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Fri 25th Jul 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Ralph Findlay – we have a pipeline of around 80 new-build sites: Marston’s chief executive, Ralph Findlay, has told Propel that the company has a pipeline of around 75 to 80 new-build pub restaurant sites through to 2017, and is confident of “getting 25 to 30 open next year”. Of the new-builds in the next three years, 25 will be in Scotland and a third in the south east of England. “Competition [for sites] has become more noticeable in the past year but we have a very good estates team and there’s not too may people buying freehold sites,” Findlay said. Marston’s is currently runs three co-located accommodation lodges and is also building lodges next to two Scottish sites, in Dunbar and by Loch Lomond. Findlay said: “We dipping our toe in the water, establishing the success of our own [accommodation]) proposition. There will be four or five sites a year where we’ll be looking to build lodges, whether run by Marston’s or somebody else is yet to be determined.” Findlay told Propel that Fastcask, the innovative Marston’s-invented cask ale system launched in 2009 that eliminates cellar preparation time, now accounts for “something like” two thirds of total Marston’s cask ale volumes. He said that the company had been “surprised” by its success in widening the appeal of cask ale. “It’s something we’ve got that others haven’t,” Findlay said. The Fastcask system, alongside innovative new products launches, accounted for Marston’s outperformance in the UK beer market, Findlay said. He said it was likely that Marston’s would have no tenanted pubs by 2016 although he was “not going to be categorical about that”. However, the success of Marston’s franchises, which will grow in number to 800 by 2016, showed the model was suited to a wide range of pubs taking between £5,000 a week and £15,000, the latter ordinarily run as managed sites, he said. Findlay suggested that Marston’s would no longer want to own pubs taking less than £5,000 a week. The company’s premium pub division, Revere, now stands at ten sites and Findlay said he was “really pleased” with its performance so far. A couple of sites are lined up for conversion to Revere in 2015 and Marston’s will now look at sites for building new Revere venues. Findlay also responded to market rumours that former colleague Alistair Darby has recruited considerable numbers of Marston’s managed staff to join Mitchells & Butlers. “I’ve always said Marston’s has the best people in the sector. If other people out there want to recruit them I’m not surprised,” he said. Findlay said Marston’s had also recruited former Mitchells & Butlers staff, such as the current Marston’s inns commercial marketing director, Una Beck Johnson, and staff losses to M&B are not so large that he “had to sit down and work them out”.

Industry News:

Tim Martin – we’re paying £3,000 per week less in VAT in Dublin: JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has told Propel that he estimates the company’s first pub in the Dublin suburb of Blackrock, which opened just over a fortnight ago, is paying as much as £3,000 per week less in VAT than other pubs in the estate thanks to a southern Ireland VAT rate of 9%. He said: “Like a lot of our new pubs, the Dublin site has opened with very high food sales – around 50% of total sales. In the UK, we’d be paying around £3,000 more in VAT. The greater VAT equality with supermarkets is clearly a substantial benefit.” JD Wetherspoon has a number of pubs in Northern Ireland – but is only just starting to open new pubs in the province after a decade-long hiatus. Martin added: “The pub trade is Northern Ireland has been absolutely battered over the last dozen years. The situation has not been helped in recent years by the tax disparity with southern Ireland over VAT levels. We struggled for a while in Northern Ireland but our trade there has improved greatly. We’ve got a solid team there now and it’s given us the confidence to open a few more.” The company operates nine pubs around Northern Ireland and is planning to open its tenth pub on Belfast’s Royal Avenue in a former JJB sports shop.

Shaftesbury reports 27.2% rent increase on West End sites at five-year rent review: Shaftesbury, the Real Estate Investment Trust that owns 331 shops and 249 restaurants, cafes and bars across 14 acres of the West End of London, has reported commercial rent reviews are increasing rents by 27.2%, broadly equivalent to compound growth of 5% a year, taken over a five-year period. The company said: “This transactional evidence is particularly valuable to us in establishing higher rental tones in our adjacent ownerships.” It said London “continues to benefit from ever-growing domestic and international demand from businesses seeking to locate here, as well as unrivalled numbers of visitors, from across the world, coming to experience its exceptional choice of cultural, shopping and leisure attractions. Occupier demand for all our uses – shops, restaurants and leisure, offices and residential – continues to be very strong, resulting in growth in rental income and values, and low levels of vacancy. Over the year to date, we have completed lettings, lease renewals and rent reviews with a total rental value of £19.1m. Commercial lettings and renewals have achieved rents 4.9% above valuers’ ERVs at 30 September 2013. The remaining ready-to-let vacancy increased from 1.1% to 2.1% over the quarter, partly due to the completion, in June, of two reconfigured restaurants (7,500 sq ft) in Chinatown. Also, at the end of June, we secured vacant possession of a 3,900 sq ft prominent restaurant on Cambridge Circus, at the gateway to Seven Dials. Each of these units is being marketed and already there is strong interest from experienced domestic and international restaurateurs with new and interesting concepts.”

Beer makes a comeback in the US: A survey has found 41% of drinkers in the United States report they typically drink beer; 31% name wine and 23% say spirits. Americans’ current preference for beer is among the highest Gallup has recorded since beer tumbled to 36% on this measure in 2005, although still not as highly favoured as it was in the 1990s, when nearly half preferred it. The 2005 dip for beer occurred at the peak of an apparent increase in American drinkers’ preference for wine between 2002 and 2005. Since then, drinkers’ tastes have reverted somewhat, with beer back on top. Slightly more drinkers still choose wine today than did so in the early to mid-1990s. However, wine shows no upward momentum.

HMRC targets restaurants: Restaurants are the latest target of the taxman, with many reported to be facing large tax bills for staff tips, accommodation and taxis. HM Revenues & Customs (HMRC) is clamping down on untaxed tips, staff accommodation and staff taxis, and without proper systems in place, according to the accountancy firm BDO, the liability lies with the business owner rather than with staff. HMRC views tips as being undeclared income and staff accommodation and staff taxis as benefits in kind, and it views them as taxable income which the owners of a restaurant are liable for. Brian Lovie, director of employment taxes with BDO, said: “The Revenue regard all tips as income and so demand that tax and National Insurance Contributions [NIC] is paid on it. This is a liability that sits with the restaurant or hotel owner. At this time of year, when the hospitality sector is in full swing, business owners can, inadvertently, be racking up enormous future tax bills in tips for staff.”

Irish restaurateur calls for VAT cut after seeing difference 9% rate makes in Dublin: The owner of an Irish restaurant chain is leading calls for a VAT cut for tourism in the UK after an alarming slump in visitors from the south, The Belfast Telegraph has reported. After only months of running a new restaurant in Dublin, Bob McCoubrey said the difference in his Vat return, based on the Republic’s 9% rate for hospitality firms, against the UK’s 20% rate, was “amazing” compared to his established eateries in Belfast and Dundrum, Co Down. His call was backed by the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation, which claims the UK Treasury would be £4bn better off by 2020 if tourism VAT was cut to 5%. Finance Minister Simon Hamilton told the Belfast Telegraph he supported a cut in the VAT rate. But he added: “Unfortunately HM Treasury has already indicated that any reduction in VAT would need to apply across the UK as a whole and they have indicated that, in their view, the cost of lowering the rate of VAT for the hospitality sector would be too high.” The head of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Howard Hastings, said: “The best period we ever had was five winters ago when the VAT rate in Northern Ireland was 15% and the equivalent rate in the south was 13%. It’s a price sensitive market and people are aware of exchange rates. When you consider currency growth and the year-on-year appreciation of sterling against the euro then Northern Ireland got more expensive for visitors from the Republic.”

Camra hires planner to help save pubs: The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has appointed a planner to fill a new post to try to help safeguard the country’s pubs. Planning adviser Matt Brown, who joins from the London Borough of Brent where he was a planning officer, told Planning magazine: “Around 28 pubs are closing every week. That might not be entirely due to the planning system but gaps within the legislation allow for change to take place unfettered by the need for planning application. I will work to ensure local campaign groups have the tools and advice to help save their local. Working closely with councils, Camra wants pub-protection policies included in local plans. We are also campaigning to change national planning legislation to make sure public houses are afforded greater protection.”

Underage drinks falls to the lowest level since records began: Figures released by the ONS and HCSIC have shown the rate of underage drinking has fallen to the lowest level since 1988, when records first began. The 2013 ‘Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England’ annual survey found that 39% of pupils said they had drunk alcohol at least once. This continues the downward trend since 2003, when 61% of pupils had drunk alcohol, and is lower than at any time since 1988, when the survey first measured the prevalence of drinking in this age group. 9% of pupils had drunk alcohol in the last week. This proportion has fallen from 25% in 2003. Wine and Spirit Trade Association chief Executive Miles Beale said: “The fall in underage drinking represents a sustained, long-term trend, which is welcomed by the industry. Young people are now drinking less, and those that do, are drinking less frequently. The rollout of industry-led initiatives like Challenge 25 and Community Alcohol Partnerships, which are targeted at reducing underage sales of alcohol and tackling underage drinking, are clearly having a positive impact.”

Company News:

Starbucks reports 18th consecutive quarter of global like-for-likes of 5% or more: Starbucks has reported like-for-likes sales rose 3% in Europe in its Third Quarter ending on 29 June. Net revenues totaled a Q3 record of $4.2 billion and global like-for-like sales increased 6%, marking the 18th consecutive quarter of global comparable growth of 5% or greater. In the Americas like-for-like sales increased 6% with US like-for-like sales up 7%. The company opened 344 net new stores globally, ending the quarter with 20,863 stores across 64 countries. The company expects to have opened 1,550 new sites this year and will target 1,600 new openings next year. “Starbucks Q3 represents another quarter of outstanding operating performance in which each of our segments contributed to record results,” said Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks Coffee Company. “The increasing power of the Starbucks brand, the success of our best-in-class mobile, social and digital technologies and our greatest asset – over 300,000 partners who deliver the Starbucks Experience to over 70 million customers around the world each week – position us to continue growing our business around the world and into the future.”

Simon Emeny – our refurbishments are appealing to a much broader market: The chief executive of the London-based brewer Fuller Smith & Turner, Simon Emeny, has told Propel that the company’s 7.3% rise in like-for-like sales rise in the 16 weeks to 19 July, following on from a 10% increase in the comparable period the year before can be linked, in part, to an increased quality of outcome at its refurbishments. “The quality of our refurbishments has moved on to a new level in the last two years and are appealing to a much broader market,” he said. The introduction of Frontier lager and Cornish Orchard cider to its pubs had also broadened the drinks offer. Emeny said that the opening of the London Pride bar at Heathrow’s new Terminal Two had been very well received. “Everybody loves the design and offer and every week sales are going up,” he said. He also argued that Fuller’s is benefiting from an uptick in the tourism cycle: “In many ways London is the capital of Europe.” Emeny said the next Stable artisan cider and pizza opening in Weymouth will take place towards the end of August at a site close to the sea on a free-of-tie commercial lease. “The [proposition] is very attractive to landlords – and [the Stable team] have negotiated very good deals,” he said. Numis Securities’ analyst Douglas Jack, issuing an ‘Add’ recommendation and a 1100p target price, said: “We are holding our forecasts (2015E PBT: £35.3m/consensus £34.8m) which are based on cautious assumptions of 3% managed lie-for-like sales growth, 1% tenanted like-for-like profit growth and 2% brewing volume growth. Given this and seven new managed pubs having already been scheduled for 2015E (and yet proforma net debt/Ebitda remains at 2.5x), versus four in 2014, we believe forecast risk remains on the upside.”

Douglas Jack – there’s still no momentum at Mitchells & Butlers and a dividend is unlikely: Numis Securities’ leisure analyst Douglas Jack has argued that there is still no sales momentum at Mitchells & Butler and the company is unlikely to pay a dividend. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note and a price target of 420p, he said: “Like-for-like sales were unchanged in Q3; and we are cutting our forecasts by 2%. The company’s ongoing malaise leaves its ability to expand and reintroduce dividends in question. Management claims like-for-like trading has picked up over the last three weeks and that it is hopeful of stronger like-for-like sales in 2015E, but there have been many false dawns. In Q3, like-for-like food sales rose 0.6% and like-for-like drink sales fell 0.5%. Although food volumes rose, prices were held and average food spend per head fell. It is a concern that there is no compensating improvement in Ebit margins, which we believe are down 20bps (Ebitda margins: -60bps). Competitive pricing is undermining margins, yet not appearing to have much impact on sales. Twenty new outlets opened during the first 42 weeks, with 27 targeted over the full year, followed by 40 in 2015E. In H1, Ebitda returns were just 14% on freeholds and 18% on leaseholds. Given this and the falling like-for-like Ebitda, one has to question the company’s ability to simultaneously turn around its estate, integrate/reposition Orchid and accelerate organic expansion. The combination of negative like-for-like Ebitda, the Orchid acquisition and the restrictive requirement that dividends have to be ‘funded out of cashflow after bond amortisation’ means that the company could afford to pay a £5m dividend this year, £13m next and £22m in 2016E. In our view, this leaves insufficient margin of safety on forecasts to reintroduce a progressive dividend this autumn. We have cut our forecasts by an average of 2%. For 2014E, our revised PBT forecast of £191.2m (consensus: £191.0m) assumes 0.8% like-for-like sales (versus 0.7% 42 weeks) and 25bps ebit margins reduction (versus H1’s 16bps fall). Having one of the highest-quality estates in the sector, M&B has long-term potential. However, one has to question whether this potential will be realised. We downgrade to ‘hold’ to reflect a further likely postponement of the reintroduction of dividends.”

Award-winning burger truck secures permanent site: The award-wining burger truck Bleecker St. Burger has secured its first permanent site at Unit 26 in Old Spitalfields Market in the East End of London through the property agent Cushman & Wakefield. The truck will be on-site temporarily from 20 August until the permanent kiosk is taken. Bleecker St. Burger, named after the street in New York that connects the East Village to the West Village, was founder by the American entrepreneur Zan Kaufman in 2012. The “Bleecker Black” burger won the last London Burger Bash, capturing more than a third of the 500 votes cast for the capital’s best burger. Matt Ashman, of Cushman & Wakefield’s leisure and restaurants team, said: “As Bleecker St. Burger’s reputation goes from strength to strength, their choice of Old Spitalfields Market as their first permanent site is testament to how the market appeals to both the City and East London.” Cushman & Wakefield is retail and leisure leasing agent at Old Spitalfields Market.

Espionage nightclub company goes into administration: A group of three companies which operate nightclubs in Aberdeen and Edinburgh has gone into administration. Espionage North Limited (ENL) owns and operates the Espionage nightclub on Union Street in Aberdeen. Espionage East Limited (EEL) owns the Espionage nightclub in Edinburgh. Blair Nimmo and Gary Fraser of KPMG were appointed joint administrators of Duddingston Leisure Limited, EEL and ENL on Monda, at the request of the companies’ director. Nimmo, the head of restructuring at KPMG in Scotland, said: “The Espionage brand is well-established in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with a loyal and diverse customer base. However, the businesses have been affected by challenging trading conditions as a result of the general downturn in the nightclub market in recent years.” The joint administrators will shortly begin a sales process for both businesses.

Breeze Ventures to create £600,000 pub and restaurant at Newcastle central station: Breeze Ventures is create a £600,000 pub and restaurant at Newcastle upon Tyne central station. The three-storey building, with decor paying homage to Newcastle’s railway heritage, will create at least 15 to 20 jobs. Breeze already operates the Newcastle bar and restaurant Pacific House. The new pub will include a roof-top terrace with panoramic views of the city. The bar will sell ten traditional ales representing destinations along the East Coast line as part of a theme, celebrating the region’s rail industry as far back as George and Robert Stephenson. The plans come amid the overall redevelopment of the station, part of a £200m regeneration of the so-called Stephenson Quarter. The space Breeze Ventures will redevelop is made up of two units that have long been underused, one of which is a timber structure once used as a left luggage office. Breeze first expressed an interest in the site around 18 months ago, when East Coast opened a tender process, attracting bids from some large national players. Approval for the scheme, which involved a change of use application for a grade 1 listed building, has now been granted by Newcastle Council.

Meantime Brewing Company to launch pop-up Greenwich bar: The London craft brewer Meantime Brewing Company is launching a new pop-up concept in August, by the O2 arena on Peninsula Square in North Greenwich. The two-storey “BeerBox”, created with the design agency Hooperberg, will be made from customised shipping containers. The bar will serve Meantime’s core range of beers, as well as limited editions and seasonal brews. The BeerBox will also be home to an exclusive Peninsula Pale Ale, which will be dispensed using the company’s state-of-the-art “Brewery Fresh” tank beer concept. The BeerBox will be open all year round, with an open-top roof terrace above bar level. Nick Miller, chief executive at Meantime, said: “Meantime aims to innovate and pioneer with its craft beer and has looked at many options to bring its range to the drinker. With this in mind, we wanted to create an interesting space and experience for our drinkers, where they can enjoy modern craft beer in an entertaining environment. The BeerBox provides us with the perfect opportunity to educate consumers about our craft in a fantastic location just minutes from our brewery. The footfall from the tube to London’s busiest entertainment venue numbers millions a year, so it’s the ideal setting to showcase quality modern craft brewing and encourage brand interaction.” Meantime has partnered with Knight Dragon, the development company charged with rejuvenating the Greenwich Peninsula area, and agreed a prime location for the BeerBox, just 200 yards from North Greenwich tube. The BeerBox will launch officially on 7 August with a secret performance from a well-known band.

Orderella partners with Beds and Bars for Newquay lunch: Orderella, the leading mobile ordering app, which allows its customers to order and pay for drinks and food with their phone, has partnered with the hostel and bar operator Beds & Bars for the first time with a launch at Belushi’s in Newquay. The long-term plan is for Orderella to be available at all nine Belushi’s sites across the UK. Richard Bradford, operations director at Belushi’s, said: “There are few places in England that appeal during the summer as much as Newquay, and we’re expecting to be very busy over the next month. This is where Orderella will help immensely, as it can assist our staff with taking orders and managing the bar queues, ensuring our customers can get on with relaxing in the sun and enjoying the beautiful sea views.”

Chipotle trials smaller format sites to obviate high property costs: Chipotle is testing a new restaurant layout with much less seating, which it thinks might be better suited to the UK and France. The restaurants would primarily serve take-out orders, which now account for two thirds of Chipotle transactions, up from 50% 14 years ago, according to Chipotle’s chief financial officer, Jack Hartung. “We feel good about the idea of going out and building some really, really small scrappy restaurants and we will continue to experiment with that in the future,” Hartung said. He said the company had been scouting out locations for the new store formats in the United States, the UK and France, specifically in places where property costs are high. “I think that the seating component of what we do has become a little less important as more people know who we are and also we’re more comfortable with it now, now that the brand has been more established,” Hartung said. “So we aren’t as concerned about someone coming in and not getting ‘the full Chipotle dining experience’ or being part of the restaurant atmosphere.”

Business partners to develop Thai food and cask ale at second pub: Eliz Brennan and James McLaughlin are to develop a cask ale and Thai food offer at their second pub, the Cask & Stillage in Potters Bar High Street, Hertfordshire, a Star Pubs & Bars that is undergoing a £150,000 investment. After three weeks of closure for the extensive works, the pub is expected to reopen this week. The couple will build up to offering six cask ales on tap and have appointed Thai chefs to produce an “authentic but affordable” Thai lunch and dinner menu. McLaughlin said: “As soon as we saw it we recognised the potential of the Cask & Stillage to be a thriving pub again. It’s a great pub in a fantastic location, all it needed was investment and a lot of TLC. We’ve got the investment now and we’ll certainly be putting in a lot of TLC.”

Starbucks signs up for charitable project ‘dating’ site: Starbucks UK has signed up for Neighbourly.com, a web-based start-up seeking to connect UK charitable projects with corporate donors. Simon Redfern, director of UK corporate affairs for Starbucks, said: “It’s like a dating agency for community projects and corporates. It can be surprisingly difficult to find projects. Neighbourly is pretty innovative in how it works. It feels very Starbucks.” Neighbourly.com charges an annual fee in return for identifying charity projects clients choose to support, and for managing the commitment. The Bristol-based website said in a statement that it was “the inaugural digital entry into the UK’s largely unstructured and unconnected corporate philanthropic sector,”

Krombacher Pils reports volume growth after major listings: Krombacher Pils, the number one premium beer in Germany, has seen like-for-like volume growth of 64% in the first six months of the year. The figures from January to June show Krombacher is bucking the downward trend in the market. Draught Krombacher Pils volume sales are up by 40% while volume sales of bottles are up 108% and cans up 100%. The news come after new listings in JD Wetherspoon and the Revolution vodka bar chain for the German beer. Revolution bars across the country are stocking Krombacher Pils in 33cl bottles as part of a “world beer” push.

Byron owner Hutton Collins seeks fund investors: Hutton Collins Partners, an investor in restaurant chains Byron and Wagamama, has hired an adviser to sell stakes in a €600m (£476m) fund it manages. Campbell Lutyens & Co will seek buyers for Hutton’s third fund, Hutton Collins Capital Partners III LP, which was raised in 2009, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Hutton Collins, which invests in companies through both debt and equity, is the latest manager to offer a way for current limited partners to sell stakes in a fund before assets are sold. In the past year, Argan Capital, Duke Street Capital and Corporate Partners have offered similar options. Hutton Collins said: “The effort has been initiated by the manager as a number of existing limited partners no longer participate in the asset class and might therefore seek to achieve early liquidity.”

Aberdeen restaurateurs bring soul food trend to city: Aberdeen restaurateurs have opened what is claimed to be the city’s first authentic American grill and Cajun “soul food” eatery, Maggie’s Grill provides a menu from the southern states including pulled pork, Dr Pepper-soaked ribs, Southern fried chicken and gumbo. The new restaurant is the latest venture from the owner of the Aberdeen eatery Pranzo, and has opened down the road from its sister venue on Holburn Street. Owner Richard Parfitt said: “The best way to describe our food is Cajun soul food and barbecue. There’s a soul food revival taking place at the moment in the southern States and it’s trending in London at the moment so we want to be the first to bring it to Aberdeen.”

Jamie Oliver voted nation’s favourite celebrity chef: A poll of more than 1,000 parents by the kitchen company larkandlarks.co.uk aiming to find the UK’s favourite celebrity chef has placed Jamie Oliver top, with 23% of the vote. He won ahead of Gino D’Acampo (18% of the vote) and Bake-Off host Mary Berry (14%), who came second and third in the poll. Marco Pierre White, who has just announced plans to open 50 franchise restaurants in the UK, came 13th in the poll with 1% of the vote. Nigella Lawson also placed well, with 13% of the vote.

KFC serves beer at Toronto KFC brand: A new Fresh KFC restaurant is to serve beer at two of its sites in Toronto, in a bid to compete with fast-casual chains. The first of the chicken chain’s new “Mexican-inspired” KFC Fresh concept restaurants launched in Canada last year, with its second outlet set to open this week serving burritos, rice bowls and spicy wraps alongside its fried chicken menu, and now beer. David Vivenes, KFC’s chief marketing officer, speaking to the Toronto Star, said: “It’s a natural fit as we continue to contemporise the brand in Canada. Beer pairs up really well with our food.”

Consent given to double the size of Brent Cross shopping centre: Planning permission for a revamped Brent Cross shopping centre in North London has been approved. The centre, in Princes Charles Drive, Hendon, will be doubled in size, creating new 27,000 jobs as part of the Brent Cross Regeneration Scheme. Developer Hammerson and Standard Life Investments hopes the centre will become the “best in Europe”. Earlier this year many expressed fierce opposition to the plans over claims the lack of transport links make it the wrong place for a huge mall.

Paddy and Scotts to embark on store opening programme: A Suffolk-based coffee shop chain and roaster, Paddy and Scott’s, which was founded by Scott Russell and Paddy Bishopp and operates more than 50 branded sites within the office of large UK companies, is to embark on a high street expansion programme. It is opening sites at Wells Close, Framlingham and Abbygate Street Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk in September and October.

Pub chain to open fourth site thanks to peer-to-business lender: A growing East London pub chain is set to open its fourth pub after receiving a £43,000 refurbishment loan from the peer-to-business lender rebuildingsociety. Electric Star, which operates The Star of Bethnal Green, The Star of Kings and The Star by Hackney Downs, is opening the doors of The Jackdaw and Star in Homerton later this summer, after a bespoke refurbishment. Rebuildingsociety works by allowing hundreds of individual lenders to pledge varying amounts towards a loan request posted on its website. It administers monthly capital and interest repayments on behalf of its borrowers. So far more than 60 loans, totalling more than £3m, have been created by rebuildingsociety for firms in a variety of industries across the UK. Rob Star, owner of Electric Star, said: “I’ve always had a strong relationship with my bank, but the last time I went for a loan, it took them five months to turn me down. With rebuildingsociety it was less than four weeks from our initial application to receiving the cash in the bank, and I’ve raised awareness of our business to hundreds of potential customers.”

Pint Shop launches summer menu: Pint Shop, the highly rated Cambridge-based operator that is credited with a clever re-invention of the British pub, has launched its new summer menu. Over 80% of the options on the menu are new for the summer, including five starters, two charcoal roast spit dishes, four charcoal grill items, and two of the bakes and braises. The new menu includes stuffed lamb shoulder with smoked lamb bacon, and overnight pork belly with seasonal apricots. Pint Shop opened in November 2013 and is owned by Richard Holmes and Benny Peverelli. Holmes said: “We regularly update our food offering to ensure customers can continually enjoy fresh, seasonal produce and try something new. This menu retains our focus on meat and bread, perfect for enjoying with our selection of beers, but has a lighter feel for summer. We’ve spent a lot of time putting it together and sourcing the right ingredients, including making some of them ourselves. We hope our customers will like the latest additions to the menu, and expect the Pint Shop kebab with chilli sauce, garlic yoghurt, and flat bread in particular to prove popular.”

FarmDrop reaches £400,000 target on Crowdcube: FarmDrop, the system that connects food producers with their customers, has passed its £400,000 target on the crowd-funding website Crowdcube with 47 days to spare. The company is offering 17% of its equity for the money. It had raised 109% of its target by yesterday afternoon, taking in £438,000 from 214. The pitch says: “FarmDrop’s mission is to create and grow sustainable local food systems. We’re doing that with an online platform that allows independent farmers and food producers to sell direct to their communities in a way that makes it more profitable for them and a better deal for customers. We believe FarmDrop answers an increasing demand for fresher, healthier local food at lower prices, while providing producers with a quantum leap forward in profitability. FarmDrop have five FarmDrops trading right now. There are a further 12 FarmDrops under construction and we have now received over 400 more applications to start FarmDrops. Many more will start building soon. More than 300 independent food producers have signed up to supply FarmDrops in their local areas.”

High-class Dublin restaurant on market for €3.5m: A restaurant in one of the most desirable areas of Dublin has been brought the market with an asking price of €3.5m. The unit at 1 Hanover Quay, Grand Canal Square is currently occupied by the Ely gastro bar and restaurant on a short term management contract. That contract will expire once the property changes hands. The sale is being handled by Savills on behalf of the receiver Stephen Tennant of Grant Thornton. The contemporary style bar and restaurant opened in 2007 and trades over two floors – basement and ground. The property is approximately 8,400 sq ft gross internal area and caters for 250 people, with additional seating on the feature outdoor terrace. The restaurant at present takes in annual revenue in the region of €3.5m per annum and is thought to be profitable. Stephen McCarthy is handling the sale and he said the unit offered a “rare opportunity to acquire a thriving bar and restaurant located in the heart of Grand Canal Square”.

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