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Fri 25th Aug 2017 - Update: Pret, Punch, Tesco/Booker latest, ALMR migrant worker fears, boxing boost
Pret signs first US franchise agreement to open debut university sites: Pret A Manger has signed its first franchise agreement in the US to open its debut university sites in the country. The company will open two shops at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania on Monday (28 August), which marks its first shops in Philadelphia, followed by one at the University of Chicago on Thursday, 14 September. The three shops will open in partnership with Bon Appétit Management Company, an on-site restaurant company that operates more than 1,000 cafes in 33 states for corporations, universities and museums, as well as public restaurants. The two University of Pennsylvania shops will serve students, staff and guests at the Wharton School’s Jon M Huntsman Hall at 3730 Walnut Street. The first shop will be on the main floor and the second, a smaller outpost, will be on the second floor. At the University of Chicago, the shop will be in the Reynolds Club, the primary student centre at the Hyde Park campus, at 5706 S University Avenue. Pret US president Jo Brett said: “Choosing the right partners is important for Pret and we really admire Bon Appétit’s values and operational strengths. Pret is a natural choice for students looking for fresh and nutritious food and we hope these three new university shops are the first of many.” Bon Appétit chief executive Fedele Bauccio added: “I have long admired Pret for its fresh, flavourful menu items that can be enjoyed quickly on the go. In addition, Pret’s culinary and sourcing standards align closely with Bon Appétit’s, which will make us a great team.” Pret opened its first university shop in the UK last year at the University of Exeter.

Patron completes Punch deal: Patron Capital, the pan-European institutional investor focused on property backed investments, has completed its acquisition of Punch. The deal, at 180 pence in cash per share, values the equity of Punch at about £402m and implies an enterprise value of about £1.8bn. In the 12 months to March 2017, the Punch estate reported underlying Ebitda of about £172m and comprised about 3,200 pubs located across the UK, 96% of which are held on a freehold or long leasehold basis. Punch operates its pubs predominantly under the tied leased and tenanted model, with a growing number of pubs operated under either a retail operating model or as free-of-tie commercial leases. Punch is financed through two whole business securitisations, the Punch A Securitisation (about £770m of gross debt secured against about 1,900 pubs) and the Punch B Securitisation (about £550m of gross debt secured against about 1,300 pubs), as well as certain cash resources held across the Punch group. Punch also owns about 50 pubs outside of the securitisations. The Punch A Securitisation has been sold to Heineken UK in a back-to-back transaction, which is set to complete next week, for about £305m equity value (an enterprise value of about £1.2bn). Patron will own the remaining pubs as well as the Punch Holding Group. Punch will continue to operate the Punch A pubs for Heineken for six months under a transitional services agreement. Patron’s partner on the investment is May Capital, the London-based private equity investor and advisor with experience in the pub industry. Patron and May Capital said with a renewed level of operational and investment focus made possible by a sale of the Punch A group to Heineken it would expect to continue to pursue, and in some cases accelerate or enhance, key elements of the Punch management team’s strategy, including investing in the pubs, adapting and modernising operating models such as through the roll-out of the managed operating format, and continuing to sell non-core assets. Patron’s equity for the purchase came from its fifth fund, which closed last summer having raised €949m. Patron Capital managing director Keith Breslauer said: “Completing this complex deal paves the way for an exciting future for Punch as a more focused business. This is a company that has undergone a number of challenges and distractions in recent years but has a portfolio of high quality pubs with excellent future potential. We are experienced investors in the leisure and hospitality sector, having invested in and grown a range of businesses including Generator, the Spencer Hotel in Dublin and Jupiter Hotels. Under private ownership, with strong financial backing and our commitment to continued investment, Punch’s pubs and publicans will have our full support to deal with changing market dynamics and provide their customers with the best possible offer.” Punch chief executive Duncan Garrood added: “This has been a long road and we are delighted that we are now able to move forward with clarity. I am proud of the professionalism of the Punch employees during this period of uncertainty, and remain sure of their ongoing commitment as we look to an exciting future under new ownership.” Patron Capital and May Capital were advised by N M Rothschild & Sons in relation to the acquisition and subsequent back-to-back transaction with Heineken.

Tesco and Booker reject suggestion merger will hurt suppliers: Tesco and wholesaler Booker have rejected suggestions their planned £3.7bn merger would hurt suppliers, saying they should benefit from growth and lower costs as a result of the deal. Tesco agreed a deal to buy Booker in January to take advantage of the fast-growing catering sector. However, the deal is subject to an in-depth investigation by Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). In a joint letter to the CMA, Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis and Booker counterpart Charles Wilson said: “We believe suppliers will support the proposed merger and the opportunities it brings for them in terms of growth and additional revenue and/or in terms of efficiency and reduced cost. We operate in distinct market sectors (wholesale and retail) and do not compete with each other.” Booker supplies services to more than 5,000 stores operating under the Premier, Londis, Budgens and Family Shopper brands, while Tesco runs more than 3,000 stores across Britain. The CMA’s in-depth phase 2 investigation is expected to last 24 weeks. Its final report should be published before Christmas, following an earlier provisional findings report.

ALMR – migrant worker integration must not punish hospitality operators: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has warned against the government placing additional costs on businesses that employ migrant staff when the Brexit deal is complete. The All Party Parliamentary Group On Social Integration published the “Integration not Demonisation” report, which voices concerns about the integration of migrant workers into the UK and recommends the adoption of regional quotas and the introduction of a levy on employing migrant workers to pay for social integration projects. However, the ALMR warned a regional quota or levy would only heap costs on employers and undermine investment. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We need a legislative approach that gives employers access to the employees they need to grow their businesses. Naturally, with virtually full employment, a significant number of these are going to be non-UK workers so barriers preventing their easy employment will harm the UK’s eating and drinking out sector. We need collectively to highlight the importance of non-UK workers, reinforcing the fact they are welcome in the UK and the huge contribution they make doesn’t go unnoticed. The government needs to produce and implement an immigration strategy that acknowledges these points and allows for the easy employment of workers from overseas. Crucially, this means avoiding a regional quota system or an employee levy that will only throw up further barriers to growth for businesses and undermine investment.” Meanwhile, the ALMR said the government must address rising business costs following a report by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC). Nicholls said: “The BCC’s report identifies employment costs as a significant concern, with the Apprenticeship Levy and rising wage rates particularly worrisome. Increases to minimum wage can be good for our staff and customers but must consider the economic outlook for businesses. The government could begin to tackle this problem with a complete overhaul of a business rates system that is heaping costs on businesses and undermining confidence and investment.”

US celebrity chef Matthew Kenney to head kitchen at plant-based concept launching in Shoreditch: US celebrity chef Matthew Kenney is to head the kitchen at plant-based concept Essence Cuisine that will launch in Shoreditch on Monday (4 September). The restaurant will open in Leonard Street offering 100% plant-based dishes designed by Kenney to eat in or take away. The breakfast and brunch offerings will include golden quinoa porridge with radish, sprouts, chilli flakes and seeded bread, while lunch and dinner dishes will include the Essence Bowl (quinoa, cumin sweet potato, Jerusalem artichoke and pumpkin seeds). Desserts will include lime cheesecake with ginger crumble and the Essence signature nut cheese board. The drinks menu will include the brand’s own Intense By Essence Cuisine range of organic cold-pressed juices and nut milks. Kenney said: “There is a misconception healthy food isn’t as tasty or decadent as unhealthy food. We challenge anyone to take a bite of our raw cakes or pancakes and see if they feel deprived!” Essence Cuisine is the brainchild of Belgian music festival entrepreneur Bart Roman.

Boxing most searched-for sport among UK pub-goers: Boxing is the most searched-for sport by pub-goers in the UK, according to data from sports pub app MatchPint and broadcaster Sky. The Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor fight card this weekend, which is live on Sky Sports Box Office, looks set to be the number-one searched-for sporting event in the UK on MatchPint. The top slot was previously held by the heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko in April but MatchPint said search traffic for Mayweather versus McGregor is 471% higher. Searches online by boxing fans hoping to watch the event in the pub are expected to hit 850,000 by the first bell. MatchPint said pay-per-view events offered a “massive opportunity for licensees to pull in the crowds and boost trade”. Sky’s coverage of the Joshua versus Klitschko fight in April encouraged more than a million viewers to venues across the country. MatchPint co-founder Dom Collingwood added: “We’re seeing huge demand for places to watch this fight, even though it starts so early. Pay-per-view boxing continually provides a massive opportunity for landlords to take advantage of – research we conducted with (beer quality and insight expert) Vianet highlighted the Joshua versus Klitschko fight saw a four-to-one return on the Box Office price tag for venues that showed it.”

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