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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 24th Oct 2023 - Update: Red Oak acquires 17 pubs from St Austell Brewery, AG Barr deal
Red Oak Taverns acquires 17 pubs from St Austell Brewery: Red Oak Taverns has acquired 17 pubs from St Austell Brewery’s leased and tenanted estate for an undisclosed sum. The deal includes sites across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset such as the Rolle Quay (Barnstaple), the White Hart (Launceston) and the Four Lords (Par). Red Oak currently owns 212 pubs, primarily leased and tenanted, which are concentrated in the midlands, south, north west and south west of England. The independent business has already made several acquisitions in 2023, from companies including Everards, McMullen’s and Marston’s. It said today’s purchase will further extend Red Oak’s south west footprint. Mark Grunnell, chief executive, Red Oak Taverns, who co-founded the business in 2011 with executive chairman, Aaron Brown, said: “We are delighted that St Austell Brewery, a fellow independent business with a rich history of running great pubs, chose to work with us in selling these assets. We’re committed to the continued growth of our pub portfolio and this package of acquisitions will further strengthen Red Oak’s presence in the south west region. It’s important to us that we ensure ongoing consistency for pub guests and our new tenants, and I would like to thank Kevin (Georgel) and the team at St Austell Brewery for working positively with us to affect a smooth transfer for these community assets. We’re looking forward to working in partnership with all 17 of our new licensees in this exciting new chapter, providing ongoing support to help their businesses thrive.” Kevin Georgel, chief executive of St Austell Brewery, said: “Red Oak Taverns is a committed and respected operator, with a growing pub estate and a strong track record of running successful wet-led community pubs. We’ve been working very closely with the team in the last couple of weeks to ensure a smooth transition for our licensees. Unlocking the full potential of our pub estate is a priority for us, as we continue to develop our business for the future. As part of our commitment to ongoing investment and growth, we are continuing to proactively manage our estate, aligned to our refreshed and focused strategy. This means ensuring all our pubs have a strong alignment with our long-term plans and continue to fit our focus in terms of market and consumer positioning. As a business, which is committed to supporting its tenanted partners and investing in its pubs, we are confident that Red Oak is the best possible custodian for these pubs and will ensure their ongoing success.” Last month, St Austell announced the acquisition of The Bath Pub Company. St Austell Brewery was advised on its transaction with Red Oak Taverns by Sapient Corporate Finance and Michelmores LLP with Freeths LLP acting for Red Oak.

Premium subscribers to receive two databases and access to videos from Propel Talent and Training Conference this week: Propel Premium subscribers are to receive two databases this week. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, will be released on Friday (27 October), at midday. It will include 46 new multi-site companies. Before that, the updated UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database will be sent to Premium subscribers at midday tomorrow (Wednesday, 25 September). Ten new companies have been added, taking the total to 110 businesses featured. Premium subscribers are also to receive access to all the videos from this month’s Propel Talent and Training Conference. They will be sent 13 videos on Friday at 9am. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the New Openings Database; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the Who’s Who of UK Food & 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 kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. 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.

AG Barr acquires Rio soft drinks brand from Hall & Woodhouse for £12.3m: AG Barr has announced the acquisition of the Rio soft drinks brand through the purchase of Rio Tropical from brewer and pub operator Hall & Woodhouse, for a total cash consideration of £12.3m. Tropical fruit brand Rio has been marketed, sold and distributed on an exclusive licence basis by AG Barr’s recently acquired Boost Drinks division since 2021. It said the acquisition is entirely funded from the group’s strong net cash position. AG Barr said: “With a brand building business model, and following the Boost acquisition, we have moved quickly to secure the long-term position of the Rio brand within our wider portfolio. While an important contributor to the previously announced ongoing margin rebuild programme, the transaction is not expected to have a material impact on the group’s profits for the current financial year ending 28 January 2024.” Roger White, chief executive of AG Barr, said: “As brand builders we are delighted to acquire the Rio brand and secure its long-term position in our wider portfolio. This allows us to realise the benefits of full brand ownership and support Rio’s continued growth. This acquisition is a further positive indication of our strategic ambitions.”

Commercial rent collection nears pre-pandemic levels: Commercial property landlords’ rental collection, which dropped sharply during the pandemic, is almost back to where it was before the first lockdown. The Times writes that landlords received 77% of the rent owed to them on the day it was due last month, according to data from Remit Consulting, which tracked 125,000 leases and £2bn in rent demands. A week after the due date, 88% of rent demanded had been paid. In 2019, before the pandemic, landlords received just over 90% of rent owed within seven days. At the height of the lockdowns, barely a third of rents were being collected on time amid a moratorium that protected corporate renters, many of which had to shut for weeks, from being evicted if they did not pay their rent. The scheme was criticised by landlords, who felt that even well-capitalised businesses were using the legislation as a “licence to not pay rent”. Although rent collection has been improving, even at the June quarter day this summer only 65% of all rents were paid on time. “The rent collection rate at the start of the current quarter is the most robust since 2019,” Elijah Lewis, head of research at Remit Consulting, said. Retailers were the best for paying their rents on time last month, with 77% of retail rents collected on the due date. That probably reflects the cheaper rents that retailers have been able to negotiate in recent years. Lewis said landlords would be encouraged by “what appears to be a sustained improvement in rent payments by high street businesses”. The same percentage of office rents were collected on time, while 74% of leisure tenants such as cinemas, bowling alleys and theatres had paid by the due date. Industrial tenants were the worst payers, with 73% of their rents paid on time. After a week, 85% of warehouse renters had paid up, the highest total since the start of the pandemic.

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