Story of the Day:
Jamie Rollo – JD Wetherspoon like-for-likes have out-performed peers for two years: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has reported that JD Wetherspoon’s like-for-like sales have now been materially above its leading pub and restaurant peers for two years, at +11% cumulative like-for-like sales growth versus +2% for the segment since the Second Quarter of 2012. He added: “The company is very innovative and constantly seeking new ways to drive revenue, something that really hit home during our recent meeting with its founder and executive chairman Tim Martin. Historically, sales growth has sometimes come at the expense of margin (2004-14 sales per pub +26% versus Ebitda per pub +3%). But like-for-like profits have started to grow in the last two years (+4% in FY13 and 1H14), and it seems more focused here.” Rollo forecast that Wetherspoon would report circa 6.5% like-for-like sales growth when it issues a Third Quarter trading update in early May. He said: “Our 6.5% forecast for Quarter Three would be ahead of the 5.2% in Half One, but broadly in-line with the 6.7% growth in the first six weeks of the quarter. March had easy comps from poor weather last year (Coffer Peach -3% March 2013), though this did not appear to have much impact on Wetherspoon (Q3 13 +6.3%), so we expect trends to have continued from the first six weeks.” Rollo reported that Wetherspoon is investing in longer hours for serving food, new kitchen equipment, more training, and new IT. He added: “We expect a further circa 70bps (margin) decline in Half Two as it said at the interims that taxation and input costs will continue to rise this year.”
Orderella to invest £1m in marketing campaign: Orderella, the mobile ordering app that allows its customers to order and pay for drinks and food with their phone, has employed integrated below the line agency Whynot! to lead a £1 million marketing campaign, including a rebrand of the app in the UK and a programme of brand activities. The heavy marketing investment will see £500,000 spent on digital campaigns and social media advertising, while £500,000 will be spent on local marketing, with an emphasis on promoting the Orderella enabled venues to local radio, TV and press. Dennis Collet, Orderella chief executive, said: “After the success of our maiden funding round, we wanted to invest heavily in marketing, particularly digital and social media, to really grab the consumer’s attention and achieve awareness on a huge scale. We are also rebranding to ensure Orderella has a personality which is distinct and stands out in the market, and can attract the customer’s attention.”
Four sector companies take positions in profit growth league table: Four sector companies have appeared in The Sunday Times annual league table of the 100 private companies with the fastest growing profits, which are defined as operating profits plus directors’ pay. The companies were: Pret A Manger, which was in tenth position with three-year annualised per annum profit growth of 104.59% to £24,114m of operating profit; Cote Restaurants, which was in 33rd position with three-year annualised profit growth of 63.51% to hit £10,685m of operating profit; Nando’s, in 38th position, with three-year annualised profit growth of 61.47% to achieve £58,528m of operating profit; and Jamie’s Italian, in 43rd, with three-year annualised growth of 59.31% to hit £8,964m of operating profit.
Inverness scheme aims to add restaurants because centre need to “fuse leisure and retail”: Plans for a major new shopping and leisure development in Inverness have been revealed. Eastgate Shopping Centre owners F&C Reit are set to ask Highland Council for permission to build an eight-screen cinema and restaurants at the mall. F&C Reit said the proposal would be a “substantial” investment for the firm, which bought the Eastgate Centre in March 2013. F&C asset manager Spencer Gower said: “The face of shopping centres are changing and with so many people shopping online it is important that centres have a fusion of retail and leisure to attract customers. The visitor experience is becoming more and more crucial – particularly in Inverness where tourism is so important.”
Jamie Oliver turns to comfort food for new TV series: Chef Jamie Oliver will focus on classic comfort food in his next Channel 4 programme. The series, which will screen later this year, has the working title Jamie’s Comfort Food and will see the chef give his own spin to a variety of traditional and nostalgic British dishes. “The series will be an indulgent mouthwatering treat as we see Jamie take on the nation’s favourite dishes and make them even better. We can’t wait to see what he comes up with,” said the channel’s features commissioning editor Nick Hornby.
Former Brunning & Price deputy managing director sets up consultancy: Chris Stagg, who stepped down as deputy managing director of the Restaurant Group’s award-winning Brunning & Price gastro-pub business, has set up a consultancy called Innside Hospitality, www.innsidehospitality.co.uk . He told Propel: “I’m looking at specialising in multi-site operations within pubs and casual dining groups, focusing on diagnostics, profit growth, coaching, training and helping small operations build operational platforms for growth. I will also offer coaching and mentoring for single site operations if the need arises. I have had quite a bit of interest and some clients on board already.”
Punch Taverns calls in restructuring specialist: Punch Taverns has called in an independent specialist to help its discussions with bondholders over a consensual restructuring of debt, according to The Daily Telegraph. Dean Merritt, from Talbot Hughes McKillop, is representing the companies that issued Punch’s debt as the various parties attempt to trash out a deal by the beginning of next month. Punch publishes its interim results tomorrow.
Spirit Pub Company applies to convert Leeds site to Audley-style offer: Spirit Pub Company has lodged an application to convert the former Bar Censsa on Boar Lane into a ‘classy Victorian-style pub’. Closed for a number of years, Bar Censsa was situated below the old Griffin Hotel, which has itself been shut since 1999. A supporting statement to the council by Spirit said it specialises in breathing fresh life into historic premises, citing its Audley pub in Mayfair as one of London’s best examples of a Victorian hostelry – the venue sits in Spirit’s Taylor Walker segment. Another statement concentrating on access and design issues says: “The site is currently closed to trade and has had little work carried out since its last refurbishment in circa 2000.”
Marco Pierre White takes Thornham pub back to its roots: Chef Marco Pierre White has returned The Chequers in Thornham, Norfolk to its roots. The venue is the sister site to flagship Norfolk pub The Lifeboat in Thornham – and has traded for 15 years as The Old Coach House, primarily serving as overspill accommodation for the Lifeboat. White, who bought The Chequers and nearby Lifeboat Inn three years ago, has created a modern look, an improved garden and introduced an Italian menu.
Flood-hit Fuller’s pub re-opens today after four-month closure: The Mill at Elstead, Surrey, a Fuller’s pub, will re-open today after flooding closed the pub before Christmas. Georgia and Jeff Watts, the landlord and landlady of The Mill in Farnham Road, suffered a horrendous Christmas and January, as flood water destroyed their business before thieves made off with their belongings. Virtually destroyed by the flooding, Fuller’s has undertaken a complete redesign and refurbishment of the pub. “We can’t say enough how fantastic they have been,” Georgia told the local newspaper. “They covered the costs, even helping us with the costs of the things that were stolen, which wasn’t necessary.” Visitors to the new-look pub will be able to see the mill turning, while a new glass floor has been installed in areas to show the water running underneath the pub.
Orchid sells Pizza Kitchen and Bar site: Orchid Pub Company has sold a Pizza Kitchen and Bar site, The Victoria in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. The Victoria underwent a £250,000 refurbishment in 2012, re-opening as a Pizza Kitchen and Bar. Paul Kotrys, property director at the Orchid Group, told the local newspaper: “The sale of The Victoria has been agreed following which the pub will be closed. As you would expect this is a difficult time for the team there but we are endeavouring to find as many of them as possible positions at other sites within our group.”
Mitchells & Butlers to open first Scottish Miller & Carter this month: Mitchells & Butlers will open its first Miller & Carter steakhouse in Scotland this month – the brand will open in Edinburgh at Cramond Brig on 25 April. The steakhouse will create over 60 jobs with the new offering 150 internal covers and a further 50 outside. David Jardine, the new manager at Miller & Carter Edinburgh, said: “It’s really exciting to be introducing the brand to Scotland. There’s a huge opportunity in Edinburgh – and we’re looking forward to showcasing our steak expertise in the city. Finding the right location for a Miller & Carter is one of the things that helps make our steakhouses so special. The new site is easy to reach from right across the city, and the coaching house styled building provides us with a unique venue with a distinct feel and personality.”
Enterprise Inns to refurbish historic Ribble Valley Inn: Enterprise Inns is to begin a refurbishment programme on an historic village inn – Ribble Valley Borough Council has, meanwhile, agreed to list it as an “asset of community value.” The White Bull, in Ribchester, has been closed for 13 months and is currently available to let on a new lease or tenancy. The pub has rear views over the remains of a Roman bathhouse. The letting agent is Fleurets and spokesman Ian Taylor said the refurbishment work was being carried out with the intention of attracting new tenants and getting the pub re-opened as soon as possible. The Enterprise Inns website notes “We have an exciting refurbishment planned at this pub, which will include extensive internal and external decoration with new lighting, flooring, fixtures and fittings and a landscaped beer garden. The external trading area will be decorated with new lighting and a landscaped beer garden will create a beautiful attraction for the summer months.”
Costa Coffee manager – £15,000 share scheme savings turned into £100,000: Costa Coffee manager Chris Thompson has told The Daily Telegraph how saving £250 a month into a share plan at his company turned into a £100,000 windfall after five years. The store manager said he could see that the Whitbread-owned chain “was going places” – so shares in the firm were an attractive place to put aside his monthly savings. Thompson locked into a share price of £7.28, which allowed him to buy 2,300 shares when the scheme matured in February. The shares are currently trading at £41.13, giving a windfall of £94,599. The money will allow the family to take a dream trip to New Zealand and Australia. “My wife has a brother in New Zealand, so we have dreamt of visiting him. Now we can combine it with the trip to Australia,” Thompson said. “The rest we will put towards savings for our boys.” He has spent a career in catering and moved to Whitbread 14 years ago. “I was attracted by the share scheme,” he said. “Now when we are busy and rushed off our feet, I don’t mind working hard, because I am working for myself. It’s a win‑win opportunity.”
Tragus opens new Bella Italia in Plymouth: Tragus has opened a new Bella Italia restaurant in Plymouth that has created 30 jobs. The new outlet, at the Barbican Leisure Park, is the second Bella Italia in Plymouth, with one already established at Derry’s Cross. The new restaurant is a 136-seater and adds to the chain of more than 80 Bella Italia outlets nationally. Jon Bagley, operations director at Bella Italia, said: “We are thrilled to be opening this new additional restaurant in Plymouth.”
Celebrity chef plans Wales opening: Celebrity chef Will Holland, who has won a Michelin star and appeared on TV shows like Saturday Kitchen and Great British Menu, is opening a new restaurant in Wales. His new opening Coast is set in a beach-side location at Coppet Hall near Saundersfoot. Holland, who has spent 15 years working in some of Britain’s best restaurants and who earned a Michelin star before the age of 30 at La Bécasse, in Ludlow, hopes to open just after Easter.
Cote invests £1m in Manchester opening: Cote has made a £1m investment in its latest Manchester opening, which opened its doors in the former Prohibition bar on St Mary’s Street last week. The company has indicated it is looking at openings Didsbury and Hale if the site is a success. Joint managing director Harald Samuelsson told the local newspaper: “We’ve spent time getting the right site and spent £1m on the revamp. It’s a premium feel but still very accessible and that’s what Cote Brasserie is all about – a proper restaurant but you don’t want it to feel intimidating to people. Robin Van Persie used to be a regular at our Hampstead restaurant when he was at Arsenal, and just before he left there he said to our manager: ‘have you never thought of opening a Manchester branch?’ The next thing we knew, he’d signed to Manchester United!”
JD Wetherspoon set to open its largest UK pub in Ramsgate: Ramsgate’s historic Royal Victoria Pavilion looks likely to be converted to JD Wetherspoon largest UK pub after the company won preferred bidder status. The company will enter into negotiations over a lease for the seafront site with Thanet council after Labour cabinet members chose the firm as its preferred bidder. The decision, subject to a 21-day consultation as required by the council’s asset disposal process, could mean a deal finalised and work starting by the summer. Wetherspoon is reportedly interested in occupying two-thirds of the pavilion, but will renovate the entire building as part of any lease agreement. If the deal goes ahead, the Grade II listed building will become Wetherspoon’s largest pub, dwarfing the current record holder, The Moon Under Water in Manchester, by more than 3,000 square feet. Current tenant Rank Group put forward the Wetherspoon’s bid for the pavilion, which has stood derelict since 2008. Meanwhile, the company has opened a £2.3m site in Aldershot, The Queen Hotel. The company pulled out of a deal to open up in The Arcade shopping centre in April last year. Wetherspoon went on to purchase The Queen Hotel in May, which eventually saw Dunedin’s plans to redevelop The Arcade shelved.
Strada closes Chiswick High Road site: The Tragus-owned Strada brand closed its Chiswick High Road site on Friday (11 April). The ten staff have been offered positions in other branches ranging from central London to Richmond. A staff member told the local newspaper: “We’re very sad to leave Chiswick and a lot of our regular customers are very upset.”
Heineken considers sale of 100 pubs: Heineken is considering selling 100 pubs from its Star Pubs & Bars division, according to The Sunday Times. The newspaper reported that discussions are at an early stage and no final decision has been taken on whether to sell the under-performing sites. Star Pubs and Bars operates 1,250 pubs.
Hakkasan puts Chrysan on the market: Hakkasan Group has appointed Restaurant Property to market its 100-cover fine-dining Japanese restaurant concept Chrysan restaurant in the City of London. Chrysan, at Broadgate West, Snowdon Street, was opened in partnership with Michelin-starred Japanese chef Yoshihiro Murata, chef patron of Kyoto’s Kikunoi restaurant ,but closed last year. The venue was Hakkasan’s second Japanese restaurant in the capital following its purchase of Sake No Hana in 2012. Restaurant Property head of sales Mark Calder said: “This is an excellently located, very high specification restaurant close to L’Anima and HKK restaurants which are both trading very strongly. Restaurant Property has been solely instructed to market this restaurant and we expect to achieve a substantial premium for our client. As the economy has picked up so has the interest from operators to have more restaurants in the City and we expect intense competition for this site.” Since the original London offerings at Hanway Place and Mayfair, Hakkasan has since expanded globally to destinations the world over including Mumbai, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Beverly Hills and Shanghai. Owned by Abu Dhabi’s property investment company Tasameem, the Hakkasan Group also operates Michelin starred dim sum restaurant Yauatcha in London, with an outpost in Mumbai.
Tesco working on food-to-go format: The Guardian has reported that Tesco is understood to be working on a high-street takeaway food chain that would compete with Pret A Manger, Eat and Greggs. Analysts said the supermarket is putting the finishing touches to a new format called “Tesco Express food to go” that would be focused on the large London market. Steve Dresser of Grocery Insight said the supermarket was targeting as many as 80 outlets in the capital as it looked to tap into the lunchtime sandwich and snack market.
One of Guernsey’s three nightclubs closes: The company behind one of Guernsey’s three nightclubs has gone into voluntary liquidation. Fusion Leisure “regrets” the closure of Fusion Nightclub and its bar Luna, the company said in a statement. It said the decision was due to “difficult trading conditions” and health problems for its sole director Adam Burroughs. The club opened in 2009.
Burger King franchisee plans to move into Crimea after McDonald’s departure: Burger King plans to open a number of restaurants in Russia’s newly-incorporated republic of Crimea, as its major competitor McDonald’s company has ceased serving the region, Dmitry Medoviy, the chief executive of the Russian franchisee Burger King Russia, has stated. “We are planning to introduce our services in Crimea, though, I can neither tell you when exactly it will happen, nor how many restaurants there will be,” he said. McDonald’s closed its three directly managed restaurants in the Crimea last week.
Work starts on £6m Whitbread scheme: Work has now got underway on a £6 million development that will bring an 80-bedroom Premier Inn and Brewer’s Fayre to Stourbridge. Construction has begun on the four-acre former Cox Hire site off Birmingham Street following sale of the land to Whitbread, which aims to transform the major route into town with a new Premier Inn and Brewer’s Fayre restaurant. John Bates, head of acquisitions for UK and Ireland for Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants, said the development – a joint initiative with Worcestershire based property developers Barberry Developments – will create 65 new jobs and will “contribute to the wider regeneration of the town-centre, attracting new visitors to the local area and boosting local trade”.
Merseyside biggest Costa franchisee signs to take second Albert dock site: Merseyside’s biggest Costa franchisee, Optimum Group, has taken two units totalling 3,000 sq ft on a 15-year lease at the Albert Dock in Liverpool and has spent £250,000 creating its second outlet at the Albert Dock. Located in The Colonnades, a 19th century, Grade I-listed former warehouse building which is also home to Tate Liverpool, the new Costa employs 15 people. Mark Bryan, managing director of Optimum Group, said: “With museums, galleries and a huge range of venues to eat and drink in, amid the lofty colonnades of this architectural splendour, Albert Dock is the vibrant heart of Liverpool’s historic waterfront, and a great place to invest and create jobs.”
Vodka entrepreneur plans cocktail bar in London loos: A vodka entrepreneur has put forward plans to transform old public lavatories in north London into an underground cocktail bar. William Borrell, whose Vestal Vodka is stocked at Harvey Nichols and The Groucho Club, wants to turn disused facilities in Kentish Town into a bar called Ladies and Gentlemen. But the businessman has been met with the disapproval of residents who insist the site should keep its original use. “We just don’t use public toilets now like we used to,” Borrell said. Camden council will decide on the application later this month.
Investment firm Enact buys West Cornwall Pasty Company: The investment firm Enact has bought the West Cornwall Pasty Company. David Chubb, joint administrator for West Cornwall Pasty Co, said the company had run out of alternative options after facing severe difficulties in meeting its financial obligations. He said the sale to Enact, a £7.5m private equity fund, was the best outcome for the business and would ensure the company had a more secure future. A total of 31 stores have closed, resulting in 92 redundancies. Chris Cormack, investment director for Enact, blamed the firm’s financial difficulties on the so-called pasty tax introduced by the chancellor, George Osborne in 2012 under which VAT was imposed on hot takeaway food. Pasties got a partial reprieve after marches in Cornwall led to a government U-turn under which food left to cool naturally was excluded. But firms such as West Cornwall, which keep their food hot, still had to pay. Last year’s hot summer was also bad news for hot food takeaways. Cormack said: “The business has struggled to cope with the effects of the pasty tax and a number of underperforming outlets.” Mills said the new owners were looking at expanding the group’s menu, launching a new marketing campaign and possibly opening more stores. He added that Enact had considered hundreds of investment opportunities since it launched in December and that it wanted to back small and medium-sized businesses that were struggling to get funding from banks or had been mismanaged.
Fourth Pryzm to open in Brighton: The Luminar Group is investing £1m on its fourth Pryzm nightclub, this time in Brighton, converting the existing Oceana into the new concept that will create up to 30 new jobs. Pryzm Brighton will feature three distinctly styled dance arenas and VIP areas under one roof when it re-opens on 9 May. The investment follows on the heels of Pryzm Leeds, which opened at the end of March and has been exceeding expectations. Also proving successful are the first two conversions, Pryzm Bristol, which was the first to launch last September and Pryzm Kingston. Luminar’s chief financial officer Russell Margerrison, said: “When we acquired the Luminar business we knew that we had to invest in our clubs. It is time to move on and bring our customers exciting, new state-of-the-art clubs that literally have the wow factor. The Pryzm concept has certainly achieved that goal and we are delighted with the performance of all three clubs and are confident that Brighton will be just as big a hit.” A key change to the West Street venue, which currently attracts 250,000 customers a year, will be the introduction of an additional dance arena on the ground floor, the Curve music room with a 600 capacity and open from Wednesday through to Saturday nights.
SSP wins Egypt contract: Leading travel restaurateur SSP has captured the main food and beverage concession at Hurghada Airport, Egypt which was tendered via an auction. The company beat off competition from Flemingo, the only other bidder, a source close to the process told The Moodie Report. The auction took over three hours to complete.
What’s Cooking? expands Liverpool operation: Liverpool restaurant What’s Cooking? has invested a six figure sum to take over the food and beverage operation within boutique hotel, 62 Castle Street. The new venue will be called What’s At Sixty Two? The deal with hotel operator, Centre Island, will see the conversion of a 5,000 square foot space into “a dynamic collection of bar and restaurant, private dining, boardroom, meeting and social spaces”. Located within the Grade II listed hotel and creating 50 new jobs, What’s At Sixty Two? will offer a southern soul menu, with flavours inspired by Memphis and the Deep South.
Canadian pita sandwich specialist opens second UK store: A Canadian-based quick-service restaurant franchise with more than 450 stores worldwide is opening its second UK outlet next month at the Merrion Centre in Leeds, creating ten jobs. Pita Pit, which specialises in pita bread sandwiches and salads, has plans to expand its presence in the UK and has already signed with two other multi-unit franchisee groups for stores in London and Manchester. Franchisees Shish Patel and his partner Olsi Pap will be responsible for the opening of the Leeds store in May on the Woodhouse Lane side of the Merrion Centre. Work has already begun on the new development, which is receiving a £200,000 investment. The unit will occupy 1,400 sq ft and will cater for customers on the ground floor, with the upstairs being used as back of house. Patel said: “The Merrion Centre is our first opening in Leeds and this location gives us the opportunity to establish ourselves in the heart of the city. The Merrion Centre is just the start for us, we have exciting plans to open another ten Pita Pits in Leeds over the next five years.” Helen Green, associate director of estates for Town Centre Securities, said: “The array of quality food options that are now available in the shopping centre is ever increasing and our dining experience is getting better and better.” Pita Pit was founded in Canada in 1995 and is on course to have more than 500 outlets in 2014.
Beds and Bars HR manager to join Whitbread: Former Beds and Bars human resources and training manager Donna Hewitson is joining Whitbread where she will be HR Manager for Brewers Fayre.
TGI Friday’s reports UK Ebitda of £19.9m: TGI Friday’s, led by Karen Forrester, has reported a rise in turnover and pre-tax profit in 2013. The company grew turnover to £166.8m in the 53 weeks to 30 December 2013, from £147.7m the year before. Ebitda climbed to £19.9m from £17.2m the year before. Sales rose 3.6% on a like-for-like basis. The company finished the period with a cash position of £11.8m. Pre-tax profit was £11,788,000 compared to £10,893,000 the year before. Five new sites were opened in the period “which are performing in excess of expectations and the company is actively seeking new sites”. The latest profit increase at TGI Friday’s in the UK has paved the way for an increase in new openings in 2014. The company will create 700 new jobs this year to add to its existing 2,540 staff with seven new openings. The company will open in Liverpool in late spring at the Liverpool One shopping and leisure development. The location is set to become one of the busiest Friday’s in the country, benefitting from the 26 million visitors a year that Liverpool One attracts. Housed within the Terrace Leisure area of Liverpool One, the restaurant will occupy nearly 5,500 sq ft., opening its doors in late May. Other openings confirmed for this year include Brighton, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, as well as Friday’s first foray into rail transport hubs with a new concept set to transform station dining. Meanwhile, TGI Friday’s has confirmed it will no longer be serving lettuce with its burgers, insisting it will not be missed by customers. The company’s development chef, Terry McDowell, said most of the lettuce is water and wilts when it comes into contact with a hot burger, adding nothing to the overall flavour of the dish. “I think it was originally a marketing ploy,” he told Metro. “Someone once sat down and decided, ‘we need some green in that’.” But the brand is confident its customers will not be complaining. McDowell said: “I think during a trial, one out of 100,000 asked where the lettuce had gone. It doesn’t need to be in there to produce a great tasting product.” The success of TGI Friday’s in the UK has led to some re-export of UK know-how to the US parent business. UK design firm Harrison, led by Philip Harrison, is overseeing the refurbishment of a flagship Brooklyn TGI Friday this month – the site, in Sheepshead Bay is re-opening after flood damage cause by Hurricane Catarina. The project follows on from work last year remodeling 38 TGI Friday’s in the US. A spokesman told Propel: “Our involvement in these projects was to provide Concept Design packages to Friday’s to implement with a local architect. Our role was important in providing design documentation that incorporated the newly developed core design values ensuring the new Friday’s design elements were implemented in the Boston, Washington DC, Baltimore and Miami markets.” Harrison’s involvement in the US business comes after the company successfully reinvented the design ethos of the brand in the UK. The parent company Carlson recently reported flat sales in the US last year.