Star Pubs & Bars

Story of the Day:

East Coast Concepts boss – we see scope for up to 40 sites, sustaining like-for-like growth

East Coast Concepts is opening a second Victor's site, in OxfordEast Coast Concepts chief executive James Hitchen has told Propel he believes there is scope for up to 40 sites in total for its Neighbourhood and Victor’s concepts. The company, which is backed by private equity firm NorthEdge Capital, will open its second Victor’s site, at the Westgate development in Oxford next month, following its launch in Hale in 2014. Hitchen said the company would look to open one more Victor’s site this year before looking to expand the concept at a rate of “three or four annually”. Further venues for Victor’s as well as the three-strong Neighbourhood concept are earmarked for 2019. He added: “We see Oxford as the flagship site for Victor’s. It’s an all-day concept and, with the city’s demographic of white and blue-collar workers, students and tourists, it ticked all the boxes. We’re not just a north west-based operation and we want to prove that to ourselves and our customers. Therefore, we wanted to open our next site in a location with national and international appeal – Oxford fits that bill. We have worked hard to put in place the platform and the people to grow our business and we’re now in a position to really start doing so. I think there’s scope for us to have 30 to 40 sites across the UK eventually but we won’t expand just for the sake of it. We’ve already turned down sites for Victor’s in Harrogate, Leeds and York because we are being so considered with our site selection. We are looking for a different profile location for the Neighbourhood brand because it is very different to Victor’s – our Manchester site is 7,000 square feet – so we’re looking for large locations with huge footfall, cities such as Birmingham, Cardiff and Newcastle, for example.” Hitchen also revealed the company is continuing to sustain the 10% like-for-like growth it reported at Christmas, while the opening of Oxford Victor’s as well as its most recent Neighbourhood site in Leeds would help the company increase turnover from £10m last year to about £18m (gross) in 2018. He added: “It’s tough for a lot of operators as margins continue to be squeezed. It’s going to be survival of the fittest but, if you’ve got the right offer, I think it’s a good market to be in. There are going to be sites coming up. We are comfortable with where we are at the moment but we’re always looking to improve and we’re going in the right direction.”

Redcomb reports profit boost as turnover passes £15m mark

Redcomb Pubs has reopened The Old Manor in Potters Bar following a major refurbishmentMulti-site operator Redcomb Pubs, founded by Dan Shotton and Mark Draper, has reported turnover increased to £15,155,421 for the year ending 30 June 2017, compared with £11,588,891 the year before. Pre-tax profit was up to £632,367 compared with £502,631 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. A report by the directors that accompanied the accounts stated: “During the year, four acquisitions were made – the freehold of a site in Appledore, which was converted into a seven-bedroom annexe for the Seagate; a new pub in Paddington called the Lockhouse; a pub in Whitehall called The Old Shades and a company called Old Manor Trading, which owns The Old Manor in Potters Bar. The company continues to make good progress with its expansion and profitability. The existing three pubs made solid progress throughout the year in terms of profitability, with the exception of the Crown & Horns. Returns were conducted at The Station and The Bickley. The board is reviewing growth strategies on an ongoing basis and always looking to acquire good-quality sites of a sufficient size to maximise profits.” During the period the number of staff increased to 127 from 100 the previous year. Redcomb comprises 16 sites mainly in London and the Home Counties.

Other News:

Street food and crazy golf concept Swingers has launched its second London site – at a former BHS store in Oxford Street. The venue features two crazy golf courses themed around the 1920s English Riviera. Inside the 20,000 square foot venue in John Princes Street, caddies serve cocktails to guests as they navigate the courses. A “promenade” lined with lamp-posts and street food stalls housed in beach huts runs between the two courses, alongside four cocktail bars and two seaside-themed bars. The street food traders are better burger brand Patty & Bun, wood-fired pizza concept Made Of Dough, ice cream company Hackney Gelato and Mexican concept Breddos Tacos, a joint venture with Gleneagles owner Ennismore. The venue also features a 3D photo podium and a number of spaces available for private hire. The Swingers website states: “Step out of the hustle and bustle of London’s busiest streets and into a quintessential British seaside setting of food, drinks and fun where the sun is always shining.” Swingers started as a pop-up in Shoreditch and opened its first permanent venue underneath the Gherkin in the City last year. Jeremy Simmonds and Matt Grech-Smith, who founded the Institute of Competitive Socialising, which owns the street food and crazy golf concept, have previously told Propel Swingers is a “hospitality concept first and foremost and not a fad”.

Michelin-starred chef Thomas Carr, who is opening his second site in IIlfracombe, north DevonMichelin-starred chef Thomas Carr (pictured) has opened his second restaurant in Ilfracombe, Devon, after raising the funds on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. The new venue, Thomas Carr Seafood & Grill, has joined the chef’s fine dining venue in the town – Thomas Carr At The Olive Room – after launching at the former Lamb Hotel in High Street. The venue features a 30-cover dining room upstairs with a bar below offering cocktails developed on-site and an outside space. Carr set a target of £15,000 for the Kickstarter campaign, raising almost £18,000. Early in his career, Carr was appointed head chef of Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, which earned two Michelin stars under his leadership within a year of opening. Carr gained Ilfracombe’s first Michelin star for Thomas Carr At The Olive Room in 2016 and has retained it since.

Operators including Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee and natural fast food brand Leon have signed up to a pilot scheme that will offer tap water refills to consumers in a bid to slash single-use plastic bottles in London. The Refill London project, run by Thames Water and campaign group City To Sea, involves 65 businesses across the capital. The project will be trialled in five areas – Greenwich town centre, Lewisham High Street, the South Bank and Bankside, Regent Street and London Bridge – with a summer roll-out if the trial proves a success. A free Refill London app will allow consumers to find participating venues, with businesses urged to join the voluntary scheme. Londoners buy more than three plastic bottles a week on average, equating to 175 bottles per person a year. About 7.7 billion plastic bottles are purchased in the UK each year. London mayor Sadiq Khan, who is set to install public water fountains across London during the next three years, told “A free tap water scheme is long overdue in London and I welcome all the businesses that have shown strong commitment to reducing unnecessary plastic waste.”

Louis Korovilas, who will,lead the kitchen at BanconeDavid Ramsey, who recently co-founded pub company Grosvenor Pubs with former Busaba Eathai chief executive Jason Myers, is to launch pasta concept Bancone in central London next month. Ramsey has partnered with restaurateur William Ellner to open Bancone in William IV Street, near Trafalgar Square, at the end of April. The kitchen will be led by Louis Korovilas (pictured), who trained under Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli. His menu will focus on fresh pasta dishes and hyper-seasonal small plates. Dishes will include pappardelle, kid goat and rosemary ragu and plates such as lamb-neck ravioli with spring vegetables. The bar will cater for aperiviti and cicchetti alongside a wide choice of Italian wine by the glass that will champion lesser-known growers. The decor will include living walls and glass cabinets for drying pasta. Ellner, who operates Joanna’s restaurant in Crystal Palace, said: “I’m thrilled to have Louis on board at Bancone. He’s incredibly passionate about Italian food and produce and comes from a prestigious restaurant background. Italian food – particularly pasta – is enjoying the limelight in London once again.” Grosvenor Pubs is backed by Downing LLP and is aiming to build an estate of high-quality pubs with rooms.

Tomos Parry, former head chef of Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair, has opened his first solo restaurant. The concept – Brat – has launched in Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, influenced by Parry’s Welsh heritage and the Basque region. Brat, a colloquial term for “turbot”, offers a menu favouring seasonal British produce and cooked on an open grill. The first-floor restaurant features art deco wood-panelling and large steel-frame windows. The open kitchen and ovens sit at the heart of the room, surrounded by a counter bar with high stools. Parry has collaborated on the wine list with Keeling Andrew & Co, a wine import company set up by the founders of Noble Rot. Parry said: “Since leaving Kitty’s I’ve been working closely with farmers and fishermen to create a menu structured around native ingredients at the peak of their season. For me, the simple pleasure of eating well is what Brat is all about. It’s a place I would want to eat – whether one dish with a glass of wine at lunch or settling in at the counter for a few hours.”

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPAThe British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has welcomed the Department of Health’s pledge to launch a consultation on low-alcohol descriptors in the marketing and labelling of alcoholic drinks. The BBPA said the move would provide an “opportunity to change the rules to help grow the lower-strength market and clarify labelling for consumers”. The BBPA said it been calling for more flexibility to promote beers at or below 3.5% ABV for some time but current advertising regulations “prevented brand owners from promoting lower-strength beers”. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds (pictured) said: “BBPA members have responded to consumer demand for a greater range and choice of lower-strength beers, many with new flavours and ingredients. Investment in no and low-alcohol beers has drastically increased in recent years. Pubs are increasingly providing a growing selection of lower-strength alcoholic drinks. Greater clarity in advertising and marketing would allow the lower-strength market to continue to grow while supporting pubs.”

Comptoir Libanais, the Lebanese canteen specialising in fresh Middle Eastern dishes owned by Comptoir Group, will open its first site in the West Midlands, in Birmingham this month. The 3,047 square foot restaurant will open in the Grand Central shopping centre on Monday, 26 March next to Indian street food specialist Mowgli. The 100-cover site will also feature a small souk market offering authentic ingredients, home-ware, gifts and branded cookbooks. Comptoir Libanais founder Tony Kitous said: “Grand Central’s position above the busy New Street station and adjacent to the Bullring makes it the perfect location for our first restaurant in the West Midlands.” Comptoir Libanais operates 26 sites in the UK, including branches in Manchester, Oxford and Bath, with the next opening scheduled for London Bridge later this year.

Liverpool-based operator Know Collection has added a “Roman-themed party pad” to The Townhouse boutique hotel in Chester. The Roman Vault sleeps nine and has a large lounge with vaulted ceilings and a built-in bar. The pad also comes equipped with a beauty bar, karaoke and a colour-changing lighting system. Know Collection chief executive Steven Hesketh said: “We purchased the Townhouse Hotel in July and immediately saw a large amount of group enquiries. We decided a gym and unused office space were the perfect location for this unique accommodation offering. Visitor numbers to Chester are up 7.3% to 62.2 million, which is clearly helping with accommodation demand in the city. The hotel has performed beyond our expectations and the hotel has risen from 27th to 17th on TripAdvisor, an amazing feat in nine months.” The Know Collection also operates The Richmond Apart Hotel, two sites for its cafe concept Love Thy Neighbour, three Piri Piri Express restaurants, and the UK Hospitality Training Academy.

Neapolitan pizzeria Fatto a Mano is to open its third site in Brighton and Hove, next month. The concept, which opened sites in Brighton’s London Road in 2015 and Church Road, Hove, a year later, will launch its latest venue in the North Laine area of the city. The restaurant will open in a pedestrianised area on the corner of Kensington Gardens and Gloucester Road at a site formerly occupied by second-hand clothing store Loot. The concept, which offers “wood-fired pizzas, top-quality ingredients and friendly service”, was founded by Rupert Davidson and Dav Sahota in 2015. It was named one of the UK’s top independent pizzerias by the Guardian in 2017 and appeared on a list of Brighton’s top 20 restaurants last month for a third year in a row. Davidson said: “The Loot site means we can open a small pizzeria in the centre of Brighton, in what is a fantastic building. In the past 12 months we’ve developed our own beer brewed in Sussex and launched homemade non-gluten pizzas. We’re keeping to our simple menu, with a few changes we hope Brighton and Hove locals will love.”

Phil Strong, former owner and managing director of multi-site pub restaurant operator Chameleon Bar and Dining, has been appointed chief executive of the Association of Licensed Trade Accountants (ALTA). The association said the appointment of its first chief executive was part of its aims to raise its profile and recruit the “best accounting professionals”. Strong, who has been in the licensed industry for more than 40 years, said: “I passionately believe all pub companies and licensed businesses should be using ALTA members. They have to be vetted annually and professionally qualified and indemnified with a minimum of five years’ experience in the licensed sector. I have seen over the years businesses underperform or fail, not helped by accountants who are not qualified or experienced in the sector.” Strong ran Chameleon Bar and Dining from 2000 until June 2016.

Pret A Manger is giving away more than 300,000 drink tokens to encourage customers to “make someone smile” by giving a free drink to a loved one, colleague or stranger. Pret’s biggest giveaway will see tokens handed out in participating stores until Sunday, 25 March with the tokens redeemable until Monday, 30 April.

Thai restaurant group Rosa’s Thai Cafe is to open venues in Tooting and Ealing to take the brand to 13 London sites. The 60-cover Tooting High Street site will open on Thursday (22 March) split over two levels. It will also feature a theatre kitchen on the ground floor and a basement restaurant space that will double as a 25-cover private dining room. The Ealing Broadway restaurant is planned for an early summer launch, with both sites designed by Gundry & Ducker. Rosa’s Thai Cafe managing director Gavin Adair said: “The launch of our Tooting and Ealing restaurants marks an exciting year ahead for Rosa’s. Both areas have a loyal and growing foodie community so they are the ideal locations.” Husband-and-wife team Saiphin and Alex Moore founded Rosa’s in Shoreditch in 2006. The brand’s other sites include Carnaby, Chelsea, Seven Dials and Spitalfields. Saiphin Moore recently published her second cookbook, which focuses on vegetarian dishes.

CAMRAThe Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is calling for a new deal for pubs in response to fresh data that reveals 18 pubs are being lost every week. It said urgent action was needed to cut the tax burden placed on pubs. Pubs are being hit by a triple-whammy of one of the highest rates of beer duty in Europe, rapidly rising business rates and VAT, with one-third of the cost of a pint now made up of various taxes, the group stated. CAMRA welcomed temporary business rate relief and a beer duty freeze but is calling on the government to undertake a fundamental review of the tax system. It said Brexit provided new opportunities to support pubs such as lower rates of tax on draught beer. CAMRA chairman Colin Valentine said: “Pubs are facing a crippling tax burden, exacerbated by the perfect storm of the last business rates revaluation and a high level of beer duty. From these new pub closure figures, it is clear a fundamental change is needed if the British pub is to survive for future generations. As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, the government has a unique opportunity to update the tax system to better support pubs, which are a bastion of British culture and at the heart of communities across the country. We can now look further afield for a new tax deal for the sector. This could include implementing the Australian model of having a lower rate of duty for beer sold in pubs, radically changing the business rates system, charging a lower rate of VAT for pubs or, even better, all three. Millions of dedicated pub-goers are looking to the government to act to secure the future of the British pub. We’re challenging the government to be the most pro-pub in history by seizing this opportunity.” CAMRA’s survey, which covered UK pub closures between 1 July and 31 December 2017, found 413 closures in England during the period, 28 in Scotland and 19 in Wales. A breakdown of regions in England found the most closures were in the south east (62), followed by north west (59), Yorkshire and the Humber (57) and Greater London (52). The region with the fewest closures was the north east (16).

Propel reports on JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin’s (pictured) comments following Friday’s (16 March) interim results:

Tim MartinCurrent trading: Like-for-like sales for the six weeks to 11 March were up 3.8% with total sales up 2.6%, although the recent snow had “of course” affected trading. Martin added the company was unlikely to sustain the 6% like-for-like sales growth the company reported for the 26 weeks to 28 January 2018. He said overall sales for the period were only up 3.6% because the company had sold “quite a few pubs”. Like-for-like bar sales increased 5.7% compared with 2.4% the year before, while food like-for-like sales rose 6.9% compared with 5.1% the previous year. Fruit machine like-for-likes returned to growth in the first half for the first time since 2013. Martin added: “Food has been strong for years and years but we are also seeing good growth in bar sales. I think the name of the game is to keep like-for-like sales 1% ahead of inflation. I think that would be very good for us. I don’t quite know why they’ve been so high. We seem to have become slightly fashionable – and we’re used to being unfashionable.”

Pricing: Martin admitted the company was about to increase prices by roughly 10p on its sugary drinks in response to the sugar tax coming into force in April. He said: “We will try to keep increases as modest as we can and history has shown that’s what we have done – but we are a commercial organisation and we have to earn a buck.”

Average weekly total sales per pub more than £43,000: Average weekly total sales per pub are now at a record level of £43,400 including VAT, compared with £40,500 the previous year. Martin said: “It’s been quite a success for us really. There was definitely a question mark, in my mind anyway, as to how pubs would be after the smoking ban because pubs were so associated with smoking. But it turns out they have survived well overall, particularly in our case.” Before the smoking ban, Martin said average sales per pub were about £30,000.

No international plans: Martin said: “We’re not tempted to go overseas. We did have a look at the Tesco model for America, Poland and Singapore and thought it looked a bit tough so we’ve stayed in the UK except for going to the Republic of Ireland, where we are doing very well. It would be nice to think we had a brand with world potential but we have to be realistic. The conceit of some of the private equity-owned restaurant companies is they have to open a few sites overseas. But how can anyone with only 50 restaurants have the financial firepower to go overseas and make a success of it? The only ones that have done it have been the Americans – Starbucks and KFC for example – because they come from an economy five or six times bigger than the UK.” As for expansion in the UK, Martin said: “In reality, we’ve probably slowed a bit in the UK. It’s a lot easier to expand quickly when you have, say, 200 sites than when you’ve got 900. The places you can go into are fewer.” The company has five sites in Ireland with two pubs in Dublin expected to open at either the end of the year or next spring.

Supplier sagas: Martin said the company suffered relatively little impact from “steakgate”, when Wetherspoon had to take items off the menu following a Food Standards Agency investigation into supplier Russell Hume. However, he said it certainly hadn’t been a plus for the company. Martin pointed out the company had been able to use alternative suppliers and it was still unclear exactly what had happened at Russell Hume. He added: “We will find out when the legal process is gone through but a minimal amount of information has come out so far.” The company also uses Conviviality, which this week suspended trading on AIM after the discovery of an unexpected £30m tax bill. Martin said: “We’ve been using the company for more than 20 years. So far it hasn’t affected our business but we have made contingency plans. I won’t go into detail because it is still trading. All I want to say at this stage is I hope it pulls through. Martin said there were no plans to scrutinise suppliers more closely as a result. He added: “We probably have more than 2,000 suppliers. Of course we get credit ratings but we don’t look at things as closely as investors do.”

Wetherspoon not a political platform: Martin dismissed claims the Brexit issue might be overshadowing the performance of his business. He said: “There are two things we have campaigned for – to stay out of the euro and, I think, a similar thing about Brexit – they are both important issues. Procter & Gamble bosses apparently wrote to all their employees to vote ‘remain’ – we have not done that. I think it’s fair enough to say: ‘This is what I think’ and the public are capable of accepting a view if it’s expressed in the right way when it comes to explaining something that might affect their lives.” Martin pointed out articles had been published in the company’s magazine both for and against Brexit. He also admitted fellow boardroom members didn’t share his view on Brexit. He added: “I’ve never asked them how they voted. Some have told me – and it wasn’t the same as me.”

Sector market views: Martin said he believed the top-performing companies would continue to thrive and survive despite current reported woes in the sector. He said: “The top brands are doing very well and it’s only probably less than a third of the sector that have reported problems. It’s mostly the London-based companies that have been paying the highest rents. It’s probably the fact the huge surge in trade in London and the economic activity has worn off. It was 13 years before we opened in central London and we only opened two and then went to suburban London, where the rents were cheaper. People are still going out but they’ve got more choice. Maybe too many things have opened in the same place, such as retail parks, and they are now suffering a reduction in trade. There’s certainly a market there but I would say, broadly speaking, some of the companies are too cloned and don’t have enough individuality.” Martin said the company hadn’t felt the impact too much from restaurant chain discounts and it was usually a plus if a restaurant was in the vicinity.

The place to eat and drink: Wetherspoon is the most-used brand for sit-down meals, according to data from CGA Peach, with more than one-third (36%) of consumers eating out at one of its pubs in the past six months. Pizza Hut was second (22%) and Nando’s third (21%). Wetherspoon is also the top choice for drinking out occasions, with 42% of consumers having drunk at one of its pubs in the past six months. Mitchells & Butlers’ All Bar One and Greene King were joint second with 13%. Wetherspoon is the fifth most-used eating brand in Britain, behind quick-service outlets McDonald’s, Costa Coffee, Greggs and KFC. The company has an average food hygiene rating of 4.9 out of five, while 92% of its pubs have achieved the maximum score. Martin said: “I think one of the major things that has helped us with food sales has been the Scores On The Doors scheme – in 2015 we were rated right at the top along with Pret.” Drinks still make up the majority of the sales mix (61%), with average weekly sales of £26,500 per pub. A total of 225 of its pubs are in the 2018 CAMRA Good Beer Guide. The biggest-selling brand in Wetherspoon venues is Lavazza coffee, while its biggest-selling draught drink is Pepsi.

Costs keep climbing, sugar tax ‘not the answer’: The company has seen “modest” increases in bar and food costs so far this year but continues to face a number of other cost increases. Martin said only a “tiny” amount was due to Brexit and the majority were “home-grown”, such as business rates and the Apprenticeship Levy. Wages have increased 4.2%, while during the period there had been rises in utility taxes (£3m) and depreciation (6%). The company also faces additional costs in the form of the National Living Wage (4.4% from April), sugar tax (£3m) NEST pension contribution (from April) and additional utility taxes. Martin said: “I think you need to control costs but it’s not easy to do so in the pub and restaurant industry. Too much cost control can effect service and we try to provide the best service and best product we can.” Wetherspoon paid tax of £356.1m in the period, up from £331.6m the previous year. This worked out at £402,000 per pub. Its tax as a percentage of sales has increased to 42.9%, compared with 41.4% the previous year. Martin questioned the need for a sugar tax and said it was “just another tax”. He added: “I do believe about 50 years ago people were eating more calories than we do today. What people aren’t doing today is enough exercise so you don’t need to be Albert Einstein to work out how to address the problem. I think it was a combination of Jamie Oliver, and David Cameron and George Osborne who wanted to be at one with him. I don’t think a sugar tax is the answer. I don’t blame Jamie – I just wish we didn’t have to pay another £4m.” Meanwhile, operating margin rose to 8.9% compared with 8.1% the previous year. Martin added: “It’s unfair pubs are taxed more heavily on food than supermarkets and there has to be an equaliser in the long run if pubs are to survive in small towns and less-fashionable high streets.”

Hotels – still early days: The company has 55 hotels, having opened two more during the period, and now has about 1,100 rooms in total. Martin said it would continue to look at adding rooms to pubs where it had unused space on upper floors and in car parks that were underutilised. He said: “There are a lot of people building hotels and we’re relatively new to the game. Most of the hotels we have opened have had 50 rooms but a lot of them are smaller than that. We’ve more in the pipeline – in Dublin and Glasgow for example – but we will just see how it goes and try to avoid making a mistake. Hopefully it will work out well. It’s very expensive and we have to put a tremendous amount of capital into it and have to try to make sure we don’t waste any money. It’s about making sure the combination of pub and hotel makes a good return on capital. In Barrow-in-Furness, we added 50 rooms above the pub and it’s doing better than before.” Hotel like-for-like sales were up 3.1% in the period.

Pub investment and freeholds: The company increased reinvestment in its existing pubs to £35.0m, compared with £28.4m the year before. This included £25.6m on kitchen and bar equipment, £6.9m on refurbishments, and £2.5m on business and IT projects. The company also spent £32.2m on repairs compared with £29.2m the previous year. Martin said: “The temptation is to keep boosting profits but we try to spend fully on repairs. I think we spend 4% of sales on repairs, whereas some companies are only spending 1% to 2%. There was only a “modest” amount of freehold reversions compared with previous years, taking the percentage of freehold sites in the estate to 58.4% from 54.4% the year before. The company spent £11.3m on freehold reversions and investment properties during the period, down from £49.6m the year before. The company opened three pubs in the period (all freehold) and closed 12 sites. The company plans to open a “handful” of pubs in the second half of the year. The average cost of development is now £3.01m, compared with £2.45m the previous year. The average size of new openings during the year was 6,341 square feet, compared with 5,929 square feet the year before.

It’s a people thing: The company had record levels of staff retention, with the average length of service for pub managers now more than 11 years and eight months and kitchen managers eight years and two months. A total of £21.2m was paid in bonuses and free shares, of which 84% was paid to staff working in its pubs. The company had more than 36,000 employees at the end of the period – more than 10,000 of them shareholders in the company. Martin said about 40% of the company’s profits were paid in share incentive plans and 5% in bonuses to staff. He added: “That’s 5% more than most people in companies of our type are getting. Sainsbury’s, for example, put up the rate of pay but reduced other incentives and took away paid breaks. We are trying not to do that. We have the phrase: ‘It’s a people thing’. I used to think it was a bit corny but they were right. Pubs are a people thing. People have made a mistake by saying it’s a brand thing. When you say it’s a brand thing it creates a sort of arrogance in the company. I think only companies such as McDonald’s and Starbucks might be able to say that.”

Analysts view: Goodbody leisure analyst Brian Devitt said: “The statement noted the second half has started well, with like-for-like sales in the six weeks to March 11 up 3.8% year-on-year. This compares with our forecast of +3.5% year-on-year. On the outlook, management notes it anticipates higher costs and slower like-for-likes in the second half of the financial year and hence remains cautious. However, it goes on to say that given the better-than-expected trading, it anticipates an unchanged trading outcome for the current financial year. Overall, this represents a very strong performance from JD Wetherspoon in the first half. While top-line trends were already known coming into this, the margin expansion of 80 basis points year-on-year is very impressive given the sector’s cost headwinds. Some may draw concerns from the increase in net debt and slower like-for-likes in the second half so far. The higher debt appears to be driven by significant capex (excluding freehold reversions) in the period. The slower like-for-likes in the second half should have been expected given tougher comparables and it is worth pointing out this continues to be well ahead of the market (Coffer Peach +0.2% year-on-year). At first glance, we anticipate a mid-single-digit increase to our Ebit forecasts. We would note that medium-term bias to numbers remains to the upside and this remains our top pick in the sector.”

JD Wetherspoon has reported like-for-like sales have increased 3.8% in the six weeks to 11 March 2018, with total sales up 2.6%. It comes as the company reported sales for the 26 weeks to 28 January 2018 rose 3.6% to £830.4m – like-for-like sales were up 6.1%. Profit before tax before exceptional items was up 20.6% to £62.0m. Like-for-like bar sales increased by 5.7% (2017: 2.4%), food by 6.9% (2017: 5.1%) and fruit machines by 4.6% (2017: decreased by 2.1%). Like-for-like room sales at its hotels increased by 3.1% (2017: 14.8%). Bar sales were 61.0% of total sales, food 35.3%, fruit machines 2.5% and room sales 1.1%. During the period, the company opened three new pubs and closed 12, bringing the number open at the period end to 886. Following a review of its estate, in recent years, it has placed about 100 pubs on the market, 88 of which have now been sold, are under contract or have been closed. Exceptional items totalled £6.8m (2017: £7.3m). A total of 12 pubs were sold or closed in the period. There was a £5.9m (2017: £6.6m) loss on disposal and an impairment charge of £1.1m (2017: £5.2m) for closed pubs and pubs which are on the market. The cash effect of the exceptional charges was an inflow of £0.8m from the proceeds of pub disposals. Chairman Tim Martin said: “There has been a huge debate, since the referendum, about the economic effects of Brexit. In particular, trade organisations such as the CBI and the BRC, supported by the FT, the Sunday Times, the Guardian, the chairmen of Whitbread and Sainsbury’s and others, have misled the public by saying that food prices will automatically rise if we leave the EU without a deal. This is a fallacy – the EU is a protectionist organisation which imposes high taxes on food, clothing, wine and thousands of other items from non-EU countries, which comprise about 93% of the world’s population. In fact, MPs have the power to eliminate these import taxes in March 2019, thereby reducing prices for the public, just as their predecessors achieved the same objective by repealing the Corn Laws almost two centuries ago. Another frequently repeated Brexit concern is that the much bigger EU economy will be better able to withstand a Mexican standoff than the UK. This is also a fallacy. For example, Wetherspoon is one of the biggest customers, or possibly the biggest customer, of the excellent Swedish cider-maker Kopparberg. If trade barriers were imposed, so as to make Kopparberg uneconomic, then Wetherspoon could switch to UK suppliers or those from elsewhere in the world. In this case, the principal losers in a trade war would be the inhabitants of a small town in Sweden, where Kopparberg is produced, rather than the UK economy. Unfortunately for the Swedes, the EU negotiators, unlike those of the UK, are not subject to judgement at the ballot box, so Kopparberg’s influence on the outcome may be minimal. The same principle applies to thousands of EU imports including prosecco, Champagne and many wines and spirits – in almost all cases there are suitable, and often excellent, alternatives to EU products available elsewhere. In fact, the biggest danger for EU producers, whose wine industry, for example, has lost huge market share to the New World, in spite of import taxes, is that UK consumers take umbrage at what they see as the overbearing behaviour of EU negotiators, and decide to favour products which originate elsewhere. Provided that the UK parliament votes to eliminate tariffs, EU producers will, in any event, be faced with a far more competitive UK market – since New Zealand wine producers, for example, will be able to compete on an equal, import tax-free basis, for the first time. So, the antagonistic approach of EU negotiators, which risks alienating UK consumers, is extremely unhelpful to businesses within their own bloc. Most economists who criticise Brexit use hypothetical arguments, but, in the real world, the UK can eliminate import taxes, improving living standards and simplifying the Byzantine tax system – both of these factors will improve the outlook for consumers and businesses in the UK. In the six weeks to 11 March 2018, like-for-like sales increased by 3.8% and total sales increased by 2.6%. The company anticipates higher costs in the second half of the financial year, in areas including pay, taxes and utilities. In view of these additional costs, and our expectation that growth in like-for-like sales will be lower in the next six months, the company remains cautious about the second half of the year. Nevertheless, as a result of slightly better-than-expected year-to-date sales, we currently anticipate an unchanged trading outcome for the current financial year.”

ConvivialityConviviality, the UK alcohol wholesaler serving consumers through the on-trade and its franchise retail estate, has said talks are ongoing as it bids to make up a cash shortfall to pay an unexpected £30m tax bill by the end of the month. The company stated: “Further to the update announcement on 14 March 2018, the company has been actively engaging with its stakeholders while it continues to work through its funding requirements. Customers and suppliers remain supportive of the company and are working closely and constructively with the company at this time. We have had constructive discussions with our lenders which are on-going. PricewaterhouseCoopers is undertaking a review of the business and its future finding requirements and this work stream is progressing well. The company has engaged with HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) regarding the £30.0m payment due on the 29 March 2018. HMRC has been receptive to our needs and these discussions continue; and the company is engaging with its advisers and broker regarding the possibility of an equity fundraise to effect a recapitalisation of the business. The board wishes to express its gratitude to all its stakeholders for their on-going support during this difficult period for the company. A further update will be provided in due course.” Earlier this week, Conviviality cancelled its interim dividend payment, freeing up £8.2m. Last week, Conviviality warned it expected adjusted Ebitda to come in 20% below market expectations. In a further update on Tuesday (13 March), the company said it would fall in a range of between £55.3m and £56.4m.

Jamie OliverChef Jamie Oliver has opened his first Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria site in the Netherlands as he continues international expansion. The 142-cover restaurant has opened in Koningstraat in Arnhem city centre. The move follows an opening in Budapest at the end of last year. Oliver has previously opened two Jamie’s Italian restaurants in the Netherlands – in Rotterdam and Den Haag – while there is also a Jamie Oliver’s Diner in Rotterdam. A further Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria launch is planned for Tilburg later this year. Oliver now has more than 50 sites internationally across 24 countries.

Craft brewers are playing an important role in communities across the UKThe restaurant and bar scene in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds is growing at more than double that of London, according to a study by CGA on behalf of hospitality trade show Northern Restaurant & Bar. Their league table of hospitality growth is dominated by northern cities, which take six of the top eight places with independent operators leading the surge. The number of city centre outlets within the “M62 corridor” cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds has increased more than 20% during the past five years, compared with 10.4% in London. CGA’s Outlet Index covered the central business districts of every major city with more than 100 licensed premises. Liverpool topped the chart with 25.2% growth during the five-year period, followed by Manchester (24.9%) and Leeds (20.5%). In fourth was Southampton (20.5%), the highest-placed southern city, followed by York (19.5%), Cardiff (17%), Newcastle (15.7%), and Bradford (15.1%). London (10.4%) was 14th on the list. Northern Restaurant & Bar chief executive Thom Hetherington said: “We’re delighted but not surprised by the data. We’ve seen the changes first-hand – new restaurants and bars are opening almost every day. Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds are building top-class food and drink scenes and that’s great news for diners. Despite this being a challenging period for hospitality businesses, the growth is being largely driven by ambitious regional independents.” CGA retail business unit director Jamie Campbell added: “Of course London is a much bigger restaurant and bar scene in absolute terms but percentages don’t lie. The change in cities in the north is more pronounced and has a proportionally greater impact on diners, whether residents or tourists. Moreover, we are working on additional data that shows growth in the region is being driven by independents, with the featured northern cities showing an increase in independent outlets at more than twice the national rate.” Northern Restaurant & Bar takes place in Manchester on 20 and 21 March.

Britain’s managed pub and restaurant chains saw collective like-for-like sales increase 0.2% in February compared with last year, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker. The data also revealed casual dining chains are now rolling out at a rate below that of pub companies. Managed pub groups saw like-for-like sales up 1.3% while restaurants were down 1.5%, although the frequency of eating out has remained stable. London fared better than the rest of the country, with like-for-likes up 0.8% compared with flat trading outside the M25. “Most of the effects of the major snow disruption will show up in the March data but, even so, to come out effectively even for February as a whole shows the resilience of both the sector and consumers,” said Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the tracker in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “What’s not clear is how the bad publicity around certain high-profile restaurant brands closing sites has affected the market or individual choices.” Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “Contrary to media reports the eating and drinking out market remains stable, as these figures show. The restaurant sector has had terrible press over the past few weeks but, in reality, consumers are still eating out. We also continue to see pub operators outperforming restaurants.” CGA’s BrandTrack consumer research also shows the frequency of eating out is stable. Martin said: “Where people choose to go in a competitive market where choice has never been greater is a different matter. However, our consumer research shows people are more willing than ever to try somewhere new.” CGA’s latest Business Leaders survey showed senior executives expect more business failures this year and a scaling back of expansion plans. “This is already reflected in the Coffer Peach numbers,” said Martin. “New sites are still being opened but casual dining chains in the cohort are now rolling out at a rate below that of the pub companies. Over the past 12 months, total sales growth, reflecting new openings as well as closures, was 3.8% for restaurant groups compared with 4.3% for managed pub and bar chains. Although the February numbers will bring some comfort to operators they are still below inflation, and with the extra business costs around property, people and food prices, it remains a challenging trading environment.” Underlying like-for-like growth for the companies in the tracker cohort, which represents large and small groups, was running at 1.1% for the 12 months to the end of February, including 0.4% for casual dining chains and 1.4% for pub and bar groups.

CineworldPeel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said the potential upside for Cineworld is becoming clearer, with the US being the main growth driver in all areas. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 270p following the company’s preliminary results presentation, Jack said: “In the US, Regal’s integration is ahead of schedule. The company is not planning to improve margins in film buying, or drive big headcount reductions. Nevertheless, management is comfortable with the target of $60m of central cost, capex and procurement savings. These should be achieved first, ahead of the revenue synergies. We believe the $40m revenue synergies target offers upside. In our view, this can be achieved from online sales penetration, which will be pushed more aggressively now, and directing more traffic through the company’s own website. In the US, the share of bookings that are online is half that of the UK. We believe introducing Unlimited in the US could provide further upside, but that is unlikely to be rolled out within the next year. Regal represents 70% of the group. We forecast Regal grows turnover per screen by circa 0.5% to 1% per annum (versus an estimated 0.5% compound annual growth rate between 2014 and 2017) before the benefit of upgrade project capex. We believe this is beatable (the US market was up 11% in January-February; and the film slate is improving). We estimate each extra 1% of US turnover boosts group earnings by 3%. Cineworld targets reducing net debt/Ebitda to three times, with debt falling from $4.0bn to $3.25bn, over the next two years. This pace of reduction is in line with our forecasts, and assumes that management does not hold back on expansion, refurbishments and dividends. If Cineworld can exploit what it describes as the ‘huge potential’ of the US, the combination of upgrades and a re-rating could drive attractive upside in the shares. We expect the US to have a good start – there could be at least four blockbusters in the first half of 2018, followed by an even stronger slate in 2019E (that includes Star Wars 9 and Bond 25). In addition, we believe the risks on US synergies and returns on refurbishments is on the upside.”

Greene King has launched a support package tailored to help licensees hold their own festivalMorgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has said he believes Greene King’s like-for-like sales underperformance will start to narrow in FY19. Issuing an ‘Overweight’ rating on the shares with a target price of 640p, Rollo said: “After a decade of like-for-like sales outperformance the company has underperformed peers in the last year. This reflects the Spirit acquisition bringing a mixed portfolio with a high exposure to the tough value food market, the deferral of some capex, and management distraction with the Spirit integration. However, its Locals division, constituting about half its managed estate, have seen continued like-for-like growth, aided by supply exiting the wet-led segment and a strong proposition. This implies mid-to high-single digit like-for-like sales declines in about 30% of its managed estate coming from value food (Fayre & Square, Hungry Horse, Flaming Grill). This should ameliorate given repositioning of these concepts, its investment, and easy comparables. Looked at another way, value food is about 20% of group Ebit, so about 80% of the group seems relatively resilient. To be conservative we still model declining like-for-like sales, margins and EPS in FY19, then see these stabilising in FY20. The majority of the company’s debt sits in two securitisations which control the amount of cash that can be upstreamed to the plc to fund the dividend. The Spirit securitisation has plenty of headroom after reprofiling and prepayments, and while we expect upstream headroom to get tight in 2020 when amortisation recommences, we see plenty of options for the company to refinance the expensive debt. The Greene King securitisation only needs a 9% free cash flow drop to be in ‘cash trap’ on our FY19 forecasts, but the company can inject some of the plc pubs to increase Ebitda if it came to that. Combining plc Ebitda with the upstreamed cash implies about £100m of free cash flow, sufficient to fund the dividend. Meanwhile, we expect the company to guide to more cash conservation in the next few years, with lower expansion and more disposals, and we now see the company deleveraging by 0.2 times annually. On a consolidated basis, which is how the company prefers to look at it, underlying free cash flow is sufficient to fund debt repayment and the dividend, with disposal proceeds easily covering expansion capex, on our forecasts. The company trades on a 6.8% dividend yield on our forecasts for a stable dividend, its highest yield since the 2009 financial crisis. It is trading on a 2018 price-to-earnings ratio of 7.9 times, not far from its yield, historically a good buying opportunity. The relative multiple has closed versus peers but Mitchells & Butlers does not pay a dividend and has a large pension deficit, and Marston’s has weaker free cash flow. Greene King’s net asset value is 850p using the latest valuations in the debt structures versus the 660p balance sheet valuation, so the shares are trading at a 40% discount to net asset value. Our bull case is 820p, assuming a return to modest like-for-like growth and rerating to historical averages. Recent trading has been tough, partly due to snow disruption, and we think the company’s fourth-quarter update will be weak. The company may need to alter its strategy and either invest more (including to widen its brand range) and/or make a large disposal (which could be dilutive). Industry pressures are arguably structural and may not ease, and an economic downturn (perhaps Brexit induced) could lead to further sales pressures – we estimate 1% on like-for-like sales is £10m to £12m to Ebit, which is about 5% to earnings per share and about 10% to free cash flow. Our bear case is 350p, which assumes about 4% like-for-likes and the dividend is halved.”

Domino'sDomino’s Pizza Group has announced from today (Friday, 16 March) until 31 December 2018 it will commence a discretionary programme to purchase up to £32m of the company’s ordinary shares of 25/48 pence each. The company stated: “The £32m represents the balance remaining of the £50m, less the £18m purchased by the company in this year to date, as announced by the company on 8 March 2018. The purpose of the programme is to reduce the company’s share capital and accordingly the company intends to cancel the ordinary shares purchased under the programme. Any purchases will be conducted in compliance with the relevant conditions for trading, restrictions regarding time and volume, disclosure and reporting obligations, and price conditions. The company confirms that it currently has no unpublished inside information. The aggregate maximum consideration payable by the company in respect of the purchase of shares under the programme up to 31 December 2018 is £32m. The maximum number of shares that may be purchased under the programme is 49,196,705 (being the number of shares able to be purchased under the 2017 authority), less the 10,480,070 shares purchased to date under this authority.”

The Hickory's Smokehouse site in Wall HeathSmokehouse and barbecue group Hickory’s, backed by private equity firm Piper, is seeking new sites as it plans further expansion. Propel has learned the company, which is set to open two venues this year, is looking to acquire leasehold or freehold sites of about one acre for new-build venues or conversions. The company is seeking sites roughly within two hours of Chester that could provide 150 covers plus an outside dining area and more than 60 parking spaces. Neil McDonnell opened the first Hickory’s in Chester in 2010. The brand now operates seven sites, including West Kirby, Rhos-on-Sea, Birmingham and Southport.

Sambal Shiok owner Mandy Yin is to open a permanent site for her Malaysian pop-up restaurant this summer. Yinn will open a laksa bar in Holloway Road in Highbury, north London, this summer on the site of former Mexican restaurant Amigos. The venue will have room for 40 diners – ten held back for walk-ins and counter dining, with the rest at tables. Yinn founded Sambal Shiok in London in 2013. She started trading at street food markets but customer demand led her to focus on laksa (spicy Malaysian noodle soup) and the launch of her pop-up restaurant. Her laksa bar has had sell-out runs across London during the past two years. She said on the restaurant’s website: “I take inspiration from everything I ate in my childhood growing up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Then I mix it up and put a new slant on it.”

Plastic StrawsThe British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has published guidance for pubs on alternatives to plastic straws. It outlines recyclable, reusable and biodegradable options, including wheat, paper and glass, as well as information on food safety and food hygiene compliance. The BBPA is working with the British Institute of Innkeeping to look at biodegradable alternatives and the capacity to compost and recycle them. The move follows the commitment by a number of operators to cut or ban the use of plastic straws, while in his Spring Statement this week the chancellor launched a government consultation on reducing single-use plastic across the whole supply chain. Last week, BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds met Thérèse Coffey, parliamentary under secretary of state for the environment, to discuss reducing the use of plastic straws in pubs. Simmonds said: “Pubs are already working hard to reduce the amount of single-use plastics. One of the easiest ways pubs can continue to reduce plastic waste is by using environmentally friendly alternatives. The guidance we have published will help pubs and licensees cut their use of plastics.”

BrewDog in ReadingScottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened a site in Reading – its third launch of 2018. The company has opened the bar in Castle Street, featuring 20 beer taps. In addition, the bar stocks bottled and canned beer from around the world in two “open-air” beer fridges. BrewDog’s menu of burgers and wings is also available, with a brunch option at weekends. Co-founder James Watt said: “Beer fans of Reading have been crying out for a BrewDog bar for too long so it’s awesome we have finally set up home in Berkshire. The craft beer scene has been exploding over the past few years and we want our presence to help accelerate that growth in Reading, making the town an epicentre of amazing craft beer.” The company’s latest fund-raise, Equity for Punks V, has so far raised more than £13m from more than 29,000 investors across Europe. It is due to close in October.

TGI Friday's NewcastleTGI Friday’s has added vegan dishes for the first time as part of its new menu, which also features a range of meals with fewer than 600 calories. The company, which is renowned for its grills, hand-crafted burgers and glazed ribs, has added made-to-order dishes such as smoked tomato bruschetta, avocado houmous, and garlic vegetable fajitas. The new lower-calorie range includes Cajun cream pasta and crispy noodle salad – both available with chicken or prawns. Meat-lovers can enjoy a limited edition Rib Tickler Burger (flame-grilled beef burger topped with pork rib and coated in golden mustard barbecue sauce). TGI Friday’s UK head of food and drink Terry McDowell, who created the menu, said: “Friday’s is all about being inclusive and the latest menu allows us to cater to everyone.” TGI Friday’s also revealed it would donate crockery, including 10,000 plates, to food-waste charity FareShare.

Nick Bolton has acquired The Buxted Inn in Uckfield, East SussexHospitality specialist Nick Bolton has taken ownership of The Buxted Inn in Uckfield, East Sussex, following a six-figure funding package from HSBC. Bolton, who has worked in the industry for more than 15 years, has bought the venue in High Street for his first standalone venture with partner Ariane. Bolton has worked in various London wine bars, restaurants and hotels, including Davy’s and Hush Heath Estate, as well as training staff for venues such as Claridge’s, Intercontinental and The Mayfair Hotel. He will introduce new menus at The Buxted Inn using locally sourced produce while there will be a wine list of almost 100 varieties. Bolton said: “We want to create a vibrant hub for the local community and their feedback will be vital to making this a success. We plan to work with as many local suppliers as possible to showcase the amazing produce available in East Sussex.” Sarah Milligan, HSBC’s area director in Kent, added: “Nick’s ideas to evolve the pub, which is already hugely popular in the area, will create a fantastic hub for local foodies and wine enthusiasts.”

Café Rouge has received official certification from the Marine Stewardship CouncilCasual Dining Group brand Café Rouge has received official certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The award, which will see MSC’s blue fish label added to Café Rouge menus across the UK, coincides with the brand’s new seasonal spring menu, which features certificated Shetland mussels and hake, along with smoked cod and haddock fishcakes. In addition, a dish of sustainably sourced smoked cod has been added to the main menu. Café Rouge has conducted training on MSC operating standards across all its sites, as well as undergoing a rigorous audit of its fish supply chain. Café Rouge managing director James Spragg said: “We’re delighted to be the first restaurant operator of scale to receive this certification from MSC, which is testament to the excellent work of our procurement team.” MSC senior commercial manager George Clark said: “Café Rouge has demonstrated full supply chain traceability and seafood sustainability can be delivered at scale in a high-street dining environment and on a national level. This is what diners now expect.” MSC is a charity that awards efforts to protect oceans and safeguard seafood supplies.

Signature Brew, the “music-inspired” brewing operation known for its collaborative beers with musicians, has been named UK brewery of the year by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) in its annual business awards. JD Wetherspoon, meanwhile, won best independent craft beer promotion (on-trade). The awards took place at SIBA’s BeerX event in Liverpool, with Signature Brew also winning the marketing implementation category. SIBA managing director Mike Benner said: “The quality and quantity of entries this year was simply staggering and to be named a winner in the awards represents a huge achievement for these breweries – they really are the best of the best in terms of passion, innovation and excellence in the independent craft brewing industry. I would particularly like to congratulate Signature Brew on being voted brewery business of the year. It is clearly destined for even bigger and better things.” Other winners were Fourpure Brewing Co, which won the commercial achievement category; Leigh on Sea Brewery (concept design); Loch Lomond Brewery and Dr Peppercorn (individual design); Farr Brew (green business); North Brewing Co (business innovation); Waitrose (independent craft beer retailer – multiple); Hop Burns & Black (independent craft beer retailer – single); Ceabahr – Bun Dubh Brewery (independent craft beer restaurant); Wigan Central in Lancashire (city pub/bar); The Cove in Devon (rural pub/bar); and Lemon Top Creative (supplier associate).

Scottish hospitality group Manorview has seen an increase in apprentices entering its Training Academy. The group is on track to see 55 apprentices come through the academy from April 2017 to March 2018, a rise from 48 the previous year. The company is looking to grow that number to 65 during its new intake period, which starts next month. This apprenticeship year will include SVQ Professional Cookery Level 2 and 3 qualifications for the first time. Training Academy assessor and verifier Robi Giovino said: “We’re introducing the Professional Cookery qualification to try to encourage more chefs into the industry. We want to provide that pathway for young chefs to follow a passion and to see it as a career choice.” The Manorview portfolio consists of nine boutique hotels in Scotland. In January, the company paid out more than £80,000 in the first payment from its HeartCount Fund, which shares a proportion of the group’s profits with its workforce.

Social Media Strategy In A Day, an event aimed at allowing companies to develop and hone their social media strategy, has been launched – and is open for bookings. The event features all-new content and insights to allow companies to increase brand exposure and broaden their reach. Propel has partnered with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the one-day advanced workshop that will cover everything a marketing department should be thinking about when it comes to social strategy. The event, which takes place on Thursday, 26 April at One Moorgate Place in London, will open with Digital Blonde founder Karen Fewell revealing updates from recent industry reports and analysing insightful statistics. Attendees will be among the first to hear what she took away from the SXSW conference in the US. You will also learn the “top ten principles of persuasion for hospitality businesses”, which will show you how to apply psychological principles to help people buy your products and services. Craig Hill will help you unearth your brand character and show you how to tell others about it in an interesting and engaging way. During the “inspiration session”, you will look at ten killer social media campaigns – what worked and why are people talking about them. The “interactive guide to content brainstorming” will force you to look at a campaign in a more emotional and engaging way, while the Digital Blonde team will also look at the changes Facebook made to its algorithm earlier this year and reveal what it means for your social account. The “understanding user behaviour” section of the event will answer key questions such as how do you engage with millennials and do Gen Z even use Facebook any more?  Fewell will round up the morning session by sharing the latest updates on the incoming General Data Protection Regulation. The afternoon will start with a quick-fire round of 20 questions in 20 minutes, while Jamie Riddell, of pay-as-you-go analytics platform BirdSong Data, will reveal useful things about user behaviour in the hospitality sector. The “ultimate content toolkit” talk will reveal the tools you need to create engaging content cost-effectively from your mobile phone. Social copywriter Nicola Proud will share her top copywriting hints and tips and reveal how to write Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts that stop people scrolling. The event will also reveal how to use Instagram stories to drive revenue for your business and show the key differences between the social advertising platforms on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Finally, the team will tell you where to find influential people, what to pay them and how to successfully build them into your strategy. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £345 plus VAT for non-members and can be booked by emailing

Propel is staging its fourth Craft Beer Retail Study Tour on Thursday, 22 March in London, this time exploring the burgeoning beer scene in Bermondsey and Brixton. The tour, led by Thinking Drinkers, award-winning beer writers Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham, will visit eight venues during the day-long tour, including leading craft beer retailers, a cider specialist and a street food market that features its own brewery. McFarland and Sandham will provide the latest craft beer facts and figures, market segmentation analysis, and spot up-and-coming trends, while CGA commercial director Graeme Loudon will give further insights. Site visits will include question-and-answer sessions with some of London’s leading retailers looking at award-winning sites, beer-centric retail, beer sourcing, direct sourcing, menus, brewing on-site, and a host of other issues. The day includes travel between venues by coach where appropriate. Tickets are £345 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £395 plus VAT for non-Propel Premium members. To book, email

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Propel Multi-Club March 2018

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7th  March 2018

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