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Thu 14th Aug 2014 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Coffer Peach – pub and restaurant like-for-likes rose by 2.2% in July: Britain’s top managed pub and restaurant chains are delivering consistent growth and are at the forefront of the economic recovery, latest data from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker shows. Collective like-for-like sales rose 2.2% in July – the 16th consecutive month of positive growth for the sector. “These latest figures from 28 leading chains show that the public continues to go out and spend on eating and drinking-out,” said Peter Martin of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group, Baker Tilly and UBS. “Growth is more steady than spectacular, but the sector is becoming an important barometer of consumer confidence, as operators continue to invest in new sites and improving their offerings in what is a competitive market,” added Martin. Total sales in July, which include the impact of new openings, were up 4.3% on the same month last year. “Looking at the long-term trend, year-on-year like-for-like sales were running 3.0% ahead for the 12 months up to the end of July, with total sales running 5.4% up,” he said. “Interestingly, businesses outside of London did better in July than those inside the M25, up 2.6% and 1.1% respectively against the same time last year. This may be down to the weather, the start of the school holidays or perhaps the reported increase in ‘staycation’ holidays this year. Whatever, it will be a welcome boost as London has generally been out performing the rest of the country,” Martin observed. “Food-led pubs and branded restaurant chains outside of the capital were the big winners in July, together seeing a 4.1% increase in like-for-like sales. Drink-led pubs and bars actually did slightly worse than in July last year,” he added. Trevor Watson, director at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “Sustained like-for-like sales growth is particularly impressive when set against a background of accelerating new restaurant and pub openings nationwide. Travelling families returning from overseas holidays will be reminded of the quality, value for money and choice available in UK restaurants. As a nation we can be very proud of our highly developed eating out sector.”

Industry News:

Daily Telegraph – ‘Camra is well-intentioned but some pubs have to raise their game’: The Daily Telegraph has responded to Camra’s call for more legal protection to prevent pubs being converted to other uses with a claim that some pubs have failed to adapt to changing needs. In a leader column, the newspaper stated: “Camra is well-intentioned, but if a pub closes due to a lack of clientele, would it really be desirable to protect its status and leave it boarded up, rather than let the property be used to create something valuable to the community? Moreover, a cultural change has happened in British social habits that makes the challenge of rescuing pubs all the harder. Ten years ago, the public started to drift towards buying inexpensive drink in supermarkets, enjoying a relatively cheap pint in a chain such as Wetherspoon or paying extra to eat fine food at a gastro-pub. The old-fashioned boozer found itself squeezed out by the competition. Too many failed to adapt, so died. If people want to save these establishments, the owners have to raise their game and the locals have to start going back. And if the punters do return, they will doubtless find a fine English ale and a comfortable spot by the fire waiting for them.”

Deputy UKIP leader calls for lower VAT for the sector to combat pub closures: A north-west MEP and deputy leader of UKIP has called for a relaxation of the smoking ban and a VAT cut for the sector to combat an increase in pub closure rates. Paul Nuttall said: “It is completely unfair that pubs are paying nearly ten times more tax on a price of a pint in comparison to supermarkets. The smoking ban also severely hit pubs right across the country – if landlords want a well-ventilated room set aside for smokers they should be able to make that choice. This move along with reducing VAT for the hospitality industry would support local pubs and decelerate the rate they’re closing each and every week.”

Women better than men at getting best tables: Women are better than men at booking the best tables in restaurants, because they book two days earlier than men on average, according to reservation service bookatable. On average women book a table for a Saturday night on a Tuesday whereas men tend to wait until Thursday.

Shoppers offered healthy alternative app: Shoppers are set to be offered a healthier and less salty alternative to every item in their shopping basket using a government-backed app. The FoodSwitch app is one of three winners of a contest run by Public Health England (PHE). The team behind the app hope to expand the 100,000 entries in its database to cover every major supermarket and to give more comprehensive health data. Duncan Selbie, of PHE, said the app “had the potential to change every shopping basket”. The free smartphone app scans bar codes and displays warnings for levels of sugar, saturates and salt – it then displays healthier alternatives for each item.

Lager drinkers struggle to differentiate: Lager drinkers find it difficult to distinguish between major brands, according to a series of blind taste tests. Swedish researchers gave 138 volunteers between 21 and 70 blind samples of Budvar, Heineken and Stella Artois but found they could not tell the difference. The researchers claimed that this meant that brand loyalty to a particular brand was determined more by marketing and packaging than by taste. Food critic Robin Goldteain suggested the results meant products were interchangeable but also that global brewers had perfected pale lager beer.

New phone app allows alcohol unit totting: A new mobile phone app has been developed that allows consumers to tot up how much alcohol they are drinking. Alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware has released an app that allows users to track alcohol consumption, calculate units and set goals to moderate their drinking. Ben Butler, head of digital at Drinkaware, said: “Our app helps people to make positive changes in their relationship with alcohol so they can start to enjoy the health benefits of cutting down or giving up.”

Ikea chops 5,000 square feet off Reading opening in response to changing shopping trends: Swedish furniture giant Ikea has responded to the current shift in customer shopping habits by reducing the size of its proposed Reading store by 5,000 square feet. Ikea had initially submitted plans for a three-floor 38,000 square metre store but is amending the proposal to cut the shop size to 33,000 square metres over two levels. The move reflects the consumers’ desire to shop more conveniently. Roger Cooper project manager at Ikea Calcot (Reading), told Retail Week: “In our ever changing retail environment we want to provide our customers with a simple, convenient and enjoyable shopping experience. As such, we have reviewed the design and layout for Ikea Calcot, and have decided that a slightly smaller store, re-planned with shopping ease in mind, will offer our customers a better in-store experience.”

Plans submitted for 40,500 square foot retail and foodservice area in Manchester: Bruntwood and The University of Manchester have submitted plans for phase two of the £50 million redevelopment of Manchester Business School (MBS), a key asset in the Manchester Corridor area. The phase two plans focus on the redevelopment of the existing precinct centre to create a 40,500 square foot retail and leisure offer, specifically designed to host a mix of high quality brands and amenities. The plans reconfigure the existing centre to create up to 14 units ranging in size from 600 sq ft to 11,000 sq ft, with double-height glazed frontages onto Oxford Road. The variety of units will create a mixed offer of retail, food and leisure for students, staff and visitors to the University and Business School, the significant working population on and around Oxford Road and the local residents. The offer will complement the new hotel and enhanced Manchester Business School Executive Education Centre, both of which are being developed as part of phase one, which was granted planning consent in April 2013 with construction due to commence later in 2014. Toby Sproll, head of retail and Leisure at Bruntwood, said: “At the moment, there is very little retail or leisure provision between the city centre and Whitworth Park. These plans, however, create a new focal point that will provide fantastic amenities to the underserved catchment, attracting customers from first thing in the morning until well into the evening. We are confident demand for this location will see it become a thriving new destination in Manchester.”

Virgin provides another reason to visit Tesco – to book a holiday: Virgin Holidays is to create as many as 200 retail positions as it rolls out a new “Retail Lite” concept in Tesco supermarkets. The operator plans to open a total of 29 concession stores by the end of November, each around 250 square feet in size. Two stores have already opened in Belfast and Dover, while Swindon, Hastings and Basildon will launch by the end of September, with the emphasis on Tesco stores that have particularly high footfall. Director of sales trading Lee Haslett described the new concept as “express stores” where customers may already have done their research and simply want to book, or may have booked and want to ask a question. The Knocknagoney Belfast store, which opened at the same time as a traditional retail store elsewhere in the city, has proven particularly successful, according to Haslett. “The Belfast store is performing 176% above target and has been comparable to the turnover of one of our flagship store’s sales during peaks,” he claimed.

MPs back Camra campaign to close pub planning loophole: MPs from the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group have given their backing to a new campaign by the Campaign for Real Ale to close a planning loophole that allows pubs to be demolished or converted to retail use without requiring planning permission from the local authority. A Parliamentary motion has also been submitted that has so far attracted signatures from 44 MPs. Chairman of the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, Greg Mulholland MP, said: “It is not right that pubs, so often the heart of a community, can be converted into supermarkets or offices without developers needing planning permission. It is very welcome that the government has now accepted that any new betting shops need to get planning permission, but why the blind spot when it comes to all the fundamental changes that lead to the loss of a pub or the establishment of a new supermarket? Both should require planning permission and the right for communities to have a say.”

Company News:

JW Lees partners with Paddy and Scott’s for hot beverage roll-out: North-west brewer and retailer JW Lees is partnering with Norfolk-based artisan coffee roaster Paddy and Scott’s to boost its hot beverage offer. Managing director William Lees-Jones told Propel: “Paddy and Scott’s are our new business partner and we will be putting their coffee, tea, hot chocolate and other hot drinks into all of our managed pubs. They will champion the hot drinks category and help us to build the all-day market in the same way that we work with other category specialists to build soft drinks sales and spirits sales – we like to work with specialists who really get what they are doing rather than becoming a jack of all trades ourselves. We looked at lots of possible alternatives from branded JW Lees, to well-known brands and lowest price. (We) decided that we needed to partner up with someone who could really add value to our business not just with supply but with training, crockery, knowledge and enthusiasm – we like Paddy and Scott’s values, too, and that was the final part of the decision-making.” Paddy and Scott’s, which was founded by Scott Russell and Paddy Bishop, operates more than 50 branded sites within the offices of large UK companies and is to embark on a high street expansion programme. It is opening sites at Wells Close, Framlingham and Abbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk in September and October.

Coopers Trading Company to open flagship restaurant: Coopers Trading Company, the Buckinghamshire coffee roaster and operator of two existing sites, is to open a flagship restaurant, Coopers Riverside. The company has taken the lease on a riverside restaurant located in Bourne End Marina on the River Thames in Buckinghamshire through agent Davis Coffer Lyons. The restaurant, which is arranged mainly on the first floor with ancillary space on ground floor extending to circa 2,730 sq ft, with an impressive wrap-around balcony, was marketed with a passing rent of £55,000 per annum exclusive on new lease terms. Coopers is also a producer of seasonally inspired foods and supplier of innovative new world wine. Coopers Riverside will establish a modern offer, which is seasonally inspired and uses sustainably sourced ingredients and will open in the winter of 2014. The group’s other eclectic venues are a specialty coffee roastery in Fieldhouse Lane, Marlow and Coopers Tuck Shop which opened in the Bourne End Parade in the spring of 2015. Coopers was founded in 2013 by James Patch, a rower, artisanal roaster and local resident of Bourne End and Adrian Thomas, a new world wine producer and explorer of new foods. Chris Bickle, associate director at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “This restaurant has superb views of the River Thames and water meadows and is located within the marina development. We had plenty of interest, particularly within the Buckinghamshire business community, which understood the potential for a quality food and beverage operation here.” Davis Coffer Lyons acted on behalf of the landlord, Sorbon Estates Limited.

Maxwells Restaurants reports profit increase: Maxwells Restaurants, the operator of London restaurants, bars and nightclubs controlled by Brian Stein, has reported pre-tax profit increased to £2,669,689 in the year to 28 October 2013, up from £2,335,626 the year before. Turnover edged down to £28,121,017 compared to £26,841,337 the year prior. The company stated: “The London restaurant market remains highly competitive and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. However, we remain confident that with our people and our products we are in a good position to maintain and improve out market share.”

McDonald’s recognises UK arm for one of five best global green initiatives: McDonald’s has listed a UK initiative as one of the five most innovative global “Best of Green” initiatives within the whole company. “Best of Green” is a collection of best practices that illustrates progress in five categories – energy, recycling and waste, sustainable sourcing, engagement and greening the restaurants/workplace. “The success of McDonald’s is built on the talent and ingenuity of the people in our system,” said Ken Koziol, McDonald’s chief restaurant officer. “Many of our best ideas come from company and franchisee employees at all levels, from all areas of the world. They see, first-hand, ways to improve practices that ultimately benefit the environment and the communities we serve.” The McDonald’s UK initiative comes under the “greening our restaurants” heading. It has launched a program for recycling restaurant employee uniforms. Uniforms will be collected annually by textile recyclers to be ‘recycled or ‘down-cycled’, shredded and used as mattress stuffing. Bob Langert, vice president of sustainability at McDonald’s said: “We are on a mission to leverage resources and talent across our global system to challenge the status quo and make meaningful, positive changes to the environment.”

Wetherspoon wins Tyne and Wear cinema conversion go-ahead: JD Wetherspoon has secured planning consent to convert a 1939 art deco cinema in Wallsend, North Tyneside (population: 43,826) into a pub, which will create around 50 jobs. The Ritz cinema in Wallsend opened at the start of the Second World War with an ‘art deco jazz age design frontage’ and JD Wetherspoon has promised to restore the building to its former glory with an investment of more than £1.5 million. The building, on Wallsend High Street, has been empty for the last three years after previous occupants Mecca closed its bingo hall there. Chief executive of JD Wetherspoon, John Hutson, said that previous cinema-to-pub conversions by the company had been a great success, mentioning its recent Wallaw cinema conversion in nearby Blyth, Northumberland. The Wallaw cinema and theatre was a listed building, but JD Wetherspoon got permission to convert the premises (a former home to entertainers Ant and Dec) into a pub after they made a commitment to keep the art deco feel of the historic north east building. Work will get underway on the former Ritz cinema in the next few weeks as JD Wetherspoon hopes to have the pub open before Christmas.

Marston’s – premium bottled ales category could be worth £1bn in six years’ time: Midlands-based brewer and retailer Marston’s has forecast that the premium bottled ales category could be worth more than £1 billion to the industry in just six years’ time. Its annual report on premium bottled ale reports it has number one market share in terms of premium bottled ale, 18%, compared to Greene King’s second placed 16%. Paul Warren, senior category manger at the brewer, said: “Premium bottled ale continues to be the healthiest category across total beer and with continued innovation in brands, packs and ideas we will show there is a scalable and long-term value creation opportunity.” The report showed that the value of the sector had increased by £90 million to £420 million and had the potential to be worth £1 billion by 2020. The report also reflected on the fact that the entire beer market returned to growth, albeit of 0.2%, earlier this year. Premium lager is growing at a rate of 1.8% and premium ale at 4.4%.

Taco Bell launches upmarket taco concept: Taco Bell has launched an upscale version of its brand, US Taco Co., in California. In addition to tacos, the restaurant will sell fries and milkshakes. Other menu items include the “friggin’ fried ice cream” with vanilla ice cream, the “choco loco” with chocolate ice cream, caramel and cinnamon toast crunch cereal, and the “shut your pie hole” with vanilla ice cream, strawberries and pie crust pieces. All desserts are $4 each. The menu also features speciality sodas.

Royal yacht Britannia’s owners plan floating boutique hotel: The Royal Yacht Britannia’s owners have bought the iconic heritage vessel MV Windsor Castle for almost £1 million – and are planning to convert it into a floating boutique hotel. Work on the vessel will involve altering its internal layout, but the trust that runs Britannia said it will remain “sensitive” to its historic character. The classically designed ship will be berthed permanently in Leith, Edinburgh, adjacent to the Royal Yacht, offering up to 25 luxury rooms for the night. Britannia’s chief executive Bob Downie said: “After many years of searching for the right ship, we are delighted that we have been able to acquire this iconic vessel and look forward to opening Scotland’s first (floating) boutique hotel.”

Nottingham former Jongleurs site granted 3.30am licence despite saturation zone: Owners of the former Jongleurs club in Nottingham have been given a new licence with extended opening hours. The licensing panel at Nottingham City Council granted Staplecross Joint Ventures a variation of the premises licence for the venue, also known as the Corn Exchange, in the city’s Thurland Street. The venue, which has been closed for two years, will now be able to show films, host indoor sporting events and stage live music and remain open until 3.30am. The licence was granted despite objections from Nottinghamshire Police. A spokesman said: “As this venue is within the city centre saturation zone, we have objected to the licence, to help reduce public nuisance and crime and disorder.”

Pret A Manger supplier secures £3m asset finance facility: A Sussex produce company, which supplies salads and fruit to sector companies including McDonald’s and Pret A Manger, is poised for expansion after securing a £3m asset finance facility from Lloyds Bank. Natures Way will use the capital to purchase new equipment for its manufacturing plants in Merston, Runcton and Selsey. The 20-year-old, £123m-turnover company will invest in a range of facilities, including new washers and automated machinery to help package salads. “Making sure we have the best possible facilities helps us ensure we produce the best quality products for our ever-growing stable of loyal customers,” said Ben Jones, finance director of Natures Way.

Burger King phasing out Satisfries in 5,000 US sites: Burger King is phasing out the sale of its Satisfries, its lower-fat French fries, across two-thirds of its US estate after weak sales. They were introduced about a year ago but now 5,000 Burger King sites in the US will no longer sell them. When they were first sold, Burger King said customers would determine how long Satisfries would stay on the menu. The fries, which are designed to absorb less oil, have been sold to more than 100 million people, the company said. “Earlier this week, franchisees in North America were given the option to continue offering Satisfries in markets where this game-changing product continues to perform well,” Burger King said. Burger King introduced the lower-calorie fries as a way to help boost its health image and attract more nutrition-conscious diners. A small box of the crinkle-cut fries has 270 calories, 11 grams of fat and 300 milligrams of sodium. Regular French fries have 340 calories, 15 grams of fat and 480 milligrams of sodium.

Colliers – the recovery is too late for some Bristol suburban pubs: Recovery in the hospitality sector may have come too late to save a number of iconic suburban pubs in Bristol, according to Colliers International hotels specialist Peter Brunt. His comments follow news of the proposed conversion of The Air Balloon Tavern on Air Balloon Road, the latest in a series of pub closures in the east of Bristol. “One factor could be the sheer number of pubs in these suburban locations, whereas they tend to be fewer and far between in the rural areas and villages,” he said. In recent years, The Bell pub on Bell Hill Road has been converted into a Tesco, The Lord Rodney was turned into a Co-op and The Chequers Pub on Lodge Road in Kingswood is also scheduled to become a Tesco. He said that while improvement was evident, suburban areas were still being impacted by the economic downturn, with some owners also taking advantage of the upturn to mobilise conversion plans that may have been put off in the past. Brunt added: “It’s clear the recovery we have seen in some areas hasn’t happened across the board. Some businesses will inevitably struggle while others might just be able to ride out the recession and emerge stronger than before. These well-known pubs are stepping stones on the main roads out of Bristol and have served generations of drinkers. But a combination of the recession, people preferring to drink at home and even lingering resentment at the smoking ban have hit some businesses for six.”

South Korean chain opens Paris Baguette bakery in Paris: A South Korean chain has opened a bakery called Paris Baguette in the heart of the French capital, The Guardian has reported. The brand says its global aim is to become to bread what McDonald’s is to hamburgers, with plans to expand into 60 countries in the next six years. The new 200-square meter boulangerie opened last month within walking distance from the Louvre, Paris City Hall, the Pont Neuf bridge and Notre Dame cathedral. The Paris Baguette bakery chain was founded in 1988 by the Korean businessman Hur Young-in, head of the food and confectionery group SPC. It has 3,250 boulangerie à la française outlets in South Korea and bakeries in America, Singapore, Vietnam and China where it aims to open 500 shops. At worldwide outlets outside France it calls itself a “traditional French bakery” – its logo features the Eiffel Tower – and employees wear stripy Breton T-shirts and berets. “We regard France as the spiritual home of our bakery products,” Hur Young-in told The Korea Herald to mark the launch of the Paris boulangerie. “The opening of our Paris store highlights our commitment to continually improving and perfecting the quality of our European-style bread and pastries.”

Meantime unveils details of Brewfest: Brewfest from London-based craft brewer, Meantime Brewing, is returning this August to celebrate modern craft beer and brewing. Meantime’s Brewfest will take place over three days – from Saturday 23 August 23 Monday 25 August – at The Old Brewery, in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. The event will feature three main bars, representing craft beer from the UK, America and the rest of Europe. Over 150 different beers will be on offer, from rare speciality brews through to firm favourites. Londoners will be able to sample a wide variety of different craft beers and experts will be on hand to suggest beer and food pairing options. Richard Myers, marketing director at Meantime said: “We started Brewfest as a celebration of the international craft beer scene – showcasing the quality beers and brewers that have helped turn around the fortunes of the beer category. The second annual event in May was such a success that we’ve decided to hold the event twice this year. Our aim is to bring different styles and flavours from around the globe into one place for people to enjoy, in a relaxed environment. The beer scene in London has never been stronger and it’s modern craft that is driving this revival. Brewfest is our way of celebrating.”

Freehold of 36-bedroom Cornish hotel comes on the market for £950,000: Agent Christie + Co has been appointed to sell the freehold of the Best Western Restormel Lodge Hotel in Lostwithiel, Cornwall for £950,000. It’s close to the award-winning Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan and has 36 bedrooms. Matthew Smith of Christie + Co’s Exeter office, said: “Our clients purchased the business at the start of 2003 as part of a directive to operate hotels ancillary to their core business of food wholesaling. Within their ownership, they have undertaken considerable refurbishment of the hotel and the site is presented in good order throughout. It is their intention to concentrate further on their core estate and sell this asset on. The business is popular with commercial travellers and tourists alike with trade currently split 62% accommodation, 30% food trade and 8% wet trade. Ample opportunity exists for new hands on owner to increase both profitability and turnover.”

Douglas Jack – Domino’s UK growth prospects remain substantial: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued a ‘Buy’ note on Domino’s UK shares, with a Price Target of 710p, arguing its growth prospects remain substantial. He said: “Domino’s Pizza Enterprises (DPE, comprising Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France, Holland and Belgium) have reported strong full year results, with Ebitda up 70% (largely due to the Japan acquisition) and EPS up 32%. There are small areas of read-across to the UK, which we consider below. We are often asked if Domino’s Pizza UK is becoming a mature business, with declining growth prospects. As at 30 June, it had 868 stores, of which 832 were in the UK/Ireland. In comparison, DPE had 1,333 (612 in ANZ, 401 in Europe and 320 in Japan) with plans to add a further 175-185 stores in 2015E. In the UK/Ireland, the urban population is 54.1m, equivalent to 65k per Domino’s store. On average, the stores have c.26k households per delivery area. In ANZ, the urban population is 24.6m, equivalent to 40k per Domino’s store. On average, these stores have c.14k households per delivery area. What will happen when the UK hits ANZ’s level of maturity well into the 2020’s? As a guide, ANZ’s like-for-like sales rose 6.3% last year, during which 44 stores opened (a 7.5% increase). During July, DPE’s like-for-like sales accelerated to 10.3% for ANZ and to 14.8% (from 4.6% in calendar H1) in Europe, with the latter largely attributable to the World Cup (ending on 13 July). We expect UK like-for-like sales (up 11.8% in Q2) to remain strong in Q3, also helped by slightly easier comps (of 4.0%) and the roll out of a new customer website over the summer. In the UK, average franchisee profitability rose 17% in H1, despite average food costs rising by 3.4%. In H2, food cost inflation should be negative and pump petrol prices are currently down 5.5% year-on year. Given all this and new store average sales rising 28% over the last two years, franchisees want to accelerate store expansion (with cash returns approaching 50%). Domino’s Pizza (UK) grew underlying group PBT by 20% in H1 and there is plenty of momentum and innovation to drive profits in H2. With forecasts assuming almost zero like-for-like sales in H2 for the UK (vs. 11.3% in H1), a strong Q3 should improve upgrade visibility. In addition, Europe (which is generating strong profit growth for DPE) is now contributing to underlying PBT growth (for Domino’s UK).”

New owner for Moto M1 service station: A Yorkshire service station operated by Moto Hospitality and home to M&S Simply Food, Costa Coffee and Burger King has been acquired in a £35.1m deal. Orchard Street Investment Management, a commercial property investment management firm, has acquired the freehold of Woolley Edge Motorway Service Station on the M1 motorway. Located between junctions 38 and 39 near Wakefield, Woolley Edge is let on a 25-year lease to Moto.

Hard Rock, Bucharest named top international performer: The Hard Rock Cafe in Bucharest has won the Top of the Rock award for the second time. This is awarded by Hard Rock International to the restaurant with the best financial and operational results of the network. Hard Rock Café Bucharest won the prize in 2012 as well. Midi Development SRL, the Romanian firm that operates the Hard Rock Café restaurant in Bucharest under franchise, had a turnover of €2.57 million and a net profit of €148,000 in 2013, according to public data from the Finance Ministry.

Top-rated Carlisle restaurant closes its doors: The Holme Bistro in Denton Holme, Carlisle, has closed – the venue was highly rated on online review site TripAdvisor. Councillors say it is a blow to the area and one less attraction to encourage visitors. It was run by brother and sister duo Robert Don and Kirsty Robson who bought the business in 2008, their first joint venture. Robson, who trained at Carlisle College, previously worked at Sharrow Bay Country House at Ullswater and Gallo Rosso Italian restaurant before taking the reigns at the Holme Bistro.

Spirit Pub Company to switch community pub to Flaming Grill brand: Spirit Pub Company is to switch its Good Intent pub, Hornchurch, Essex, trading as a John Barras community pub to its 100-strong Flaming Grill brand. Local resident Valerie Fairweather is one of several residents to write to the Spirit Group to try and dissuade the company from going ahead with the work, and is particularly unhappy with the thought of the Flaming Grill orange decor being used. She said: “Can we really allow an important historic building like the Good Intent to be cheapened by a disgusting orange facade? It is little short of vandalism.”

£4m scheme for new restaurants in Mumbles gets planning go-ahead: Four new restaurants and shops will start to take shape on Mumbles seafront early next year. Developers are set to start in January after Swansea Council planners gave the go-ahead for the Oyster Wharf scheme. The development will result in four restaurants, plus retail units and a gym and spa, on the section of foreshore between Boots and Tivoli Amusements. James Morse, commercial director of Nextcolour Developments, the company behind the £3 million to £4 million scheme, said: “This is fantastic news for Mumbles and the wider area.”

Wine investment company director disqualified for nine years: Ofosuhene Ofori-Duah, the director of Vintage International, a company incorporated to provide wine investment services to clients, has been disqualified from acting as a director for a period of nine years for causing Vintage to trade with undue risk to its clients. The disqualification follows an investigation by the Insolvency Service’s Company Investigations Team in London. Ofosuhene Ofori-Duah, has given an undertaking to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills that he will not act as a director of a limited company for nine years from 30 July 2014.Vintage went into voluntary liquidation in October 2012 owing its clients £1,063,424 in respect of unfulfilled wine orders. Total assets available at the date of liquidation were estimated to realise £21,789 and the total shortfall including trade and other creditors was estimated to be £1,121,546. Mark Bruce, a chief investigator at The Insolvency Service said: “The director in Vintage failed to ensure proper corporate governance was in place to clearly monitor client orders and the financial position of the company. The Insolvency Service will always look to remove from the business community those directors who act below the standards that should be expected of them given the circumstances of their company’s trading.” The Insolvency Service investigation found that at 30 June 2011 Vintage had unfulfilled client orders of at least £293,056, over half of which had been placed at least six months earlier.

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