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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 12th May 2023 - Update: Stonegate CEO looking to evolve its existing formats and digital agenda
McDowall – There’s lots for us to go after internally in creating value and augmenting the guest experience: David McDowall, the chief executive of Stonegate Group, the UK’s biggest pub company, has told Propel there is lots “for us to go after internally”, including evolving its existing formats and digital agenda. McDowall, previously chief operating officer of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, joined Stonegate as chief executive in February 2023, following Simon Longbottom’s decision to step down after eight years in the role to pursue interests abroad. He said: “We run a pretty simple business, we want people to come and visit our bars, clubs and venues whatever the operating format and leave feeling that they’ve had a great time and feeling better about themselves. And that’s what we need to focus our time and energy on, the things that ladder up to that. Our asset optimisation programme remains a pillar of how we create value in this business. That will evolve to an extent given the market dynamics and the economics of running certain models, and Craft Union is a great example of that, and where we are aggressively growing that part of our business. We’ve just passed the 500-site mark and it is a format that’s really working for us, and having a lot of really positive impact in the communities in which they operate. We are looking internally at other ways that we could create value and augment the guest experience and support our teams to do a great job, and that includes looking closely at our digital agenda. I think there is an opportunity around technology and digital adoption and where we should be on that. The evolution of some of our brands and formats is an area we are working hard on, which is also an opportunity for us. I think about our approach to topics such as pricing. How do we take a data led approach to pricing, a data and insights led approach, look to adopt a retailer’s mindset to an extent in terms of how we approach our pricing strategy? So, there’s plenty of things, but fundamentally, the bones and the foundations of this businesses is very, very strong. And that’s a gift for a new CEO.” He said trading since the start of the year has “overall been pretty in line with our expectations”. He said: “It was a little bit better at the turn of the year – January and February traded well. We had a good April, and May has been good thus far. Later day trading is difficult, not just in dedicated late-night venues, but post-10pm is currently a slightly challenging part of the day part. I think part of that is just because we’re comparing against this time last year when everybody was really out and about. We’re using this as a chance to say let’s make sure we should be the market leaders and continue to think about how we innovate in that area. The pub business is really solid, the managed pub business – Craft Union is trading well ahead of the market, and the general publican sentiment is pretty strong. And that has been encouraging.” Stonegate features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £1.611bn is the fifth highest in the database. The Blue Book ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.
 
Latest edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book to be released today: The latest edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book will be sent to Premium subscribers today (Friday, 12 May), at midday. It now features 723 companies that are turning over a total of £43.4bn. The Blue Book shows 483 companies in profit and 240 reporting losses. The Blue Book is updated each month and ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.
 
Bank of England upgrades forecasts for UK growth: The Bank of England has dramatically upgraded its forecasts for UK growth but warned that inflation will not fall as fast as expected over the next year. In new projections, the Bank said GDP would be 2.25 percentage points higher than expected over the next three years, compared with projections made in February. The upgrade is the largest in the monetary policy committee’s 26-year history and contrasts with dire warnings last autumn that the UK was heading for the longest recession in half a century, reports The Times. The outlook has shifted so much because global wholesale gas prices have fallen below their levels before the Ukraine war and household spending has been boosted by government support measures. Unemployment also remains low. The Bank warned inflation would fall more slowly than previously projected, dropping to 5% at the end of 2023, compared with February estimates of 3.9%. The projection means the government is still on course to meet its target to halve inflation by the end of the year. Inflation was higher than expected at 10.1% in March, with figures for April expected to show a drop to single figures later this month. Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank, said risks to the inflation projection were “skewed to the upside” and said “the circumstances are so unusual it is hard to be precise” about the path of consumer prices. The figures came as the Bank raised rates for the 12th consecutive time to 4.5 per cent, the highest since 2008. The Bank expects annual GDP to expand by 0.25% this year, compared with an earlier projection of a 0.5% contraction. Growth will accelerate to 0.75% over 2024 and 2025, with the Bank no longer expecting any outright falls in growth through to 2026. It means the economy will finally exceed its pre-pandemic size by the end of this year, but overall growth would still be “subdued by historical standards”, the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee said.

Food prices to ‘start falling significantly’: Supermarkets have told ministers that food prices have peaked and will start falling significantly in the coming months. The Treasury held a call with leading supermarkets after Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, blamed the “very big underlying shock” for stubbornly high inflation. After the Bank raised interest rates for the 12th consecutive time, ministers are concerned food price inflation has proved more “sticky” despite falling energy prices. The Liberal Democrats have called for an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority. Although the government does not accept that supermarkets are profiteering, it is urging them to help people more, reports The Times. Number 10 is said to be so concerned that it looked into France’s policy of capping the price of staple foods, although the approach will not be adopted. During a video call with officials and John Glen, chief secretary to the Treasury, leading supermarkets agreed that food price inflation was “past the peak” and that prices would start falling. “Supermarkets in Britain are highly competitive but the wholesale price of goods has increased significantly due to energy and labour costs,” a government source said. The supermarkets asked ministers for help in reducing food prices by reducing the cost burden of packaging and environmental regulations. However, the impact on food inflation of regulation is thought to be marginal. Food and drink price inflation increased by 19.2% year on year in March, up from the 18.2% increase recorded in February. These increases are thought to be one of the factors for inflation remaining in double digits in March, coming in above forecasters’ expectations for a second consecutive month at 10.1%. However, the Bank still expects inflation to halve this year and now expects the economy to avoid a recession and regain its pre-pandemic size from the end of this year rather than in 2026, as it had predicted in February.

Eddie Rocket’s looking to expand further in Ireland and overseas, set to introduce loyalty programme: US-style diner and burger bar Eddie Rocket’s is looking to expand further in Ireland and overseas and is set to introduce a loyalty programme later this year. The Dublin-headquartered chain currently has 23 sites in the Irish capital and a further 18 spread across Ireland and Northern Ireland. Founded in 1989, it operates across dine-in, delivery and collection and has a large number of franchised sites. Over the past three years, it has launched more than 20 new food delivery operations – mainly in Ireland and Northern Ireland but also in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and New York. Plans are also under way to develop the franchise in Germany and neighbouring countries, as well as further expansion in Ireland, particularly the west of the country. “In terms of our ideal franchise partner, while restaurant experience is an advantage, it is not a requirement as constant training is provided,” head of franchise development Tobias Lukaschek told Business Post. “The optimum partner for us, whether an individual or a hospitality group, comes with a successful track record in business and the ability to roll out multiple units. The team here at Eddie Rocket’s is very hands-on and comprehensive training and ongoing support is provided. We have decades of experience of opening and training for multi-unit, single-unit and development agreements.” Eddie Rocket’s feature in the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and is available exclusively to Premium subscribers. The database is updated every two months and the latest version features 200 businesses. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.

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