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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 9th May 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Technomic – fast casual continues to steal market share in the US: New research contained within Technomic’s Top 150 Fast-Casual Chain Restaurant Report reveals that the fast-casual segment continues to steal market share in the US from full-service chains and drive limited-service growth, making up 15% of the $231 billion limited-service restaurant segment. Fast-casual sales increased 11% in 2013, while all limited-service chains grew by only 3.5%. “It’s no secret that today’s consumer wants quality offerings made quickly,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. “Fast casual has made an impact on the full and limited-service restaurant landscape. Before, a consumer might have traded a quality and fresh meal for something quick and economical. Fast casual continues to find new ways to offer both, and it’s become a $34.5 billion segment.” Bakery cafes continued to lead all menu categories among the Top 150 fast-casual chains, with US system-wide sales of $6.7 billion, up more than 9% over 2012. The Mexican and Sandwich categories were second and third largest, with US system-wide sales of $6.4 and $4.9 billion, respectively. Technomic and Propel Info are partnering for a full-day conference on Tuesday 10 June that will explore current UK and US food and beverage menu trends. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “The conference covers new ground by dint of focus on the key food and drink menu trends shaping two of the largest foodservice markets in the world. The conference also looks at the key US firms looking to enter the UK and the points-of-difference of the most innovative launches in the US in recent times. The event also has operator panels and a presentation by Myles Doran of New Inventive Bar Company on how the company re-engineered its drink offer to a premium market position. In addition, attendees get two pieces of major research for free – Technomic’s annual analysis of the top 500 brands in the US and the top 200 brands in the UK. Menu innovation is fast becoming the key differentiator in the UK marketplace – and this conference provides the opportunity to get ahead of the curve.” E-mail for more information on the conference.

Industry News:

Luminar boss Peter Marks to present at the Propel Multi Conference on 3 July: Peter Marks, chief executive of Luminar, the UK’s largest nightclub company, will present at the Propel Multi Club conference on Thursday 3 July. He will talk about the turnaround taking place at the company through investment in premises and people. The Propel Multi Club Conference will be followed by the Propel summer party in the evening and is now open for bookings – operators can claim two free places each. A full-day conference will finish with 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
Host of sector companies to visit National Restaurant Association in Chicago with Propel and the ALMR next week: A host of sector companies will travel to Chicago next week to attend the National Restaurant Association show and tour cutting-edge concepts in the city on a trip organised by Propel and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). Among the companies on the study tour are: Marston’s, Young & Co, Spirit, Draft House, Burning Night Group, TCG, Apartment Group, Innventure, Anglian Country Inns, Bed and Bars, Admiral Taverns, Geronimo, Best Place Inns, Frog Pubs and Bulldog Hotel Group. The trip includes four different study tours of fast-casual concepts and leading bar and pub concepts in the city. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “This is best-attended tour so far, with more than 40 people coming along. Aside from the world’s largest restaurant show, attendees can choose between four different study tours, with 18 hours of touring Chicago hot concepts on offer. We will be visiting around 20 fast casual and bar concepts. The appetite for understanding key US trends is very strong – the trip sold out in seven working days.”
Eataly in New York to replace wine store with Nutella bar: Eataly, the foodservice phenomenon which seeks to create a modern-day piazza, is to open a Nutella bar at its flagship New York site after a Nutella bar in Chicago produced 45-minute waits at weekends. The new counter will serve a menu of Nutella on toast, Nutella on croissants, Nutella on muffins, Nutella cookies and Nutella tarts. It will be replacing the wine store which was forced to close by the state liquor authority, when it was discovered that Eataly (and owners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich) were both importing wine from Bastianich’s vineyard and selling it, which is against local liquor laws.
One cup of coffee a day good for eyesight: Researchers have claimed that one cup of coffee could help prevent deteriorating eyesight and possible blindness from retinal degeneration due to glaucoma, aging and diabetes. Raw coffee is, on average, just 1% caffeine, but it contains 7% to 9% chlorogenic acid, a strong antioxidant that prevents retinal degeneration in mice, according to the study by Cornell University.
Twitter to launch Restaurant Week: Twitter will launched Restaurant Week under the hashtag #RestaurantWeek in June, and is inviting restaurants to take part. The week-long celebration of the industry will take place from 2-8 June, and is open to all restaurants across the UK and Ireland. The week has been created to shine a light on the diversity of the restaurant industry in the British Isles, helping restaurant owners to connect with their local communities, showcase their menus, profile their staff and bring new customers through the door. Restaurants will be able to take part in #RestaurantWeek by tweeting with a different hashtag each day, giving customers a peek behind the kitchen doors and into the day-to-day running of a restaurant. Each day’s hashtag will cover a different aspect of the restaurant industry, and participating businesses can join in with as few or as many as they like. There will also be a free educational webinar for restaurant owners, managers and marketers, taking place on two dates in May.
Kentish Town pub saved from demolition by planning inspector: Conservationists are celebrating victory in a battle to save one of the oldest pubs in Kentish Town, North London from demolition. The former Castle Pub, on the corner of Castle Road and Kentish Town Road, was the subject of a planning appeal last month over whether its new owner, the property management firm Ringley, could press ahead with plans to demolish the Victorian building and replace it with a five-storey block of homes and offices. A Whitehall planning inspector dismissed the company’s appeal against a council decision not to grant planning consent for the project. He described the pub as a local landmark.
Barbecoa butchery was closed for 24 hours over hygiene failings: Jamie Oliver’s butchery at his Barbecoa restaurant, located behind St Paul’s Cathedral, had to close for 24 hours in January after hygiene inspectors found mouse droppings, mouldy carcasses and out-of-date wagyu beef, The Times has reported. The butchery closed voluntarily for 24 hours in January after the inspection and was given a score of one out of five. The inspectors found there was no safety management in place. The butchery is one of only 19 outlets out of a total of 1,659 in the City to receive an “A hazardous” City of London Corporation rating. The scale is A to E, with A being the worst.

Company News:

Positive UK sales in April push European McDonald’s sales up 0.9%: Positive like-for-like sales growth in the UK and France offset negative sales in Germany to push McDonald’s European sales up by 0.9% in April. Global like-for-likes increased 1.2% in April, thanks to a 2.9% sales increase in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Sales in the United States were flat for the month. During the month, US McDonald’s stores featured a McCafe coffee promotion and introduced a new premium sandwich, the Bacon Clubhouse. Strong promotional performance, value menu enhancements and growth at breakfast contributed to Europe’s better results.
Pret A Manger reports sales pass £500m mark: Pret A Manger has reported annual sales passed £500m for the first time in 2013. The company has reported sales grew 15% to reach £510m, with 40 new openings in the UK and elsewhere. Its top sellers were porridge and bananas, and it reported that pressed vegetables had outsold club sandwiches. The chain has begun to sell protein pots, fruit smoothies and kale crisps in the past year. Chief executive Clive Schlee said: “It shows how the market is changing – healthy is going to drive innovation.” The company will open in China this year and plans to open 20 to 25 UK sites. Ebitda increased 9% to £66.8m.
BrewDog hires US barbecue specialist to improve menus: BrewDog has hired a barbecue specialist from the United States who has spent time in the MeatLiquor business to improve menus at its UK bars. The new staff member, whom the company is referring to solely by his surname, Bates, will be in charge of food evolution across BrewDog’s UK bars, working on menus and training up kitchen staff to get quality and ingredients up to the highest possible standard. Bates said: “I hail from the Deep South of the States, South Carolina to be exact. I grew up cooking alongside pretty much every member of my family in all manners of food but in particular game, fish and BBQ (or pretty well any sort of way we could cook a hog). After growing up with food as a key part of my life, I’ve worked brewing beer, slinging pizzas, working in high-end restaurants and everything in between. When I moved to the UK I worked with the MeatLiquor guys and in my spare time I taught butchery, beer and food pairing and brewing. For the most part, the bars are going to be the same bastion of beer glory they have always been, but with higher quality, more carefully thought-out food options. There is a particular style of beer bars and beer dives in the States that do the typical categories of bar food, they just do them mind-bendingly well; things like custom or house ground burgers, in house charcuterie, delicious and unusual veggie options, house made sauces – the possibilities are endless. I’m keeping my ideas under my hat but I’d like to bring the UK food and beer standards up to match the rest of the world like New York, Chicago, Copenhagen. The best is yet to come.”
Thwaites in line to buy £3.8m Stamford coaching inn: Industry sources indicate that brewer and pub retailer Daniel Thwaites is tipped to buy The Crown Inn in Stamford, Lincolnshire for £3.8m. The coaching inn is currently owned by pub entrepreneur Michael Thurlby and his sister Sue Olver. The site is one of three site held within the All Saints Hotel vehicle and on the market for £5.5m through the property agent Christie + Co. The other sites are the Exeter Arms, Easton on the Hill, Stamford (£750,000 for the freehold) and The White Hart, Uffington, Lincolnshire (£750,000 for the freehold). It is thought that Thwaites will add the site to its seven-strong Inns of Character division, which includes the Inn at Keswick and The Lister Arms at Malham, North Yorkshire. Thurlby is expected to focus on his pub division, which specialises in cask ale and stone-baked pizza.
Opening 11 Starbucks boosts spend-per-head at Cineworld: Box office revenues at Cineworld Group increased by 8.6% and admissions rose by 6.8% in the 18 weeks to 1 May on a pro forma basis. The group’s box office market share in the UK and Ireland has risen to 27.6% from 26.9%. Cineworld says the growth in box office revenues was due to a rise in average ticket price of 4.8%, combined with an increase in admissions of 1.9%. The increase in retail revenue performance in the period was due to an upward trend in spend per person, which rose by 6.1%, benefiting from the positive contribution of the 11 Starbucks outlets which were open in the period, up from two in the comparative period a year earlier.
Holiday Inn portfolio comes on the market: A portfolio of 21 Holiday Inn sites has come on the market through the property agent Christie + Co. The portfolio has a total turnover of around £61m and is available as a group, in sub-groups and individually. Christie + Co said: “It offers more than 2,600 bedrooms located across 21 assets, a wide variety of asset management and potential re-branding opportunities with several properties offering additional development potential (subject to planning permission).” The sites offer more than 6,600 sq m of conference and events space, with 153 meeting rooms. The portfolio is principally freehold, with 18 freeholds and three long leaseholds. Christie said the sites had diversified cash flows and balanced exposure to all key market segments with group Q1 2014 turnover up 12% year-on-year.
SA Brain reports flat Ebitda for most recent year: The Cardiff-based brewer and pub operator SA Brain has reported flat ebitda of £11.8m in the year to 30 September 2013. Underlying operating profit grew by 1.3% to £3.7m in the year on turnover up 1.2% to £122.2m. The company said it expect its Coffee #1 chain to grow to 50 sites in 2015: it had 35 by the year-end. Brain’s said profitability was ahead of last year in the current half-year to 29 March 2014. Chief executive Scott Waddington said: “With a series of improved business processes now bedding in, we believe that profitability should continue to be ahead of last year and our business plan.”
Grand Union Group increases its external area provision with Brixton Pleasure Garden: Grand Union Group, the London bar operator led by Adam Marshall and backed by Luke Johnson that is known for its innovative external areas, is to open a “pleasure garden” at its Grand Union Brixton in South London on 15 May. The company said: “Winner of the Design My Night ‘Garden of the Year 2013’, the stunning, leafy landscape is one of London’s largest alfresco suntraps, with a capacity for 250 people. Expect tuk-tuks and colourful Thai-style bookable tree huts, some equipped with TVs so [customers] can socialise and watch all the highlights of this summer’s sporting fixtures. A giant projector screen pops up in the garden to show all the big games.” Grand Union also serves burgers from an external barbecue.
Craft Beer Co opens flagship Covent Garden site today: The Craft Beer Co opens a “flagship” site in Covent Garden in Central London today at noon, occupying the former Rudy’s Revenge site on High Holborn, a Punch Taverns pub. It will offer 15 cask ales and 30 kegs beers on taps and more than 200 hand-crafted spirits. Managing director Martin Hayes said previously: “We have always wanted to take our business into the West End, but, until now, we have had to look at sites that most operators couldn’t see a future in, or, sites where we were confident that our unique offer could work where others might fail. Thus far, we have built a well respected, five-unit business, with each outlet showing strong growth. This move into the West End is a game changer for us.”
Mitchells & Butlers re-opens Castle division Martha’s in Hampstead as The Washington: Mitchells & Butlers has-re-opened Martha’s in Hampstead as The Washington, sitting within its Castle division of iconic pubs. It has re-opened with a ‘secret’ basement bar. Eating at The Washington celebrates great British pub classics, with a few modern touches. Starters include a meat board with Trealy Farm meats, cured beef and scotched quails eggs, white onion and Aspall Cyder soup with rye bread and butter. Free range Cherry Orchard sausages, beer mustard mash and red wine gravy or cheeseburger with Taw Valley Cheddar feature on the main course selection.
David Moore hires Restaurant Property to find more One Sixty sites: Restaurateur David Moore has engaged Restaurant Property to secure further sites for his US-style smokehouse restaurant One Sixty and a new home for former pop-up Pieds Nus. In April, Moore, who owns Michelin-starred London restaurants Pied à Terre and L’Autre Pied, opened One Sixty in West Hampstead with Sean Martin, the former owner of the Northumberland Arms in Fitzrovia and the Barley Mow, in Marylebone. It is understood a deal for a second site could be signed as early as next month and there are plans for a third to follow. Meanwhile, Moore is also looking for a suitable site for Pieds Nus. The “less is more” concept, which offered traditional dishes stripped back to their main components, opened as a pop-up in October last year on the site of what was Simon Rogan’s Roganic in London’s Blandford Street, with chef Ed Dutton at the helm. Founder of Restaurant Property David Rawlinson said: “We have a very close relationship with David. What he doesn’t know about restaurants is not worth knowing. His canny judgement means he is a very reliable barometer of the market to follow.” Restaurant Property also brokered the original deal with Simon Rogan.
Michelin-starred chef to open new restaurant next week: James Sommerin, who held a Michelin star at the Crown at Whitebrook in Monmouthshire between 2007 and its closure in 2013, is to open a new restaurant, Restaurant James Sommerin at The Esplanade in Penarth, near Cardiff on 14 May. The restaurant will seat 70 diners in total, including a private dining room that seats 12 and a special chef’s table for two to four diners. Also available are nine en-suite bedrooms.
New service station changes faces of motorway food: A new service station, Gloucester Services, has opened on the M5 which claims to be changing the face of motorway food by providing farm-fresh local produce. Instead of food from branded chains, motorists can buy locally sourced products from a farm shop stocked with homemade cakes and pies, traditional regional cheeses and wild boar sausage rolls. The service station has no chain coffee shops, fast-food outlets or gambling machine. Construction for the new services, between junctions 11A and 12 on the northbound carriageway of the motorway, which will employ 130 people, began in early 2013. Gloucester Services’ business manager, Gavin Bastyan, said: “This is an opportunity for many suppliers to showcase their produce and gain a great amount of exposure. Customers are already telling us how different we are from normal service stations, and we want to put the traveller first. We’re also able to use suppliers from the area without impacting on the trade of local farm shops.” The £40m project will be completed next year when a southbound service station is built. Some 300 people will be employed by the two stations when completed. Gloucester Services is the sister of Tebay Services in Cumbria and works with 200 producers from the South West of England, 130 of them within 30 miles of the site. Alexander Evans, farm shop buyer at the new services, said: “We want travellers to be inspired by the local produce around them and take away a piece of Gloucestershire.”
Five new restaurant open at Milton Keynes extension: Five restaurants and a cafe are now all open at the Kingston Centre in Milton Keynes. Nando’s, Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito, Prezzo, Giraffe and Caffe Nero are located in the new £4m leisure extension on the southwest corner of the scheme. The new extension has created more than 150 new jobs for local people. Nick Beckett, centre manager for the Kingston Centre, said: “We are delighted that our new restaurants and cafe are now open.”
New Inventive Bar Company continues £10m evolution with Plymouth revamp: The New Inventive Bar Company, led by Mark McQuater, has continued its £10m evolution plan for its Revolution vodka bar brand with a £300,000 refurbishment in Plymouth. The bar has repositioned itself to aim at the lucrative pre- and post-theatre market. The downstairs bar at the venue, in Derry’s Cross, has become an elegant dining and cocktail bar as it looks to attract people attending shows at the nearby Theatre Royal and Plymouth Pavilions. Changes include new seating and lighting and a more extensive menu for diners. The re-branding aims to grow food sales by up to 25%. A spokesman said the bar’s city centre location had changed with a “maybe slightly older” clientele, and added: “Since the theatre has been refurbished, there’s more footfall.”
M&B launches 100% natural fruit juice range: Little Crackers, a fruit juice drinks range created especially for children, is to be launched across Mitchells and Butlers brands including Harvester and Toby Carvery. The drinks come in two flavours, Blackcurrant and Cherry, and Pear and Vanilla. These will both feature in spring/summer restaurant menus across the UK. The range, made with pure juice, and a splash of water, giving a high fruit content of 75%, and no added sugar or sweeteners, is already available in Tesco and Sainsbury’s, and is now starting to expand into the restaurant sector. Gavin Cox, managing director of the Cracker Drinks Co, said: “We work closely with the Mitchells and Butlers group and believe the 100% natural drinks will go down a storm with the family audience.”
Urban Leisure Group provides name for seventh site: Urban Leisure Group is to call its seventh site Ask for Janice. It will open on the former Kench and Bibsey site on Long Lane, Farringdon, Central London. It was acquired through the property agent Cedar Dean Gilmarc. Yesterday, Propel reported that the company is understood to be planning to re-open the site with an offer similar to its Elgin site in Maida Vale, West London, which offers fresh specialist coffees, homemade food, an extensive wine list and a growing range of craft beers.
Nando’s accused of soy growing negligence: Nando’s has been named in a list of European companies that should be doing more to encourage their supply chain to protect the environment, according to new analysis from WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature. The restaurant chain, along with Bernard Matthews, Iceland and Findus, is accused of not doing enough to encourage responsible soy growing to reduce the negative impacts of crop production. Duncan Williamson, WWF UK’s food policy manager, said: “Europe uses 34 million tonnes of soy a year, so companies must take responsibility for reducing deforestation, environmental degradation and social conflict in Latin America, where soya is mainly coming from.”
Vineyard Group to open planned Bath boutique hotel: The Vineyard Group will operate a new 40-bedroom hotel in Bath in the former Carfax hotel. The site is currently closed and will re-open as a boutique hotel in the late summer of 2015 after an extensive refurbishment. The hotel, which was formerly owned and run by the Salvation Army, has been acquired by an Italian-based property company, Geco Spa, off a guide price of £3.25m. The yet-to-be-named, hotel will occupy three Grade II Georgian town houses on Great Pulteney Street originally built by the architect Thomas Baldwin.
Intu reports 13 new restaurant lettings: The shopping centre owner Intu has welcomed the improving retail environment in the UK and has reported 13 new restaurant lettings. The group, which operates 18 shopping centres across the UK, said occupancy across its estate is 95%t and footfall for the period from 1 January to 8 May is 1% higher than for the same period last year. During the first quarter of its financial year, Intu signed 50 new long-term leases which represent £8.1m in new passing rent. This includes 13 new catering lettings, including Five Guys at the Trafford Centre and soon to open at Lakeside, Carluccio’s at Bromley and Tortilla at Watford.
Douglas Jack – we are expecting strong trading at the Restaurant Group: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas jack has forecast “strong trading” at the Restaurant Group when it issues a first quarter trading update on 15 May. He has issued an “add” recommendation with a 725p target price. Jack said: “Like-for-like sales rose 3.5% in January-February, a level we expect to have been at least maintained over the last two months. Although forecasts should be held after this IMS, we expect a strong update to boost the shares and increase upgrade risk in H2. 35 new outlets opened in 2013, increasing the average number of outlets by 6.6% and boosting sales by 5.5%. This implies that average sales in the new sites were lower than the estate average, but new sites should be trading well and set to deliver excellent returns. 36 to 43 sites are expected to open in 2014E, for which the pipeline is ‘superb’. The shares have de-rated slightly to 21x P/E (11.4x EV/Ebitda). Management change can be unsettling, but we are less concerned as we now believe Danny Breithaupt’s role, as the new CEO, should be heavily operations-orientated. We expect 2014E to be a strong year driven by like-for-like sales momentum amid subdued cost pressure.”
Restaurant veterans seek EIS funding for gastro-pub: Restaurant veterans Tom Harris and Jon Rotheram, who have worked at the St John hotel (now One Leicester Street), Nobu and Fifteen in London, are looking to raise Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) funding to open a gastropub. Their aim is to purchase a freehold public house and dining room through personal investment, crowd funding and capital raised via the EIS. The total cost is estimated at £2.5m, including £100,000 of their own money.
KFC franchisee fined over selling undercooked food: Queensway Hospitality Limited, which operates the KFC premises at Chesterway, Northwich, Cheshire under franchise, has been fined admitted placing an unsafe mini-chicken fillet burger on the market. Cheshire West and Chester Council prosecuted the company after a complaint to food safety officers concerning an incident on February 2, 2013 in which a three-year-old child ate the fillet. Food safety inspectors found evidence to suggest that in some instances chicken was being under-defrosted and that additional items were added to the defrosting cabinet during a defrosting cycle. The company admitted that the investigation revealed evidence of falsification of records by staff. It was fined £500 and ordered to pay £2,500 towards the council’s costs and a victim surcharge of £50.
Burger King rolls out burgers at breakfast in the US: Burger King is rolling out a new “Burgers at Breakfast” menu in the United States that makes selected lunch and dinner favourites available in the morning alongside the chain’s regular breakfast items. Previously, the rule was that burgers were not available until 10am or 10.30 am. Some franchisees already had been circumventing that timetable and were selling breakfast burgers. Now Burger King’s corporate HQ has given a formal green light to the practice, within boundaries.
Survey shows rise in operator confidence: Chefs and foodservice operators are feeling more confident about future trading than they were 12 months ago, with almost nine in ten – 86% – of those taking part in a survey anticipating an increase in sales over the next year and many less inclined to implement further cost-cutting measures. According to Eating Out-Look, a new quarterly survey of consumers and foodservice professionals from Horizons and JRA, a quarter of businesses are expecting a large increase in trade over the next 12 months, significantly higher than in 2013. Restaurateurs are the most optimistic about future trading with more than a third – 34% – of those surveyed anticipating large increases in food sales. A quarter of hotels and one in five pubs and bars also expect to see large increases. The survey, undertaken during March and April, reveals that operators are now less likely to be planning cost-saving measures compared with this time last year. In spring 2013 almost three quarters (73%) said they would be re-engineering menus to reduce costs. This year the proportion making similar plans has fallen to just over two thirds (67%.) Emma Read, Horizons’ director of marketing and business development, said: “These results support our previous research that shows consumers are beginning to increase their spending on eating out. Operators are much more optimistic about future food sales than they have been, and are now confident to scale back on the cost-cutting measures they implemented last year.” Last year nearly half (46%) were planning to withhold capital expenditure over the forthcoming 12 months. This year just one in three (32%) of operators are planning such cuts. Likewise, the percentage of operators planning to renegotiate supply contracts has fallen from 68% last year to 65% this year, while those intending to renegotiate equipment maintenance contracts has also dropped, from 38% to 27%. Easing up on cost-cutting extends to staffing levels as well. Last year nearly half – 44% – of operators were planning to reduce the number of hours their employees were working, while this spring just 38% had plans to do so. Over a third of survey respondents (34%) are planning to increase staff numbers, up from just one in five (21%) last year. Those planning to reduce, or freeze, wages has also dropped, from 41% last year to 30% this year. Of the 300 operators surveyed, many report that consumers are spending more when they dine out, with fewer spending under £6 than 12 months ago and significantly more spending over £20. Over two thirds of businesses (69%) report an increase in food sales year-on-year, with 20% of those reporting a large increase. Over half the survey participants (51%) report they are now serving more meals at the weekends than they did six months ago, with 47% noting a particular increase in Sunday trade. This uplift is consistent across outlet types, although pubs and bars report the biggest increase in weekend food sales. There is also a rise in the number of lunches being served, with 53% of respondents saying they were seeing a significant increase in lunch sales.

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