Monthly Archives: March 2016

Farage puts some hard facts to the EU, the facial expressions on Merkel and Hollande say it all.

This is not promoting UKIP, but some hard facts about the EU, the facial expressions on Merkel and Hollande say it all. 

Even my wife grudgingly admitted his comments made sense and she supports staying in the EU, I would also if they could put the clock back to it’s original concept.

Farage is certainly backing Britain’s interests.

This short Video is worth watching, whatever your view on the EU.


Category: EU

Propel, Enterprise Managed Pubs, Cameron EU scare, BBPA stay neutral.


Propel, Enterprise Managed Pubs, Cameron EU scare, BBPA stay neutral.

Enterprise Inns plans 100 ‘managed expert’ pubs by 2020 with ten partners, eyes sale or listing of commercial property subsidiary:

Enterprise Inns has told analysts it hopes to have 100 pubs run in partnership with “managed expert” multi-site operators. By September this year, it plans ten pubs with three partners ramping up to as many as 50 pubs by September 2018 operated with ten expert partners. By September 2020, it expects 100 pubs to be operated under the joint venture “managed expert” model. The company said the agreements would run for a minimum of five years with exit options including the sale of the stand-alone operating company, a sale of Enterprise’s share to the managed expert partner and vice-versa. Meanwhile, Enterprise plans a 1,000-strong “commercial” segment of pubs by 2020 let on commercial terms, which could be sold or listed separately – it expects to have between 300 and 350 sites let on such terms by September this year. Sites could be sold directly to Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) or Enterprise itself could create a REIT, analysts heard. Providing example of progress within the commercial segment, the company revealed it is now receiving £1m of rental income from White Brasserie across seven sites let on commercial lease terms. It is also seeking to develop property opportunities within its estate. It has secured planning consent for nine apartments above The Wheatsheaf in Tooting, south London. Its income would increase from £100,000 per annum to £400,000 with £1.6m of investment. The book value of the site would increase from £1.7m to more than £5m after the investment. An abandoned pub Fosters in Torquay with sea views was sold to a retirement operator for £1.2m after planning consent was obtained for residential apartments – the sale price was a 240% increase on net asset value. Also, seven acres of land attached to a pub in Ledbury, Herefordshire, for which Enterprise received £1,000 per year rent, was sold for £2.5m after consent was obtained to build 100 homes. Read On

How many Senior Pub Co Management are Fit for Purpose? (Barrel-Dregs)

Barrel-dregs 2Barrel-dregs 3

How many Senior Pub Co Management are Fit for Purpose? (Barrel-Dregs)

I have over many years in the Industry met many senior management from Pub Co’s, on a variety of subjects and issues.

The one thing that always comes home to me is their total lack of understanding of pubs and licensees, they are in their views commodities that are to be used and discarded when they have exceeded their usefulness.

On the other side of the coin, the majority of family brewers that I have known and dealt with for years regard their pubs and licensees as a key part in their business, to be developed constantly, even more so if they run good operations, they are in business to sell the brewers products.

I had a lengthy discussion with a Senior Director of a larger Pub Co some months ago, I came away feeling that he was a specialist in his field and it didn’t really include getting the best out of their tenants/lessees or their pubs.

My thoughts have always been the same as the majority of family brewers used to be, their tenants were front of house and wholly responsible for the profitability of their company.

If a tenant/lessee is not running a business profitably, there are a number of reasons why, having interviewed thousands of licensees in their pubs. Read On

This months Scams, Energy, Broadband and Phones, (Barrel-dregs)

BD Scams.eps

This months Scams, Energy, Broadband and Phones, (Barrel-dregs)

Energy Scams

Commercial energy

The unscrupulous Energy Companies are desperate to tie any business or individual to a long term contract at a higher rate. Energy prices are falling with the recession and countries like Iran are back selling oil, they are all fighting to retain their markets at greatly reduced rates.

But some very nasty tricks are going on, you need to read the Link below.

You may have an Energy Comparison Company looking after you, most are very good but some refer you to the same supplier every year, be careful, use a second company to check that you have the best deal.

Potboy West had been referred to the same company three times and was paying 40% more than he is now, that’s a lot of Net Profit down the Tubes, fortunately he spotted it within a month.

This link is worth reading on how to avoid being caught out. LINK

Domestic Energy

We have EON and Age UK, having a cosy deal paying £3.6 million to Age UK for their mailing list to promote a more expensive three year contract, they are now frantically back tracking to make good this nasty rip off.

Potboy Senior got ripped off by First Utility with a similar contract, only there was no contract. They claimed that he clicked on a marketing link, which automatically put him on a similar three year contract to EON at a much higher rate. He had been recommended to First Utility by an energy Comparison Company, always use two companies to compare figures, it costs you nothing.

With all marketing links an automated response should be generated with contract details and at least a fourteen day opt out clause, with first Utility absolutely nothing.

There is a complaint to the Ombudsman and a formal complaint has been made to the Minister responsible for Energy.

The link for the full article, without naming the company initially, in the vain hope that they would rectify the damage that they had done to other customers, not a chance.

If you call the Ombudsman on Energy, press 1 for NPower and 2 for the others, it says nothing for NPower, the others known to the Ombudsman, First Utility would now appear to be high on the list.

BT and Mobile Phones

Potboy Wests’ golfing pal had just switched to BT’s all singing, all dancing package about three months ago.

He kept complaining that he couldn’t use his mobile phone at home, phoned BT constantly and got nowhere, they insisted that their coverage was spot one, the salesman had called round and told him it was nothing to do with them.

Potboy had been playing golf with him on an evil, cold, wet day, normally he would have a pint of Guinness, he was so cold he ordered coffee, anyway he didn’t appear.

Potboy got concerned in case he had collapsed in the changing rooms, not on your life BT had phoned him on his mobile.

The conversation went like this, “Ah the national Network, well umm, we do have some Blackspots.” Not what the salesman said, “Could you try moving round your house whilst you are on your mobile or make calls from upstairs.” Complete waste of time there is no signal anywhere in the house. “Umm, could you walk down the road until you get a signal and then make calls on your mobile from there.”

The air went a lighter shade of Blue, he is now back with Tesco and can use his mobile at home again.

Potboy went to BT for a quote, no mention of Blackspots, but they were more than twice as expensive as his existing supplier.

Changing Broadband

Now this you would think would be easy, not on your life, a complete nightmare.

I decided to switch from EE, following a succession of localised stoppages on Broadband.

I have had the same domestic email address for years, the company that I was changing to has emailed for years on the same domestic email address, without problem.

I switch to them, the emails come in as usual, I try to reply absolutely nothing, it appears because I have Freeserve in the address, I am blocked from sending them, one company blames another and we get nowhere.

The company that supplies the Broadband want me to have their name on my emails, not on your life, if I do that I have the same problem when I switch again.

Do not have an email with a Orange, Freeserve, BT etc. it is enormous hassle, you are totally screwed and nobody tells you this, it can be overcome, but they want their pound of flesh, just get a very simple email address without a Broadband brand name on it.

If you come across any Scam or dubious practice, please email the details to, we are fed up with small businesses and individuals, especially older people being ripped off by companies and others that they may believe or have previously trusted.

Please view our other web site for Information, Help and Advice

The views expressed are not necessarily the editors and accepts no responsibility for them, we do try to avoid offensive or litigious statements being made. They are written by concerned professionals in the industry who feel that these issues should be raised to ensure that all licensees, customers and older people are made fully aware of the many hidden pitfalls, set up by the unscrupulous individuals and companies.


Pub Code Adjudicator appointed (at last!). Is he fit for Purpose?


Pub Code Adjudicator appointed (at last!).

Is he fit for Purpose?

Clearly it is with some surprise that our members get to know the appointment is a Fleurets surveyor (Mr Paul Newby – Director of Fleurets too) who has over a number of years acted predominately for one side of the argument, tenant groups such as PAS have always maintained that the Adjudicator should not be a chartered surveyor and that any such appointment will struggle to be accepted as independent by most tenants.

The attempt by the BIS to remove parallel rent assessment (PRA) from the draft pubs code in part 1 of the consultation back in Oct 2015 is wholly consistent with the stance taken by RICS who similarly wanted PRA to play no part in the pub’s code. The so called “cock-ups” Minister Anna Soubry went on to apologise for last year, were in reality far too sophisticated to have been written by inexperienced government officials waxing lyrical. It is our view that only trade experts with a higher knowledge could have created such detailed and well aimed “wrecking clauses” to be inserted into the highly controversial first draft of the pub’s code.

That said whoever sits as the Adjudicator still has to deliver on Government policy (and the will of both houses) to “level the playing field and ensure that the tied tenants are no worse off than a free of tie tenant”.

We expect the code to be published April so don’t forget the offer to buy tickets early to the PAS MRO event details here >

Note:-We have, as usual a well paid appointment to a Government Post of a Chartered Surveyor, whose previous post was a Director of Fleurets, a company with long term associations with the Pub Co’s, which makes his appointment by the larger majority of people working in the Industry questionable.

The immediate comment is, each side needs representation at the top, there should be two other people at the top with Mr Newby, a second Chartered Surveyor who has been solely involved with work for lessees/tenants and a third who is not a Surveyor who is totally neutral, but knowledgeable on the issues at stake, but wants to see total fairness and unite the industry, Mr Newby is unlikely to achieve this alone or with his long association of Fleurets.

Members of the RICS, in the main have never run pubs, have very little understanding of the diverse vagaries of licensees and English pubs, they work from some very questionable guidelines provided by the RICS, which have blown a hole through long accepted practices.

This link is worth reading and may make the learned Minister, reconsider using a sole adjudicator.




Poll reveals rise in freehold purchases and ‘a good time to buy’

Poll reveals rise in freehold purchases and ‘a good time to buy’

A poll of Association of Valuers of Licensed Property (AVLP) members has revealed more people are seeking to buy freeholds than three years ago. A minority of respondents to the poll, in its fourth year, also thought freehold and leasehold prices would rise, leading AVLP honorary secretary Dan Mackernan to state it could be “a good time to buy”. Meanwhile, 61% thought the standard of applicants had risen. AVLP members, consisting of licensed property surveyors and valuers, were polled about the state of the market, with 78% saying more people wanted to buy freeholds than three years ago, while more than half (54%) said fewer people wanted to buy leasehold pubs. Regarding the licensed property market, more than two-thirds (72%) said it was more buoyant than a year ago. Mackernan said: “This year’s findings are particularly interesting, not least that 61% of those polled said they thought the standard of applicants taking licensed property has improved. Another stat that stood out for me was the view that prices of property are thought to be fairly flat, with only 38% of those polled thinking freehold prices will rise and only 11% thinking leasehold prices will rise. This could indicate that it’s a good time to buy.”

John Gaunt & Partners March Licensing News – the referendum edition!

JG & Partners

John Gaunt & Partners March Licensing News – the referendum edition!

This will, we anticipate, be the first and last time we mention the referendum in these updates (at least until it is over) but we do anticipate that non-referendum news will be eclipsed until it has been held and the result is known.
Gambling – unusually our sector featured in the lead Leading Article in the Times on 17 February under the title ‘Betting Burden’ devoted to the ‘issue’ of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). For those interested the leader can be found here. It attracted some comment.
On to the news as posted to our website over the past month…

Policing and Crime Bill – have your say!

Posted: 08 Mar 2016 09:00 AM PST

Last month we reported on the introduction of the Policing and Crime Bill. The Bill has now passed its second reading without a division and unsurprisingly without comment being passed on the licensing elements. This means the next stage is for MPs to consider the Bill in Public Bill Committee, which is expected to hold oral evidence sessions on Tuesday 15 March 2016. Those inclined to do so c…

Employers Vicarious Liability – “Close Connection” Test

Posted: 07 Mar 2016 06:00 AM PST

On 2 March 2016 the Supreme Court published their judgement in the case of Mr A M Mohamud (in substitution for Mr A Mohamud (deceased)) (Appellant) v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc (Respondent). This case concerned the actions of a Morrison&rsquo;s employee working as petrol station kiosk attendant for the supermarket in Small Heath, Birmingham.&nbsp; Although each case would be considered on it…

British Summer Time and Easter – be aware and be prepared!

Posted: 07 Mar 2016 03:00 AM PST

Easter falls relatively early this year – the weekend of 26/27 March. &nbsp;However BST (or more properly Daylight Saving Time) also starts at 1.00am Sunday 27 March 2016 (NB this is the night of Easter Saturday/Sunday), when 1.00am immediately becomes 2.00am.&nbsp; If you are proposing and are able to trade beyond 1.00am, you need to be aware and have hopefully the position covered off either…

‘CMA takes enforcement action against fake online reviews’ – be aware!

Posted: 07 Mar 2016 02:00 AM PST

The Competition and Markets Authority&rsquo;s (CMA) is warning the hospitality industry to check the services provided by its online marketing agencies after a CMA investigation found clients were unaware that fake positive reviews may have been posted on their behalf. This follows an investigation, reported on their website, into Total SEO &amp; Marketing Ltd (Total SEO), a search engine opti…

Scotland – Zero Waste Regulations – update

Posted: 04 Mar 2016 04:00 AM PST

With effect from 1January 2016, the threshold for businesses affected by the Zero Waste Regulations 2012 changed.&nbsp; Whereas previously only businesses producing more than 50 kg of food waste a week, the threshold has now dropped to 5kg. It is the duty of any person who controls or manages a food business that produces controlled waste to take all reasonable steps to ensure the separate co…

Age-restricted products and services – reminder

Posted: 04 Mar 2016 01:00 AM PST

News in the press of ‘kitchen knives, razor blades and an axe illegally sold to teenagers in a test purchase operation across West Yorkshire’ recently is a reminder that not just alcohol and tobacco are age restricted and that test purchasing can cover a far wider spectrum of potential sales or activities. In the West Yorkshire operation it is being reported that out of 69 stores p…

The Policing and Crime Bill – opinion piece

Propel published an opinion piece by partner Michelle Hazlewood on this new piece of proposed legislation which in part is designed to clarify the law on the continuity of interim steps following a summary review.It can be read here

Sunday Trading – Possible Relaxation – Update

In connection with the proposed relaxation of Sunday Trading laws and the devolution of decisions down to a local level, the Government has now produced a factsheet about its proposals to de-regulate Sunday trading which can be found here: ‘Devolving powers to extend Sunday trading hours: factsheet‘.

The detailed proposals include:

    • Giving local authorities across England and Wales, the Mayors of London, and Greater Manchester (when elected) and Mayors established through any future devolution deals the power to extend Sunday trading hours.
    • Giving local authorities the option to zone relaxed hours, meaning they can help boost local high streets and shopping areas to the benefit of both larger and smaller stores and consumers.
    • Reducing the notice period for shop workers at large shops to opt out of Sunday working altogether, from the current 3 months to 1 month.
    • Giving shop workers a new right to opt out of working longer than their normal Sunday hours – also by giving 1 months’ notice at large shops or 3 months’ notice at small shops.
    • Guaranteeing a minimum award (usually two weeks’ pay) where a related claim is brought and an employment tribunal finds that the employer failed to notify the shop worker of their opt out rights.

‘Tobacco Illicit Trade Protocol – licensing of equipment and the supply chain’

Tobacco retailers – which may include many pub operators – should be alert to the HMRC consultation just launched under the above catchy title (!) and which canvasses the possible requirement for registration of tobacco wholesalers and retailers going forward.Read more here

LGA and CIPFA Consultation on Locally Set Fees

The Institute of Licensing is reporting that the Local Government Association (LGA) and CIPFA (the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) have launched a local authority consultation on locally set fees. They have jointly written to local authorities seeking further data and information on the local costs for administering and regulating activities under the Licensing Act 2003.Read more here

Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme – deadline looms

From 1 January 2016, businesses with a UK establishment who ‘wholesale’ alcohol to other businesses at or after the duty point must apply for AWRS approval and do so by 31 March 2016. ‘Wholesale’ is quite widely defined. Failure to do so will mean you are liable to heavy penalties and possibly forfeiture of stock if you continue to trade after 31 March 2016. A failure to apply for approval means you are automatically considered as trading without approval. Affected businesses have a very limited time frame to apply.

JG&P have produced a detailed briefing document on this scheme.

To request a copy, click here

Pump and Boneyard, Shoreditch – appeal

The facts of the case read a bit like a best-selling novel but the decision before the Magistrates on appeal touched upon a number of pertinent licensing matters which I am incapable of condensing into the required paragraph!Read more here

Essence Bars (London) Ltd (or was it?!) -v- Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames – an Appeal Court decision

This recent Court of Appeal case touched upon where the identity of the appellant was misstated. Was this fatal to the appeal

Read more here

PPL and PRS to ‘combine’?

PRS for Music and PPL have announced a proposal to create a new joint venture company to handle all public performance licensing for the UK. The move comes after a strategic review that started in 2015 and will notably streamline the licensing process. If the plans are approved, the new company would be expected to begin licensing in 2017, with the full transition of public performance licensing due to be completed within 12 months. PPL and PRS for Music will now embark on a consultation with key stakeholders and regulators.Read more here

Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences – Definitive Sentencing Guideline updated

New revised guidelines from the Sentencing Council came into force on 1 February 2016 with the result that likely penalties are likely to be significantly more punitive of employers and more expensive, as a business’s turnover will be taken into account when fines are imposed. The updated rules involve principally three factors key in determining fines: the degree of harm caused, the culpability of the offender, and the turnover of the offending organisation.Read more here

Hartlepool EMRO again – no, not yet!

Reassuring news that Hartlepool Licensing Committee has rejected (at least for now) a request to re-consider the introduction of a possible EMRO. Further justification or a lot more justification has been called for.Read more here

Weston Super Mare – Late Night Levy

The Licensing Authority for North Somerset Council has confirmed that it will not introduce a Late Night Levy to cover the area of Weston Super Mare. The Licensing Authority in conjunction with the Council appears to have taken a broad review of the situation.Read more here

Tower Hamlets Late Night Levy

On the 15 February Town Hamlets launched a consultation regarding the introduction of a late night levy on premises operating in their area after midnight.Read more here

Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th Birthday – Licensing Tips

2016 sees the Queen achieve her 90th Birthday, which will be a significant national event. We have already received our first enquiry regarding TENs for a large outdoor event over the weekend of the 12 to 15 May. In addition, there is the Patrons lunch which is to take place on The Mall on Sunday 12 June. The Government have released updated Guidance on the organisation of a ‘Street Party’. The revised Guidance is to help people set up their own Patron’s lunch or street parties and is there to provide a handy check list for the organiser. It includes an assessment as to whether a licence – be it a Premises Licence or Temporary Event Notice – will be required.Read more here

Taxis – Uber, Black Cabs, and the Congestion Charge – Commentary

The rise of the phone Apps such as Uber, which connect passengers with available drivers in their immediate locality, has created a considerable tension between their service and the Hackney Carriages trade, in London particularly. Partner Chris Grunert has produced a commentary on the current position.Read more here

Gambling – Commission Wins Greene King Appeal

Regular readers will recall this long running saga which centres on whether public houses are appropriate venues to be granted an Operating Licence to authorise bingo (and therefore higher jackpot gaming machines). Judge Levenson in his appeal decision has found that the Commission has the legal authority to refuse an application for an Operating Licence if it considers granting the application would not be reasonably consistent with the licensing objectives, although whether the decision to refuse was correct on its merits was not considered. The case is to be sent back to the First-tier Tribunal for reconsideration. A copy of the decision can be found here.

Gaming – Local Risk Assessments go live 6 April 2016

With effect from 6 April 2016 the updated Social Responsibility Code will take effect which includes a requirement that licensees must assess the local risks to the licensing objectives posed by the provision of gambling facilities at each of their premises, and have policies, procedures and control measures to mitigate those risks. In making risk assessments, licensees must take into account relevant matters identified in the licensing authority’s statement of licensing policy.Read more here

Gambling – Paddy Power Holdings Ltd – Settlement of Gambling Commission Investigation

The Gambling Commission have published a public statement regarding a number of serious failings on the part of Paddy Power Holdings Ltd (Paddy Power) in relation to keeping crime out of gambling and protecting vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited. The full public statement, which forms part of the voluntary settlements entered into between the Commission and Paddy Powe…

Gambling – Local Risk Assessments come into effect 6th April 2016

On 6th April the new social responsibility code provision 10.1.1 will come into effect. Operators of the following premises must have conducted an assessment of the local risks to the licensing objectives: adult gaming centres family entertainment centres non-remote betting non-remote bingo non-remote casinos remote betting intermediary (trading room only).&nbsp; This is a docu…

Gambling – Commission Publish Research on Gambling Trends

The Gambling Commission has published research following data drawn from a telephone survey of 4000 people conducted during 2015. Headline findings include the fact that participation in gambling has fallen from 57% in 2012 to 45% in 2015.Read more here

Scotland – Gambling – Commission Warning to Scottish Pubs

Publicans in Scotland are being reminded that they are breaking the law if they allow their pubs to be used for betting or provide facilities enabling betting. This warning follows a multi-agency exercise undertaken by the Gambling Commission with officers from Police Scotland and from Aberdeenshire licensing authorities. The exercise involved awareness raising visits to several pubs in north-east Scotland to highlight the requirements of the Gambling Act.

The Commission have recently published a ‘Quick Guide to gaming in pubs‘, as we have previously reported.Read more here

Scotland – Minimum Unit Pricing Court of Session hearing dates

A reminder that it is being reported that the Scottish Court will now consider the matter on 7 and 8 June 2016.Read more here

Scotland – Glasgow Licensing Board Festive Policy 2016 -2017

Glasgow Board’s festive policy for 2016 – 2017 has just been announced.Read more here

Scotland – South Lanarkshire Licensing Board Dates Released for 2016

Read more here

And finally…

We continue to be one of the sponsors for the Sheffield Best Bar None Scheme and this month attended a brilliant awards ceremony at the City Hall in Sheffield. It was especially pleasurable to see the hard work of our Best Bar None colleagues acknowledged on a national basis as they had just returned from the National Award ceremony with 2 of the 3 awards! Well done Sheffield.

Missing my booking time, Boris bashes bingers, from the Sages of the Industry

PropelMissing my booking time, Boris bashes bingers, from the Sages of the Industry

Missing my booking time by Glynn Davis

Ever since I was drinking age it has always been something of a ritual to pop into the pub for a drink ahead of enjoying a meal in a restaurant. Needless to say, the time spent in the pub invariably prompted an arrival at the restaurant later than the time I’d booked. I was always pretty relaxed about this – questioning what difference 15 minutes could really make to a restaurant in which we were likely to spend at least two hours and probably more like three. And in which time we’d spend plenty of money so the late arrival would be immaterial.

How wrong can you be? My mind was changed dramatically after I had been invited to spend a lunchtime shift in the (very cramped) kitchen of the then Michelin two-starred Pied à Terre by owner David Moore and then head chef Shane Osborn. For a restaurant with extremely high standards of food and service, an invariably full dining room, a high number of complex tasting menus to serve, and a very small kitchen brigade, it quickly became obvious that any minor delay threw their whole schedule out of the window.

Timers were going off all over the place as individual components of a dish were completed and all had to then be brought together at exactly the same moment and to join ingredients that might have been cooking away for some hours. For people who work in kitchens this will be nothing new but for a naive diner this was a revelation in precise timing. Whenever word reached the kitchen of a delay in a table arriving there was some spitting of blood by the chefs as they recognised the knock-on effects for the rest of the service.

What the diners see is nothing of the grief they have just inflicted. They are the customer and are to be given a wonderful experience regardless of how late they turn up. This is the nature of restaurants at this level. It is as much about the service levels as it is about the food quality. My experience at Pied à Terre came to mind recently when I’d booked dinner at very well regarded Chinese restaurant A Wong in London’s Pimlico. I’d taken an 8pm slot (having warned them I might be slightly late) because the ten-course “Taste of China” menu cannot be booked after 8.30pm. I’d originally wanted to book for 8.30pm (so I could potentially sneak a quick one in beforehand at a pub near the restaurant – old habits die hard or never).

We would have probably made it for 8pm but for our babysitter who turned up ten minutes late – having initially forgotten we’d booked her in (youngsters). Despite our best efforts this meant we arrived ten minutes late at 8.10pm. The dining room was extremely busy and a glance at his watch told the head waiter we were in fact late by 600 seconds. Rather ominously we were banished to the bar in the basement, as it was obvious we’d missed our very tightly defined slot. There is a similarity to being on a plane waiting for a new slot to take off after experiencing a delay somewhere along the line.

Unfortunately, once sat at the bar we were forgotten about by the waiting staff. After a number of requests we were finally found a table but we were then left again. It was then explained to us as it was heading for 9pm we were too late for the tasting menu. They could create a shortened version for us – with some dishes replaced because they had run out of various ingredients. But this was not what I’d booked the restaurant for. I wanted the full “Taste of China” not just an excursion. There seemed little reason to stay.

It is my intention to return to A Wong at some point because I accept that it was my ten-minute delay that caused the problems. But I also cannot help but divorce myself from the fact this would not have happened at a place like Pied à Terre. Part of the reason these restaurants have their Michelin stars and other such awards is because it’s not the customer who takes the hit for their tardiness in turning up late. It’s the kitchen and the waiting staff. The customer is going to be largely unaware of the potential problems they have caused and will have a great experience, regardless of the time that they sat down to eat.

As well as its top notch food A Wong is also lauded for its relaxed no tablecloths policy and open plan kitchen layout on the ground floor but sadly this free-and-easy approach does rather expose the customer to great disappointment if they can’t be quite as precise with their timings as the kitchen.

Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

Boris bashes bingers – part two by Paul Chase

Back in 2011, I wrote a piece for Propel titled “Boris Bashes Bingers”, in which I outlined a scheme put forward by London Mayor Boris Johnson whereby drunken offenders would be subject to “sobriety orders”, and would have to report to police stations twice a day for sobriety tests to ensure their compliance. The government quite rightly refused to finance this scheme on the grounds of practicality, but Johnson came back with a high-tech solution from America: a “sobriety bracelet scheme” for those convicted of serious drink-related offences who might otherwise have been sent to prison.

I expressed back then my reservations about this scheme, but then heard nothing more about it, and assumed it had either died a death or been trialled and found wanting. But not a bit of it! The scheme has been trialled in south London and two other areas – Cheshire and Northamptonshire. It works like this:

On conviction for a drink-related offence the court orders a community sentence, but imposes a “sobriety condition”; the offender must abstain from drinking alcohol for 120 days – down from the six months that was originally envisaged. To enforce this, the offender is fitted with an ankle bracelet that can detect alcohol by measuring air and perspiration emissions from the skin every 30 minutes. Blood alcohol levels as low as 0.02% can apparently be detected, and the bracelets can tell when the alcohol was consumed and then electronically transmit that information to a monitoring station. The police are then informed the offender has broken his “sobriety condition” and can arrest him and bring him before the court.

Johnson has hailed the trial of this scheme as a success: “Sobriety tags have proved a fantastic success in helping offenders across south London to stay off the booze and avoid the circumstances under which they might reoffend,” he said. Apparently 91% of the tagged offenders complied with the sobriety order and stayed off the booze for 120 days. This compares with only 61% of offenders who complied with traditional community service orders for alcohol-related offences.

Point proved? Not quite. Only 113 offenders were put on these tags during the 12-month trial and nine breached the condition, leaving 104 who complied. A good result for a very small sample of people who, I suspect, were specially selected as “suitable cases for treatment”. The 61% success rate (or 39% failure rate if you prefer) for those offenders sentenced to other forms of community order is clearly a percentage of a much larger number. I can’t discover what that number is, but Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, stated recently 80% of offences committed in London were related to alcohol. That would be at least 588,821 recorded offences then, if you believe this statement, which personally I don’t. Just what does “related to alcohol” mean?

This is a classic example of how politicians desperate for positive headlines work: hail as a “fantastic success” a scheme involving a small number of people specially selected as suitable cases for treatment, and then make an invalid comparison with a much larger group of people that represents the generality of offenders who haven’t been selected – and fail to mention that! We can tell nothing from this scheme except how base the motives of politicians are!

I am very much in favour of people being held responsible for their own misbehaviour, rather than ever-greater server liability, but I think we need to put sobriety bracelets into the context of the other measures supported by police and others for the control of the night-time economy: breathalyser tests carried out by door supervisors, ID scanners and potentially drug detection dogs. Whilst acknowledging drunkenness and alcohol-related crime – howsoever defined – is a serious problem, it is a serious problem all the crime surveys say is declining, so I don’t feel there is a pressing need to turn our city centres into leisure ghettos or our venues into fortresses. I want to see alcohol-related domestic violence reduced. But we surely need to incentivise people to drink out of home rather than at home if we want to achieve that.

It’s not difficult to imagine a development of this technology so that it could be applied to the operation of individual licensed premises. I can imagine the government empowering licensing authorities to require premises in the night-time economy to provide a bracelet to every customer on a Friday and Saturday night. If the customer consumes more than, say, four units of alcohol, this is electronically communicated to a unit behind the bar, the bracelet illuminates and the customer has to leave. It’s the logical next step if you’re asking door supervisors to test for sobriety on entry. But surely I’m being paranoid, right? Surely no government is going to regulate the tick-and-tock of individual behaviour in this way? That’s precisely what people said when the smoking ban was first mooted. Watch this space.

Paul Chase is a director of CPL Training and a leading commentator on health and alcohol policy


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Pigeon House, The Broadway,
Oakridge Lynch, Stroud, Glos. GL6 7NU
Email: Phone: 01285 719292
(Also at: London, Cardiff, Braunton, Lewes)

We are all being told that the provision and expansion of hot plated food is the saviour of the pub trade and that if you do not serve hot plated food in abundance, your days are numbered.

So we thought we would put things into perspective due to recent statistical analysis which confirmed the proliferation of eateries on the High Street, effectively all striving for a share of the consumer wallet, with the inevitable knock-on effect to food being served in pubs. The numbers are quite telling.

Recent figure released by the Local Data Company have indicated that there has been a 39.6% increase in the turnover of the UK restaurant industry, with a rise over recent years from £15.5 billion to £21.6 billion pounds, driven significantly by private equity groups who have funded a growing number of burger, pizza and ethnic fast food restaurants. There are a proliferation of new operators that have been established in the last few years, which leads to the conclusion of supply outstripping demand, linked with fierce competition for locations which ultimately leads to an upwards spiral of over-renting. Very largely, the investment market is to blame which is very much growth-driven. It starts with an investment model purchasing a growing and popular small chain which then expands from, say, 10 outlets to 50. The growing chain is then sold on on the basis of further growth potential. The new private equity owner then looks to double that number and, again, sell on based on a growth agenda.

At some point (which happened last year with, for example, La Tasca and Tragus) the model runs out of steam and someone is left with far too many outlets which are not delivering the sales and profitability on which the model had been founded. Basically this is nothing new and is a standard cyclical economic model.

The net increase in restaurants over the last five years has been estimated at 20% or 14,000 new restaurants throughout the British Isles, almost all of which are in urban locations. This then creates the base level of both price and quality, which has a knock-on effect to the pub trade.

  1. The Wetherspoon’s Factor

One of the most focused operators in the pub food business is JD Wetherspoon. At the time of writing, shares had slipped from 854 pence, down as far as 609 pence and have now bounced back to 722. Trading operations have been hit by rising wages on one side and competitors slashing prices on the other in an effort to get diners through the doors. If you are one of the committed Wetherspoon’s staffers, you saw wages rise 5% in October 2014 and a further 8% in July 2015. However, in an effort to maintain market share, food and drink prices have been frozen, causing operating profit margins to fall 6.3% which is down by 1.1% from a year ago. This in turn has led to a slowing down of expansion plans within the six months to January seeing only new openings and two pubs being sold. Having said that, the plans are still to open a further 10 pubs this year which is down from the 30 new pubs that were opened last year.

The Wetherspoon’s statistical data is considered very persuasive in the headlong pub rush to serve more hot plated food at overly competitive prices.

  1. Wages Prospects

We all know that in April the minimum living wage will be £7.20 an hour for the over-25’s with the expectation that the minimum wage rate will probably reach over £9 an hour by 2020. Couple this with employment in Britain reaching a record high, it is not unsurprising that significant wage rises are failing to come through the system. In the final three months of last year, the figure for people in work reached 74.1% and unemployment remained unchanged at 5.1% which is the lowest level in a decade and which has a strong influence on wage growth. The Office of National Statistics confirmed that the average annual pay growth in the three months to December 2015, slowed slightly to 1.9%, compared with 2.1% in the previous three months. Average weekly pay was £465 before tax, up from £456 a year earlier, but still – and this is the telling statistic – lower than the 2007 peak which was £490.

There are also more young people coming into the labour market. Unemployment amongst those aged 18 to 24 has dropped from 14.3% to 12% in the past year. However, younger people tend to be paid less which has a strong influence in pushing down the average wage. All these interesting statistics must be placed into context with the cost of putting the food before the customer and the retention of gross margins.

  1. The Gross Profit Conundrum

There seems to be a standard mantra evidenced in very many Pub Rent Assessment Forms, that the gross profit that should automatically be achieved on food sales should be 65%. This is backed up with the selective evidence of major statistical analysis, specifically from the BBPA. However, if you are using fresh ingredients and not pre-packed, portion controlled raw materials, the reality of input cost, faced with competitive pricing, has a dramatic and downwards effect on food gross profit margins, often resulting in levels hovering around the 50-55% mark.

Recent information from DEFRA confirmed that the price of beef rose by 35% between 2007 and 2014 and, not surprisingly, the quantity purchased went down by 20%. For lamb over the same period, prices rose by 42% and consumption fell by 32%. In the 12 weeks to October last year, pork sales showed a decline of 10.5% in sales volume and 4.7% decline in basic volume. NatCen Social Research recently confirmed that a large number of people have reduced their meat consumption over the past 12 months, with the primary driver seeming to be a concern over health issues, not least concerning cancer. Whilst meat sales may be declining due to both cost and health pressures in pub dining, the irony is that eating out for a Sunday lunch is steadily bucking the trend as more and more housewives are ditching their aprons on a Sunday for the pub experience of having someone else cook the Sunday roast. However, price sensitivity is seen as the key element in the uptake of pub Sunday lunches. Whilst hardly anyone hits the price point of the Wetherspoon’s Sunday Club (soon to end) of £6.75 to include a drink, a large number of outlets serving a regular Sunday lunch, are sub £10. This price barrier seems especially sensitive and if maintained will inevitably see food gross profit margins – certainly for Sunday lunches – slide quickly towards the 50-55% GP mark. Long gone are the days when price sensitivity was not an issue.

  1. The Millennial Consumer

We read with great interest the Boston Consulting Group paper on ‘the millennial consumer – debunking stereotypes”. The millennial generation is the generation of children born between 1982 and 2002, a large number of whom have entered further education and the work force and can legally exercise their discretionary leisure spend in the on-trade. This generation will replace the baby boomers as they retire.

The millennials have very different characteristics from any generation before them, and in order to capture this trade, on-licensed establishments have to change the way they do business. The millennials have grown up in a society very different from any group before them. They have been plugged into technology since they were babies, are a safe generation and are the first generation to be true multi-taskers and expect to have 6-8 careers in their lifetime. Clearly licensees will have to understand, accept and embrace the characteristics and values of this generation if they are to create and market the image of the pub and all of its diverse offerings that resonate with them and meet their needs.

Rubbing shoulders in a pub environment are the non-millennials who view them as not very kind, sometimes uncaring and as ‘spoiled, lazy’ or even ‘entitled’. Millennials are extremely comfortable with technology and are often referred to by researchers as ‘digital natives’, meaning that they have largely grown up with technology and social media, using these new tools as natural integrated parts of life and work. They will generally be the very first to try new technology and fully embrace Wi-fi capabilities in pubs and bars.

Millennials are more likely to use the internet as a platform to broadcast their thoughts and experiences and to contribute user-generated content. They are also far more likely to post on Trip Advisor and also far more likely to expect some form of positive feedback which we consider is an essential element of controlling rogue postings on Trip Advisor.

There was an interesting summary of attitudes as follows:

  • “I want it fast and I want it now”. There is a premium on speed, ease, efficiency and convenience in all transactions. This has been recently borne out in the quite exceptional uplift in contact-free credit card transactions.
  • I trust my friends more than corporate mouthpieces”. The millennial generation will place credibility with anyone with first-hand experience, ideally a peer or close friend. More millennials than non-millennials use a mobile device to read user reviews and research new places to visit. ‘Crowd sourcing’ – tapping into the collective intelligence of the public, or one specific peer group – has become particularly popular. The reach and accessibility of social media has amplified the voice of individual members. Now anyone can become an expert.
  • “I am a social creature – both on-line and off-line”. Millennials use technology to connect with a greater number of people more frequently and in real time. Social media platforms are credited as being utilised by almost 80% of all millennials and they also maintain substantially larger networks. Just under 50% have 200 or more ‘friends’ on Facebook, compared with less than 20% of non-millennials. Not surprisingly, millennials are far more likely than non-millennials to favour brands or venues that have a Facebook page and mobile websites. They overwhelmingly agree that their lives feel richer when they are connected to people through social media.

So what does all this mean for staying on top of the trend setters? Social media would seem to be the key issue, linked with a regularly updated website of latest products and events on offer. Wi-fi would seem to be essential, as would a contactless credit card facility.

  1. HMRC Directive 226

This concerns projected yield and the HMRC requirement that “your customer (for example the publican) be made fully aware in writing at or before the time of receipt of the quantity of beer on which duty has been charged”. If, for example, a barrel (163.7 litres) contains minimum 2.3 litres of undrinkable sediment, the customer must be made aware by a statement on the label, delivery note or price list and so on, that the duty has been charged on 161.4 litres and a copy of the notification to customers must be retained.

If your brewery company or pubco is not supplying you with this information, then the summary of prices on related product lists, may be at risk from being non-compliant under the Alcohol Wholesalers’ Registrations Scheme which is mandatory for all alcohol wholesalers, brewers, brokers and dry brokers. However, research by Chris Lindesay has indicated that there is very little industry compliance with HMRC 226 despite the fact that HMRC have recently made it crystal-clear that the notification of duty paid volume must be passed all the way down the value chain to retailers, to enable them to make product selection, pricing and margin decisions in full possession of the information that HMRC has required to be disclosed.

For example, if as is the case with rent review, you have been supplied with annual statistics of barrelage volumes and applied the correct projected yield, the realistic volume of beer that is capable of being sold, could be reduced by up to 2%.

  1. And Finally……..

Beer doesn’t turn people into somebody they’re not. It just makes them forget to hide that part of themselves.

Best Wishes from the Team at M & C


Phone: 01285 719292

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You don’t need Property as Security – Business Finance up to £250,000

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