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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 16th Oct 2015 - Update: Cote, Turtle Bay, The Restaurant Group, Soho House, Thwaites et al
Cote to scrap service charge policy and bring in new pay system: Cote is to scrap its policy of taking service charges added to bills and bring in a new pay system. The company has changed its policy following an internal review, including a survey of 250 staff, reports the Evening Standard. Management found fewer than one in five staff wanted to keep the current system, which saw them take home about £7.50 an hour instead of the previous minimum wage of £6.50. A 12.5% service charge was automatically added to every bill unless the customer asked for it to be removed. Under the new policy, staff will now get a variable rate of pay depending on how busy or quiet restaurants are, after 84% said they wanted a new policy. But staff will now have to pay a £2-a-day contribution to drinks and meals provided on their shift, previously covered by the company. The new policy will be trialled for two to three months before a tronc system is set up for all the service charges to be pooled and handed out to staff. A company email also told managers if a customer asks for the service charge to be removed and a cash tip is left instead, that belongs to the waiter. A Cote spokesman said it had “listened closely to the debate around the service charge and tipping”, but denied it had been keeping any of the service charge. Last month, PizzaExpress said it was changing its policy and no longer deducting an administration charge on tips made by card payment.

Thwaites buys two from Mitchells of Lancaster: Northern brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has acquired two new premises, currently part of the Mitchell’s of Lancaster. The Boot and Shoe in Lancaster and The Royal in Heysham, are to join the 300-plus Thwaites pub estate and will receive significant investment, early next year. This acquisition follows the recent purchase, by Thwaites, of the Mitchells and Butlers pub, the Crown Inn at Pooley Bridge, which will also receive significant investment in the New Year. Andrew Buchanan, director of pub operations at Thwaites, said: “This acquisition is a great opportunity for Thwaites and will allow us to continue to develop and strengthen our pub estate across the North West. Both sites provide excellent opportunity for growth and are in line with our vision to provide superb hospitality, in outstanding properties and in great locations across the UK.”

BrewDog extends crowdfunding offer on Crowdcube: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has extended its offer on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube for another 14 days. The company has raised £2.58m from a total of 1,443 investors. So far 678 investors have pledging £1,906,000 towards its 6.5% interest yielding four-year mini-bond. A further 867 people have pledged £675,830 in terms of an equity investment. The offer was launched at the start of September.

Turtle Bay to open first of two new restaurants in Liverpool next month: Caribbean restaurant chain Turtle Bay will open its first of two new restaurants in Liverpool next month. The company has invested £800,000 in a 3,500 square foot site in the Produce Exchange, a grade II-listed building on Victoria Street in the centre of the city. The 140-seat restaurant will open on Friday November 13. Turtle Bay’s founder and director, Ajith Jayawickrema, told Bdaily: “We’ve been looking at Liverpool as a destination for some time, it’s an exciting period of growth for the city, especially its vibrant culinary scene. There was no question as to whether or not we would open here, it was about finding the right space.” The company is due to open its second site in the city at Liverpool ONE in early 2016.

The Restaurant Group eyes double opening in St Leonard’s: The Restaurant Group is eyeing a double opening in St Leonard’s, East Sussex. The company wants to open its Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito brands on Glyne Gap opposite the Ravenside Retail Park. It has sent leaflets to residents outlining its proposal ahead of submitting a planning application next month, reports the Hastings & St Leonard’s Observer. The site would be accessed from Lewis Avenue and have space for 112 cars with a 10-metre “buffer” of plants to the east and south. The draft proposal is for two single-storey buildings with green roofs for the restaurants, creating 80 jobs. The leaflet said: “The sensitively designed scheme will effectively form an extension to the existing retail park and has been devised in discussion with a landscape architect, ecologist, transport and noise consultants. The proposed landscaping will offer an enhanced green edge to the proposed countryside park.”

Soho House Group sees waiting list for private members’ clubs reach all-time high: Soho House Group has seen the waiting list for its private members’ clubs reach an all-time high as it prepares for new openings overseas. The numbers wanting to join Soho House’s existing 50,460 members jumped 38% to 30,500. The London-based company, founded by Nick Jones and majority-owned by American billionaire Ron Burkle, is to open clubs in New York, Los Angles, Malibu, Amsterdam and White City in London over the next two years. The rise in the waiting list was revealed as accounts showed global turnover rose to £202.8m last year from £165.9m the year before. But losses rose slightly to £28m as it ploughed money into the expansion. Revenue was boosted by openings in Chicago, and expanding its Dirty Burger and Chicken Shop brands. Staff numbers in 2014 jumped to 3,576 from 2,852 the prior year.

Brother of supermodel Kate Moss starts running Vietnamese street food truck in London: Nick Moss, the brother of supermodel Kate Moss, has started running a Vietnamese street food truck in London. Moss, along with fiancée Tracy Pooley is running Vietvan, which he took on from a friend when they moved to Hong Kong. They drive to East Dulwich every Saturday to serve fresh spring rolls and steaming bánh mì and if they can secure a berth at the new Boxpark in Croydon then Moss plans to give up his day job as a city trader. He told the Evening Standard he was inspired to take on the venture after a cancer scare about a year ago and said his sister is fully behind the business and has been known to drop by. Moss, who modelled alongside his sister and Naomi Campbell before quitting to travel around Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, said of the health scare: “It was a wake-up call. I’ve cut right back on the beers.” Moss is also “head chef” when it comes to Moss family Christmases and his sister’s famous barbecues. He added: “I’m really protective of my cooking. One Christmas Kate had a professional chef in, but that takes half the fun out of it.”

Greene King to add crowd-sourced burger to menu: Greene King is adding a crowd-sourced burger to its menu following a competition held by about 100 of its pubs across the UK. Diners will be able to order “The Big Porky” as part of its autumn/winter menu from Thursday (22 October), which has been created by 19-year-old Jess Watkinson. The burger consists of a pork and chorizo patty, smoked streaky bacon, barbecue pulled pork, mature cheddar cheese and warm apple sauce in a seeded brioche bun. Watkinson entered the company’s “Design a Burger” competition at the Skyrack pub in St Michaels Road, Leeds, by outlining the ingredients for the pork burger. For her prize, she received a £100 gift card as well as a night’s hotel accommodation and an evening meal at the Bushel pub in Bury St Edmunds, ahead of her helping to make the burger in Greene King’s development kitchen. Watkinson, said: “I am thrilled to have won the competition and now cannot wait to see my idea for a burger made real. I am looking forward to people tasting it and hope they enjoy it.” Greene King’s Local Pubs division managing director Anthony Hemmerdinger added: “We had a fantastic response to this competition with some brilliant ideas. We worked with Jess to make her design come alive and we are delighted with the end result.”

Carlsberg sells former Tetley brewery site in Leeds for £40m: Carlsberg has sold its former Tetley brewery site at Leeds’ South Bank for about £40m. The company has sold the 22-acre site to Vastint, the property arm of Inter IKEA, which plans to develop it into a mixed-use scheme, reports Property Week. Carlsberg’s brewery, which sits within the Leeds South Bank Regeneration area, closed in 2011 and was demolished to make way for cultural and car parking facilities. Carlsberg still employs about 150 people on the site, at Tetley’s House, and the deal includes an agreement for Carlsberg to remain on the site on a flexible lease back arrangement. As part of the deal, Carlsberg will also retain ownership of Tetley House, the former Tetley headquarters building, which has already been converted into an art gallery and venue called The Tetley. Bruce Ray, corporate affairs director at Carlsberg UK, said: “Over recent months we have completed a review of all of the proposals submitted by interested parties. We are pleased to have agreed a deal with Vastint, whose plan carries with it a commitment to respect the site’s history and heritage.” The Carlsberg brewery site is the second large scale mixed-use development in the UK undertaken by Vastint, the first being Strand East, in Stratford, London. Colliers International and Ove Arup & Partners advised Carlsberg while LSH advised Vastint in the deal.

Be At One reports turnover and Ebitda rise: Cocktail bar brand Be At One has reported turnover rose 35% to £22.5m, in the year to 31 March 2015. Store adjusted Ebitda rose £1.6m (38%) to £5.8m with company adjusted Ebitda rising by 38% to £3.3m. The company invested £4.85m on new sites in the year. Gross profit margin increased to 72% from 71%. Profit before tax rose to £817,691 from £371,365 the year before.

Le Bistrot Pierre launching children’s activity pack in response to research that finds more families visiting restaurants to spend ‘quality time’ together: Le Bistrot Pierre is launching a children’s activity pack after its own research showed almost 75% of families visit restaurants more frequently than five years ago and choose dining out as a way of spending “quality time” together. The study found the majority (57%) said “quality time family together” was the main reason ahead of a family celebration and socialising with the family. Almost half of families asked considered “quality of food” as the most important thing, followed by “value”, and 63% preferred restaurants that offer a children’s activity pack. Le Bistrot Pierre commissioned the research of 785 people during September to find out what was important to families and in response is launching a children’s activity pack across its 13 sites. Rob Beacham, co-owner of the business and father of three, said: “Quality family time can be hard to factor in at home surrounded by distractions, so the Bistrot Pierre family felt that a meal out together would be the perfect time to put away phones and tablets and really enjoy each other’s company. That’s why we have chosen to invest in our younger customers to create something really special for our activity pack. Our entirely hand-drawn activity pack includes 14 French-themed puzzles, games, story writing and Ou est Pierre?” To mark the launch of the new pack, created by artist Julia Whitehead, and menu, Le Bistrot Pierre will be offering a free children’s meal and a giveaway to ten people during half-term week to those who find the mini Pierre character within their activity pack.

Gourmet healthy snacks company EarlyBird raises equity offer and extends £300,000 crowdfunding drive on Crowdcube for second time: Gourmet healthy snacks company EarlyBird has raised its equity offer to 20% and extended its £300,000 crowdfunding drive on Crowdcube for a second time. The company, founded by Oliver Pugh and Jamie Trinder in partnership with branding agency Saffron Brand Consulting, was originally offering 15.79% equity. So far the company, which launched its Crowdcube fund-raise on 4 September, has raised £221,110 from 110 investors with the largest investment to date being £62,000. The latest extension means the company has 14 days remaining. It is aiming to raise the money to continue developing the product and allow EarlyBird to break even and capture 10% of the market in three years. Pugh said: “I’m pleased to announce that following conversations with investors, we have decided to increase the equity on offer to 20%, that’s a quarter more shares for your money! Due to this we have significantly lowered our top overfunding amount so that earlier investors wont be diluted as much.”

Red Hot World Buffet reports Indian food is customers’ favourite: Red Hot World Buffet, led by James Horler and backed by Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners, has reported that Indian food still reigns supreme across all its venues. Paul Miller, group executive chef at Red Hot World Buffet, said: “Although we offer so much choice at Red Hot World Buffet, it’s always the curry dishes that our customers go for. It shows Brits really love Indian food and, whether it be a spicy vindaloo or a creamy, tasty korma, India really is king. People love the combination of sweet and spice and the contrasting flavours make each dish truly unique.”

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