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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 27th Jun 2014 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Growth areas in the market, Camra’s failings and changing of the health lobby guard
Authors: Darren Tristano, Martyn Cornell and Paul Chase

Growth areas in the market by Darren Tristano

In contrast to the tepid 2.4% sales growth seen among leading US full-service chain restaurants last year, full-service concepts in the Technomic UK Top 100 list saw sales climb a healthy 6.8% in 2013. The UK Top 100’s full-service chains closed the year with more than £6.7 billion in sales, up from £6.3 billion in 2012.
UK consumers’ growing appetite for a variety of ethnic cuisines is helping to drive full-service restaurant growth, with globally inspired concepts adding units throughout the UK. (Wagamama, for example, reached 100 units in July 2013, and Prezzo added a total of 28 units of its namesake Italian brand and its Chimichanga casual-dining Mexican brand last year.) In expanding their reach literally and figuratively, these concepts are targeting a dining public increasingly interested in exploring authentic flavours from Latin America, Southeast Asia and beyond. The Mexican, Asian/noodle and French menu segments were among the full-service category’s top growth performers, recording year-over-year sales increases of 15.4%, 12.2% and 11.9%, respectively. The Italian menu segment, the UK’s leading full-service ethnic menu segment by overall sales and units, grew sales by 7.9% in 2013.
Beyond the continued expansion of ethnic-menu chains, burgers remain one of the hottest stories in the UK full-service restaurant sector. The full-service burger segment is smaller than most ethnic-menu segments, but sales for UK full-service burger concepts in the top 100 rose a whopping 39%, to £84 million, in 2013. The three chains accounting for that astounding growth are Byron, Handmade Burger Co. and Ed’s Easy Diner, all of which land between No. 70 and No. 90 on the Top 100.
Burgers tend to be a less-expensive menu option at full-service restaurants, and the rapid rise in the UK of fast-casual “better burger” concepts – many of which, new as they are, have yet to make the Top 100 – may be focusing UK consumers’ attention on their options for affordable, higher-quality burgers at full-service concepts. (Interestingly, limited-service burger chains on the Top 100 grew sales only 1.6% overall in 2013.)
There’s good news for many leading pub chains, too: those pub concepts that made the UK Top 100 saw overall sales gains of 5% in 2013. Wetherspoon, the pub sector’s largest player by far, enjoyed sales growth of 9% last year to more than £1.2 billion, on unit expansion of 4.6% (to 905 units).
Other traditional pub players seeing strong increases in trade last year: Hungry Horse (sales up nearly 16% to £161 million), Taylor Walker (up 12%), Fayre & Square (up 22%) and John Barras (up 17%). Of note, too, is that sales growth for all of these exceeded the rate of unit expansion. In the second half of the Top 100, Old English Inns, Flaming Grill Pub Co, Browns Bar & Brasserie and Meet & Eat Pub & Grill recorded double-digit sales increases as well. Back in November, Technomic named “the evolution of pubs” as one of its five UK restaurant trends for 2014, and it seems that pub chains’ innovative efforts to reach out to new generations of guests – initiatives such as Flaming Grill’s Build-A-Burger Facebook app contest this spring and Wetherspoon’s partnerships with US craft brewers – are resonating with UK consumers.
Technomic notes in the 2014 Top 100 UK Chain Restaurant Report that the UK economy is projected to grow rapidly over the next two years, boding well for the continued success of the full-service dining sector. London has cemented its reputation as a world-class dining destination and a hotbed of culinary innovation and will likely continue to breed trend-setting new restaurant concepts as well as attract significant investment from foreign restaurant chains looking to expand their international footprint. Recognising UK consumers’ appetite for bold new tastes – whether in the form of out-of-the-ordinary ethnic and regional cuisines or flavourful craft beers – will be vital to full-service restaurant chains’ continued expansion.
Darren Tristano is executive vice-president of Technomic. The full Technomic 100 UK Chain Restaurant Report can be obtained from Adrian Greaves at

Camra and the ‘dictatorship of the community’ by Martyn Cornell

I have been a member of the Campaign for Real Ale for 37 years now, and I have never felt so alienated from the organisation and what it claims to stand for. What angers me in particular is the assumption on the part of so many Camra activists that they have the right to dictate what other people can do with and in their own property.
One of the rights any democracy ought to hold dear is the right to do what you like with something you own, provided it does not cause harm, break the law or bring unwarranted inconvenience to your neighbours. If I own a house, or a shop, I can’t knock it down and build a factory on the site, or a 20-storey block of flats, without asking for, and being granted permission. I can’t hold all-night noisy raves there, or emit noxious fumes from the premises, or cram 70 Syrian refugees into it, or use it for a host of purposes that require a special set of permissions, including turning it into a launderette, a nightclub, a fast-food takeaway, a taxi office, a doctors’ surgery – or a pub.
Should I win permission for my premises to be in any one of those classes of uses, and it doesn’t work out – my taxi firm can’t get enough business, my launderette fails to attract sufficient customers, my takeaway goes under because I can’t sell my burgers – then I can apply for planning permission to turn it into something else. Except, as far as Camra is concerned, if my premises were turned into a pub, and I can’t get enough drinkers through the door. Then, it appears, I should have “no right” (I quote from the June/July edition of Camra’s London Drinker magazine) to do what I like with my own property. If I want to shut a pub because it’s making less money than I would get for selling the land for housing, I’m not a sensible businessman maximising the return on my assets, as all businesses need to do in order to survive and prosper, I’m indulging in “cynical vandalism” (the June/July edition of Camra’s London Drinker magazine, again).
I’m totally in favour of the idea that every business has “stakeholders” who range beyond the entrepreneurs, the workers and the shareholders involved, and include the business’s customers, its neighbours and even the surrounding community. But this attempt to impose the “dictatorship of the community” by opposing attempts to shut pubs and failing to respect property owners’ rights is hugely wrong and deeply depressing. It needs to be shouted in the face of every Camra activist: just because somewhere is currently used as a pub, that gives you, or anybody else, no rights over how it should be used in the future. You cannot tell me what I can do with my property, if that use is legal. The whole idea of “assets of community value”, as introduced by the Localism Act 2011, and the way it can place in limbo someone’s attempt to sell something they own perfectly legally, is an appalling and almost always pointless infringement on the right of someone to enjoy their property – and, arguably, breaks Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The “all pubs must remain open as pubs for ever” stand Camra seems to have adopted is not just an infringement on property owners’ rights, it is an infringement that does not ultimately benefit the community in the way it claims to. It punishes the property owner, which is bad enough. But it also privileges the poorly run pub, the unviable pub, the pub that really needs to close at the expense of the well-run pub, the pub that is truly benefiting the community.
While no one apart from the most rabid teetotaller would argue against the idea that pubs provide a welcome service within their community, the idea that every building currently a pub must remain a pub at all costs, or the community is damaged, is a nonsensical one. If a pub isn’t working, it should shut. Trying to keep pubs that aren’t working open will only damage those that ARE working, by pulling customers away from viable pubs and into ultimately unviable ones. If I own a pub and I want to shut it, then I should have the right to shut it. If you think the community needs a pub, needs the service my pub was providing, open one yourself.
Martyn Cornell is managing editor of Propel Info

A changing of the guard by Paul Chase

The public health racket has some new leaders. Eric Appleby, who was interim chief executive of Alcohol Concern, has stepped down and been replaced by Jackie Ballard; and Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, has been elected as the new chair of the Commons Select Committee on Health.
Eric Appleby has been nominated for the @CharityTAwards for the Outstanding Individual Achievement Award. I don’t want to sound a sour note at the departure of a Great Man, but during his second tenure as chief executive, which began when Alcohol Concern lost government funding, Eric presided over a complete shambles. Alcohol Concern’s flagship policy, minimum unit pricing, was unceremoniously dumped by the government. His other obsession, raising the price of alcohol faster than the general level of inflation, was also dumped when the government cut beer duty for two years in succession and abolished the alcohol duty escalator altogether. And finally, Alcohol Concern’s attempt to maintain the health lobby’s Big Lie – that there are 1.2 million alcohol-related hospital admissions a year - was dealt a serious blow when the Department of Health replaced ‘alcohol-attributable fractions’ as the preferred counting methodology with a new counting method that actually reduced the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions by 75% to 300,000. So, if the success of a lobbying organisation is to be measured by its ability to influence government policy, Eric’s second tenure at Alcohol Concern has been a conspicuous failure. So, give the man a prize!
Jackie Ballard, Eric’s replacement, is said to be more politically savvy. She was elected as the Liberal Democrat MP for Taunton at the 1997 General Election, beating the Conservative incumbent David Nicholson by 2,443 votes. During her time as an MP she was very vocal in her opposition to blood sports, in particular, stag hunting. Taunton is seen by many as the centre of stag hunting in the UK and her stance on this issue may well have contributed to her losing her seat in 2001, and prepared the way for her appointment as Director General of the RSPCA. Personally I like stags, and parties of them coming into pubs spend lots of money and certainly don’t deserve to be shot just because their behaviour sometimes gets out of hand!
With regard to the claim that she is politically savvy: taking a position that is antithetical to many of her constituents may have been principled, but doesn’t sound politically savvy, unless she had her eye on the RSPCA job all along. Jackie Ballard was also appointed as chief executive of Womankind Worldwide in September 2012, a post she held for just ten months. Historically, women have always fared better than men when it comes to prosecuting moral campaigns. For example, Frances E Willard, who led the Women’s Christian Temperance Union from 1879 to 1898, was a keen suffragist as well as a campaigner for alcohol prohibition, so Jackie may be with us for some time. Jackie Ballard lists as her preferred forms of relaxation going to live music concerts, travelling abroad and feeding her addiction to medical soap operas. Well, now she has the chance to star in one.
And what can I say about the election of Dr Sarah Wollaston MP as chair of the Health Select Committee? I have previously described her as the doyen of pursed-lipped, public-health moralists; and there is no doubt that Sarah Wollaston is an anti-alcohol zealot. It can’t be long before the Health Select Committee holds an ‘Alcohol Enquiry’.
Jackie Ballard recently commented: “There is an uneven battle between the global drinks industry, which deploys massive resources to promote its products and influence behaviour, and those, including Alcohol Concern, who are campaigning for a change in drinking culture.” These two cause-oriented activists clearly have a lot in common, including a penchant for demonising the alcohol industry. Perhaps they should both reflect upon the fact that it is only since the much-despised ‘Big Alcohol’ got involved in campaigns that educate people about responsible drinking and responsible alcohol advertising that we have seen an 18.9% reduction in alcohol consumption per head, a fall in binge drinking (yes, that’s right – a fall), and a fall in the number of underage drinkers. But then, alcohol education doesn’t work, does it?
Paul Chase is a director of CPL Training and a leading commentator on on-trade health and alcohol policy

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