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Wed 2nd Jul 2014 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

East End boutique hotel with pop-up street food market plans to capture 'Meatpacking District' vibe: Union Hanover has revealed plans to develop and operate a high-end boutique hotel at Lend Lease and London & Continental Railways’ International Quarter in Stratford City, East London, after the acquisition of Starboard Hotels’ share in the project and completion of the land purchase. The 220-bedroom Penny Brook will have a rooftop bar and restaurant on the top two floors and will include a pop-up street food market. The promoters say the hotel is designed to "bring a taste of New York’s trendy Meatpacking District to E20". Union Hanover will operate the £70m hotel under its NOHO hospitality brand. The hotel will also have 15,000 sq ft of conference facilities. Restaurant Property is advising Union Hanover. Union Hanover’s decision essentially flips the company’s original plans around and fulfils managing director Eric Jafari’s long-held dream to develop a destination boutique hotel. Jafari said: “This a hugely exciting opportunity for us. We believe that we can create a New York-inspired boutique hotel that will inject a real buzz into Stratford which has unrivalled access to the City, West End and Canary Wharf. We are in talks with a number of high-end restaurant operators and have a number of creative initiatives which will ensure this will offer a unique hospitality experience.”
   

Industry News:

Johnson – we need patient capital: Sector investor Luke Johnson has criticised the short-term mentality of hedge fund investors. “They have a disproportionate influence on the stock market because they pay big fees,” he told a Quoted Companies Alliance event. “But what this industry needs is patient capital. When taking Patisserie Valerie public, people would ask, ‘What are you looking for in an investor?’ and I’d say, ‘Those who take a long-term view,’. We want supportive people that will be there for years, rather than wait for a quick ten cent flip in the [share] price and take off.” Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners took a minority stake in the 45-strong InnBrighton pub business yesterday – see bottom of the e-mail for the full story.
   
Horizons – eating out up 6%: The market insights firm Horizons has reported that its Eating Out-Look survey has found the number of consumers eating out is up by 6% year-on-year, or four percentage points, from 67% to 71%. The frequency of eating out is also up, from an average of 1.8 to 2.2 occasions in the previous two weeks. Average spend (including drinks), however, is down by just over 4%, from £13.30 to £12.72.
   
Cricketer Kevin Pietersen to open his own cocktail bar: The former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen is to open his own cocktail bar in Maple Road, Surbiton, Surrey next Tuesday (8 July). Pietersen, who currently plays for Surrey County Cricket Club, tweeted to his 1.8 million followers: "Just checking all is in order in SURBITON. My joint @RUBIcocktailbar open next week.” The venue will include a "speakeasy Purl lounge" in the basement serving "molecular" cocktails, with coffee and cake on offer during the day in the ground-floor cocktail bar. Purl bills itself as a "confused combination of Charles Dickens's imagination, a prohibition speakeasy and bizarre laboratory of mad drinks".
   
Only Way is Essex star opens deli: Charlie Sims, who appears in the television reality show The Only Way is Essex, has open a deli in Brentwood, Essex. Sims is partnered by Phil Stacey, who has run his own popular deli, Abigail’s in nearby Ingatestone High Street for the past five years. Charlie's Deli aims to "bring a touch of east London cool" to Brentwood.
   
Government widens banned drinks promotions: Changes to the mandatory licensing conditions for England and Wales due to come into force on October 1 will ban completely two more sorts of alcoholic drink promotions: any game or activity that encourages people to drink a quantity of alcohol within a certain time, or to drink as much alcohol as possible; and selling alcohol in association with any posters that encourage or glamorise anti-social behaviour, or the effects of drunkenness. The two join the complete ban on alcohol being dispensed directly into another person's mouth, which has been incorporated into the definition of an irresponsible promotion. However, two other forms of promotions, unlimited or unspecified amounts of alcohol being sold free or at a discount, and offering free or discounted alcohol as a prize, to encourage or reward purchase or consumption over a period of 24 hours or less, are only "irresponsible", and thus banned, under the new rules if they offer a "significant risk" of undermining licensing objectives. In Scotland, all drinks promotions are generally banned outright.
  

Company News:

Cambscuisine opens smokehouse-in-a-pub concept: Cambscuisine, the highly rated operator of five Cambridgeshire gastro-pubs and the Chophouse brand, opened its smokehouse concept within a pub environment last night. The company, led by Oliver Thain, Richard Bradley and Max Freeman, paid a £110,000 premium to acquire the private lease on the Old Eraina Taverna site in Cambridge, in the middle of an emerging restaurant quarter that includes the Pint Shop and Cau. A total of £220,000 was invested in the site. Thain told Propel: “We have developed a smokehouse/BBQ concept called SmokeWorks. The strapline is ‘Slow Cooked. Fast’. We’ve worked very hard on the menu in the last six months and have come up with a basic premise of 12 dishes under £12. The quality of the food is paramount. We are producing the food in a central kitchen, which suits this style of slow-cooked food – and if the concept goes well, will enable us to develop this into something bigger." Thain said 90% of the menu will be available for takeaway.
   
Carluccio’s franchise income from the Middle East tops £1m: Carluccio’s has reported that its franchise income from the Middle East, covering seven countries, has topped £1m. The company granted franchise rights to Landmark Food for the Middle East in July 2008. The agreement is for ten years, with the possibility of a ten-year extension. So far, seven sites have opened, five in Dubai. Carluccio’s earned £1.08m in the year to 29 September 2013, up from £749,000 the year before – the most recent year’s income was made up of £583,000 in sales commission, £123,000 of opening fees and £372,000 of recharged costs.
   
Alex Reilley – our rent as a percentage to turnover is still very low: Loungers founder Alex Reilley has reported that the company’s rent to turnover percentage is still very low, thanks to careful site selection, with a particular focus on secondary suburban locations. He told the Arena lunch: “Food represents 50% of our revenue, coffee represents 13% of our revenue and our rent to revenue percentage currently sits at a mere 5.7%. By the end of this calendar year we will have 56 sites in total.” Stonegate Pub Company chairman Ian Payne once described 12% rent to turnover as a fulcrum point: the further below 12% your percentage is, the more profitable your company is likely to be. Reilley admitted at the Arena lunch that he is still started by the growth of Loungers: “It’s fair to say we’re pretty big. At present we employ 1,300 people, which is as scary as it is impressive. Indeed at our recent LoungeFest, which is our annual staff party – well it’s actually a festival – I stood in the middle of a field somewhere near Tewksbury surrounded by all of our staff. It was an incredibly humbling feeling but left me wondering how on earth we’d got so big, given how small we were 12 years ago.”
  
M&B chairman adds non-executive job to portfolio: Mitchells & Butlers chairman Bob Ivell has become a non-executive director of AGA Rangemaster Group. Ivell is currently non-executive chairman of M&B and senior independent director of Britvic. He was previously chairman of David Lloyd Leisure, Park Resorts Group and Next Generation Clubs Pacific and a non-executive director of the Restaurant Group.
  
Stew and Oyster lines up third site: Stew and Oyster is looking to convert an abandoned building on Boston Spa High Street in Yorkshire into its third site if the licence is approved by Leeds City Council. Stew and Oyster's operations director, Thomas Mountain, said: “Stew and Oyster was based around the premise of like-minded people who wanted somewhere enjoyable to drink a decent pint, with comfy sofas, served by friendly people with some quality home-cooked food. Essentially it was a place where we would like to drink – a pub that offers all the advantages of a city centre bar, combining quality wines, massive spirit ranges, bottled beers from around the world, draught beers from Belgium and Europe and hand-pulled ales from micro-breweries here in Yorkshire, whilst being served in the friendly surroundings of your local pub.” The company opened its first branch in The Calls, Leeds in 2009 and a second site in Oakwood, Leeds in 2012.
   
Artisan bakery chain Paul unveils brand extension: The French artisan bakery and patisserie chain Paul has unveiled a new brand extension, its first all-day casual dining restaurant in London. Le Restaurant de Paul will open in what was a Paul bakery and salon de thé on Bedford Street, Covent Garden after an extensive renovation. The new all-day breakfast-to-dinner 65-cover casual dining restaurant will launch on 15 July and serve French dishes such as Coq au Vin. Designed by Lille-based Panétude, the interior will retain many of its original architectural features, such as the wooden ceilings, wainscoting, and parquet flooring, while new furniture includes distressed black-stained chairs, bench and bar stool seating; industrial-style wall lamps and chandeliers. The company is aiming for an average spend of £18 a head. Chairman Maxime Holder said: “This is a very exciting time for Paul, [which] has a strong brand identity based on fifth-generation core family principles, and the new restaurant will embody this spirit. Le Restaurant de Paul will offer a great value and genuine French dining experience.”
   
Mitchells of Lancaster – ‘we’re getting a handle on our debt': Brewer and retailer Mitchells of Lancaster has reported progress in reducing its debt as it records improved profit. Turnover fell 2.9% to £9.04m in the year to 26 February from £9.31m the year before as a result of disposals. But pre-tax profit rose to £754,000 from £26,000. The company reported growth in food sales, particularly at its destination pubs, where spend per head increased. The company was subject to a management buy-out in 2009, and total debt fell from £16.8m in February 2012 to £9.5m. A further disposal is expected. Mitchells said: “When this programme is complete, the group will be leaner, with far less gearing. This will enable the group to generate funds for the benefit of the business rather than its funders.” The company said it believed its fledgling Tap House craft beer concept had potential for a roll-out.
  
New pubco acquires North London music venue: A new pub company, Carouse London, has acquired a pub in Kentish Town, North London famous for a downstairs bar where the likes of Pete Doherty would often appear to play secret gigs. The Torriano, in Torriano Avenue, is currently closed for refurbishment but will reopen next month under its old name, the Rose and Crown. Carouse London was founded in March this year by the brothers Theo and Ben Caudell and Chris Hurd, a former pub manager with the Columbo Group, in particular at the North London gastropub Paradise by Way of Kensal Green. Hurd told the Kentishtowner website: “Our search for a premises has taken us right across the capital. But when we discovered the Torriano was on the market I was excited, as I’d lived on nearby Cliff Villas a few years earlier, and knew the pub. We entered into negotiations with the former leaseholder, Dean Guberina, in April and the deal was finally sealed in the early days of June.” Hurd said the pub was going back to its old name because "we have a strong belief in original pub names and historical ties.” The pub will be selling "a vast array of local beers, including Camden Town, Beavertown, Weird Beard, Redchurch and Hackney Brewery, plus, slightly further afield, Burning Sky, Summer Wine Brewery and Magic Rock,” as well as artisan wines and spirits. Planning permission is being sought to add a kitchen, and Carouse also intends continuing with live music and comedy nights.
  
La Tasca becomes first restaurant company to partner with TripAdvisor: La Tasca has become the first restaurant company to partner with TripAdvisor, by moving its entire internal guest feedback system into the public domain. The company switched over its internal system in January, so that its feedback system links straight into the TripAdvisor website. Chief executive Simon Wilkinson said: "The guest is our number one priority as a company and in order to walk the talk we have taken the bold step of airing our dirty laundry in public, so to speak. We are incredibly passionate about improving our guests' experience and this move ensures we have no hiding place in our quest for service excellence. Transparency ensures that every single experience is analysed, rectified and responded to as quickly as possible. The team has embraced the change and is extremely passionate about delivering a great guest experience." A spokesman for TripAdvisor said: “La Tasca has embraced the world of user-generated content, understanding the importance of customer feedback and of transparency in the service sector. They are the first restaurant chain to integrate TripAdvisor review collection services across all of their restaurants. This move shows La Tasca's willingness to embrace user reviews, not only as a means of evaluating customer satisfaction but also as a way to make improvements to service standards. We're delighted to be partnering with this forward-thinking brand.”
  
Greene King bids for restaurant site at Leeds Bradford Airport: Greene King and landowner Airport West (Leeds) have submitted plans for a 14,000 sq ft restaurant development on a prominent site at the gateway to Leeds Bradford Airport and Airport West Business Park. The proposal says the restaurant would be an "informal" place to eat, with food representing about 70% of total sales. The development would mean 75 new jobs. As well as the restaurant building, 100 car parking spaces are proposed, together with cycle parking for staff and customers. The currently vacant 2.1 acre plot is owned by Airport West (Leeds) and has existing planning consent for office development. However, market conditions have meant there is no demand for further office development despite extensive marketing of the site over the past seven years, the applicants say. In addition, they say, the area does not have a facility like the one proposed, which Airport West (Leeds) and Greene King Property Development argue would help make the business park stand out and attract employers to Airport West.
   
Douglas Jack – Wetherspoon has improving growth prospects: Numis Securities' leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued an "Add" note on JD Wetherspoon shares, with a price target of 950p, ahead of the full-year trading update due next Wednesday (9 July), citing improving growth prospects. Jack said: “We expect the full year trading update to be at least in line. Given that the pace of expansion has picked up and like-for-like sales were circa 1% ahead after 39 weeks, we estimate 2.5% LFL sales should be sufficient to achieve the sales forecasts in Q4. We believe machine income, which fell 9.5% in H1, returned to growth in Q3, aided by the annualisation of the new machine gaming duty and January’s increase in maximum prizes. Twenty-eight new pubs opened in Q1-3, with 17 openings expected in Q4. 65% of this year’s openings should be freehold (versus a 44% company average). As a consequence of this, faster expansion, a negative working capital movement and almost £20m of share buy-backs, net debt should increase by circa £85m in 2014E. We expect to at least hold our 2014E PBT forecast (£77.6m; consensus £78.5m). The shares are on a 10% EV/ebitda premium relative to their historical average, versus a sector premium of 8%. Our 950p 12-month target price, equivalent to 16.7x P/E on 2015E’s earnings, assumes no re-rating over the next year despite growth prospects improving due to stronger consumer confidence, faster expansion and falling swap costs.”
  
Marston’s – we saved money by launching our own telecoms service:
The brewer and pub retailer Marston's has reported significant cost savings through buying in its own telecoms service. Operations manager Rob Derbyshire told Telecoms Tech: “About five years ago we decided, when the recession was around, that one way of saving money was to stop buying wholesale telecoms services. My boss decided to set up Marston's Telecoms to generate some savings for the group, and did that by registering with Ofcom and being able to buy wholesale lines, and that was great. We generated some savings for the group. Then, this time last year, we took it a stage further by implementing our own broadband network, through buying two wholesale services off BT and TalkTalk, then delivering those to our own customers."
  
Little Gems Country Dining joins with Charles Wells to extend award-winning pub: Little Germs Country Dining, led by Steve Wilkins, has joined up with the Bedfordshire brewer and pub owner Charles Wells in an investment to create a new garden room and conservatory at the Park Pub and Kitchen on Kimbolton Road in Bedford. The Park was named Town Pub of the Year in the Good Pub Guide 2014. Wilkins told the local newspaper: “We knew we needed to add more dining space but wanted to create a versatile area which could be used for all occasions. The garden room was the perfect solution: opening out to the courtyard area, it is perfect for summer but is also separate from the main restaurant, so would be great for private functions.”
  
Marco Pierre White to open first restaurant in Glasgow:
Marco Pierre White is opening a branch of his Steakhouse Bar & Grill brand in Glasgow in late August, his first restaurant in the city. The new Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill will be on the ground floor of the Hotel Indigo Glasgow at 75 Waterloo Street, and comes just over two years after he opened a Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill at the Hotel Indigo Newcastle. White said: “It’s been a long time in the planning, but I’m absolutely delighted to open my first city centre restaurant in Glasgow – a city that I love. Glasgow has a vibrant dining scene and I look forward to offering Glaswegians a taste of something a little bit different; my recipe for ‘affordable glamour’ which is all about serving quality food at affordable prices. It isn’t about Michelin standard food, which for most is experienced as a one-off or for a very special occasion. The Steakhouse Bar & Grill will cater for different budgets with a very reasonably set-priced menu to our delicious steaks which will sit at the higher price range of the menu. I truly hope the restaurant will be a place for restaurant goers to return again and again.” Denis MacCann, general manager of Hotel Indigo and co-chair of the Greater Glasgow Hotels Association, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Marco to open the Steakhouse Bar & Grill at Hotel Indigo. We have a great dining scene in Glasgow and this new venture is only going to enhance what we offer.”
  
Nando’s lines up South Tyneside opening: Nando’s is planning to open a new branch at Boldon Leisure Park in Abingdon Way, Boldon Colliery, South Tyneside. The new venue is not due to open until the beginning of next year. A Nando’s spokesman confirmed the company was in the early stages of developing an outlet at Boldon. He said: “We’re delighted to confirm we’ll be opening a new restaurant in Boldon early next year.”
  
Lidl bulldozes former Orchid pub: Lidl has bulldozed the Organ and Dragon in Ewell, Surry, formerly run by Orchid Group, despite pleas from the community not to do this until planning permission was granted for it to build a food store. The supermarket bought the site from KFC in February and said it planned to demolish the historic building, which is not listed and not protected architecturally, and build a food store.
  
Brewer offers to save pub due to become funeral parlour: The owner of the Derby Brewing Company has offered to acquire and run the last pub in the Derbyshire village of Findern, which has been closed and is due to be turned into a funeral parlour. Punch Taverns closed the Wheel Inn in Findern in April and South Derbyshire Council has given permission to Murray's Funeral Directors of Burton upon Trent to convert it. However, Trevor Harris, owner of the Derby Brewing Company, which already runs three pubs, said: "I look at the Wheel and I think it could have a great future as a pub. I would look at buying it. There is no reason why it can't be a Derby Brewing Company pub and we can make it special." Villagers have formed a campaign to try to reopen the pub, under the banner Casks not Caskets, and Harris warned the funeral directors: "It will not work as a funeral parlour. They will not be looking forward to business from their point of view because of the reaction we have seen. I have never seen anything quite like this in terms of strong opposition against these plans." However, David Barker of Murray's Funeral Directors told The Derby Telegraph: "We are continuing with our plans to refurbish our new premises. There is much to be done, as the building was left in a poor state of repair. Once the renovations are completed, we look forward to playing an active role in the community for many years to come."
  
Greene King expected to lay out revised growth plans tomorrow: Greene King is expected to lay out its revised plans for growth this week after losing out on a key acquisition two months ago. The company withdrew from the sale of Orchid last month. Analysts will be looking for a steer on the group’s plans in the wake of the Orchid deal when the company reports full-year figures tomorrow (Thursday). Brokers at Deutsche Bank said they will want to hear more about plans for selling less profitable pubs and adding to the managed estate, which the failed Orchid deal would have done in one stroke.
   
Former investment banker open chicken concept: A former investment banker, Paul Hemings, and his wife Cara have opened a new restaurant, Bird, in Shoreditch, East London that aims to "reinvent" fried chicken. Free-range British fowl is served and dipping sauces are made from ingredients such as buttermilk and maple syrup. Bird said he aimed to attract a London clientele who have long grown out of the “bargain bucket” after a Saturday night at the pub, but still want a “naughty but nice” meal out. Hemings told the London Evening Standard: “The concept is to elevate fried chicken, which is on every block and every street, and has this image of schoolchildren eating out of a cardboard box on a street corner."
   
Wasabi plans two more New York openings: Wasabi is planning two more openings in New York. The brand opened its first New York City location in Times Square in February. The second will open at 7 World Trade Centre. Wasabi's head of facilities, Mark Lerego, said: “We’re very, very pleased to have a site in the World Trade Centre. It’s a compliment to the gravitas of the company." The company is also in negotiations to open at the Fulton Street subway station in Manhattan, which is currently under renovation, Lerego said. Dong Hyun Kim, a South Korean entrepreneur and former accountant for Samsung, founded Wasabi. The chain now has 38 locations in the United Kingdom, plus the New York unit.
   
Greggs reports 3.3% like-for-likes: Greggs, the sandwich and take-away food chain, has reported a 3.2% rise in like-for-like sales in the 26 weeks to 28 June, with total sales up 3.1%. The company said: “Whilst our year-on-year performance has benefited from comparison with a period of weak trading in 2013, sales growth is also being driven by initiatives that have further improved our products, availability, service and value. During the first 26 weeks we completed 131 shop refurbishments, in line with our plan to refit around 200 shops during 2014. We also opened 26 new shops and closed 36 shops, giving a total of 1,661 shops trading at 28 June. We expect shop numbers for the year as a whole to be broadly flat. Sales comparables strengthen in the second half although the risk of further input cost inflation appears to be reducing. Overall, we expect to deliver an improved financial result for the year and further progress against our strategic plan.”
   
Orderella begins InnBrighton trial: Orderella, the mobile ordering app that allows customers to order and pay for drinks and food with their phone, has begun a trial with InnBrighton. The trial begins this week with four sites going live with the app; Open House in Brighton, Fountain Head in Brighton, the Freemasons in Hove, and North Laine in Brighton. Gavin George, chief executive of InnBrighton, said: “The summer is always hugely busy for us, making queue management and good customer service more important than ever – which is why Orderella is the perfect addition to our team. We can’t wait to get the app live at our sites, as we know both our staff and the customer will benefit, and it will help us to create a relaxed atmosphere for people to enjoy.”
  
Wetherspoon denies pub was attempting to game TripAdvisor: JD Wetherspoon has denied one of its pubs attempted to encourage staff to leave comments on the TripAdvisor site, insisting that the pub manager's message to staff was taken "totally out of context", and has been misconstrued. According to the Plymouth Herald newspaper, a manager at the Britannia Inn, a Wetherspoon outlet in Milehouse, Plymouth, sent a message via a private Facebook group to staff at the pub saying: “Can I please ask you lovely ladies and gentleman to spread the TripAdvisor word. Please, go on, let us know what we think and please encourage your friends and family to do the same. We no longer use mypubfeedback in the business and prefer TripAdvisor … we’re currently really low-scoring on it. Thanks.” TripAdvisor told the newspaper that it was against its terms of use for anyone associated with a business to submit reviews for that business on TripAdvisor, and it would take "firm action" against anyone breaking that rule. Sanctions could include a "red badge" on the listing, alerting users to the fact that TripAdvisor was aware of fraudulent activity on the page. However, Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Herald: “The message has been taken totally out of context. The staff have not been asked to post comments. Wetherspoon has moved away from mypubfeedback, where our customers were encouraged to make their comments, and are concentrating on TripAdvisor comments. The message was to encourage staff to view the TripAdvisor site to see comments and feed back what they think. This pub doesn’t really get any comments on TripAdvisor so they are looking to spread the word that this is where customers should be making their comments. The pub manager would also like to hear the views of what non-staff think of TripAdvisor, hence the comment to encourage friends and family to do the same."
   
Stonegate invests £220,000 in Didsbury Slug & Lettuce: Stonegate Pub Company has continued its programme of estate improvements with a £220,000 investment in the Slug and Lettuce on Wilmslow Road, Didsbury Village in Cheshire. It will reopen on 5 July after an investment of £250,000, which will see the creation of 11 new jobs. The investment will also see the introduction of Costa Coffee. The venue will reopen with an extended wine menu including wines such as New Zealand Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc, Californian Chardonnay Terlato, and Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut. A "Wine Down Wednesday" promotion offers selected wines for £11.45.
   
Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital makes third sector investment: Risk Capital Partners, led by Luke Johnson and Ben Redmond, has made in its third current investment in the foodservice sector by buying a substantial minority stake in the 45-strong Brighton pub operator InnBrighton, which is led by chief executive Gavin George and chairman Gary Pettet, will be renamed Laine Pub Company. Propel understands that ownership of the company is now split fairly evenly between Risk Capital, management and Graphite Capital, which has rolled over its pre-existing stake in the company into a new fund. The Risk Capital investment in thought to be “rather less than” the £12m upper limit it sets on investments. The InnBrighton investment joins Gail’s Bakery and Red Hot World Buffet within the current Risk Capital Partners portfolio. Patisserie Valerie, now floated on AIM, Grand Union and Draft House are all personal investments made by Johnson and sit outside the Risk Capital portfolio. A source close to Risk Capital told Propel: “There are 50,000 plus pubs in the UK and some smaller pubs with low income will continue to close. But well-invested, well-located pubs have a good future. We think InnBrighton has a good operating model and a good portfolio of pubs in Brighton, and a nascent presence in London.” InnBrighton operates a mix of freeholds, free-of-tie leases and tied tenanted pub company sites, with an estimated eight Enterprise Inns sites. “There is a decent mix of owners across the portfolio,” the source added. “Certainly the management attitude at Enterprise is changing and the relationship is an important one for the company.” InnBrighton acquired its sixth London pub at the start of this year, the leasehold of a pub in South London previously known as The Battersea Mess and Music Hall, to add to its estate of 44 sites. “We intend to grow the estate in London and Brighton,” the Propel source added. Commenting on the transaction, Ben Redmond, co-founder of Risk Capital Partners, said: “Over the past seven years, Gary and Gavin have refocused the business successfully and developed a profitable estate of highly distinctive city pubs. The company has a strong pipeline of new opportunities in London and is well-positioned to continue to grow the business in the future.” Graphite partner Omar Kayat added: “The management team has a proven track record in acquiring underperforming pubs and improving them. We look forward to continuing to work with them under the Laine’s banner as they further develop their London estate of unique pubs and their exciting range of beers.” Chairman Gary Pettet said: “We are very pleased to have Risk Capital on board for the next chapter in this group’s exciting story. Their experience in our sector will be invaluable and we are very much looking forward to working with them to grow the business and to maximise the value to our customers in an ever changing market.” Commenting on the plans for the business, Gavin George said: “The name change reflects both our pride in our Brighton heritage and the growing importance and popularity of the beer we produce under the Laine’s badge. The skilled brewers in our three micro-breweries have created some highly individual beers of excellent taste and quality, which have provided both a significant point of difference with our competitors and an engaging offering for our customers. Since we opened our first Brighton pub in the mid-nineties, our success has been predicated upon the creation of inspiring ‘third places’ that positively impact the culture, community and climate of the localities in which we operate. We think the same is being achieved in the estate of six pubs we have built in London over the last two years and, with the backing of Risk Capital and Graphite Enterprise, we believe the prospects for Laine’s to achieve greater success are tremendous.”

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