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Mon 30th Jan 2017 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

The Stable to launch 'cider master' programme: The Stable operations director David Gough has revealed the brand is in the early stages of creating a “cider master” programme. Cider is a is a pivotal part of the Stable proposition at the 17-strong restaurant chain, which London brewer and retailer Fuller’s currently has a 76% stake in. Speaking at the Propel Craft Beer Retail Study Tour, hosted by the Thinking Drinkers, Gough said: “We are trying to create a qualification so our cider masters have a similar role to a beer sommelier – they will be essential, as they are a customer’s port of call.” In 2009, Richard and Nikki Cooper and Richard’s brother Andy opened their first site for The Stable in Bridport. Between 2010 and 2015, they opened five sites, at which point Fuller’s invested in 51% of the business. Fuller’s then went on to open eight sites in 2015 and four sites in 2016. In April 2016, that investment was raised to 76% and in October, the company opened the 17th Stable site, in Exeter. Gough told the audience the brand was pausing for breath, having opened sites in such quick succession last year. He said where possible, part of his role was to make sure the integration “worked for the brand”, which is about Nikki Cooper’s vision of creating alluring sites under the banner “Dorset born and bred”. He added the attraction of The Stable to Fuller’s came when Fuller’s was looking to expand more into the west, “so to have a cider company of our own and that mix in the west works really well”. Gough said: “Some of our sites are pubs, some of them are bars, and some of them are definitely restaurants but our average wet-dry split across the estate is 35% wet, that’s all.” Fuller’s is set to acquire the remaining 24% of artisan cider and pizza brand The Stable, Propel understands, in June 2018. The other Stable venues are in Bath, Bristol, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Cheltenham, Cardiff, Falmouth, Fistral Beach, Kew Bridge, Plymouth, Poole, Southampton, Whitechapel, Winchester and Weymouth.
 

Industry News:

Propel Premium subscribers to receive new membership benefit: Subscribers to Propel Premium are to receive a new benefit – a £50 discount on tickets to Propel’s Masterclass series of events in 2017. The series includes The Advanced Social Media Masterclass, The Leadership Masterclass, the Finance and Investment Masterclass and the Multi-site Management Masterclass. The current free service to all existing readers remains the same, but readers can opt to upgrade to receive the Propel Premium service. Propel Premium subscribers also receive the Morning Newsletter, which is sent at 6.30am each weekday, 12 hours earlier at 6.30pm the day before. On 1 March, Propel Premium subscribers will also receive an updated version of the Propel database of multi-site companies, which will add another 200 companies to the existing database of 700 to hit the 900 mark. For operators, annual subscription costs £345 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. For suppliers, annual subscription costs £445 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. To subscribe to the Propel Premium service, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com
 
Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Coffee Republic’s John West to present: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2017 is now open for bookings. John West, head of franchising sales for Coffee Republic, will set out how the company has revived its fortune in the UK and overseas, its USPs, its position within the coffee market, its franchising strategy, and future plans in the UK and abroad. The full-day conference takes place on Thursday, 9 March at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places. Email Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com to book a place.

UK hospitality industry boosted by increase in North American visitors following pound devaluation after Brexit vote: The UK hospitality industry has benefited from an increase in visitors from North America, brought on by the devaluation of the pound following the EU referendum vote, according to a new report. Arrivals from North America were up 6.8% between July and October 2016 when compared with the same period in 2015, the study by STR and Tourism Economics showed. From January to June, the “pre-Brexit” vote period, arrivals from North America increased at a more modest 0.5% compared with the first six months of 2015. Meanwhile, arrivals from Europe have dropped off slightly following the referendum, down 0.1% between July and October 2016. Overall during the first ten months of 2016, international arrivals to the UK were up 1.7% to 31.4 million. The figures also showed holiday arrivals to the UK were down 3.7% overall but between July and October the rate of decline slowed to 2.9%. For UK hotels, performance growth has been mixed between London and the regions. In 2016, regional hotels recorded a 3.1% increase in revpar driven solely by an increase in average daily rate as occupancy remained flat. London, on the other hand, recorded a 0.9% decline in revpar, brought on by flat average daily rate coupled with a 0.9% drop in occupancy. STR analysts attributed the decline to an increase in supply and a slow start to the year. The report predicted hotels in London would be affected by shifts in demand throughout 2017, which will likely bring down both occupancy and average daily rate growth throughout the year. On the other hand, hotels in the regions are expected to post revpar growth within the range of 2% to 6% from month-to-month throughout 2017. STR international managing director Robin Rossmann said: “While the capital has faced challenges in 2016, we have certainly not seen a slowdown in development. London currently has more than 15,000 hotel rooms under construction or planned for development, which is more than all countries in Europe except Germany and Russia. This supply growth will put downward pressure on occupancy levels, but recent signs are showing the weak sterling may help to grow arrivals sufficiently to offset this. For regional UK hotels, an increase in “staycations” should boost performance, as outbound travel has become more expensive for UK residents given the current exchange rate.”

Tesco facing lengthy competition inquiry over £3.9bn Booker takeover: Tesco is facing a lengthy competition inquiry over its proposed £3.9bn takeover of wholesaler Booker as rivals prepare to lobby the watchdog over the deal. The supermarket company has announced the cash-and-shares takeover of Booker, which supplies convenience store chains such as Premier, Londis and Budgens, and delivers ingredients to restaurants including Byron, Carluccio’s and Wagamama. Rivals complained the deal would double Tesco’s share of the convenience store sector to at least 20% and increase its overall share of the grocery market to more than 30%. Lord Rose, chairman of the online grocer Ocado, told the Sunday Times: “The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be all over the deal like a rash, and it should be. The small shopkeepers are now effectively going to be supplied by Tesco.” The CMA has been urged to look at the “holistic” picture of the tie-up, which will make Tesco a significant supplier to the catering trade. The enlarged group will also exert greater influence over suppliers. Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis has promised £175m of annual cost savings within three years. Lewis and Booker chief executive Charles Wilson said they had received advice — believed to be from the law firm Freshfields — suggesting the tie-up would not cause serious concern at the CMA because the 5,500 sites under Booker’s convenience store brands are run as franchises by independent shopkeepers.

Investment fund still trying to find finances to table Punch counter bid: Investment fund Emerald Investment Partners, led by former Punch finance director Alan McIntosh, is still trying to put together the financing it needs to dislodge Heineken in the race for Punch. Emerald has yet to secure the backing for a counter bid ahead of the deadline on Friday (3 February), according to City sources. That paves the way for Heineken, along with partner Patron Capital, to buy Punch’s 3,200 pubs for about £1.8bn, including debt. Punch has recommended its shareholders accept the 185p-a-share offer from Heineken, while the pub company’s three biggest shareholders have promised to sell — unless a rival bid is made at 200p or higher. Punch shares closed on Friday (27 January) at 192p. McIntosh is understood to have approached a number of potential partners about teaming up for a counter bid, including C&C Group, the makers of Magners cider, reports the Sunday Times. Talks are understood to be continuing and could result in a last-ditch bid being tabled this week. Punch will put the Heineken bid to a shareholder vote on Friday, 10 February.

Agenda finalised for free event aimed at clarifying key employment issues for pub operators: The agenda has been finalised for a free event aimed at clarifying key employment issues for pub operators. The event, run by The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, the British Beer & Pub Association, the British Institute of Innkeepers, and People 1st, the sector skills organisation for the hospitality industry, takes place on Thursday, 2 February at The Forge in Cornhill, London. Policymakers, industry professionals and training providers will give insights on the Apprenticeship Levy, new apprenticeships, the National Living Wage, and potential migration restrictions resulting from Brexit to help operators recruit and retain talent in their business. The event will also include contributions from the Department for Education, Department for Work and Pensions, and the Low Pay Commission. For more information and to register, click here
 
Restaurants, pubs and hotels see December sales rise: Restaurants, pubs and hotels saw an increase in sales in December compared with last year, according to new data. Figures from card payment service company Paymentsense revealed restaurants saw sales rise 10%, with pubs up 9% and takeaways 11%. Hotels also saw sales grow by 5%. Paymentsense head of marketing Guy Moreve said: “The reasons for these rises are varied. However, one answer is the Brexit vote is encouraging Europeans and those further afield to take advantage of a pound that is weaker now than in December 2015. It’s also a sign that despite wider global and political events, from the invasion of Ukraine, Greece’s eurozone problems and terror attacks in France and Tunisia, people remain resolute about travel and are committed to living free of fear. Finally, it seems to suggest that the impact of the sharing economy on the accommodation industry, with the likes of Airbnb and HomeAway dominating much of the conversation, may have been overestimated. While we’ll have to wait and see which way the cat jumps, we expect to see this upward trend maintained throughout 2017, even in the face of further global and political changes.”
 
UKinbound denounces proposals to introduce tourist bed tax: UKinbound, the trade association that represents more than 370 of the country’s tourism businesses, has denounced proposals put forward by councils and the Mayor of London to introduce a bed tax for tourists. Chief executive Deirdre Wells said: “Introducing a bed tax would be a retrograde step for UK tourism. Every inbound tourist already contributes an additional £630 in export earnings and £216 to the Exchequer, and the UK has one of the most punitive tax systems for tourism in the world. Inbound tourism generates more than £22bn for the UK economy, making it our seventh-biggest export earner and one of our largest employers. Councils across the country need to do all they can to encourage more tourists to visit their destinations, not see them as a cash cow. It is highly important that we send a welcoming message to tourists visiting our post-Brexit Britain. Introducing a bed tax will counteract the government’s ambition of making us a truly tolerant and global nation.”
 
France bans unlimited sugary drinks refills: Restaurants and other spaces catering to the public in France have been banned from offering unlimited sugary drinks in an effort to reduce obesity. It is now illegal to sell unlimited soft drinks at a fixed price or offer them unlimited for free, reports the BBC. The number of overweight or obese people in France is below the EU average but is on the rise. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends taxing sugary drinks, linking them to obesity and diabetes. Self-service “soda fountains” have long been a feature of family restaurants and cafes in some countries like the UK, where a soft drinks tax will be introduced next year. The new law in France targets soft drinks, including sports drinks containing added sugar or sweeteners. All public eateries, from fast-food joints to school canteens, are affected. The aim of the law is to “limit, especially among the young, the risks of obesity, overweight and diabetes” in line with WHO recommendations. A recent Eurostat survey of adult obesity put the French at 15.3%, which is just below the EU average of 15.9%. That was lower than the UK (20.1%) but higher than Italy (10.7%). Past the age of 30, nearly 57% of French men are overweight or obese, according to a report published in October by the French medical journal Bulletin Epidemiologique Hebdomadaire. Some 41% of women in the same age category are also overweight or obese, the study found.
 

Company News:

Red Hot World Buffet co-founder to launch global food and cocktails concept in Leicester: Pammi Dhaliwal, co-founder of Red Hot World Buffet, which folded last year, is set to launch a cocktail bar and world food restaurant concept in Leicester. Dhaliwal has teamed up with daughter Shireen and son Simran to launch Rickshaw Rick’s in Granby Street at a former Walkabout bar that closed in 2015. The venue will create its own infused house spirits to give a “new twist” on cocktails, while the food offer will be inspired by “street food from all over the globe”. Shireen Dhaliwal told the Leicester Mercury: “It is a different concept to the Red Hot Buffet, although still offering world food. There will be crafted cocktails and shakes and world-inspired comfort food at really comfortable prices. We will be doing hot boxes of food, ranging from a Sunday roast box to a sushi box. The main lesson we’ve learned from Red Hot Buffet is the importance of providing really good value for customers.” Rickshaw Rick’s has signed a 15-year lease for the 7,600 square foot site and is set to open in April. Space Retail Property Consultants advised the landlord, a Leicester-based private investor. Red Hot World Buffet fell into administration in July, blaming declining sales and negative PR attention due to employment tribunal claims brought by former employees as well as court proceedings arising from the discovery of rodents at its Liverpool site.
 
Shoryu Ramen secures funds for further expansion: Shoryu Ramen Restaurant Group, which specialises in Kyushu cuisine from the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, has agreed an asset finance facility of more than £450,000 from Aldermore Bank to fund further UK expansion. Shoryu Ramen operates seven restaurants in London and opened its first outside the capital, in Manchester, in November. The company, part of the Japan Centre group, was founded in 2012 by chef Tak Tokumine and also recently opened a site in Fukuoka city. Tokumine told CCR: “We have ambitious plans to grow our business and the funding from Aldermore has enabled us to buy the assets we needed to drive our expansion. Aldermore took the time to really understand our business and its history, as well as our growth plans. They were able to provide a flexible facility, which we can access when we need additional funds. The bank was also one of the few providers offering asset finance for smaller but integral assets for our business, such as kitchen appliances.” Aldermore business development manager Sean Thorn added: “Tak has a great vision for the business and many more exciting initiatives in the pipeline, which we hope to be able to support.”
 
Starbucks starts rolling out paper cup recycling bins to stores: Starbucks has started rolling out paper cup recycling bins in its stores as part of an ongoing strategy to help reduce paper cup waste. An initial 20 stores in central and west London will offer the paper cup bin encouraging “from street to in-store” disposal to ensure more paper cups are recycled. The arrival of Starbucks’ new cup recycling bins follows a successful back-of-house trial run in partnership with waste management provider Veolia since last spring. Created for Starbucks, the bins are designed to help enable effective recycling. Each bin features clearly indicated sections for consumers to tip away excess liquid, remove the sleeve and lid, and stack their cup separately. From here the cup can be recycled through the store’s waste collection, rather than relying on local recycling facilities. Starbucks is encouraging all “to go” customers to return any takeaway paper cups to one of its stores, not only Starbucks cups. Simon Redfern, vice-president communications for Starbucks Europe, said: “This new bin design is a significant way to test not only how cups can be recycled in our stores but also how people will embrace the new behaviour. Paper cup waste is a complex but important issue across the industry. To help tackle it, our strategy focuses on increasing ways we can reduce, reuse and recycle and these new bins provide a way for customers to help us make a difference.” Beyond the introduction of the new bins, Starbucks continues to offer a 25p discount to customers using a reusable cup. Starbucks’ business customers can also recycle their paper cups via a “post-back” Cup Care scheme offered by Veolia.
 
First franchised Belgo site opens as part of new dual concept at King’s Cross hotel: The first franchised site of Casual Dining Group’s Belgian bar brand Belgo has opened as part of a new dual concept venture in King’s Cross, London. The Firoka Group has opened the franchised site at its Crowne Plaza Hotel as part of a £20m refurbishment of the former Holiday Inn site. It will be joined by the Bloom Kitchen and Bar, which is opening at the hotel on Tuesday, 7 February. The Firoka Group director Feroza Kassam created the concept of Bloom and franchised Belgo to run alongside each other. He said: “We are really excited about Bloom Kitchen and Bar and Belgo coming to the Crowne Plaza in Kings Cross. We feel they will create a unique dual experience. Bloom Kitchen and Bar is something new and Belgo has a prestigious pedigree. It’s the perfect mix.” Bloom Kitchen and Bar pays homage to the famous artistic set, The Bloomsbury Group, and the locality. The Bloomsbury Group, a collective of bohemian writers, poets and intellectuals, including Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, worked together, studied together and were renowned for their influential, private and exclusive rendezvous. The 102-cover site has relaxed lounge areas and an outdoor terrace, with the main dining area featuring large tables, ideal for groups or sharing. Odes to the Bloomsbury Group can be seen throughout. The menu has been designed by leading London chef Kurt Zdesar and will include a selection of main courses and salads and pasta. Alongside the food menu, a specialist gin cocktail menu has been created to complement the concept. The Belgo restaurant takes reference from the brand’s core values surrounding Trappist monks. Diners at the 140-cover restaurant can expect quirky feature lighting, big banquette seating, reclaimed wood booths and eclectic artwork. Floor-to-ceiling stained-glass screens break up the restaurant, creating smaller intimate dining areas. Belgo was launched in Chalk Farm, London, in 1992 and has five company-owned sites in the capital as well as one in Nottingham.
 
Giant Hospitality strengthens portfolio with Tenby hotel, first of four sites planned in South Wales: Hotel operator Giant Hospitality has strengthened its portfolio after adding the Fourcroft Hotel in Tenby – the first of four sites planned in South Wales. The company will run the site, which overlooks the North Beach and harbour, on behalf of property company Northern Powerhouse Developments. It has bought the hotel, which has been in the same family since the early 1940s, from Chris Osborne for an undisclosed sum following a deal brokered by agent Colliers International. The Fourcroft has 40 bedrooms, most of which overlook the bay. Its restaurant, Ossie Morgan’s, has sea views and seating for up to 100 and there is also a conservatory, outdoor swimming pool and meeting rooms. Giant Hospitality has a growing portfolio of UK-based hotels, which it manages on behalf of Northern Powerhouse Developments. Northern Powerhouse Developments chairman Gavin Woodhouse said: “We are delighted to add the Fourcroft to our UK hotel portfolio. This is the first of four hotels we are acquiring and opening in South Wales to complement our existing hotels up and down the coastline of the UK.” The Fourcroft will be a sister hotel to the Llandudno Bay Hotel and Spa, which is part of the group’s premier hotel collection.
 
High-end Indian restaurant Baluchi enters UK market with London launch: High-end Indian restaurant The Baluchi has opened its first site in the UK. Housed in luxury hotels throughout India, the brand has opened in The Lalit London hotel in Tooley Street. The menu features a diverse selection of flavours from many Indian regions, including Kashmir, Bengal, Kerala and Goa. Dishes include suroor e shorba (Keralan-style lobster bisque with coconut and cognac), and phalahaar (melon, blood orange, pink lady, fresh figs, grapefruit and carom seeds with honey dressing). The kitchen is headed by executive chef Arup Dasupta using ingredients from far-flung destinations such as Kashmiri Gucchi mushrooms from the foothills of the Himalayas, alongside a selection of teas from the Tea Lounge in Kolkata. The decor features vaulted ceilings, hand-made cobalt chandeliers, and Indian furniture and tapestries. The venue, close to Tower Bridge, also has a bread bar – the Naanery – and the Baluchi Gallery, which offers “traditional English tea-time snacks with an Indian twist”, such as Bangla-Scotch egg with kasundi relish and Punjabi samosas.
 
Charles Wells to open third Pizza, Pots and Pints site, in Peterborough: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells is to open its third Pizza, Pots and Pints site, this time in Peterborough. The company is opening the venue in Queen Street on the site of the former Clarkes fine-dining restaurant. Prior to 2013, it had been the brewer’s Grapevine pub. The venue will offer artisan pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven as well as “one-pot comfort food” such as mac and cheese and cheesy squash casserole ham hock fricassee, along with Charles Wells beer. A spokesman told the Peterborough Telegraph: “Following the successful launch of our Pizza, Pots and Pints concept at the Salisbury Arms in Cambridge two years ago, we’re looking to bring its winning formula to Peterborough. It has been received better than we could have hoped and we feel we have found a winning formula so it makes more sense to go with a managed site. We have been tracking this site for some time and this gives us a great opportunity to have more creative control and do something different to the other operators.” The company has lodged plans with the city council for new signage and some internal alterations and expects to open the site in the summer. Charles Wells’ other Pizza, Pots and Pints site is The Old White Horse pub in Baldock, Hertfordshire.
 
Fuller’s appoints Georgina Young as company’s first female head brewer: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has appointed Georgina Young as its first female head brewer. Young replaces John Keeling, who will continue to mentor her as well as promote the company on a wider global stage. Fuller’s Beer Company managing director Simon Dodd said: “This is a fantastic move for George and owes a great deal to John Keeling. He hired George as a production brewer in 1999, has developed her throughout her career at Fuller’s, and will continue to mentor her. With George assuming day-to-day responsibility for the brewery, John will have more flexibility to promote Fuller’s on a wider global stage. He plays an important ambassadorial role and is in demand worldwide to speak at conferences and judge at numerous high-profile international beer awards. John will also continue to work on numerous other projects such as collaboration beers.” Keeling added: “I’m delighted to see George promoted to this role. She is very well respected at Fuller’s and throughout the wider industry and is the first female head brewer at Fuller’s. She’s a great person to lead the brewery going forwards and inspire the next generation of brewers.”
 
Birmingham-based Indian Brewery opens first bar: Birmingham-based Indian Brewery has opened its first bar, in a vacant unit at Queensway Arches in the Jewellery Quarter. The brewer, which is based in Great Barr and makes a small range of craft beers, has converted Arch 16 in Livery Street, which was previously occupied by coffee shop Brewsmiths. The site serves breakfast with an Indian twist until midday and then offers a street food menu featuring pakora pops and Indian fish and chips. The beer is served in craft cans, bottle cask and on draught and includes The Indian Brewery’s own beers as well as a range of guest ales. Indian Brewery owner Jaspal Purewal told The Business Desk: “We’ve wanted to set up a bar for our brewery for a long time and the Jewellery Quarter is the perfect location. There are so many exciting things happening here. This will be our flagship store – for all to consume our beers along with in-house artisan coffee and street food.”
 
Thwaites freezes beer prices: North west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites is to freeze its own beer prices to its tenants. It means the prices paid by its publicans for Thwaites-branded products will remain the same for the rest of 2017. Director of pubs and brewing Andrew Buchanan said: “We hope this news is a welcome boost to our licensees. We know currently there are tough trading conditions and they are facing cost increases in a whole host of areas. That is why we are committed to supporting our customers wherever we can and why we are going to hold our prices this year. We too have seen our costs rise but we have found a way to absorb that this year so we don’t have to pass it on to our publicans.” Thwaites currently brews a large range of seasonal ales at its brewery in Blackburn. The freeze on prices will include these, as well as other brands it owns, such as Nutty Black, Thwaites Original and Thwaites Smooth.
 
Whitbread secures licence for hub by Premier Inn in Soho: Whitbread has secured a licence for a hub by Premier Inn in Soho. The company was successful in its application to Westminster Council’s licensing committee despite the Berwick Street site sitting within the West End Cumulative Impact Zone and local residential opposition. The circa 110-bedroom hotel is due to open in 2018 and will join the already opened hub by Premier Inn sites in St Martins Lane and Dacre Street. A third hotel under the format is due to open shortly in Tothill Street. Licensing solicitors John Gaunt appeared on behalf of Whitbread at the hearing.
 
Cote gets go-ahead for Shrewsbury site: French brasserie Cote has been given the go-ahead for a site in Shrewsbury. The company has been granted permission to convert an empty unit in Princess House, The Square. The plans include an outside seating area in front of the restaurant and three retractable verandas, the Shropshire Star reports. Cote, which is owned by private equity firm BC Partners, has more than 80 sites in the UK.

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