success of a social event. One of the adverts showed a WKD 8 ball prediction saying: “You will refuse to do karaoke, at first”, before showing a bottle of WKD.
Glasgow City College wins Nestle Toque d’Or: Glasgow City College was unveiled as the 2014 Nestle Toque d’Or winner on Wednesday at the Dorchester hotel in London. The win sees the trophy return to Scotland for the sixth time in the 26-year history of the competition. The winning team, made up of students Nikola Plhakova, Aoife Munro and Murray McDavid, picked up the trophy after a challenging four-day final in March that included teams from Westminster Kingsway, City of Liverpool, Ayrshire College, Gloucester College Five Acres Campus and Bradford College.
Blanc Brasseries sees like-for-like sales up 23% as it laps summer Olympics, hits £5m Ebitda: Brasserie Bar Co, the company led by Mark Derry which operates 19 Blanc Brasseries and two pubs under the White Brasserie Company banner, has reported that turnover rose 84% to £30.7m in the year to 30 June and restaurant Ebitda was up 82% to £5m. Chairman Ian Glyn said: “These results reflect the success of the growth programme, which was advanced by the transformation of former Chez Gerard sites during 2012. The result is particularly encouraging given the fact that the Olympic and Paralympic Games fell in the reporting period. During the Games, sales in our London estate were significantly and detrimentally affected by the change to the working and spending habits of our customers. To illustrate this point, in the first three months of the current financial period (30 June to 30 September 2013) sales in our London estate were up 23% like-for-like. Our estate of Brasserie Blancs outside London continues to perform to plan and gained momentum as the year progressed, showing 7% like-for-like sales growth in Period 12. Last year we said we expected the White Brasserie Company to be a key contributor to the future growth of the group’s business. It is therefore especially pleasing that our two prototype pub brasseries in Teddington and Weybridge should continue to show considerable like-for-like sales and Ebitda growth – 9% and 13% respectively. We have exciting and innovative plans for the business and have recently completed a funding arrangement, which will enable us to engage in a speedy roll-out of pub brasseries under the umbrella of the White Brasserie Company.” Ian Edward is to replace Ian Glyn as chairman of the company. Glyn said: “A younger body and mind is now required, and Ian is excellently equipped to move the business forward.”
Foxcroft & Ginger opens second site: Foxcroft & Ginger, whose first site opened in Soho, central London in January 2010, has launched its second venue, in Whitechapel, East London. The new 70-cover restaurant occupies the former site of Wickham’s department store in the Mile End Road. It includes a 24-hour take-away bakery operation. The restaurant also serves a range of sourdough pizzas, baked goods and cakes.
Cote lines up Manchester opening date: Cote, the French brasserie chain owned by the private equity firm CBPE, will open in Manchester on 8 April. Cote has taken over the former Prohibition bar on St Mary’s Street, next to House of Fraser for its first Manchester opening. This will be the group’s only North West of England restaurant, Birmingham and York being the closest it has previously ventured. Cote in Manchester will have 106 covers and a 12-seater private dining room.
PizzaExpress changes name of Shanghai sites: PizzaExpress has changed the name of its two sites in Shanghai, China from Pizza Marzano to PizzaExpress. The company is marking the change by holding a one-week Stripe Party Tour from 7 to 13 April, a reference to the fact that the chefs wear white and black stripes. Anybody wearing a striped shirt whilst dining at a PizzaExpress restaurant during this time will get their food bill halved.
Belhaven to open Platform 5 in Edinburgh on 1 May: Belhaven, Greene King’s Scottish subsidiary, is to open a new venue, called Platform 5, in Edinburgh on 1 May. The prime site, opposite Haymarket Station and under the Tune Hotel, is currently being kitted out, with seating for 240 people and a total capacity of 300. It will have two bars and also a small private dining room. It will be open seven days a week from 7am until 1am, and will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner with steak pie, fish and chips and macaroni pie on the menu. General manager Stuart Forbes said: “We are meeting with some of the local brewers. There will be Deuchars on the menu but we also want to think outside the box and have some real ales available too. Once people see the good standard of our food and the reasonable prices, we hope they will keep coming back. Because of our location, it would be naive of us to not think that Hearts fans could potentially be a big part of our business [but] we are the first thing you see when you come into the train station, so we hope there will be a lot of away fans who will come and visit too.”
Wetherspoon gets planning consent for first Lake District site: JD Wetherspoon has been given the planning go-ahead to open its first Lake District bar in Kendal (population: 28,586). National Park planners have approved the firm’s bid to convert Keswick’s former police station and courthouse into a 450-capacity pub and restaurant. The company said the project would create more than 50 jobs, which it hoped would be filled locally. A spokesman for the company said: “We are delighted that we’ve got planning permission for what will be our first pub in the Lake District. This is a big step for us, but there is no way we will mess about with what is an important building in Keswick. We still have licensing permissions to gain, but if all goes to plan we could see the site open by late this year or early 2015.” The building was one of dozens put up for sale by Cumbria Police Authority in August 2013 as it attempts to save £20.3m from its budget by 2016.
Mitchells & Butlers re-opens Convivial pub in Chiswick: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has re-opened The Crown & Anchor pub in Chiswick High Road yesterday after a major refurbishment. The Crown & Anchor was part of a package of four acquired from Convivial London Pub in October 2013 and was offered for £2m. It was one of four sites acquired by M&B for a figure reported of around £13.3m. The other sites were the Lamb Brewery, Chiswick (on the market for £2.8m), the Mitre Hotel, Greenwich (£6m), and the Botanist Brewery, Kew (£2.5m). All four sites are being converted to the company’s Castle estate.
Microbrewer launches pub number four after £500,000 refit: The Leamside Ale Company, which began brewing in Leamside, County Durham in 2012, has relaunched its fourth tied house after a £500,000 refurbishment. Leamside bought The Royal George at Old Shotton, near Peterlee last summer but shut it down to give it an overhaul, including extending the kitchen. The company also runs The Three Horseshoes, in Leamside, near Durham City, The Courtyard at Biddick in Washington and The Kings Arms in Deptford, Sunderland. The pub was put up for sale by Punch Taverns last year at an asking price of £200,000, later reduced to £125,000, with planning permission to convert it into two homes. At the time planning permission was granted, Punch said beer sales for 2006-07 were 227 barrels, falling to 193 the next year and 66 in 2009-10. However, new landlord Peter Martin said: “It was just one of those pubs that screamed out for somebody to come along and do something with it. It was more of a drinking pub before, but now it’s much more food-orientated.” Before the pub’s re-opening, staff knocked on doors in Old Shotton and invited residents for a free drink as a thank-you for putting up with the renovations. Martin said: “It’s been absolutely chock-a-block. Everybody’s been looking forward to it opening, it’s been the talk of the town.”
Stonegate to re-open former Bramwell site in Ramsgate: The Stonegate Pub Company is to re-open a Bramwell Pub Company site in Ramsgate, Kent, acquired last November, as the Goose. The company will give the Sovereign a £175,000 refit before re-opening under its new name on Friday 11 April. The pub will sit in the company’s Great Traditional format and is not linked to the high street discount brand that Stonegate acquired when it bought 333 Mitchells & Butlers wet-led pubs. Meanwhile, the company is re-opening its Slug & Lettuce site Fetter Lane, off Fleet Street in Central London after a £120,000 refurbishment on 11 April.
Fifteen Cornwall chief executive plans two more restaurants: Matthew Thomson, chief executive of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall social enterprise, wants to launch a further two West Country restaurants within the next three years. He aims to launch two new West Country restaurants and kick-start a new initiative aimed to change lives, create jobs and boost the local food economy. Thomson hopes to confirm within the next few months that a second West Country restaurant will open in an as-yet undisclosed location, with an eventual third site up and running, within three years. “I hope to be able to talk about it soon,” Thomson said. He is also looking at the possibility of an altogether new training venture related in some way to food production, saying: “I’ve been looking at training in other areas of the food value chain.”
Spirit unveils winner of Flaming Grill crowd-sourced burger competition: Spirit’s Flaming Grill brand has chosen a burger created by Caroline Stafford, from Fareham, Surrey, as the winner of its crowd-sourced burger competition. Her creation, Euros Finest burger, fought off competition from almost 800 entries to take one of five finalist positions, and then took the top spot when the burgers were put to a Facebook vote to decide which burger should win. As well as seeing her culinary creation being tucked into at almost 100 Flaming Grill pubs across the UK, Caroline has also won £500 in cash. The winning burger, dedicated to the England national football team, features a combination of beef burger, chicken burger, bacon, mozzarella, crispy onion rings, pepperoni, mayo and BBQ sauce in a ciabatta, and will be available in pubs from 12 June as part of the Flaming Grill Summer Burger Festival. Rachel Bailey, brand manager for Flaming Grill, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled with the results from our Build-a-Burger competition. The burger creations were extremely creative, guests had obviously had a lot of fun with the ingredients, and the final five would have comfortably sat alongside our burger range.”
Meantime re-opens flagship Greenwich site: Meantime Brewing Company has re-opened its flagship Greenwich Union site after a substantial investment. First opened in 2001, the Greenwich Union has now been furnished with cutting-edge dispense technology. A large selection of the collection of beer labels and glasses from the prominent beer writer Michael Jackson, who died in 2007, is also on display around the bar, showcasing a selection of more than 180 beers from some of the world’s top breweries.
Award-winning businesswoman expands into restaurant trade: A North Devon businesswoman who owns five award-winning businesses has opened a “surf and turf” restaurant in Westward Ho! in a bid to make the town more attractive to tourists. Kathy Murdoch’s latest venture, the Blue and Green restaurant, is next to the Seahorse Apartments development, also owned by Murdoch, which was a winner at the Devon Tourism Awards and won a South West Tourism Excellence Award. Her other businesses include Westward Living, luxury self-catering apartments set in 60 acres of land, which won a gold award from the Visit Devon Tourism Board. The Blue and Green restaurant will employ 35 staff and will include a wood-fired pizza oven. The venture was supported by a £400,000 commercial loan from Lloyds Bank, which has supported all six of Murdoch’s businesses with funding totalling £2m. Murdoch now expects an overall turnover of £2.6m, an increase of 150% from last year. She said: “I have always been passionate about Westward Ho! and wanted guests to see how beautiful the local area is. The new restaurant will create a number of local job opportunities and diners will be able to enjoy the panoramic beach views and delicious local produce.”
Middlesbrough set to get second micropub: A second micropub is waiting to see if it can get licensing approval in Middlesbrough, eight months after the opening of the town’s first. Sherlock’s, in Baker Street, is intended to be “a place for people aged in their thirties to sixties, a place to have a nice drink and relax,” according to Shaun Crake, 43, and his business partner, Robert Robinson, 37. Crake said: “There won’t be any loud music, there will be a TV to show sports but with the sound off. It will have nice real ales, a lager and cider that nobody else round here will have, really nice gins and wines. We’re going for quality rather than quantity. We won’t be selling it cheap and there will be no shots.” Dr Phil’s Ale House, a micropub with room for only 20 seated customers and eight standing, opened in a former property letting office at the Pilkington Buildings on Roman Road, Middlesbrough in August last year.
Robinsons launches new conference room to meet demand: The Stockport-based brewer and pub owner Frederic Robinson has marked the first anniversary of receiving Visit England accreditation for its visitors centre by launching a new conference room, Frederic’s Room, to keep up with demand. Since launch at the end of March 2013, the Apsley Street conferencing and educational centre has welcomed more than 10,000 people from all over the world. In the past 12 months, Robinsons has accommodated more than 100 conferences and meetings for local businesses, taken more than 6,000 people on a tour of their brewery, and hosted more than 40 bespoke evening tours with between 15 and 80 people.
RBS extends support for Wahaca: RBS has extended support for Wahaca, the Mexican street food restaurant concept led by Thomasina Miers and Mark Selby, through new medium-term debt facilities, to fund the next phase of expansion for the business. Neil Parry, head of the consumer industries team at RBS, said: “New concepts are being created on an almost weekly basis in the UK, this makes for a more vibrant and dynamic casual dining sector. Successful groups like Wahaca are offering customers a unique experience and transforming the way Britons eat out. We’re delighted to be part of this innovative sector with our continued support for the highly regarded and respected Wahaca brand and management team, who saw their turnover grow solidly in the year to 30 June 2013. The casual dining market has been one of the fastest growing segments of the UK eating out market in recent years. Despite the recession, this sector has seen a 48% increase in the past decade with a total market value of £6.9bn.” Wahaca reported turnover rose more than 40% to £22.5m in the 53 weeks ended 30 June 2013, up from £14.59m the year before. Profit before finance charges rose to £1.01m from £373,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit was £417,000, up from £60,500 the year before.
McDonald’s selects SMG for customer feedback: Service Management Group has been selected by McDonald’s in the United States to provide a customer feedback program to 14,000 US restaurants. Customers will be able to offer real-time feedback on their restaurant experiences by accessing an easy-to-use website via any internet-enabled device. SMG’s chief executive Andy Fromm said: “McDonald’s has high expectations for companies they select as partners. We are honoured to be the firm chosen for the job.”
Australian operator of Nando’s acquires New Zealand business: The Australian operator of the fast-food chain Nando’s has taken over the management of the New Zealand franchises after buying the business from the receivers. The previous owner, Shivram, led and owned by Shailen Ramjee, ran into financial trouble last year and in November its banker, Heartland, appointed receivers. Yesterday the receivers said that Nando’s Australia had exercised its rights to buy the business and assets of Shivram, which included the master franchise for New Zealand. The business had carried on trading, and the 35 franchise restaurants were unaffected by the receivership.
Ex-burger van man graduates into waffle shop: The former operator of a burger van in Portsmouth has opened a waffle and ice-cream shop as an alternative to coffee bars. Wayne Harrison, who spent 25 years in the Navy before moving into catering with a burger van, said: “Everyone wants to eat and have a little treat and there are plenty of coffee and sandwich shops. I came across something similar to this in London and I thought it would work in Pompey.” He has now opened Wicked Waffle in London Road, Portsmouth with the help of a £25,000 loan from NatWest to use towards fitting out the shop and buying equipment. The menu is made up of ice cream sundaes, waffles and crepes and includes smaller portions for children. Harrison said: “I have created 12 full and part-time jobs. I want to employ local people and young people as well. I know people always ask for qualifications but I think it’s important to have the right staff and then I can train them to make waffles and sundaes.”
Arabica Food and Spice to open first venue: Food importer Arabica Food and Spice Company is to open its first bar and restaurant, at 3 Rochester Walk in London’s Borough in June. The company, founded more than 14 years ago by James Walters at Borough Market, when he sold mezze from an eight foot trestle table, will offer 80 covers. The restaurant, which is called the Arabica Bar and Kitchen, will be overseen by general manager Olubunmi Okolosi, who was previously general manager of Lima and prior to that the maitre d’ at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
SSP commits to raise £250,000 is support Cancer Research UK: The UK division of SSP, the leading operator of food and beverage brands in travel locations worldwide, has committed to raising £250,000 in support of Cancer Research UK in 2014. SSP has pledged its allegiance to the charity for the next three years, with the aim of increasing the target fundraising amount each year. Cancer Research UK was chosen as SSP’s charity after a vote by its 10,000 UK employees. As well as encouraging customer donations through collection tins, SSP teams will be taking part in a variety of fundraising events, such as Race for Life, the Pedometer Challenge, Movember and Fun Day Friday. Julie Holdaway, HR director for SSP UK & Ireland, said: “We’re incredibly proud to partner with Cancer Research UK, a charity which does such great work to raise awareness of cancer and funds research into the disease. It was the clear winner in our company vote, which demonstrates the passion our teams feel for the cause and we’re very much looking forward to getting our activities under way.”
Domino’s Pizza boss wins US award: Patrick Doyle, president and chief executive of Domino’s Pizza Inc in the United States, and described as the driving force behind the company’s global sales momentum, store growth and innovation, has been selected as this year’s winner of The Norman Award from Nation’s Restaurant News. The award comes after Doyle led Domino’s to more than 10,800 stores in more than 70 international markets, with sales of $8bn. The Norman Award is named after the late Norman Brinker, chief executive of Brinker International, who built it into one of the world’s leading casual-dining restaurant groups. He died in 2009 aged 78. Doyle will receive his award at the 55th annual MUFSO Super Show in Dallas in October.
Carlsberg launch ‘Fan Squad’ to ‘celebrate what’s great about football’: To support its sponsorships of the Barclays Premier League and England team, Carlsberg UK has created the Carlsberg Fan Squad to amplify fans’ enjoyment of the game. The campaign will be run across on-trade print, broadcast, POS and digital media, with prizes available through the footballing calendar from this week until December. The Carlsberg Fan Squad will be headed by a trio of celebrity football fans including comedian Paddy McGuinness, former Arsenal and England legend Ian Wright, and Sky Sports Soccer Saturday’s Jeff Stelling. Carlsberg said the aim was to listen to genuine fans, celebrate what was great about football and understand what more could be done to improve fans’ experiences. A Fan Squad promotion featuring Wayne Rooney, Ricky Lambert, Steven Gerrard and Michael Carrick will offer pub-goers the chance to win a place at the “ultimate England experience” at Wembley Stadium in October. Ten winners will be drawn every week for 15 weeks and be accompanied by three friends where they will watch an England UEFA Euro 2016 qualifier and be entertained by legends of the game. More than 100 TVs and Carlsberg branded items including flags, cooler bags and T-shirts are also available.
Technomic and Propel Info partner to launch UK and US foodservice perspectives conference:
The leading insights and research firm Technomic has partnered Propel Info to launch the first ever full-day conference that compares and contrasts current eating out trends in the UK and the United States. The day will look at some of the most innovative foodservice launches in the US in the past year and provide analysis of the US brands currently looking to enter the UK market. Technomic’s vice-president, Darren Tristano, will examine best practice in menu, concept and service among growth concepts. There will also be insights on today’s foodservice consumer, current key UK industry metrics and forecasts and beverage trends in the UK and the US. Panel discussions include leading UK and US culinary directors and consumer insights directors, as well as a case study of a new beverage menu roll-out. Technomic’s Patrick Noone will provide insights on current UK trending menu flavours and preparations and consumer priorities and attitudes. Don Fox, chief executive of Firehouse Subs, the 750-strong US-based, fast casual restaurant chain, which specialises in hot subs, will offer lessons from a leading US growth chain. Propel’s managing director, Paul Charity, said: “The conference offer a great way to understood both UK and US foodservice trends, with panel discussions involving leading operators from both countries.” The conference takes place on Tuesday 10 June at Stationers’ Hall, Ave Maria Lane, London EC4 and tickets are priced at £345 for operators and £395 for suppliers. Those attending will also get a free copy of a Technomic report on the performance of the 250 leading US restaurant companies and the UK’s leading 100 foodservice brands. To book a place e-mail email@example.com