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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 13th May 2014 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Washington DC YO! Sushi closed: The first YO! Sushi site to open in the United States, located in Washington DC’s Union Street train station, has closed its doors less than two years after opening, it has emerged. YO! Sushi opened up in Union Station in July 2012 under franchise and was supposed to open a second location in Chinatown but that deal fell through. One local Twitter comment stated: “I guess conveyor belt sushi just isn’t our thing.” The Washington franchisee was due to open at least ten restaurants in the mid-Atlantic corridor between Washington and Philadelphia. Free refills on soft drinks and iced tea were added to meet US consumer demands at the first YO! Sushi opening. Chef Noriyuki Kudo, who oversaw the UK chain’s culinary operations in Washington, changed about 40% of the restaurant’s menu from its UK offer, with adjustments in areas such as portion size and roll options, adding new offerings such as yellowtail sashimi with diced jalapeno and citrus ponzu and shrimp glazed with creamy miso sauce. YO! Sushi’s Union Station location is understood to have drawn a steady lunch business, but was believed to have been quiet at weekends. YO! Sushi executive chairman Robin Rowland has high hopes of the US market. He told The Independent in 2012: “The great thing about that place is that we’ll get fantastic word of mouth very quickly – traffic between Union Station and New York is just phenomenal. After that, we’ll look for shopping centres, triple-A, prime downtown locations. The market is there and waiting for us. There are no real rivals to YO! in the US – the only sushi bars are still Mom and Pop operators, so the opportunity is tremendous.”

Industry News:

TCG’s Nigel Wright to present at the Propel Multi Conference on 3 July: Nigel Wright, chief operating officer of TCG, will present at the Propel Multi Club conference on 3 July. He will talk about the food, drink and investment initiatives that are driving the mainstream pub operator forward. 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 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

Company News:

Jamie Oliver eyes Tunbridge Wells for third Trattoria site: Chef Jamie Oliver has applied for planning consent to open a branch of Jamie’s Trattoria on Tunbridge Wells High Street. If granted, the restaurant will be sited at 46 to 50 High Street, alongside current occupant the Beluga Bar. In the planning application, lodged with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, agents Firstplan said the venture would create 40 new jobs. The restaurant wants to open from 7am to midnight Mondays to Thursdays, and until 12.30am on Fridays and Saturdays. A statement by the planning agent said: “The proposals will add vitality to the High Street by securing investment in the buildings, and the new restaurant is an appropriate use for the building, adding to both the daytime and evening offer.” The second Trattoria site is planned for Chelmsford with the first open in Richmond.
Tim Yates leaves Grand Union to join Urban Pubs and Bars: Tim Yates has stepped down as finance director of London bar operator Grand Union Group, led by Adam Marshall, to rejoin former colleagues Nick Pring and Malcolm Heap at Urban Pubs and Bars in the same role. Yates worked as finance director of Realpubs until Pring and Heap sold it to Greene King for £53.1m in 2011. He said: “I had a great couple of years at Grand Union, which has a very bright future. The move to Urban is about the attraction of working with people you’ve worked with before.” Urban Pubs and Bars operates The Old Ship Inn in Hackney, North London and The Whippet Inn in Kensal Rise, North London, both acquired this year. The company is looking to grow an estate of up to 20 sites across Central London and its “urban villages” over the next four years by acquiring quality leasehold or freehold public houses, capable of achieving weekly sales in excess of £20,000.
The Restaurant Group withdraws crab bruschetta from menu after Frankie & Benny’s complaint: The Restaurant Group has withdrawn a crab bruschetta menu item from its Frankie & Benny’s menu after a customer complaint. A diner at a branch of Frankie & Benny’s in Swansea was disappointed to find that the crab bruschetta he ordered appeared to have ‘the springy texture and sweet taste of fish sticks’, according to The Guardian. Steve Allen, from Swansea, claimed that instead of being a dish of shredded crab with fresh tomato, red onion and basil, his order had been padded out with surimi which are pulverised bits of cheaper fish, bound together with gums, sweeteners and salt to make a springy substitute. Allen received an email from one of the group’s marketing team admitting crab was, in fact, not the main ingredient, and it made up only 45% of the fish content of the meal, the rest being fake crab. But, said the email, the company felt its menu was within the law. An apology acknowledging an oversight on the menu description arrived, saying: “This item has been withdrawn from all Frankie & Benny’s restaurants and will not be included on the next edition of the menu.” Swansea Council trading standards confirmed that it had received a complaint about the dish and that it was investigating.
Inception Group – we’d like to open a pub: Inception Group, the operator of six sites in London including Bunga Bunga and Maggie’s, is setting its sights on opening a pub. Co-founder Duncan Sterling told The Telegraph: “We’ve always wanted to do a pub. Our business does not benefit from hot weather so it would be good to have one in summer so people can mill around outside.” The business has a turnover of £10m and is targeting £20m within two years with the addition of four more venues. The company will, however, now focus on London after considering regional openings. “There are so many pockets of London to chose from,” said fellow co-founder Charlie Gilkes. “And from a logistics and management point-of-view, it’s a lot easier to keep on top of the business if we’re solely in London.” 
Douglas Jack – Mitchells & Butlers shares are for the patient: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued a note on Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), shares with an ‘Add’ recommendation and a 525p Target Price, arguing that they are an option for the patient investor. He said: “For the interim results, due on 22 May, we forecast profit before tax to be up 2% to £76.7m (consensus £75.3m). Our H1 forecast assumes like-for-like sales rise 1% (implying a flat Q2) with margins falling 30bps. This reflects cautious guidance, but the combination of new IT systems, a focus on raising service standards and an improving economy should be starting to create some traction in relation to like-for-like profits. M&B’s 9.5x EV/Ebitda rating (8.3x if higher bond yields wipe out the pension deficit, worth £1.20/share) is not excessive, in our view, on forecasts with upside potential. We believe the catalysts are: like-for-like profits and expansion picking up (2015E); dividends resuming (this autumn) and the £0.6bn pension deficit falling (2015E).”

Football club applies to convert former Mitchells and Butlers pub to a drive-thru coffee shop: West Bromwich Albion have applied to demolish part of its fans’ favourite pub and replace the former pre-match pub with a drive-thru coffee shop. Architects working on behalf of West Bromwich Albion have applied to Sandwell Council to bulldoze part of the historic Hawthorns Hotel, which is Grade II listed, and convert the remainder of the building next to the stadium on Birmingham Road into a coffee shop. The pub, once operated by Mitchells and Butlers, is now owned by West Bromwich Albion, which purchased the freehold of the property four years ago for an undisclosed sum. It was a favourite with fans wanting a pint before a game and operated a members-only scheme for home fans. However, trade declined and the outlet stopped operating as a pub some years ago.
Michelin-starred pub chef plans first Bristol restaurant: Michelin-starred chef Josh Eggleton is planning to open his first Bristol restaurant. It will be called Salt and Malt although its location is under wraps. The new venue would be the Great British Menu star’s first permanent venue in the city – and he hinted that Salt and Malt may be an attempt to create a fish and chips-style experience with high quality, locally sourced ingredients. Until now his only permanent venue has been his award-winning gastropub in Chew Magna, The Pony and Trap. As well as opening the new restaurant, Eggleton is also considering developing a cookery academy to nurture young talent in the city.
Punch invests £2m in Lancashire sites: Punch Taverns have revealed that it has invested £2m into its estate across Lancashire in the last six months. As part of their strategy to own a portfolio of the highest quality pubs in the UK, the Burton-based pub company pledged an investment spend of £40 million this financial year. As a result of the recent investments, over 50 new jobs have been created for people within the local area. Some of the pubs that have seen a cash injection include the Brook Tavern in Preston, Cardwell Arms in Adlington, Chorley, Bull & Dog in Burscough, Ormskirk, the Beaumont in Bolton and the Woodsman in Leyland. One of the pubs to have seen a cash injection includes the Old Oak in Houghton, which had a £200,000 spend in March in partnership with AC investments. Taking on 20 new staff from the local area and using locally-sourced produce, The Old Oak has become the hub of the community. Owner Adam Chapman, said: “This is my fifth Punch pub and could always see the potential to create a family-friendly, home for home. We can now cater for a wider market, including families, as there is something for everyone.”
Luminar to invest £500,000 in St Albans nightclub: Nightclub company Luminar is investing £500,000 in refurbishing its Club Batchwood venue (formerly known as Batchwood Hall) in St Albans, creating up to 60 new jobs. The 1,380 capacity venue on Batchwood Drive closed in February for a three month investment that will transform this iconic building into a luxury nightclub with four distinctly-styled rooms, including dance rooms plus designated VIP areas. Luminar’s chief financial officer Russell Margerrrison said: “This is an iconic venue that has played a key role in the local night time economy in St Albans for almost 40 years. We’re very excited by the plans that will restore the club to its former glory and update the facilities to create a modern, elegant venue for our customers.” Key new features include a magnificent crystal chandelier in the Great Hall, the main dance room, which will feature the latest lighting and sound system. There will also be ten VIP booths for hire and the downstairs lounge will become an all-purpose function room that can be hired out for private bookings and events as well as making a third music room. The Disco Room, known for its retro music, will be renamed the Attic dance room. The club will also feature a refurbished Grey Goose VIP Suite, with booth seating and ‘lavish décor’ in a more intimate setting.
Prezzo launches new summer menu: Prezzo, the restaurant group head by Jonathan Kaye, has launched a new summer menu comprising a new range of light flatbread pizzas, salads and desserts as well as a new Italian wine offering. New menu items include a range of flatbread pizzas. In addition, crab cakes (£10.95) and a salmon nicoise (£10.75) have been introduced as part of the salad offering. A light and crunchy Lemon Posset (£5.25) has been introduced to the dessert offering as part of the new Prezzo menu.
Business trio open third site: A trio of business partners have opened their third site in South Shields. Stephen Sullivan, Gavin Mann and Kimberley Wilkinson opened the doors to Wicked at the weekend. The nightclub, which was formerly Vogue, in Ocean Road, follows the opening of Trocaderos, in Prince George Square, and Bar 44, also in Ocean Road. The trio recently celebrated the fourth anniversary of Trocaderos and have operated Bar 44 for the last two years.
Greene King sells Harrogate pub: Greene King has sold The Harwood Pub in Pannal, Harrogate, amid speculation that another convenience supermarket will take its place. A spokesman for Greene King said: “After an extensive review of the business, we made the difficult decision that the Harwood no longer fits within our core estate and have now sold the pub.”
JD Wetherspoon gets planning go-ahead for fourth Blackpool pub: Plans for the Lucky Star Amusement Arcade in South Shore, Blackpool, to be converted to a Wetherspoon’s pub have been given the go-ahead by town hall planning chiefs. The company, which operates three pubs in Blackpool already, wants to invest £2.2m in the property on the Promenade, which was used as the backdrop for the BBC 2004 comedy musical Blackpool starring David Morrissey and David Tennant. Wetherspoon’s must now apply to the council for an alcohol licence for the venue before the scheme can go ahead.
Marston’s pub for new-build pub in Kent is dropped: Plans for a new-build family pub have been dropped from the Neats Court retail development in Queenborough, Kent. Marston’s had been confirmed as a tenant for the Queenborough site but the plan has been dropped. In its place, LXB Retail Properties, the developer behind the project, is planning to create space for smaller restaurants and leisure units, such as coffee shops.
Adam Hyman – Le Colombier to close: Restaurant consultant Adam Hyman has reported that Le Colombier restaurant in Chelsea is to close. In his weekly news update, he stated: “The French restaurant, long popular with celebrities, will shut as its owners, the Garnier brothers, pursue other projects. In 2012, it was reported that Le Colombier’s landlord intended to build flats on the upper floors, which Didier Garnier said would cause the restaurant to close.”
Loungers opens in Chippenham: Cafe bar brand Loungers, headed by Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop, has opened in a new site, Rivo Lounge, in Chippenham. The company has opened in two units on The Bridge next to the river, previously occupied by Global Furniture. Reilley said the company invested £450,000 in fitting it out. He told the local newspaper: “We are excited and cautiously optimistic. I think it will do very well. Everyone gets distracted by Bath but we believe there is potential in Chippenham that we feel has been overlooked historically and we need to persuade (residents) to stay. It’s a cracking spot, so prominent within the centre and very obvious on that corner. This is a substantial investment for us – we have spent £100,000 on the kitchen alone. It’s a nice roomy layout with 120 seats.”
PizzaExpress adds chilled salad dressings to retail range: PizzaExpress has added chilled salad dressings to its retail range. Three top-selling ambient lines – House, House light and Caeser Light – will be made available chilled in Asda and Waitrose from this month with a recommended retail price of £1.49. All About Food, which also oversees the Masterchef and Nando’s retail ranges, said it hoped to attract customers who didn’t ordinarily visit the ambient isle. It argued that own label brands dominated chilled isles and a well-known brand would increase interest.
SSP names its top barista: SSP, the leading operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has named Kate Crozier, who works at Belfast International Airport, as its UK Barista Champion. Crozier, who works at the airport’s Caffè Ritazza, beat off competition from over a hundred of the company’s top coffee creators to scoop the prize. Simon Honan, from Dublin Airport, took second prize and Ruta Joneckyte, from Manchester Airport, came third. SSP’s most talented baristas from 700 cafes, restaurants and bars operated by SSP across the UK including Caffè Ritazza, Starbucks and Upper Crust, were selected to take part in the contest.
Celebrated Indian restaurant chef launches cook-book: A chef has launched her own cook-book at her family’s celebrated Indian restaurant, Brilliant, in Southall. Dipna Anand is the author of Beyond Brilliant, which contains a host of tasty and healthy Indian dishes. She is the third generation of a family of chefs. Brilliant restaurant, in Western Road, has served traditional Punjabi cuisine for almost 40 years. Dipna has already won a British Curry Award, given to her by David Cameron and Brilliant is one of Gordon Ramsay’s top restaurants. She said: “For me to know that other people will be cooking my recipes and get the dish perfect is the most satisfying thing. It means the world to me if I put a smile on faces.” Brilliant restaurant was first opened in Kenya in the 1950s by Bishen Dass Anand. When the family moved to the UK in 1973, Bishen’s sons, Kewal and Gulu, decided to continue the business and reopened in Southall in 1975.
Cafe owners to launch wholesale business: Bruce Brown and Luke Jackson, who run Foxes Cafe in Abbey Street, Carlisle, plan to launch a wholesale business producing fine coffee blends for hotels and coffee shops across the region by the end of May. The new business, Bruce & Luke’s Handcrafted Coffee, will aim to tap into Cumbria’s growing market for quality food and drink. “We’ve seen that more and more people take an interest in different wines and craft beers and we want people to think about coffee in the same way with different coffee flavours suiting different foods and tastes,” said Jackson.
Starbucks expand US public relations firm’s remit to the UK: Seattle’s Best Coffee (SBC) has extended Zeno Group’s PR remit beyond the US, as the Starbucks brand launches in the UK. Zeno has handled the sub-brand’s US PR for the past four years, and takes on UK duties following a competitive review. Seattle’s Best Coffee will roll out in partnership with Asda, KFC and Kiddicare, with plans to have 100 outlets in place by the end of this year. “We chose to launch Seattle’s Best Coffee in the UK because we know Brits love their coffee and we want to bring over 40 years of coffee heritage and expertise to great retailers, who we have not yet had an opportunity to partner with,” said Starbucks EMEA foodservice director, Simon Hillier.
Bunzl secures £14m Pret and Ministry of Defence contracts: Bunzl Lockhart Catering Equipment, the UK’s leading distributor of light and heavy equipment to the catering and hospitality industry, has secured two new contracts worth over £14m with Pret A Manger and the Ministry of Defence. The business will supply a range of light catering equipment and bespoke lines to all 270 of the Pret A Manger sites in the UK, and are also in talks to service sites in Europe.
Artisan doughnut concept launches: An artisan doughnut concept Crosstown Doughnuts has launched in London with a market stall. The business will trade from a site at Leather Lane Market, Farringdon. Crosstown Doughnuts is planning to launch a doughnut truck to reach consumers at London festivals, with a store in the pipeline. The concept is backed by Adam Wills, co-founder of the Gourmet Burger Kitchen and directors include Marcus Miller, founder of Miller’s Bespoke Bakery and entrepreneur Jian-Peng Then. Another shareholder is Peter Gordon, executive chef and co-owner of London’s Kopapa and The Providores & Tapa Room.
McDonald’s UK celebrates city-based burgers and US music: McDonald’s UK is once again paying tribute to the home of the burger with a “Great Tastes of America” promotion it has run for the past few years. This time it will celebrate music as well as burgers. Agency Razorfish has produced a “Fresh Beats” digital music-mixing site that allow visitors to create soundtracks with customised beats and sound loops. The music effects change in each of the promotion’s five weeks, linked to the US city and burger being spotlighted. Razorfish creative director Anders Plyhm told “We wanted to create something that people could get involved with, something that allows them to get in the mood for a great American burger. We’ve built a fun, intuitive interface and one we think McDonald’s fans will thoroughly enjoy.”
Papa John’s franchisee opens fourth site in three years: Pizza delivery chain Papa John’s franchisee Gurnek Singh has opened his fourth site in three years, this time in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Singh opened his first Papa John’s in 2011 and now operates stores in Rugby, Leamington Spa and Sheffield. Singh said that running multiple stores “is almost easier than managing one as you have a bigger team to help you”. The average cost of a Papa John’s franchise is in the range of £177,000 to £225,000 (excluding VAT and freehold, and of which £70,000 should be liquid funds.) Meanwhile, Papa John’s has teamed up with customer engagement technology Rant & Rave following a successful trial that saw customers invited to share their thoughts on their pizza at the point of delivery via text message. All Papa John’s pizza boxes will boast a call to action, inviting customers to share their thoughts via QR code, or by texting Papa to 66099.
Alnwick Garden to become the only Krispy Kreme location between Newcastle and Edinburgh: Alwick Garden in Northumberland is to become the only Krispy Kreme location between Edinburgh and Newcastle. A great fan of the doughnut brand, The Duchess of Northumberland said: “I love Krispy Kremes as a treat and I’ve often given a box to friends as a thank you. It’s a very popular present and fantastic that Northumberland has at last got a Krispy Kreme outlet.” Krispy Kreme will open at The Alnwick Garden this Friday (16 May).
Arran Brewery joins bidders for Bladnoch Distillery: Arran Brewery and partner investors have joined the race to acquire Bladnoch Distillery near Wigtown. The Arran-led consortium is expected to be among several bidders for Scotland’s most southerly distillery, which went into liquidation in March. Its assets are being sold by Ernst & Young. The move comes after Arran ended its bid to purchase the former Rosebank Distillery in Falkirk. But it is proceeding with plans to expand its brewery on Arran, launch a new brewery on Loch Earn in Perthshire, and acquire a third at a location still to be disclosed. The firm is also aiming to launch a sake brewery in a former primary school in Dreghorn, Ayrshire.
Carluccio’s opens in Nottingham’s West Bridgeford area: Carluccio’s has opened a new site in West Bridgford, Nottingham. Simon Kossoff, chief executive of Carluccio’s, said: “We have been keen to open in West Bridgford for a number of years now and are delighted to have finally found the right site for us.”
Tanner brothers open Kent gastro-pub: Celebrity chefs James and Chris Tanner have opened a new gastro-pub site called the Kentish Hare in Bidborough, Kent. The pub is owned by Sir Keith and Lady Maureen Mills. The Tanner brothers already run Tanners Restaurant in Plymouth, and this year opened a farm shop, street food hut, butchery and a takeaway fish and chip shop on the quay in Looe. James Tanner said: “Chris and I are from Kent originally so we are very excited to be bringing our successful formula of fresh, local produce at realistic prices to the county. We have every confidence in the team we have put in place and have received a great deal of support from local suppliers and customers – which we hope is an indication of a long and successful future in Bidborough.” The Kentish Hare opened on Saturday (10 May).
Boutique hotel with three cocktail bars opens: The Edgbaston, a new luxury boutique hotel from the team behind Warwickshire’s award-winning hotel and cocktail venue The Kenilworth, has opened offering six bedrooms and three cocktail bars. It is the latest addition to Edgbaston’s new “village” hub in Highfield Road. Since its launch ten years ago, The Kenilworth has been named among the UK’s 50 best bars by The Independent and scooped a number of accolades in national bar and restaurant awards. Owners are brothers Stuart and Darren Insall, who are hoping to duplicate the success of the 16th century Kenilworth cottage at The Edgbaston, a building dating back to 1847 and restored with a modern take on the art deco style. Darren said: “This is our first venture into the city and aims to appeal to a much larger population. We class what we do as hospitality, not just service. Anybody can serve but it’s about how you make the customer feel.”
Just Falafel plans 57 Benelux openings: UAE restaurant chain Just Falafel is to open another 57 branches in the Benelux region. Operated by Egyptian conglomerate Wadi Degla Holding, the Just Falafel restaurants are scheduled to be opening in the coming year. Just Falafel chief executive Fadi Malas said: “Europe is an important region for Just Falafel, as it represents an area of significant demand for Middle Eastern food. The interest in our franchise offering has been overwhelming as we have a unique concept that is very compelling to prospective franchisees.”

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