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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 2nd May 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

PizzaExpress comes to market with £1bn price tag: PizzaExpress has been put up for sale by private equity owner Cinven with an estimated £1bn price tag, The Times has reported. Cinven has hired Goldman Sachs to sell its biggest brand with the private equity owner hoping for a sale within the next two or three months. Goldman Sachs has also been asked to find a buyer for the combined Ask Italian (110 sites) and Zizzi (133 sites) business, but the priority is PizzaExpress, according to The Times. PizzaExpress is set to open its 500th site, in Beijing. There are 433 PizzaExpress sites in the UK and 67 overseas, with 20 stores in Hong Kong and mainland China. Gondola has argued there is room for 200 more PizzaExpress sites in the UK with 20 opening a year. Total PizzaExpress revenues are circa £400m a year and the business saw like-for-likes up 2.8% in the nine months to April this year. A total of 31 million PizzaExpress pizzas are sold each year through supermarkets. In a report to shareholders last month, Gondola chairman Chris Woodhouse stressed that PizzaExpress had developed into a “truly international business”. He also took pains to stress that Zizzi and Ask Italian are also in good shape as brands. He said: “The evolution of the Zizzi brand is almost complete, resulting in a stunning portfolio of over 130 restaurants and an offer that is well-defined. Zizzi opened four restaurants in the first half of the year and has an exciting pipeline of future openings. Ask Italian is also well on the way to realising its long-term vision; over half of the estate now reflects the brand’s fresh new look. The transformed sites, 17 of which were recently completed during the period, are delivering excellent returns and we are applying learnings from these restaurants to the brand’s new openings.” Gondola sold the Byron business for £100m last year and bank debt for the group is less than £425m.

Industry News:

Morgan Davies to present at Propel 3 July Multi Club Conference: Mexican food pioneer Morgan Davies, founder of the UK’s first true “burrito bar” chain Barburrito, which now has a national presence, will present at the Propel Multi Club conference on 3 July. Davies will talk about the company’s 12-year journey, the challenges of establishing a new brand in a new category and what sets Barburrito apart in a rapidly changing sector. The Propel Multi Club Conference, which will be followed by the Propel summer party in the evening, is now open for bookings – operators can claim two free places each. A full-day conference will be followed by the summer party, to include go-karting, a BBQ, the top live covers band the All Stars (which includes Simply Red’s guitarist and Rod Stewart’s bass player) and karaoke. To secure places or get more information, email Jo Charity on
Luke Johnson – the UK is more obsessed with food than ever before in its history: Sector investor Luke Johnson, who plans to seek an AIM flotation for his Patisserie Valerie business, has argued that the sector’s prospects are underpinned by unprecedented interest in food and eating out. Johnson pointed out that the market has doubled in value in the past 20 years. He told Propel: “I don’t see why that growth won’t continue although, perhaps, not at the same pace. What is really important is, this country has become a nation more obsessed with food and drink than ever before in history. There are many reasons for that – the 50-plus market now dines out a lot as a major leisure pastime and has a lot of disposable income. I also think for people now, going out to eat is part of their lifestyle, with parents or on their own or with friends. The music industry has declined in importance as a part of young people’s lives – instead, they are all crazy about things like coffee and craft beer and the latest hip burger or taco place. It has become an incredibly fashionable thing. But I don’t think this is short-term, as food and drink are a very fundamental part of living. There is a very strong case to make that London is the world capital of eating out now. If you want French food then Paris is the premier destination. But the French don’t get fast-casual, they don’t get pop-ups and all these new and exciting things in the UK. I think it is a wonderful industry and it’s attracting more talent than ever before: the inventiveness and the creativity is brilliant. It is much more competitive that it ever was. Rents are mad, particularly in London, but it is the new form of rock and roll.”
CGA Peach – ‘more drinks brands are being stocked as customers get more promiscuous’: The number of brands stocked by UK pubs and bar has increased by 12% in two year, with premium spirits up 15%, Phil Tate, chief operating officer at CGA Peach, has told the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers’ Spring conference. Tate said younger customers are most fickle, with ten categories in their drinking repertoire, against 6.1 for the average consumer. Ale drinkers have the highest level of loyalty with 65% sticking to one drink, while cider and cocktail drinkers have the highest level of promiscuity: only 39% stick to the one category. Of the total out-of-home spend, 27.3% goes on restaurants, 23.8% is spent in pub restaurants, the same is spent in quick service restaurants and coffee shops, 13.3% is spent on fast food and 11.8% is spent in wet-led pubs and bars.
ALMR ops awards open for entries: Entries are now being accepted for this year’s ALMR Operations Managers Awards, which seek to find the best area manager and best BDM in managed and leased licensed hospitality businesses. To nominate your ops manager, entry forms can be found at the awards’ dedicated website, or call the ALMR on 020 8579 2080. Entry papers need to be completed by July 31. Nick Bish, of the ALMR, said: “We are exceptionally proud of the awards and the talent pool of operations managers that lead success at the sharp end of our industry. It is this talent that the ALMR Operations Managers Awards exists to recognise, reward and develop.” Kris Gumbrell, managing director of Brewhouse & Kitchen and a mentor judge of the ops manager awards programme, said: “I am proud to have worked with some of the very best managed and tenanted ops managers, and I am sure that these awards are exactly the right way to develop their talent and to recognise their contribution to business profitability in our industry. The finals judging involves probing interviews from separate panels of leading industry professionals – testing the finalists’ performance and potential. And all this leading up to the announcement of the winners, once again, at the ALMR Christmas lunch in December.”
Aylesbury plans restaurant quarter to anchor £15m redevelopment: The first £15m stage of the redevelopment of Aylesbury town centre will focus on new restaurants, homes and open spaces. Artists’ impressions show a grand, cloisters-style building housing eateries on the ground floor and flats above. This is the third time plans for Exchange Street have been put forward over more than a decade, with the credit crunch shelving many of the previous proposals. Neil Blake, who as leader of Aylesbury Vale Council is jointly responsible for spearheading the project said: “It is quite fortunate in many ways that we didn’t go ahead with the plans when they were put forward a few years ago. I think we were very lucky with the way that the economy has gone. The vision then was retail, the vision now is for less retail. The market has changed and people’s ideas have changed and the market for shops is not as strong. The success of the new Wagmama and Nando’s is generating interest. Success breeds success and if restaurateurs see what is already going on they will want to come here.” A planning application, which will be submitted in June this year will include around 2,250 sq metres of food and beverage facilities.
Inzani becomes partner at Poppleston Allen: The licensing law firm Poppleston Allen has been joined by the high-profile London-based solicitor Lisa Inzani. She acts for Bill’s, Cote and Wagamama and joins Poppleston Allen in mid-May as a partner from her previous firm Bevan Kidwell. Inzani, described in the Legal 500 as: “very highly regarded”, will work alongside partner Clare Eames at the firm’s London office. Eames said: “We’re delighted to welcome Lisa and her team to the firm. Lisa is a high-profile licensing solicitor with a fantastic reputation, and having her join our London team is a significant development for us, adding great strength and depth to an already market-leading team.”
Peter Martin – ‘JD Wetherspoon is on the rise’: Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA Peach, has warned operators about what he described as “the rise of JD Wetherspoon”, with 43% of all consumers reporting they gave eaten at a JD Wetherspoon in the past six months. Martin, speaking at the ALMR Spring Conference, described Wetherspoon as “clever and very self-critical”. More broadly, Martin said eating out was steady, with 46% of consumers eating out weekly, slightly up from the 44% figure recorded in the previous CGA Peach Brand Track survey. In London, 59% of consumer now eat out weekly. In total, consumers report using an average eight different foodservice brands in the past eight months, which Martin described as the “age of polygamy”.
Deutsche Bank leisure analyst Geof Collyer says ‘We have used the Propel Info Blue Book data for much of our sector break down analysis’: Leisure analyst Geof Collyer, of Deutsche Bank, has produced a note that examines the market share of the UK’s largest sector companies. He said: “Propel Info produces a detailed list of the top 200 or so companies that make up the pub and restaurant space. It is a movable feast year on year, as more groups achieve critical mass or just appear on the radar through publicity in the media. We have used the Propel Info Blue Book data for much of our sector break down analysis.” The Propel Info Blue Book provide turnover and profit figures for the UK’s 200 largest companies, looks at profit conversion percentages and provide information on directors salaries over five years. To buy a copy, e-mail

Company News:

Douglas Jack – Greene King sale is dilutive but strategically right: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has held his 975p price target on Greene King shares, arguing that its disposal of 275 pubs, announced yesterday, is dilutive, creating a £18.2m loss on disposal, but strategically right. He said: “Although the deal is strategically right, in our view, it has resulted in a 3% downgrade to our 2015E forecasts. We are cutting our recommendation to Hold (from Add), reflecting recent strength and our expectation that earnings growth will be muted over the next year. The pubs, which generated £12.4m of Ebitda last year (£45,000 per pub) are being sold for £275,000 per pub, a multiple of just 6.1x Ebitda, lower than the 7.6x that Marston’s sold 202 leased/tenanted pubs for to New River Retail in November 2012. Given the good quality of Greene King’s estate, this multiple does not provide a positive read-through to Enterprise Inns, which is on 10.2x EV/Ebitda. We are holding our 975p target price, as we believe earnings quality and scope for future upgrades has improved; the company’s re-positioning strategy is right, in our view. However, we are moving our stance to Hold to reflect recent strength and our expectation that earnings growth will be muted over the next year.”
Wetherspoon applies to open fourth Blackpool pub: A famous Blackpool amusement arcade could be set for a £2.2m new lease of life as the resort’s latest JD Wetherspoon pub – its fourth in the seaside town. The company is seeking to convert the Lucky Star Amusement Arcade on the Promenade, which was used as the backdrop for the BBC 2004 comedy musical “Blackpool”, starring David Morrissey and David Tennant. Blackpool Council’s planning committee looks likely to approve the application when it meets on 7 May. The development will cost around £2.2m and around 50 jobs will be created if it goes ahead. Wetherspoon already operates three pubs in Blackpool: the Auctioneer on Lytham Road in South Shore, opened in 1999, the Layton Rakes on Market Street, opened in 2011, and the Albert and the Lion on Central Promenade, opened in 2010. Wetherspoon’s chief executive, John Hutson, said: “We have enjoyed great success with our pubs in Blackpool and the surrounding towns and are keen to open another pub in Blackpool itself.” A design brief accompanying the application says the proposal “presents an opportunity to bring a viable, sustainable use to the building” and adds it will also help promote “future investment in Blackpool”.
Moto Hospitality reports increase in operating profit: The motorway service station company Moto Hospitality has reported a 1.1% fall in turnover to £840.09m in the year to 25 December 2013. Operating profit rose to £44.5m from £38.4m the year before. Adjusted profit before interest tax, depreciation and amortisation rose to £79.9m from £77.2m the previous year. However, interest payable “and similar charges” meant losses before tax were £77.5m, up from £75.5m the year before. Non-fuel turnover rose 5.95% but overall sales were down, mostly because of lower fuel sales. The company had a provision of £1.36m in respect of losses at six Travelodge sites it exited in September 2012 when it restructured. Travelodge continues to operate the six on a profit-share basis with Moto, which produces less profit than when they were rented.
Arc Inspirations to take 10,000 sq ft Leeds site for new concept: Arc Inspirations, the highly rated Leeds-based bar and restaurant operator headed by Martin Wolstencroft, is to take a 10,000 sq ft site at the former Gatecrasher nightclub site in Leeds. The restaurant/bar venture, to be called Manahatta, will front onto Lower Merrion Street which is being pedestrianised by Leeds Council to create a cosmopolitan street café environment in the city’s Northern Quarter. The property business ATC is investing more than £1m splitting the former nightclub into three units. The new Arc Inspirations opening will be just along from The Pit ,which Arc opened on Lower Merrion Street last summer. Manahatta, together with a third The Pit site due to open in Harrogate in June, will take Arc’s portfolio to 12.
Bristol trio to open second Rosemarino: Bristol trio Sam Fryer, Micro Bertoldi and Tony de Brito are to open their second Rosemarino site in Bristol. The three have worked in some of Bristol’s best restaurants, including the Glassboat, Riverstation, Hotel Du Vin and Goldbrick House. De Brito said: “Our concept is simple. We offer all-day dining options with emphasis on top-quality food served every day. Breakfast doesn’t stop at midday, but continues to run alongside our lunch menu. Dinner is inspired by traditional regional Italian dishes, but executed with a modern twist.” The first site opened between Park Street and Clifton Village in November 2010, and the second site opens in July in Colston Street. De Brito said: “Italian cuisine is more than pizza, spaghetti bolognese and Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling. Our concept is authentic, simple, tasty and real. My family has been a huge inspiration and central to the evolution and success of the business.”
TLC Inns extends bank facility, reports £965,000 pre-central overhead Ebitda: Award-winning pub and restaurant operator TLC Inns, which opened its seventh site last week in Ely, has reported unaudited pre-central overhead Ebitda of £965,000 for the financial year ending March, £230,000 up on the year before driven by a 10.1% growth in like-for-like sales. The company opened its second Grand Central bar and grill in Ely, Cambridgeshire, a week ago and hit sales of £28,000 in the first week from a 95-cover restaurant – the opening compares to turnover of £25,000 from the first week of Grand Central, Basildon, which has 145 more covers. The company’s bank, Barclays Corporate, added £200,000 to the company’s facility this week – TLC Inns is expecting to start work on a 6,000 square foot two-storey Grand Central at an unnamed major East Anglia population hub in the next six weeks. The company is also to press ahead with extending the footprint of the Ely Grand Central to add covers – it already has a full weekend bookings schedule for the next three weeks. Steve Haslam, who owns and operates TLC Inns with his wife Jo, told Propel: “Last year’s results were driven by a brilliant summer but we’re delighted to be ahead of budget by £90,000 in April. Ely Grand Central has made a tremendously strong start and we are already looking to increase its capacity.”
Staycity makes senior appointments: European serviced apartment operator Staycity has appointed a non-executive board director and two senior executives, Former Accor chief operating officer and member of Accor’s global executive committee Michael Flaxman, has been appointed to the board as a non-executive director. Flaxman, a much respected hotel operator, spent 27 years with Accor working across its hotel portfolio. Keith Freeman becomes Staycity’s chief operating officer. Freeman, previously operations manager with Whitbread’s budget brand Premier Inn, was closely involved in the successful launch of the brand in Ireland. The appointment of Michael Flaxman and Keith Freeman follows that of Anthony Carragher as Staycity’s chief commercial and development officer. Staycity, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary, has over 1,000 apartments across eight European cities with plans to expand to 5,000 over the next five years.
Yum! Brands to create Office of the Chairman leadership structure: Yum! Brands chief executive David Novak is to become executive chairman on 1 January 2015. Taco Bell division chief Greg Creed will become the next chief executive of Pizza Hut and KFC owner Yum. In his new position as executive chairman, Novak will form the Office of the Chairman, a new group that will also include Creed and Sam Su, chief executive of Yum’s China division and current vice chairman of Yum! Brands. “This new Office of the Chairman will partner as a triumvirate on overall corporate strategy and leadership development to propel continued growth,” Novak said.
Tom Dillon adds to fresh food offer at Richmond Cow site: Pub entrepreneur Tom Dillon, one of Young’s longest-serving tenants, is to extend the home-made offer at his Red Cow site in Richmond. Customers are now offered a varied selection of quick, savoury bar snacks such as pigs in blankets, sausage rolls, scotch eggs and pork crackling, all of which are freshly prepared in the pub. New head chef Shaun O’Brien said: “The Red Cow has always offered an excellent range of traditional pub food. We have embraced this philosophy and taken it to the next level by focusing on the details including making our own home made sauces and tasty traditional bar snacks. We have introduced some lighter lunchtime dishes such as the salmon fishcakes. Throughout the summer we will be firing up the big grill – starting this Sunday (4 May) – and offering sizzling meats, all sourced from our local butcher, including our new finger-licking sticky BBQ ribs.” The Red Cow has also installed a stone-baked oven, presenting a special pizza menu, which currently features four options including the classic Margarita, to the delicious mushroom, spinach, truffle oil and parmesan creation. Guests can enjoy their meal with a choice of five regularly rotating beers including Dogfish DNA, a craft beer from Bedford and Young’s Blonde, a light and crisp cask ale.
Avalanche plans £2m investment in two openings: The Manchester-based Italian restaurant Avalanche is set to launch two additional sites in the region. More than £2m will be invested in the restaurants, which are set to create more than 100 jobs. Avalanche first launched a venue on Booth Street in Manchester’s Italian quarter in 2012. After the venue’s success, plans are now afoot to set up another venue in the city centre and one in south Manchester. Zara Ishaq, the managing director of Avalanche, which specialises in fish and seafood and has a late lounge bar, said the restaurant a £2m turnover during its first year of trade. She told the local newspaper: “Avalanche has witnessed rapid growth since its initial launch – exceeding the original business plan and surpassing our projected turnover figure for 2013. The restaurant has reported an impressive month-on-month growth in sales and restaurant covers, with a turnover of £2m in its first year of trade. Over the past 18 months we have created a loyal customer-base and built a credible reputation and brand that has become synonymous with fine Italian dining.”
UK McDonald’s to attempt drive-through record on Bank Holiday Monday – with free food: McDonald’s drive-throughs in the UK will attempt to claim a new UK record on Bank Holiday, handing out free food in the process. To encourage more customers to take part, each car that places an order in one of the chain’s drive-through restaurants between noon and 2pm on the day will receive a free McChicken Sandwich worth £2.69. The current record is 232 cars served in one hour. One manager said: “The restaurant normally serves 130 cars per hour at weekends so we’re going to have our work cut out during the record challenge.”
Hummus Bros introduces new summer menu, longer hours and deliveries: The London-based fresh food brand Hummus Bros has introduced longer hours and deliveries as it launches its summer menu. The new evening and weekend menu started this week at its Soho, Holborn and Exmouth Market restaurants and an all-new take-away menu will be offered in Cheapside from early May. Managing director Jon Hassall said: “Over the past few weeks we have been experimenting with new flavours and combinations to make our evening offer even more compelling. Customers can still order their favourite topping served on our delicious hummus, but this new menu focuses on half/half options like aubergine and falafel or chicken and guacamole served together. In addition to extending our opening hours and offering this new menu to our traditional dine-in customers, we have also heavily invested in our website and upgraded our online ordering function and are looking forward to catering more solo and group lunches, dinners and events across the city.”
McMullen invests £240,000 in tenanted estate: McMullen & Sons, the family brewer based in Hertford, is spending £240,000 on four pubs as part of on-going investment into its tenanted pub portfolio. The biggest spend, £60,000, is at The Bakers Arm in Bayford, which was formerly a row of farm workers’ cottages. New secondary glazing in all customer areas has boosted the pub’s eco-efficiency, while the six en-suite guest rooms have been upgraded. Fergus McMullen, production and sales director at McMullen, said: “We’re in the middle of an extensive investment programme to ensure our tenants have a McMullen pub that is comfortable and attractive to customers, and is also competitive in its retailing appearance and facilities. We’re always keen to work with entrepreneurial landlords who have a firm vision of how they want their pub to be, and will provide the support necessary to make their site a success. We are thrilled with the results so far.”
Colombo Group to open second Blue Kitchen in Shoreditch site: Colombo Group is to open a new site, Blues Kitchen, in Shoreditch, East London, occupying the former Bar Music Hall site. The venue, due to open this month, is the second Blues Kitchen: the first opened in Camden, North London in 2009. The site, across two floors in a converted Victorian warehouse, will have capacity for 500 and seats for 150, with two bars, a dining area, booth seating and a dance floor. A 1950s Airstream caravan will be cut in half and located at the back of the space, and will be available for private hire or as a VIP drinks area.
Cau opens in Kingston: Cau, the Argentinean steak chain, launches in Kingston upon Thames today (Friday 2 May). After openings in Tunbridge Wells in February and Blackheath in November 2013, Cau Kingston is the group’s fifth UK opening. Cau’s all-day menu features steaks, burgers and sandwiches as well as comfort food such as pasta, fish and salads, fusing Italian and Spanish influences “with a distinctive Buenos Aires twist”, the chain says. Patsy Godik, creative director at Cau, said: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting new development in Kingston, and are thrilled to have such a great site overlooking the river.”
Frankie & Benny’s becomes third restaurant at Trowbridge site: Restaurant Group’s Frankie & Benny’s brand has become the third restaurant opening at the £17m St Stephen’s Place complex in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, creating 40 jobs. The leisure park, which also has an Odeon cinema, and Nando’s and Prezzo outlets and a Premier Inn, opened in October last year. Richoux Group’s Dean’s Diner brand is due to open at the centre in July.
Stonegate’s Classic Inns launches summer mini-menus: Stonegate Pub Company’s Classic Inns chain has launched a summer twist in addition to its main menu. Sam Maynard, the chain’s marketing manager, said: “We will be presenting summer food and drink additions as part of our Summer Lovin’ range. The food menu will feature hot and cold platters – perfect for sharing – alongside summer sorbets with a choice of three flavours; mango, blackcurrant or lemon. The summer drinks menu will offer classics including the Aperol Spritz and Pimms and Lemonade as well as the flavour of the season – pomegranate and elderflower tonic, blended with Absolut vodka or Hendricks gin. These menus will add a summer twist to our food and drinks offer and give customers additional choice. In addition to the Summer Lovin’ selection, we will also be introducing a BBQ menu featuring beefburgers in brioche buns with sautéed onions, Cumberland sausages, pork ribs slathered in BBQ sauce and chicken breasts with sticky Tabasco sauce.”
Nando’s launches first ever cinema campaign: Nando’s has launched its first ever cinema campaign, Campaign magazine has reported. The three spots, created by 18 Feet & Rising, promote Nando’s Wing Roulette platter of spicy chicken wings. The work, which will also feature online, was directed by the Marquis of Hawaii through Riff Raff.
M&B’s Nicholson’s brand celebrates anniversary of best-selling signature ale: Mitchells & Butlers 77-strong Nicholson’s Pubs brand is to celebrate the anniversary of its signature branded ale, Nicholson’s Pale Ale, with a range of special offers, promotional offers, sampling sessions and Meet the Brewer activity on Friday 9 May. The festivities will take place across its 77-pub estate to celebrate what has become the chain’s best-selling beer. Nicholson’s launched its own branded beer two years ago and chose to work with the St Austell brewery. Together they created what Nicholson’s calls an easy-to-drink “tasty sessional beer” which has become a key brand in the St Austell portfolio alongside Tribute and Proper Job. Nicholson’s will be running Facebook competitions for chances to win exclusive commemorative T-shirt giveaways during the week commencing 5 May. During the main event on the Friday, customers can claim free samples of Pale Ale between lunchtime and early evening, plus specially created birthday cake and cupcakes by Nicholson’s own chefs using the pale ale as an ingredient. The main competition, for a trip for two to St Austell for a brewery tour, including travel and accommodation, will take place on the Friday via Facebook. Three years ago, 11% of total drinks sales was cask ale, a figure which has grown to 20%.
McDonald’s US franchisees criticise menu complexity and free coffee: McDonald’s franchisees in the United States have criticised the company’s rapidly expanding menu and free two-week coffee offer, according to a recent survey. One franchisee wrote in response to the survey by the financial services firm Janney Capital Markets: “Our menu is a disaster for both employees and the customer. It has killed our speed of service.” Another franchise owner wrote: “We need to get rid of a lot of products: too many Quarter Pounder versions, too many chicken versions, too many [full-size] wrap versions, too many SnackWrap versions.”
May Capital – ‘We are looking for more deals in the tenanted sector’: Noah Bulkin, the founder of May Capital, who acquired 275 Greene King tenanted pubs this morning on the first anniversary of founding the business, has told Propel that he is looking to add to his first portfolio of pubs. Bulkin said he believes there are further tenanted pubs within the Greene King, Marston’s, Irish banks, Heineken, Punch and Enterprise portfolios that were suited to the company’s operational model. May Capital, which will operate the sites under the Hawthorn Leisure banner, has already been linked to a package of around 50 R&L Properties sites that was formerly part of Robert Tchenguiz’s pub holdings. Bulkin, who, before setting up May Capital, was involved in £8.5bn of aggregate pub sector mergers and acquisitions during a career with Merrill Lynch and Lazard, said: “May Capital was founded around the fundamental idea that there is a very large number of wet-led regional tenanted pubs that are good quality assets with high quality tenants – but in many cases they are regarded as non-core or sitting on bank balance sheets. They are often owned by people who don’t really want to invest in them or own them.” Bulkin said sites had a “tremendous amount of potential” for tailored investment and a “flexible, innovative approach”. He said: “Greene King, for example, is a phenomenal operator but ultimately has a number of different priorities. Our focus will be on these pubs – for Greene King they are non-core, for us, they are core. We plan to have just 35 pubs per area manager, for example, and have behind us Avenue Capital, which oversees $14bn of assets and has a tremendous amount of fire-power. We will looking to invest in the estate in a very tailored and customised way while being innovative and very flexible.” The new chief executive of Hawthorn Leisure is Gerry Carroll, who oversaw 4,000 pubs at Enterprise Inns and was involved in Project Beacon, which created a new hybrid tenanted operating template. Asked about Hawthorn’s eventual size, Bulkin said: “We’re not fixed on any particular number, but there’s scope to take the company up to a much bigger size.” The portfolio of 275 Greene King tenanted pubs is 98% freehold, predominantly on tied tenancy arrangements. Approximately 192 pubs are in the south east, the Midlands and the east and west of England, 66 pubs are in Scotland, and 17 pubs are in other parts of England. Hawthorn Leisure has partnered with the wholesaler Matthew Clark to provide beer, wine, spirits and minerals supply and distribution services. Hugh Briggs, a partner at May Capital, has taken the position of chief financial officer of Hawthorn Leisure. Briggs was a senior member of the financing team at CVC Capital Partners for five years and previously held senior positions at DB Capital Partners and Mid Ocean Partners and worked in leveraged finance at Salomon Brothers, Citibank and Credit Suisse.

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