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Wed 11th Oct 2023 - Exclusive: M&B CEO talks to Propel about bringing back Old Orleans, Hand Picked Hotels secures further £6m in shareholder loans
Exclusive – M&B CEO ‘always wanted to bring back Old Orleans’, to launch new concept next spring: Phil Urban, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), has exclusively told Propel he always wanted to bring back Old Orleans. It comes following the business revealing it is to launch a new smokehouse concept next year based on the former brand. Last year, Urban told Propel that M&B had thought about exploring an “Old Orleans-type” of format as part of a number of ideas it had been looking at over the years, even before the pandemic. Propel then revealed in February that M&B had trademarked the name Orleans Smokehouse. The first site under the new format is set to open next spring, with a conversion of the Harvester site in Shipley, Solihull, thought to be under consideration. Urban told Propel: “Since I joined M&B in 2015, I wanted to bring back Old Orleans, a brand I ran back in the 1990s and 2000s, and which lost its way when Spirit acquired it and made it bar-led and not food-led. The first Old Orleans was in Cambridge in 1985-86 and we grew it to circa 35 sites at its peak, until it got bought by Regent Inns, and then sold to M&B, where it de-branded the sites for Miller & Carter conversions. There are six or seven of the original team of Old Orleans at M&B, and I had the former operations director for the brand do some consultancy work for me in 2017-18, to dust it off. Covid, potential acquisitions and other uses for our capital slowed everything down, but we have now decided to test Orleans Smokehouse, ‘brought to you by Old Orleans’. Old Orleans had a strong following in its day, but we took the view that in its final years, when it had been run as a bar, that this might detract from the brand equity, hence the new name, with the Old Orleans heritage endorsement. We hope to be open in the spring (probably March).” The new format will be seen as a rival to American-style smokehouse and barbecue brand Hickory’s, which Greene King acquired last October. Propel understands M&B was also in the running for the then 17-strong business, which is spread across the north west and the Midlands. Greene King has subsequently converted sites in Huddersfield and Thornton-Cleveleys to the brand, with further openings in Wrexham, Solihull and Derby lined up. The first Hickory’s opened in 2010 in Chester, on the site of a former Old Orleans. M&B features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, the next edition of which will be released to Premium subscribers on Friday (13 October). Its turnover of £2,208,000,000 in the year to 24 September 2022 is the second 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 £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 kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.

Exclusive – Hand Picked Hotels secures further £6m in shareholder loans as losses increase: Hand Picked Hotels, a collection of 21 country house and spa hotels located throughout the UK and the Channel Islands, has secured a further £6.35m in shareholder loans after its losses increased in the year to 29 December 2022. This after shareholder debt in the period increased from £118.7m to £126.5m – with net current liabilities of £4.3m (2021: £6.3m) and net liabilities of £31.3m (2021: £15.4m). But the group has no external bank loan facilities, having repaid £30m in bank loans during the previous year. Its pre-tax loss for the period increased to £15,943,915 from £10,010,604 in the 57 weeks to 30 December 2021. Turnover was up from £38,229,235 in 2021 to £53,055,947. The company received no government grants compared to £1,715,542 in 2021 and £98,900 council grants compared to £247,847 in 2021. Following an impairment review, an impairment charge of £6.7m was recognised over the fixed assets of the group during the period. No dividends were paid (2021: nil). Director Peter Herbert said: “Despite the challenging current economic climate and near-term outlook, the directors still remain optimistic as to the future success of the company and group. The group has continued to refine its business model during the period by placing additional focus on a high-quality strategy, designed to enhance the experience of guests and, in turn, maximise the yield gained from its assets. In the near-term, we have seen buoyant demand in many of the sectors that the business serves. International visitors and business conferences and events saw a significant reduction globally during the pandemic, but the group believes we are well placed to serve these markets as confidence returns to these sectors. All current indicators suggest our customers’ appetite for our products is strong and that the group’s key target markets will continue to grow significantly in future.”

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