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Wed 24th Jan 2018 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Ralph Findlay – there’s enough pressure on margins without joining sector-wide discounting: Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay has told Propel the company would continue to resist joining the widespread discounting in the sector, saying there was already enough pressure on margins. Findlay described the effect of discounting as a “drug” and said the company would instead concentrate on delivering “high quality and service” in its pubs. He said: “The level of discounting is widespread and quite deep. I think there’s enough cost pressure without putting further pressure on margins by reducing prices and I think it’s really important we stay away from it. It’s like a drug – it’s difficult to get away from once you start. It’s not having a huge effect on us – there’s minimal impact on our like-for-like performance. Times are certainly tough for some operators, though, and we are seeing casualties as a result.” Findlay said the company’s approach of building lodges next to existing pubs had been a success and would be something it would “look to do more”. He added accommodation continued to be an important part of the business and was “seeing good performance”. Marston’s will shortly add to its Destination & Premium estate with a Pitcher & Piano opening in Sheffield and a Revere pub in Leeds, while Findlay said it continued to look at opportunities. He added any future disposals would be “minimal” given the good quality of the estate. He said: “Overall, I think it will be more of the same. All areas of the business are trading well and I think it shows we’ve got the right level of investment going in.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Bob Ivell to discuss progress of M&B evolution with Paul Charity: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2018 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Wednesday, 7 March at the Grange Hotel in St Paul’s, London. Bob Ivell, chairman of Mitchells & Butlers, whose brand portfolio includes Miller & Carter, Harvester, All Bar One and Toby Carvery, will talk to Propel managing director Paul Charity about progress across the company’s estate as it evolves its offer. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Supply Chain Masterclass open for bookings: Supply Chain Masterclass, which will look at how to achieve best-in-class supply chain efficiency, is open for bookings. The one-day event, launched by Propel in partnership with Food Partners founder and managing director Campbell Askwith, will take place in the Fifth Floor State Rooms at 30 Euston Square, London, on Wednesday, 21 February. The event will pose the question: “Who should be responsible for a restaurant, pub or hotel group’s purchasing strategy?” Speakers will include Leon French, category procurement director at Brakes, who will look at the real impact of Brexit and other material factors that have influenced inflation during the past 18 months and provide a view into the future. Former Intertain chief operating officer and now sector non-executive director Simon Kaye will discuss the opportunities to speedily challenge practice and deliver projects and value by thinking laterally. Jeremy Ward, previously chief information officer for Kempinski Hotels and chief operating officer of Iris and now a cloud strategist with Cloudreach, will discuss the current trends in mobile technology and what you should be preparing for when looking to implement solutions and systems for your customers. Tickets are £295 for Propel premium members and £345 for others. To book, email Anne Steele on or call 01444 817691.

Investment in south west hotel market rises 60% in 2017: Investment in the south west hotel market totalled £399m across 46 transactions in 2017, 60% above levels in 2016, according to Savills. The region accounted for 13% of the total UK volume of £5.4bn. The agent said activity was characterised by individual sales predominantly in the £1m to £10m bracket, while almost two-thirds (66%) of total sales in the region were of single assets rather than portfolio transactions. The flow of the deals was steady throughout the year, with more than 50% occurring in the second half. Key transactions included the sale of The Duchy Hotel portfolio to Fairtree Capital for £12.5m, and the Palace Hotel in Torquay to the Fragrance Group for £7.5m. Savills head of UK hotel transactions Martin Rogers said: “The south west hotel market has had an exceptionally strong year driven by an influx of international investors and underpinned by strong domestic demand for UK hotel assets. We expect demand from tourists to continue as staycations continue to rise in popularity alongside overseas visits to the area attracted by the outstanding coastline and national parks of Exmoor and Dartmoor.”

More than 70% of consumers search for customer reviews before booking restaurant visit or hotel stay: More than 70% of consumers read customer reviews before booking a restaurant visit or hotel stay, according to a new survey by travel search platform Holiday Pirates. More than half of respondents (58%) said they trust an online customer review as much as a personal recommendation. The vast majority (96%) said reviews “always” or “sometimes” have an impact on their decision to book their next trip, hotel stay or restaurant visit. When asked what motivational factors (offered by operators) might most encourage customers to contribute a review, respondents listed the promise of an offer such as a future discount, a “thank you for the visit” email without explicitly asking for a review, and a recommendation from the operator of which review site it favoured. Holiday Pirates chief executive David Armstrong said: “With the growing impact reviews have and the pressure to receive them, it is easy to become too pushy with urgent requests for a review even before the customer has left the site, and this can seriously backfire.”

Government action on gaming machines can boost pubs, says ALMR: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has called on the government to support pubs by revitalising the gaming machine sector. In its response to the government’s consultation on proposals for changes to gaming machines, the ALMR has made recommendations including an increase in stakes and prizes for Category C machines, a rise in automatic entitlement from two to four machines, slashing red tape and fees for venues, and investigating the use of contactless payment. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “A simple first step from the government would be to increase the automatic entitlement for venues and cut red tape from the process of acquiring additional machines, benefiting licensees and local authorities. Venues are only entitled to two machines but must pay £50 to take up that entitlement, plus an additional £50 fee every time the licence changes. Those costs are unjustified. The government can also take steps to make machines more attractive to players without risking harm. An increase in the maximum stake and prize to £2 and £150 respectively would help boost play while addressing the fact machine income has failed to keep pace with increased business costs. Investigating the use of contactless payment for machines would allow ease of use while promoting safety. Cashless machines would help provide data on a player’s spend and habits, reduce the risk of break-ins and virtually eliminate the potential for money laundering. With thousands of ATMs being taken out of pubs in recent weeks, there is an alarming decrease in cash in pubs that could affect not only machines but other spending too.”

Best Bar None reveals award finalists: Best Bar None, the Home Office-supported community safety programme operated by pubs and bars in the UK, has revealed the finalists for this year’s Best Bar None Awards. Bolton, Sheffield, Plymouth and Torquay have made it through, with the winners announced at a parliamentary reception at the House of Lords on Monday, 5 February. The competition carries a prize fund of £5,000 split across three categories – best overall scheme (£3,000), most innovative scheme (£1,000) and best new scheme (£1,000). Bolton, nominated for most innovative and best new scheme, launched its scheme in January last year and in the first nine months saw a 33% reduction in violent offences committed in licensed premises. Sheffield, which is a finalist in the best overall and most innovative categories, has been operating its scheme for seven years and was the first scheme to launch a Best Bar None app. Plymouth, nominated for best overall and most innovative, has been running its scheme for more than ten years resulting in a “significant reduction” in crime and alcohol-related admissions to A&E during the evenings and night-time. Torquay, which is a finalist in the best overall and most innovative categories, established its scheme in January 2016 and has seen an 18.6% reduction in public order offences. Best Bar None national co-ordinator Mick McDonnell said: “It is always encouraging to read about the different initiatives our members are developing to make the local community a safer place. I am pleased and proud we are able to recognise and reward the best of those.”

Company News:

K10 explores funding options to develop Beer & Buns as it closes in on concept’s second site: Beer & Buns, the offshoot of London-based sushi brand K10, which is led by Chris Kemper, is exploring funding options to develop its concept as it closes in on a second site, Propel has learned. Beer & Buns, which features brews, soft Asian buns and chicken wings, was launched in 2015 and is now based above the K10 sushi restaurant in Appold Street. Propel understands the company is currently in legals for a second site for Beer & Buns, while a spokesman confirmed it was at the “very early stages” of exploring funding options. Beer & Buns’ website states: “Born out of frustration of not being able to find a decent bar that provided great beer and authentic food, we decided to create it ourselves. Beer & Buns is our take on a Japanese izakaya that offers the UK’s largest range of Japanese craft beer and soft, pillow-like steamed Hirata buns filled with a choice of delicious fillings. Oh, and we also make incredibly crispy Korean-style jumbo chicken wings.”

Brunning & Price completes first acquisition of 2018, outlines requirements for further sites: Brunning & Price, the Restaurant Group’s gastro-pub arm, has completed its first acquisition of 2018 and outlined its requirements for further sites. The company has bought the Arrow Mill in Alcester, Warwickshire, in a deal brokered by agents Christie & Co. Standing in more than 50 acres on the banks of the River Arrow, the former flour mill dates to the early 1800s and had been run by the Woodhams family for more than 30 years. Brunning & Price will refurbish the building with hopes to reopen the new-look venue in time for the summer. The acquisition comes alongside the most recent addition to the Brunning & Price collection, the Old Courthouse in Cheltenham, which is planned to open in February. Brunning & Price consists of a group of more than 60 pubs and has been part of The Restaurant Group since 2007. During the past three years, Brunning & Price has acquired 16 sites with Christie & Co, which continues to search for suitable properties. Brunning & Price is looking for locations between Lancashire and Kent in rural and semi-rural locations that have plots of at least 1.25 acres, or urban sites with the ability to create a bar restaurant seating at least 120 people. Simon Chaplin, director, corporate pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, said: “As Brunning & Price continues with expansion outside its current core area of the north west and the south east, we are looking for suitable buildings and sites throughout the West Midlands and around locations such as Milton Keynes, York, Oxford and the Cotswolds as well as along the M4 to bring its individual style and quality to a wider audience.”

Dorbiere reports turnover boost: North west restaurant and pub operator Dorbiere has reported turnover increased to £13,814,064 for the year ending 30 September 2017, compared with £13,547,028 the year before. Pre-tax profit fell slightly to £1,734,385 compared with £1,754,785 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The number of employees at Dorbiere fell to 52 at the end of the period, compared with 62 the year before. The company stated: “As at 30 September 2017, the company had net assets of £11,884,027 (2016: £10,506,602). The directors are satisfied with the results for the year and the year-end balance sheet position. For 2018, turnover is budgeted to be in line with 2017 levels. This, together with margin maintenance, improved cost control and a strengthened management team, will combine to maintain current company profitability. Dorbiere is committed to further investment in people and continued growth.”

Original backer of Pitt Cue Co reveals more details of new venture to bring three food markets to London: Simon Anderson, one of the original backers of barbecue concept Pitt Cue Co, and property investor Andy Lewis-Pratt have revealed further details about their new venture, which will include what is believed to be the UKs largest food hall. Under the plans, part of the former BHS store in Oxford Street will be transformed into the flagship branch of a new business bringing three permanent food markets to the capital. A disused Tube station ticket hall in Fulham and a former nightclub in Victoria will also be converted. Between them, the markets will feature more than 50 bars and eateries including outposts of well-known London restaurants and street food traders as well as a smaller number of startups. Anderson and Lewis-Pratt said they believe the Oxford Street flagship will be the biggest food hall in the UK. Market Hall Fulham will be the first of the three to open, taking over the ornate Edwardian former entrance hall of Fulham Broadway station. It will be the smallest of the markets – featuring ten restaurants and one bar, with seating for 180 people. This will be followed by Market Hall Victoria in the summer, which will take over the former site of nightclub Pacha in Terminus Place and feature 14 restaurants, three bars and seating for 300. Finally, Market Hall West End will open in the autumn featuring 25 restaurants, four bars and stalls selling produce, along with events spaces and a demo kitchen. Anderson told the Evening Standard: “The markets will have something for everyone and quality will be key. All under one roof, you’ll be able to find as good a curry, pizza and vegan burger as you can anywhere in London.”

Crepeaffaire to triple number of sites following British Growth Fund investment: Crepeaffaire, the UK’s leading crepe concept, is to triple its number of sites after securing more than £2m from the Business Growth Fund (BGF). Crepeaffaire, which operates ten company-owned sites and has a growing franchise operation in the Middle East, will use the funding to expand across the UK and internationally. Founded in London by chief executive Daniel Spinath in 2008, Crepeaffaire’s all-day offering includes sweet and savoury crepes, waffles, coffee and smoothies to eat in or take away. The business generated more than £5m in revenue in 2017, with system sales approaching £10m. Earlier this year, Crepeaffaire appointed Andrew Guy as non-executive chairman to support its expansion plans, bringing more than 30 years of experience in the foodservice sector in the UK, Europe and the US, including Frankie & Benny’s and HMSHost. He is also non-executive chairman of BGF-backed The Coaching Inn Group. Spinath said: “We’ve grown steadily during the past ten years and we’re now ready to accelerate our expansion and drive brand awareness in the UK and internationally. BGF is providing an initial investment but more importantly has come on board as a long-term, non-controlling partnership.” Crepeaffaire joins a growing number of food and beverage brands backed by BGF, including Giggling Squid, Wear Inns and Filmore & Union. BGF investor Jon Simon said: “Daniel and his team have created an offering and brand that is differentiated and scalable. It caters to a wide audience, providing healthy and indulgent products at an attractive price point.”

Budweiser Budvar UK reports ‘best trading figures in five years’ after focusing on key bar and restaurant operators: Budweiser Budvar UK has reported its best trading figures in five years with the company’s focus on key operators in the bar and restaurant sector “paying dividends”. The company also reported “phenomenal” growth of more than 20% in the past two years as consumers sought “authenticity and provenance”. Managing director Simon George told Propel the company made major progress in 2017, “building a strong team and focusing on key operators”. He said that in Bill’s restaurants, for example, Budvar had become the best-selling beer, accounting for 40% of its beer and cider sales. December like-for-like sales of Budvar were 98% higher than in December 2016 as Bill’s listed Budvar Dark Lager and installed draught into 30 of its 82 restaurants during the summer. George said Budvar’s Tankové Pivo tank beer had also been key, with a growth in sales of almost 50% compared with 2016. He added: “By the end of April, we will have reached ten sites.” George said consumer marketing in 2018 would continue to focus on its site, which received more than 1.2 million views last year, while an on-trade rebrand in 2018 would focus on the brand’s “authenticity and provenance”. He said: “Consumers are seeking brands with a story that focuses on provenance and quality of ingredients as mainstream brands struggle. As a long-standing brand, our growth of more than 20% in two years is phenomenal.”

Ice cream parlour operator Joe Delucci’s Gelato bought out of administration: Warwick-based ice cream wholesaler and retailer Joe Delucci’s Gelato, which operates parlours in shopping centres across the UK, has been bought out of administration, saving 38 jobs. The company has been purchased by a group of investors headed by its former operations manager Alexandra Beer. Craig Povey and Richard Toone, partners at insolvency and restructuring firm CVR Global, were appointed administrators on 8 January after the company’s efforts to agree a Company Voluntary Administration in November failed when it gained insufficient support from major creditors. Povey told Insider Media: “Joe Delucci’s Gelato has proved it has all of the makings of a profitable business with the relationships it has with big retailers and presence in some of the UK’s largest shopping malls.” Beer added: “Brexit and changes on the high street caused fundamental changes in the business, which it was hoped would be addressed by a restructuring and turnaround plan that was supported by a significant number of creditors including HMRC and the company’s bankers. However, a small number of trade and other creditors disappointedly rejected the proposal, forcing the company through an administration. That said, we are excited for the business and it is now on the right footing to grow and deliver what we always believed it was capable of.”

Dorset-based operator acquires Shaftesbury coaching inn for third site: Dorset-based operator Max Lacy has acquired grade II-listed coaching inn The Fountain in the village of Shaftesbury for his third site in the county. The pub, which has been closed for the past 12 months, was sold off a guide price of £295,000 plus VAT in a deal brokered by agents Christie & Co. Lacy also operates The Black Horse in Wimborne and The Horse & Groom in Wareham. He plans to refurbish The Fountain ahead of reopening later this year. Richard Wood, business agent at Christie & Co’s Winchester office, said: “This sale continues to demonstrate demand from buyers for high-quality hospitality businesses in the south, attracting investors and lifestyle purchasers. We anticipate this demand to continue, making it a great time for pub-owners in the region to sell.” Lacy acquired The Horse & Groom in April.

Bar 44 Group appoints new operations director as it targets expansion: South Wales-based Bar 44 Group has appointed Natalie Isaac as its new operations director as it targets expansion. The company operates two restaurants in Cardiff and others in Cowbridge and Penarth. Isaac founded Bar 44 with brothers Tom and Owen Morgan in 2002 and has been working for the company as a freelance operations consultant since selling her own restaurant, Farthings, in 2014. Isaac has also worked for Roux Fine Dining in London, Mosimann’s, the Roux Brothers and Prue Leith. She told Insider Media: “I know the knowledge within our team is second to none and everyone loves Spain and Spanish food as much as we do. The day that quality is no longer a focus is the day I can honestly say all three of us will question the direction we are going in.” Bar 44 Group’s turnover was £3.9m in 2016-17, with the business targeting £4.6m in 2017-18

New Ascot Brewing Company owners hit £200,000 crowdfunding target to ramp up capacity and sales: The new owners of Ascot Brewing Company have hit their £200,000 crowdfunding target to ramp up brewing capacity and sales. The Surrey-based micro-brewer was acquired by local businessmen Chris Davies and Mike Neame last year. Earlier this month they increased the campaign’s equity stake offer to 33.33% from an initial 25.54%. So far, 430 investors have raised £218,570 with three days remaining. The pitch states: “Ascot Brewing Company was founded in 2007 focusing on cask ale and local pub trade. Seeing an unlocked potential in the brand, we acquired the brewery in early 2017 and have already taken steps to grow its sales to existing customers such as JD Wetherspoon, Co-op, Budgens and Waitrose as well as to new pubs, hotels and national retailers. We have relaunched with new branding and expanded the team, including the recruitment of award-winning head brewer John Willatts. We have focused on key accounts such as Co-op leading to an extended range and listings, as well as new relationships with wholesalers to expand reach across the country. We believe this is just the beginning. We plan to increase brewing capacity to meet demand; build the team focusing on UK sales and export; roll out contactless NFC ‘smart pump clip’ technology; expand sales channels with an on-site shop and online sales; increase attendance at trade and consumer events with our horsebox taproom; and develop new products and formats including lager, keg, cans and new bottles. Ascot Brewing Company has ambitious goals to increase sales from the current £102,000 per annum (Ebitda minus £20,000 to year-end June 2017).”

Manchester canteen, bar and live music venue bought out of administration: A canteen, bar and live music venue in Manchester’s Northern Quarter has been bought out of administration, saving all 20 jobs. SK Bars, trading as Soup Kitchen in Spear Street, entered administration on 16 January with Robert Adamson, of Mazars, and Nicholas Hancock, of UHY Hacker Young, appointed joint administrators. The company slipped into administration after experiencing significant creditor pressure as a result of cash-flow issues. Administrators said the business was using high-interest loans to repay a disputed liability with its utility supplier, which adversely impacted cash flow and its ability to make payments. The business has been sold to newly incorporated company SKA Bars. Companies House records show SK Bars and SKA Bars have directors in common. Adamson told Insider Media: “The marketing of the business generated a lot of interest in the market place, which indicates there is still an appetite for investment despite uncertainty in the economy.”

Douglas Jack – Marston’s has wide range of profit streams, with most stable and cash generative: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said Marston’s has a wide range of profit streams, most of which are stable and cash generative. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 140p, Jack said: “Destination & Premium’s like-for-like sales fell by 0.9% in the first quarter (16 weeks), although the figure would be +1.1% without the impact of snow; our full-year assumption requires just 0.5% growth. Total sales were up 4.9% with margins in line, which is slightly down (we forecast minus 50 basis points this year). Trading was stronger in the wet-led Taverns estate than in the food-led Destination & Premium estate, repeating last year’s trend. Taverns generated 2.6% like-for-like sales growth in the first quarter (helped by snow having no impact as the venues are not drive-to destinations), ahead of our full-year assumption of 1.5%. Leased like-for-like profits rose by 2% in the quarter, ahead of our flat full-year assumption. Brewing (total own-brewed) volumes grew by 33% in the quarter due to the Charles Wells acquisition, with synergies on track. Over the full year, we forecast brewing volumes rising by 19% as the total sales growth rate should slow after the anniversary of the Charles Wells acquisition in quarter three. Marston’s opened three pubs/bars and two lodges in the first quarter, and is forecast to open 15 pub/bars and six lodges in 2018E. We believe this slowdown should enable net debt to Ebitda to fall from 6.0 times pro-forma to 5.7 times in 2018E, despite the company paying an increasing dividend that now yields almost 7%. We are holding our 2018E profit before tax forecast (£110.3m), which is below consensus (£111.9m), but expect consensus profit before tax to fall by circa £1m, which was the impact the December snow had on Destination & Premium profits (£2m impact on Destination & Premium sales). Marston’s has a wide range of profit streams, most of which are stable and cash generative. Thus, in a weak consumer environment and during a period of inclement weather, only Destination & Premium has traded behind; the other three divisions are ahead, which is a good result in our view.”

Brighton-based Cin Cin Italian Bar & Kitchen expands into Hove for second site: Brighton-based Cin Cin Italian Bar & Kitchen has expanded into neighbouring Hove for its second site. The concept is the brainchild of David Toscano, who began operating from a vintage Fiat van at events and festivals in 2013 before opening a bricks-and-mortar site in Brighton’s Vine Street. Toscano has now opened a 35-cover site spread over two floors in Western Road, Hove. It features a preparation kitchen downstairs that allows the chefs to be “much more adventurous”. Toscano told The Argus: “It means we can now cook a lot of the larger stuff and things that need a long time on the hob – such as stock, ragu and braises. We can do all that here. Hopefully it will allow us to lift the calibre of food at Vine Street as well as here.” Cin Cin offers antipasti, handmade pasta, seasonal specials, aperitifs and Italian wine in an open bar and kitchen setting.

Gravity opens flagship trampoline park at Bluewater shopping centre: Indoor trampoline park operator Gravity has opened a flagship site at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, its seventh in total. Located within Bluewater’s redeveloped The Plaza, Gravity’s 30,000 square foot park features wall-to-wall trampolines, large open play areas and is available to hire. Three as yet unnamed restaurants are due to open at The Plaza, while Showcase Cinema De Lux has added four screens at the site offering fully electric recliners. Robert Hardie, senior portfolio manager of Landsec, co-owner and asset manager of Bluewater, told Insider Media: “Gravity and the enlarged Showcase Cinema De Lux strengthen Bluewater’s unique day-out experience, offering an enhanced variety of memorable activities for guests.” In October, Gravity instructed agents Savills to lead its expansion into Europe, with plans to open sites in Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Ireland and Poland as well as other targeted European countries. Gravity will open a site for its Xscape brand in Milton Keynes later this year. CBRE, Time Retail Partners and Shelley Sandzer acted for Bluewater. Savills represented Gravity. Showcase Cinemas dealt direct.

Ei Group and Aqua Restaurants join plastic straw ban: Ei Group, formerly Enterprise Inns, and Aqua Restaurant Group have become the latest operators to remove plastic straws from their estate. Ei Group is working with cleaning and hygiene supplier Zenith to replace plastic straws with a biodegradable alternative made from 100% renewable resources. The straws are fully compostable and break down in fewer than 90 days. They are available across the Ei Managed Operations estate and have also been made available to licensees in its Ei Publican Partnerships portfolio. Paul Harbottle, group commercial director of Ei Group, said: “We are committed to reducing our environmental impact, including the reduction of non-recyclable waste and running a more eco-friendly and sustainable operation while supporting our industry.” Meanwhile, Aqua Restaurant Group will remove plastic straws from its 23 restaurants in London, Hong Kong and Beijing by Thursday, 1 February. Instead, metal stirrers will be provided in all drinks, with biodegradable straws available on request. Last week, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers encouraged its members to stop using plastic straws following the lead of a number of hospitality businesses.

Peel Hunt – Domino’s Pizza Eurasia is building head of steam: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Ivor Jones has said Domino’s Pizza Eurasia is building a “head of steam”. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 300p, Jones said: “Full-year system sales growth of 33% (to TRY860m) was above our TRY843m forecast (up 30%). We believe in part this results from a higher-than-expected rate of new store openings (49 compared with our forecast of 40) in Russia, which will, in the initial stages of trading, have added revenue but no positive contribution to profits. System sales growth in Turkey was 14% (up from 10% in first-half 2017) and 169% in Russia (compared with 200% in first-half 2017). The implied second-half acceleration in Turkey is encouraging but should be put in the context of the disruption to the business from political unrest in the second half of 2016. Online system sales growth was 72%, 42% in Turkey and 150% in Russia (in roubles). Online delivery system sales was 52% of delivery system sales, up from 42% in FY16 and 50% in first-half 2017. In part, online growth results from upgrades to the group’s apps in the second half of 2017 and we expect it to be further enhanced by a data-driven loyalty programme, which is intended to increase order frequency and value. Like-for-like sales growth was 10% in Turkey (compared with 7% in first-half 2017) and 29% in Russia (in roubles, compared with 31% in first-half 2017). Like-for-like sales growth was particularly robust in the second half of 2017, indicating the business is still at least covering underlying cost inflation. The trading statement makes no reference to prospects for 2018 or to plans for the capital structure, where we expect management to replace the euro debt facility now rouble borrowing costs are falling. We also expect detail about the product and technology innovations that underpin management’s growth ambitions. Having dipped below 200p in December, the share price of Domino’s Pizza Eurasia has recovered to the price at which we initiated last October, despite the strength of sterling relative to the Turkish lira (up 6.5%) and Russian rouble (up 3.4%). Any perception that Turkven’s 44% position in the shares is an overhang may weigh on the share price in the short term. Today’s statement puts 2017 to bed and shifts our focus to 2018 and beyond. The Russian rocket continues to accelerate with 121 stores, mainly in Moscow, and flags are planted in two cities with more to come. We expect the online success story to become increasingly important for the group as online scale grows.”

East Lancashire-based nightclub owners open gin bar for second site: East Lancashire-based nightclub owners Mark Eggar and Karrie Ashworth have opened a gin bar for their second site. Eggar and Ashworth, who run Level One nightclub in Darwen, have launched H20 bar in the village of Whalley. The bar in Accrington Road has opened in a former retail unit next to The Swan Hotel. It features three large seating booths, stalls and tables and serves a variety of gin and flavoured vodka. Ashworth told the Lancashire Telegraph: “We try to cater for everyone in Whalley but our bar is going more down the gin line. We’re hoping to open another site in Clitheroe.”

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