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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 16th May 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Peter Hansen – US investment firms have taken a shine to the pub sector: American investors are coming to the UK to focus on acquiring "unloved" parts of the country's pub sector, according to Peter Hansen, founder and principal of the leading sector mergers and acquisitions advisory Sapient Corporate Finance. Hansen, writing in today's Propel Friday Opinion, due out later this morning, said: "One of the noticeable features of the pub M&A market during the past 18 months has been the arrival of large American distressed debt and property investment funds. Cerberus Capital Management started the trend with the acquisition of Admiral Taverns in January 2013 and recently acquired, from Prestbury, 134 freehold pubs leased to Spirit Pub Company and Punch Taverns. Apollo Global Management has also been active, acquiring Bramwell in September 2013 by buying the debt held by the banks and, most recently, taking ownership of Tragus from Blackstone. And two weeks ago, Avenue Capital, along with its partner, May Capital, acquired 275 pubs for £75.6m from Greene King to form Hawthorn Leisure." The reason for this, Hansen said, was that with the European macroeconomic environment improving US investors are raising substantial funds to invest in UK and European real estate, and in particular they are focusing on "unloved" parts of the pub sector. "Apollo, Cerberus and Avenue are open about being value-oriented, contrarian investors," Hansen said. "Their interest is in acquiring undervalued, out-of-fashion assets with strong recovery prospects. They also look for fundamentally strong businesses struggling with excessive leverage." US investors "are gambling that UK lending markets will recover over the next two to three years as banks and other lenders develop increasing confidence in the UK economic recovery," he said, adding that "it is Sapient’s view that as the economy improves and the trading recovery continues to deepen, this will attract more traditional investors to the sector. For example, the recent transaction completed by Avenue and May, at 6x outlet ebitda, is at least two 'turns' below the long-term average of 8x. As leverage levels increase, this should generate sizeable profits for investors such as Avenue and Cerberus." US investment firms take a shine to the pub sector by Peter Hansen: Propel Info Friday Opinion 16 May 2014
   

Industry news:

Ban on below-cost sale of alcohol 'a step in the right direction' says ALMR: The order approved by Parliament yesterday to ban the sale of alcohol below the cost of VAT and duty, which will take effect from 28 May, was a step in the right direction, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers said yesterday, but it urged the government to do more to tackle cheap alcohol. The measure approved by both Houses yesterday means that from 28 May it will be a mandatory condition on all premises licences that the alcohol cannot be sold for less than VAT plus duty. The ALMR's strategic affairs director, Kate Nicholls, said: “This is a step in the right direction towards tackling the continued problem of very cheap alcohol which the ALMR first identified in evidence to the Competition Commission in 2006. Figures released by the government last year showed that between them six out of seven supermarkets sell a staggering 220 million litres of alcohol below cost each year. The new legislation will finally address this – but it will only tackle the very worst excesses. With more than 70% of alcohol now consumed away from the safe, supervised environment of a pub or bar, and the latest research showing two thirds of consumers citing price as the main factor behind that, we need swift, tough and effective action not only to tackle pocket money prices but to impose the same regulation of promotional activity in the off trade as pubs, clubs and bars currently face.”
   
Domino's Pizza looking at opening in Italy: Domino's Pizza is looking at opening in Italy, the home of pizza, its chief executive, Patrick Doyle, has revealed. In an interview with the Associated Press in the US, Doyle said that while "there's a lot of pizza" in Italy, "there's not a lot of delivered pizza. So there may still be an opportunity. We're looking at it." However, Doyle admitted, "you'll see other markets open before you'll see Italy. The other big market that we're not in today is Argentina. And it's almost for the same reason — Argentina is actually very heavily, ethnically Italian."
   
Zero-hours contracts proposals must take balanced approached, says ALMR: Proposals unveiled yesterday by the Business Secretary, Vince Cable to extend further statutory rights to zero-hours workers have been met by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) with a call for a balanced approach. Cable. speaking at the Resolution Foundation, proposed allowing anyone on a zero-hours contract the right to request fixed-hours from their employer. The ALMR's strategic affairs director, Kate Nicholls, said in response: “There is a need to strike a balance between fairness and flexibility in order to tackle abuse whilst maintaining prosperity. Licensed hospitality is a sector which has a need for casual and temporary staff to deal with fluctuating demand. For many working in licensed retail, temporary and casual contracts offer a flexible method of working, particularly for those combining work with study. The ALMR supported the government’s initial proposals around tackling abusive exclusivity clauses and the promotion of best practice through employer codes. What we do not want is another level of bureaucratic restrictions which only add costs and impacts on our ability to invest in our people, in continued job creation and growth in our local communities.”
   

Company news:

Whiting and Hammond sees profits grow 26% in year of consolidation: The gastropub operator Whiting and Hammond saw profits before tax rise 26% for the year to 30 September 2013 in a year of consolidation, with no new pub acquisitions. Turnover was up 12% to £9.18m as a result of the previous year's acquisitions achieving rapid growth and the continuing strength of existing pubs, the company said in a statement lodged at Companies House. Operating profit was up 25% to £275,00, with interest receivable lifting pre-tax profits to £280,000. Capital expenditure during the year was £58,000, down from £294,000 in 2012. Wages and salaries rose 13% to £3.32m. Whiting & Hammond opened its eighth pub, the Kings Head, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent in March this year after a £750,000 co-investment with Punch Taverns.
   
Bill's aims for Notting Hill outlet: Bill's, the rapidly growing restaurant chain owned by Richard Caring, is looking to open in a former women's clothes shop in Notting Hill, West London. The chain has applied to Westminster Council for a new premises licence at 112 Westbourne Grove, which was formerly occupied by the Monsoon fashion chain. The premises are in the same row of shops as a Cote restaurant and a Carluccio's outlet. The premises, advertised by estate agents as covering 1,982 sq ft on the ground floor, with a 1,192 sq ft basement, are believed to have been on offer for a rent of £140,500 a year, with a 20-year lease expiring in March 2026. Earlier this month, Bill's announced that it was due to hit 38 sites by the end of June, having more than doubled in size since May last year.
   
Smith & Wollensky to open in central London: Smith & Wollensky, the high-end American steak restaurant chain, is planning to open in the art deco Adelphi building in John Adam Street, just off the Strand in Central London. A licensing application has gone in to Westminster Council, which is due to rule this month. The chain, which has nine outlets in the United States from Boston to Las Vegas, has been looking to open in London since 2006, at least. It started in New York in 1977, and boasts that it is the only national steakhouse chain to dry-age and butcher on site, fly in fresh lobster daily and make all sides and pastries by hand.
   
Wahaca to open in Cardiff in October: Wahaca, the Mexican restaurant chain, is planning to open its first restaurant outside London in October in the heart of Cardiff. The chain currently has 12 restaurants across London, nine years after the first one opened in Covent Garden. Wahaca's marketing manager, Oli Ingham, said the company was "hugely excited" to be coming to Cardiff. "The plan is to open at the end of October but we have some plans to come down with our Mexican street kitchen van before that," he said. "We’d love to have some suggestions of interesting spaces to park up. The best suggestions will go onto a shortlist. Also for each of our restaurant interiors, we invite a different street artist to graffiti the space, so we’re on the lookout for an up and coming artist to work with. Opening this new restaurant will be the biggest thing we've done since we began in London." The chain is taking over premises previously used by the shoe retailer LK Bennett in St David's Dewi Sant, The Hayes.
   
Tortilla looking at Victoria Place: Tortilla, the Californian burritos and tacos chain with 15 outlets in London and the regions, has applied for licensing permission for a site in Victoria Place, the shopping centre inside Victoria Station in London. The company currently has outlets in Angel, Bankside, Canary Wharf, Charing Cross, Clapham Junction, Hammersmith, Leadenhall, Oxford Circus, Stratford and Wimbledon in London, with new openings planned for Richmond and Camden, and other sites in Leeds, Southampton, Brighton, Bluewater and Watford. Tortilla was started by the Californian entrepreneur Brandon Stephens and his wife Jen in 2007 in Islington, North London.
   
Carluccio's announces accelerated international expansion as UK stores hit 80: Carluccio's is to open an additional seven overseas restaurants by the end of this year, growing the international portfolio to 15 stores. The announcement came as it opened its 80th outlet in the UK, at Heathrow Terminal 4. Carluccio's is to open two more sites in Turkey and Dubai with a second earmarked for both Abu Dhabi and Ireland. It will also open in the United States for the first time, with a 6,482 sq ft unit starting up in the autumn in the suburb of Alexandria in Washington DC. The new site in Heathrow T4, Carluccio’s first airside location in a UK airport, is adjacent to the walkway to Gates 10 to 25, where 50% of T4 passengers pass through. The 3,081 sq ft space will have 102 covers plus ten bar seats. Simon Kossoff, Carluccio's chief executive, said: "Carluccio's is entering a period of faster international growth alongside our continuing UK roll-out of between eight and ten sites per year."
   
Restaurant Group to open up to 43 new sites this year: The Restaurant Group plans to open between 36 and 43 new restaurants this year, roughly half of them Frankie & Benny's outlets, the company's chairman, Alan Jackson, told shareholders yesterday. Speaking at the company's AGM, Jackson said: "The quality of our new site pipeline over the next three years is the strongest we have seen since before the onset of the financial crisis." Current trading was in line with expectations, and "we are on track to report a very satisfactory first half performance", Jackson said. Trading for the first 19 weeks of the current financial year has been "strong", he said, with total sales 11% up on the previous year and like-for-like sales 4% up. During the first 19 weeks Restaurant Group opened 15 new restaurants, which were trading well and "set to deliver good returns", Jackson said. The company now operates more than 450 outlets.
   
Douglas Jack – we're holding our forecasts on Restaurant Group: Douglas Jack, leisure analyst at Numis Securities, told investors yesterday that his firm was holding its forecasts for the Restaurant Group, after a financial update from chairman Alan Jackson at the Frankie & Benny's owner's AGM. Jack, repeating his "Add" recommendation with a target price of 725p, said: "LFL sales rose 4% over the first 19 weeks, having risen 5% over the last 11 weeks. We are holding our forecasts, which assume LFL sales rise 3%. Given this and easier comps ahead, the risk of upgrades in H2 have increased. January-February LFL sales rose 3.5% (versus a comparative of 6.5%) against a backdrop of 4.5% growth in airport passengers and a 4.9% decline in cinema admissions. LFL sales have risen 5% since late February (versus a comp of 2.5%), benefiting from better underlying footfall trends: airport passenger volumes rose 4.8%; and cinema admissions were down an estimated 0.5%. Our forecasts assume just 10bps ebit margin growth in 2014E. This may be too cautious with LFL sales exceeding cost inflation (of 2% to 3%), amid no increase in promotional activity. 17 sites should open in H1 2014 versus eight in H1 2013, resulting in 2014E expansion being less H2-weighted than previously expected. We forecast 39 new openings this year (36 to 43 guidance), comprising 18 Frankie & Benny’s, five Coast to Coast, five pubs, six Chiquito and five concessions. We are holding our PBT forecasts (£80.0m; consensus £81.0m). The shares have de-rated slightly, during a period when capital has rotated into value stocks. We expect 2014-15E to be strong years, driven by expansion and LFL sales amid subdued cost pressure. We would use recent weakness as a buying opportunity."
   
Leon opens at East Midlands Airport:
Leon, the "healthy fast food" company, has opened a new flagship restaurant at East Midlands Airport in Castle Donington in partnership with HMSHost, part of Autogrill Group. Michiel Reuvers, head of business development at HMSHost, said: "We are so pleased with this new Leon restaurant and people are already visiting the airport just to experience the great food and service." Michelle Madeley, head of retail at the Manchester Airport Group said: "Leon looks absolutely spectacular and fits perfectly with our forward thinking approach to customer service. Already, our passengers are excited by the brand and it will undoubtedly become a key meeting point for passengers, visitors and staff." Leon now has 17 restaurants around the UK.
   
YO! Sushi comes to High Street Ken: YO! Sushi has opened a restaurant on High Street Kensington in West London, on the corner of Phillimore Gardens and a few minutes’ walk away from High Street Kensington tube station. The 4,400 sq ft, 76-seat restaurant is described by the company as "super-stylish" and "designed especially for the fashion heartland of London" by the Harrison Design agency. It will create more than 25 new jobs. The restaurant will have its own exclusive dish, Okonomiyaki, a traditional Japanese dish that is sometimes called "Japanese Pancake" or "Japanese Pizza", which is only available at the High Street Kensington branch. It will also offer a delivery service for local residents and businesses.
   
Storms fail to stop surge in sales of St Austell beers: Despite the South West region experiencing some of the worst storms since records began, the Cornish brewer and pub retailer saw volumes of its own beers leap 16% year-on-year for the first four months of 2014, while comparable sales in its managed estate grow by 10.7% on 2013. The news was announced at the company's AGM yesterday by its managing director, James Staughton. St Austell also revealed that annual turnover rose 10% to £116.6m in the year ended 28 December 2013, while ebitda was up 7.4% to £13.8m. Staughton said 2013 "was a year of expansion for both our free trade and national sales divisions: our own-beer production increased by 13.8%." Will Michelmore, St Austell's chairman, said that the company had invested £7.6 million during 2013 on acquisitions, refurbishments and infrastructure, the major part of it on the acquisition of a new site at the Quay in Exeter. "It is proposed to carry out a major development of this site and open it in the autumn of 2014," Michelmore said. He added that the strong cash flow of the business meant that net debt had fallen from £29.5m to £27.4m. Meanwhile, "we are negotiating on a leasehold site for a distribution depot in Avonmouth, a renowned hotel on the north coast of Cornwall and a further licensed property in Somerset."
   
Stonegate turns former Durham Varsity into Library: Stonegate Pub Company is spending £260,000 turning the former Varsity site on Saddler Street, Durham into one of its new-style student-friendly outlets under the name The Library. After it opens on 23 May, The Library will offer a coffee shop-style grab-and-go counter serving tea, coffee and snacks from 9am to eat in or take-away, a choice of five regularly rotating craft beers, super-fast broadband and a complimentary Wi-Fi-linked printer, plugs and USB ports for easy phone and computer charging, trestle-style tables and comfortable armchairs, two screens inside and a large plasma screen in the outside area. General manager Andrew Nicholson said: “The pub is great for both students and tourists as we are located on the route to Durham Castle."
   
Vapiano to open third site in London: Vapiano, the Italian casual dining restaurant group that has more than 140 outlets around the world, is due to open its third outlet in the UK in Wardour Street, Soho, Central London on Monday 23 June. The company is spending £2.1m on the new restaurant, which is on the site of a former nightclub and restaurant called Profile and will have a customer area of 7,000 sq ft and capacity for up to 250 diners. Vapiano's managing director, Phil Sermon, said: “This is just the start of our expansion and highlights our intent to open many more Vapiano restaurants in prime positions across London and the UK.” Last month, Sermon said he had a target of 50 Vapianos around the UK and 20 restaurants in London. The company's only other UK outlet currently is on Bankside in South London. It currently operates 141 restaurants in 28 countries including Brazil, Azerbaijan, Germany and the United States.
   
Marston's changes name of new pub after pressure from historians: Marston’s Inns and Taverns has agreed to name a new 180-cover pub and restaurant being built in Southend, Essex the Saxon King after local historians persuaded the company that the name originally planned – the Saxon Prince – was inaccurate. The pub, in Priory Crescent, Southend, is close to a tomb excavated in 2003 that is believed to be the grave of Saebert, a king of the East Saxons who died in 616. Mark Sharp, one of the people involved in persuading Marston's to change its original name, said: “The grave was called a princely burial by archaeologists, but that only means it is of the highest status – not that he was a prince." Marston’s said: “We worked closely with a group of local historians and consulted with them, which led to the name change. It was felt the Saxon King was the perfect fit and reflects the interests of the community.” The 2,000 sq ft pub, which will serve spit-roasted chicken and have a children’s play area, will open on Monday 9 June.
   
Davy's sees 42% rise in breakfast sales after extending offer: Davy's Wine Bar has seen a 42% rise in breakfast sales in the first week after it extended its breakfast offer across all its outlets in the City of London and the West End. Sarah Weir, Davy's operations director, said: "Off the back of customer feedback, we have extended our breakfast offer across our prime London locations. In the first week we have seen a 42% rise in breakfast sales. Feedback on the range has been fantastic," Simon Gaske, Davy's head of sales and marketing, said: "Our bars are perfectly located for the early morning meeting, better done over breakfast. We have over 52 private dining rooms for four to 40 people. Our smaller rooms have proven most popular for breakfast, with customers loving the added privacy."
   
Multi-site operator reopens Star Pubs site in Newcastle after complete overhaul: Fluid Group, the nine-strong independent operator led by managing director Oliver Vailkhard, has opened the Blackie Boy on the Groat market in Newcastle upon Tyne after a co-investment with Star Pubs and Bars. The Blackie Boy has undergone a complete overhaul which includes the creation of a new late night venue on its first floor branded the All Seeing Eye (ASE), which can be accessed from the Blackie Boy and the Perdu next door, which is also owned by Fluid Group. Dave Walker, Fluid Group's area manager, said: “The ASE is a cutting-edge late night venue and part of the evolution of the Newcastle nightscape. Investment in the site has enabled us to create an amazing experience for customers that they won’t find anywhere else in Newcastle.”
   
Domino's to serve 20,000 pizzas in two days at Isle of Wight Festival: Domino’s Pizza, which has become an official brand sponsor of the Isle of Wight Festival 2014, expects to serve up to 20,000 freshly handmade pizzas throughout the weekend of the festival in mid-June from four mobile stores located across the festival site. The mobile stores will be open throughout the weekend and located in the main campsite, the main arena, the village and the backstage VIP area. As part of the sponsorship deal, Domino’s will be giving away pairs of festival tickets and will be reporting live throughout the weekend with the latest news, pictures, videos and gossip via the Domino’s Pizza UK Facebook and Twitter accounts and on its blog, using the hashtag #rockfuel. Performers at the festival, in Newport, on 13 and 14 June this year include the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Kings of Leon. Simon Wallis, marketing director at Domino’s Pizza UK said: “Our on-site team will be serving up to 600 handmade pizzas per hour."
   
Latest Project William pub site revives name of long-vanished brewery: The latest Project William collaboration between the Leicester brewer and pub operator Everards and a microbrewer will see the revival of a brewery name that vanished 45 years ago. The Pheasant in Wellington, Shropshire, has been purchased by Everards in partnership with David Goldingay, founder of Ironbridge Brewery. Goldingay will run the pub and is relocating Ironbridge Brewery to a new 12-barrel plant in the Pheasant. He will call it Wrekin Brewing Company Ltd, after the Wrekin Brewery that was established in Wellington in 1870 and shut down by Greenall Whitley in 1969. Goldingay also plans to retain the Ironbridge Brewery brand. Everards has invested £390,000 in the Pheasant, including acquisition of the previously struggling pub, plus refurbishment and installation of the brewery. Of that sum, £20,000 was a building regeneration grant from Shropshire Council. Wrekin Brewing Company is investing £55,000 in the project. Goldingay, who has run the Old Fighting Cocks in Oakengates, Shropshire in partnership with Everards since 2010, said: “Reviving the Wrekin name feels right, seeing as we are moving the brewery from Ironbridge to Wellington. The plan is to bring back some of the old Wrekin beers, and later this year we’re hoping to drill a bore hole to access the aquifer that the original Wrekin Brewery used.”
   
St Austell launches Proper chilled IPA: The Cornish brewer and pub operator St Austell Brewery is launching a chilled IPA "inspired" by its successful Proper Job beer, and called Proper Cool IPA. The new beer is an American-style 5.5% India Pale Ale, with strong citrus notes, brewed using three American hops: Cascade, Chinook and Willamette. It has been developed in partnership with the Eden Project in Cornwall, which is planning to grow samples of the three American hops at its Cornwall site and will be serving Proper Cool IPA in its Mediterranean biome. St Austell Brewery’s marketing and communications director, Jeremy Mitchell, said: “There is an increasing interest, particularly among drinkers in their 20s and 30s for American-inspired chilled IPAs on draught.”
   
Marston's hails improving regional economies for profits boost: An improving economy in the regions, which has driven sales at its wet-led pubs higher, helped boost underlying profits before tax at the brewer and pub and restaurant operator Marston's by 9.4% to £29m for the 26 weeks to 5 April this year compared to the same period last year, as underlying group revenue rose 4.5% to £373.3m. Operating profit was £65.7m, down 1.4%, principally reflecting pub disposals, while profit before tax was up £9.4% to £29m, thanks to lower interest rates. Ralph Findlay, Marston's chief executive, said: "We're finding the economy is getting better particularly in the regions, as real wages rise, and our community pubs are doing better as a result." However, he said, "value for money will remain important." At the company's Destination and Premium pubs, like-for-like sales were up 5.7% for the half-year compared to the same period in 2013, with operating profit up 18.2%. Main meals increased by 16% and food spend per head by 4%. On the Taverns side, totalling almost 1,100 outlets, managed and franchised like-for-like sales were up 3.8%, and among the leased pubs, like-for-like profits were up 3%. On the brewing side, revenue was up 3.5%, and operating profit up 4%, with premium ale volumes up 2%. Findlay said Marston's, which claims to be the only brewer in the country with the majority of its output falling in the "premium beer" category, was also benefiting from a greater consumer interest in the beer category, particularly among younger drinkers: New product development was particularly driving growth, with beers such as Banks's Sunbeam golden ale, and Marston's New World Pale Ale. He added that the company would continue to roll out new pub-restaurants across the country at a rate of 25 to 30 a year, with a cost of £80m to £90m per annum. Marston's had "a very good pipeline", Findlay said, and was able to plan future openings through to 2017 with confidence. More than half the new sites would be in the South of England, Findlay said, with one third in the South East. The company will also be opening four to five Lodge hotels a year "for the foreseeable future". During the half-year it opened 11 new pub-restaurants and remains on track to open at least 27 in total this year, Findlay said, while 65 pubs were converted to its franchise operation. Marston's sold 286 pubs and similar properties during the six months, generating proceeds of £115.7m, including the mass disposal of 202 pubs for £90m announced in November. It intends selling around 300 pubs across 2014 and 2015 from its wet-led Taverns estate, leaving around 800 "high quality" pubs operated mainly as franchises. Trading for the five weeks to 10 May saw Destination and Premium like-for-like sales up 4.1%, managed and franchised like-for-like sales up 3.0%, leased like-for-like profits estimated to be up 5% and own-brewed volumes up 6%.
   
Douglas Jack: Marston's 'should generate double-digit growth in 2015-16': The brewer and pub and restaurant operator Marston's should generate double-digit growth in 2015-16, Douglas Jack, leisure analyst at Numis Securities, said yesterday after the company released interim half-year figures. Reiterating his "Buy" recommendation with a target price of 185p, Jack said: "H1 PBT is up 9% to £29.0m, held back by disposals, prior to which we estimate PBT would be up 18%. With disposal activity now reverting to high-multiple single-site transactions and new build expansion accelerating, Marston’s should generate double-digit growth in 2015E and 2016E. Over this period, returns should continue to rise, leverage should fall and managed/franchised profits should rise to 85% of pub profits. Margins rose 80bps, helping ebit to increase by 18%. Taverns’ managed (134 pubs) and franchised (545 pubs) LFL sales rose 3.8% during in H1. Tenanted (399 pubs) LFL profits were positive, with the non-disposal pubs up 5%. Ebit fell 16% due to disposals, without which we estimate ebit would have been positive. Trading is benefiting from licensee stability (at over 90%), reflecting good quality assets, leveraging off the managed estate and an attractive range of agreements. Brewing profits rose 4%, with sales up 3.5% and margins up 10bps. We are holding our forecasts. Trading has remained ahead during the first five weeks of H2 with P&D LFL sales up 4.1% (up 5.4% YTD) versus our 2.5% full year assumption. In early H2, Taverns LFL sales rose 3.0% (3.7% YTD), leased LFL profits rose 5.0% (vs. our flat H2 assumption) and brewing volumes rose 6% (versus our up 1% full-year assumption). Marston’s is well-placed to drive growth, with a strong new build pipeline extending out to 2017E, in addition to which there are 15 existing sites ready for bolt-on lodges. With the regional trading backdrop strengthening and only 1% price increases needed to mitigate cost inflation in 2015E, we believe upgrade risk to earnings and dividends is rising."
   
Star Pubs launches lessee start-up support programme: Star Pubs & Bars has launched an intensive pre and post-start-up business support programme for its new lessees. The programme, called Countdown to Launch, is designed to ensure lessees are fully prepared from day one and to establish them on a firm business footing from the outset and in so doing give their pubs the best opportunity of long-term success. It includes a bespoke business plan which will be central to management reviews and help the company ensure lessees are on track in all areas and to identify at an early stage where extra help may be needed; a new pre-entry five day training course, Innside Knowledge; and an intensive 12-week support programme spanning the four weeks between attending the Innside Knowledge course and starting at the pub, and the first 12 weeks in the pub for those identified as needing additional mentoring. Lessees on the pilot were shown to have all registered for VAT and PAYE and been 100% compliant with their accounting paperwork, against 80% compliance among non-participating pubs. Star Pubs & Bars' trading director, Chris Jowsey, said: “We’re making individual business plans more central to our training and ongoing support. We are also boosting the level of assistance provided in the all-important first weeks for new lessees needing additional assistance, which we believe is unprecedented in the leased pub industry." The programme took a year to research and four months of trials. 

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