This week’s Diary includes trading updates from the bank holiday weekend (and some truly eggs-cruciating Easter puns); reveals how David Bruce almost turned down $2.1m because he thought it was an April Fool’s joke and introduces the Head of World….

Easter Trading Part 1: Luminar’s cracking figures

Nightclub operator Luminar saw like-for-like sales rise 29% over Easter compared to the year before. Figures were also up 21% in comparison to 2013, when the Bank Holiday fell at the end of March pay weekend and the weather was similarly favourable. Chief financial officer Russell Margerrison said: “Easter is one of those few key calendar events that change every year, with as much as five weeks disparity. The timing of this year’s Easter and the favourable weather have both helped, but these are strong results under any measure. However, our main focus has been on creating compelling experiences for our customers every trading night, proving that with the right offer there is still upside in the nightclub sector. These results build on our positive start to the new financial year and we are pleased that our focused investment in our estate and increased spend on our entertainment strategy is paying dividends.”

Easter Trading Part 2: Stable and NWTC’s egg-cellent opening weekends

Other successful Easter weekends included the launches of the latest Stable site and New World Trading Company’s (NWTC) sixth Botanist. The Fuller’s-backed pizza and cider concept opened its doors in Plymouth’s Sutton Harbour for its eighth outlet. Co-founder Nikki Cooper praised the staff for their persistence in getting the site ready for the Easter opening. She said: “We thought it would be busy as there was a lot of excitement building up on social media but with the sun coming out and the magnificent views over the harbour, people just flocked in. We easily achieved our covers target and it was great to welcome hundreds of locals and tourists through the door.” Cooper said the popular Tuck in Tuesday would start in Plymouth from 7 April – with selected pizzas, side salad and a drink for £10.

Meanwhile, NWTC managing director Chris Hill said the company’s first foray into Birmingham had “absolutely flown” after its soft launch last week. The site sees a few tweaks of the format, with three ‘Brewers and Botanist’ options – craft beers matched with miniature cocktails, on offer for £8.95. The company also wisely decided that it could not open in Birmingham without a curry on the menu so has trialled its first Malaysian Curry – available with chicken or vegetables. Hill said the company also had a record week at its Newcastle Botanist, where its rooftop terrace is about to officially open.

Dear Mister…..

Diary often receives emails alerting him to an unclaimed inheritance or a get-quick rich scheme that just needs a few bank details to unlock millions of dollars. These missives are promptly dispatched to the deleted file but a conversation with West Berkshire Brewery chairman David Bruce gives pause for thought. Bruce tells Diary that 21 years ago he invested $45,000 in a start-up in Seattle called Elysian Brewery. Last week he received the news that Anheuser-Busch had bought the company and that his stake in it was now worth $2.1m. Bruce said: “I got the news on April Fool’s Day and I really wasn’t sure whether they were having me on or not. It’s the first I’d heard from them in two decades and I have to say I’d pretty much forgotten about it.” Still having warm memories of finding a £10 note in Sainsbury’s car park in 2003, Diary can only imagine how Bruce must be feeling. Meanwhile the former Firkin Pub chain founder, who has previously expressed his despair at being labelled an ‘industry veteran’, may be about to acquire a new moniker. He tells Diary that when he visits the US next week to collect his winnings and attend a craft beer conference, he will be interviewed for a documentary called ‘Global Craft Brewing Pioneers’. Not a bad thing to have on the business card.

Long haul

News this morning that Moto was trialling a new dining concept called Arlo’s pantry & kitchen in place of its Eat & Drink Co site at Chieveley Service station on the M4 in Berkshire, led Diary to wonder how the company’s Harvester site at Donington Park Service on the M1, which launch nearly two years ago was performing. At the time of its launch, a Moto spokesman told Diary that if successful the trial could be extended across more of Moto’s c40 roadside operations, however the trial of Arlo’s suggests this may not happen anytime soon. A Mitchells & Butlers spokesperson tells us: “Together with Moto we opened the Harvester at Donington Park services, on the M1, in April 2013 and have seen an encouraging performance. We continue to work closely with Moto to ensure collaboration is mutually beneficial. No commercial decision has yet been made on opening further locations situated at motorway service stations.”

Evening all

Pret A Manger has put an official release out regarding its trial of a new evening menu and shop design at 88-89 Strand, London. According to the group, the Good Evenings concept will see the site transform from 6pm every day into a casual evening dining experience. Diners will be greeted at the door, presented with a ‘Good Evenings’ menu and shown to a table. The new menu of small plates, salads, toasties, soups, hot dishes and desserts includes some favourite Pret ingredients served in new ways, as well as a couple of popular hot food dishes such as Macaroni Cheese and Quinoa Rice Pots. It also includes a selection of French red and white wines, Prosecco and British craft beers. As part of the new trial, customers order and pay at the tills as usual, but their meals are served to them at their table, plated on specially-designed crockery. The menu is also available to order for takeaway. At the end of the official release the group states that the Good Evenings concept is currently a one-off trial with no plans to roll it out any further. The statement comes three days after marketing director Mark Palmer intimated that if successful the concept could be rolled out to further sites across the UK. Either way Pret won’t be the only ones watching its progress with interest

Bragging rights

Diary has noticed a new trend for operators to dispense with the more run-of-the-mill job titles in favour of something more colourful, for example Tim Foster, one of the founders of Yummy Pub Company, who is head of being awesome, which is some title to live up to. Word now reaches us that the person overseeing the international expansion of brewer and bar operator BrewDog works under the title Head of World. We hope that said person is in the right pay bracket for such a high pressure role!

C&C Group announces restructure

C&C Group, the Irish producer of Magners and one-time suitor of Spirit Pub Group, has brought its three separate trading businesses together to create C&C Brands. Previously the company had operated in England and Wales under the banners of Magners GB, The Shepton Mallet Cider Mill and International Wine Services. It said the move would “create a platform for long-term sustainable growth” and that the efficiencies created would result in increased brand investment. C&C Brands’ managing director, Andrea Pozzi, said: “We have a strong portfolio in England and Wales and we are delighted to be announcing the creation of C&C Brands. It is a logical step to create a single team when we are promoting all of our brands to a broadly common customer base. We can also benefit from a more efficient operational structure, principally by amalgamating sales and marketing personnel. We have some exciting developments to come in 2015 which, under the new structure, we will be better placed to promote.” C&C said its portfolio had been strengthened after being awarded the distribution rights Menabrea, a premium Italian beer brand.

Calm down, calm down….

Customers of Weston Castle’s newly refurbished Aintree pub – or at least the ones anonymously quoted by the Liverpool Echo – have failed to see the funny side of a cheeky nod to the area’s most famous event. The Queens in Warbreck Moor is decorated with framed black and white photos of women on Ladies Day in less than flattering poses – including one sitting amongst the litter at the end of the day holding a bottle of alcohol and another being carried over a man’s shoulder with her legs spread in the air. A regular of the pub told the Echo and said: “It’s bad enough that you have other parts of the country showing them in a bad light but you don’t expect it from your own city.” However Weston Castle managing director Chris Tulloch said: “I bought the images for the pub myself, all of which were selected to show people having a bit of cheeky fun. They aren’t images of people being sick, fighting or urinating, but arty images of people having a great, if a little cheeky, time at the races. We certainly intended no offence, in fact the opposite, we wanted to show enjoyment and humour. He added: “At the end of the day, our company creates pubs for local people, and if their view is that the images should be changed, then that is what we will do.”

Baked to perfection

For anyone who has ever wanted a more time efficient way of eating a muffin and a croissant at once, the answer is finally here. Artisan bakery Foxcroft & Ginger are the first bakery in the UK to sell Cruffins - a hybrid of the two classics that results in a lot of hand folded butter moulded into a muffin shape before being dusted with cinnamon to be flaky on the outside and gooey in the middle. They’re filled with a choice of flavours including a rich chocolate ganache, a house-made ‘Snickers’ with nuts and caramel, custard, custard and raisin and custard and jam.

Old McDonald

McDonald’s has wished a happy birthday to its oldest worker in Europe. Bill Dudley, who turns 90 tomorrow, will celebrate with a party at the store in Mold, North Wales, where he has worked for the last nine years. Dudley took on the role after he retired from his job as a crane driver and his wife refused to let him help with the gardening. He has said he currently has no plans to retire from his role as a part-time member of the customer care team. Diary can’t help wondering – if at 90 Dudley is Europe’s oldest McDonald’s worker, what is the international record?

A Westside story

Westside Drinks, the premium brand sales arm of Fuller’s, has strengthened its management structure and hired a third party sales force as it expands out of its London heartland. Fuller’s said the move followed a successful year that included securing the UK distribution for US craft brewer, Sierra Nevada. George MacNicol, who has led Westside since its inception in November 2013 has taken on a new role of marketing manager with specific responsibility for delivering marketing plans for the agency brands Sierra Nevada, Chimay and Veltins. As a result, Jordan Mace has been promoted to sales manager and will head up the sales operation, including responsibility for a team of external field sales executives who will promote Frontier Craft Lager and the other brands in the Westside portfolio in the South West, Midlands, North West, North East and Scotland. Matt Bassant has also been brought in as events co-ordinator.

Duck & Rice opening menu revealed

The new menu at Alan Yau’s hotly anticipated new Chinese gastropub has been announced. Duck & Rice, which is due to open in London’s Soho on April 13, will offer “a worthy sanctuary for the thirsty, the refuge seeker, the escapee, the pub goer and the hungry – with all the humour, warmth and irony that embody the character of the British pub” according to its website. It will be open from lunch through to dinner weekdays, with an extended dim sum brunch service on weekends. To find out what’s on offer read more

Here comes the sun

After spending the latter part of the weekend basking in the sunshine, Diary’s attention has been piqued by the rising number of London eateries offering alfresco dining. Opening next month is Farm Girl, an Antipodean-inspired café coming to Notting Hill. Rose Mann, who grew up on a rural farm in Melbourne, is opening the café on Portobello Road in May to offer healthy, substantial food throughout the day. While Mann may be able to emulate Australian cuisine on the streets of west London the weather cannot be guaranteed although for the occasional bright day there is a courtyard where diners can enjoy smoothies, juices and meals.