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Thu 21st Aug 2014 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Carluccio’s boss learns lessons from the top-end and bottom-end of estate: Carluccio’s chief executive Simon Kossoff learnt lessons from the top-end and bottom-end of his 81-strong estate in last night’s edition of Undercover Boss. Ahead of a planned £50m expansion of the brand and its first openings in Washington DC, Kossoff discovered a site in Greek Street, Leeds, in his bottom ten worst-performing stores, had weak marketing so that it was struggling compared to a second Carluccio’s five minutes away site in Leeds Trinity shopping centre. He tasked the marketing team to focus on improving marketing of the site. In Peterborough, Kossoff found a store trading at less than half of its opening levels, with no head chef or general manager for six months. Its kitchen was disorganised and messy – and a faulty dummy waiter light meant waiting staff did not know when hot food was ready to be served to customers. He made recruiting key staff a priority. At the company’s Bicester shopping centre site, a top three performer, Kossoff found only four EPOS terminals to process orders, meaning wasted time as staff queued to use them and delays in serving customers. He ordered hand-held devices to speed-up the order processing. With the Leeds Trinity site, he discovered staff had to carry empty bottles down several flights of stairs four times a day – he subsequently bought trolleys to speed the process up. Generally, he found staff complaining of low wages and a lack of recognition from senior management. Kossoff promised an improved culture of communication. He increased the minimum wage earnings of one barista – and flew her to Milan to visit suppliers and coffee shops. A sous chef in Peterborough was given three Antonio Carluccio cookbooks and sent for an afternoon cooking with founder Antonio Carluccio in his home. A waiter at the Leeds Greek Street site, who has shown real passion for the business and ordered Kossoff to improve his appearance before being allowed on the floor, is to be flown to Washington DC to visit the company’s first US store – and will get the chance to fulfill a life-long ambition by proposing to his partner in New York’s Central Park. 

Industry News:

Sapient takes five-year deal value to more than £2bn: Sapient Corporate Finance, the sector’s leading corporate finance advisor, has taken the combined value of deals it has advised on in the past five years to circa £2.1bn with the Cerberus acquisition this week of 63 pubs leased to Spirit Pub Company and Orchid, reportedly for just under £200m according to The Times. The latest deal was part of a portfolio of sites sold by Nick Leslau’s Prestbury Investment Holdings, Tom Hunter’s West Coast Capital and the Reuben Brothers’ Motcomb Estates. The latest Cerberus acquisition brings the total value of corporate finance transactions that Sapient has advised on so far in 2014 to more than £800m. In June, Sapient acted as sole financial adviser to the shareholders of The Orchid Group on the sale of 173 pubs together with Orchid’s head office to Mitchells & Butlers for a consideration of £266m. Sapient founder Peter Hansen said in June: “The start of 2014 has seen a particularly active period in the market. There is no doubt that market dynamics are improving and we believe the sector is entering an active period of M&A.” Sapient has advised on a total of 27 transactions in the sector, including a broad mix of deal types and sizes, since 2009.

Russia closes four McDonald’s restaurant for sanitary violations: Russia has shut down four McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow for alleged sanitary violations in a move critics linked to the current wider political tension between Russia and the West. The federal monitoring service for consumer rights and wellbeing closed the sites for “sanitary violations” discovered during inspections this week. The consumer watchdog said inspections would continue in other McDonald’s restaurants. The chain has 430 restaurants in 70 Russian cities and employs more than 35,000 people. The complaints about McDonald’s date to the end of July, when the Novgorod regional branch of the consumer watchdog filed a suit against McDonald’s, demanding certain burgers and milkshakes be banned in Russia on the grounds the fat, protein, carbohydrates and calories they contain “deviate widely from technical norms”. “Violations have been found that put the quality and safety of food products in doubt for the whole McDonald’s chain,” Russia’s head sanitary inspector, Anna Popova, said at the time.

FarmDrop raises £750,000 on Crowdcube: FarmDrop, the online platform that allows local food producers to sell direct to restaurants and other customers, has now raised £750,000 via the equity crowd-funding site Crowdcube – its original target was £400,000. A total of 359 investors backed the campaign in return for a share of 27.75% of the company’s equity. FarmDrop, a “click-and-collect farmers’ market” launched in March 2013 by Ben Pugh and The Crowd founder Ben Patten, claims that by cutting out the middlemen, independent producers receive 80% of the retail price and customers save more money. Through the site, users can become members and purchase local foods, create a “food community” by becoming a “keeper”, and become a registered producer with no admin or marketing costs. In its pitch, the company says: “FarmDrop have five FarmDrops trading right now. There are a further 12 FarmDrops under construction and we have now received over 400 more applications to start FarmDrops. Many more will start building soon. More than 300 independent food producers have signed up to supply FarmDrops in their local areas. We have also built a scalable online platform that can be used in other geographies.”

One in four diners eats alone once a month: Diners are more frequently requesting a table for one according to research by the guest experience management company HospitalityGEM. With one in four people eating out alone at least once a month the largely untapped market for single diners is becoming a significant one. The biggest reason for this increase in demand is for work-related reasons, as people are working longer hours and need to combine this with dining. These stats increase among men aged between 35 and 45, with their favoured destinations being casual dining restaurants, especially those with Wi-Fi and power sockets available, enabling them to work while eating. The need to consider single diners is even more important in the south of the country, where 74% of those surveyed have eaten out alone in the past month, against 57% in the north of the country. Steven Pike, managing director of HospitalityGEM, said: “This research confirms what we have been noticing across our clients for a while. People’s work-life balances are becoming merged, the need to blend dining with working has become more common, and the social acceptability of this has increased in turn. It is therefore important for operators to look at their sites and see what they can do to make them more attractive to those who may visit alone.”

Chicago restaurateur creates pre-payment system to combat no-shows: A Chicago restaurateur, Nick Kokonas, has created a ticketing system for his restaurants Next and Alinea after losing considerable sums on no-shows. He has also made his pre-payment system available to other restaurant owners. Patterson told that the no-show problem was getting worse, so he had no choice but to pass those costs on to customers before they came in. Kokonas will collect a fee of $695 from operators who want to lease his ticketing system, plus $40 a month to use it. He said about 20 other restaurants have expressed interest. Diners click on the “Reserve” tab on the ticketing system, choose a dining time and number of diners, and then pay with a credit card. The price ranges from $145 to $195 depending on the time of the week, includes the tasting menu only and does not include wine. The restaurant also adds on an 18% service charge.

Three out of five people in Northern Ireland in favour of minimum pricing: Some 60% of those quizzed in Northern Ireland said they agreed with the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol. Health minister Edwin Poots is considering imposing a minimum price on cheap alcohol in an aim to “protect young people”. But of those drinkers questioned, just 4% said they would drink less if a minimum unit price for alcohol was set at 40p. That number quadrupled to 17% if pricing rose to 70p.

Swindon’s Great Western Hospital given a one-star hygiene rating: Food hygiene at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital has been given an “unacceptable” one-star rating. The Food Standards Agency gave Carillion, the company contracted to provide the meals, low marks for the way it stored food and recorded temperatures at the hospital. The Department of Health said “urgent action” was needed. Carillion general manager, Graeme McClelland, said improvements had already been made. A spokesman for the Department of Health said of the rating: “This is not acceptable. Patients have the right to expect food that has been prepared safely, in a clean environment.”

Company News:

YO! Sushi plans Belfast opening: YO! Sushi has been tipped to open shortly in Belfast’s Victoria Square Shopping Centre. The Belfast Telegraph forecast that the brand will move into a ground floor corner unit on Ann Street within the Victoria Square complex. A planning application for a change of use from retail to restaurant was made by CGI Victoria Square Partnership at the end of last month. A spokeswoman for YO! Sushi declined to comment, while Victoria Square also said it was too early to confirm the opening. But YO! Sushi’s property director, Kieran Sherlock, speaking earlier this year, said: “We have identified Belfast as a great opportunity for YO! Sushi and have viewed a number of locations. We are currently in discussion with Victoria Square regarding possible opportunities within the centre and hope to confirm a definitive location in the coming weeks.”

Jamie Oliver wins Victoria restaurant go-ahead after promising more retail content: Jamie Oliver has won planning approval for a new flagship site in Victoria, central London after he promised to make it more like a shop. Westminster councillors unanimously voted for the plan for a Jamie’s Italian in the former Kingsgate Parade in Victoria Street. The local authority’s planning committee originally refused the application in April because they want to see more retailers in the area, which is undergoing a regeneration. But revised plans were accepted last night after executives from Oliver’s company said the restaurant will also have external and internal display tables selling fresh produce, dried pasta, sauces and oils. It will occupy the ground and first floors of the east building of Kingsgate House, now known as Kings Gate. The planned venue will seat 272 diners inside with 118 outside, and stay open until 12.30am at weekends. The company’s application said it would “add considerably to the richness and diversity of the retail offer” in the area.

McDonald’s UK seeks to build consumer confidence in food by highlighting links with UK farmers: McDonald’s latest UK television advert stresses its links with farmers, though without any products shown. The advert features pictures of trees with a voiceover pondering their role in our lives. It goes on to explain the importance that trees have for hens, as moves on to footage of a real-life farmer tramping through the British countryside to feed his chickens, who supply free range eggs to McDonald’s. The advert highlights the company’s relationship with British and Irish farmers “like Joe” and stresses the trustworthy source of its ingredients.

Chatime opens fifth site: Bubble tea brand Chatime opened its fifth site yesterday, a venue in Portobello Road, Notting Hill, West London The chain claims to serve authentic Taiwanese bubble tea, with a selection of hot and cold teas and a menu of 63 flavours. Other Chatime locations are in Soho, Chinatown, The Brunswick in Central London, and Nottingham.

Tommy Flynn’s opens new London site: Tommy Flynn’s, the multiple operator led by Sean Flynn that operates four pubs with Spirit Leased, has opened another London site. The Royal Oak pub in Hale End Road, Highams Park, East London has re-opened after a three-month closure with many of its original features restored and displayed for the first time in a generation. The original oak flooring and beams have been stripped back, a hidden fire place has been opened up and restored, and artefacts found behind a bar and in the cellar during building work are now displayed in a glass cabinet.

Actor John Thomson to be face of new ‘dry’ bar in Manchester: The actor and comedian John Thomson has agreed to be the “face” of the Umbrella Cafe, which is set to be Manchester’s only “dry” bar when it opens on 5 September at Nexus Art Cafe on Dale Street. The bar will serve “mocktails” and a variety of soft drinks. Thomson, who starred in the television series Cold Feet and The Fast Show, has been sober for seven years after a much-publicised battle with alcohol. The venue will be run by the not-for-profit community interest company The Dry Umbrella. Co-director Helen Malarky said: “We are really proud and excited to be providing the people of Manchester with what we believe to be a unique alternative nightlife experience. People who come to the Umbrella Cafe might identify as in recovery, or sober, or their religion may preclude alcohol or they might just be trying a night off to see what it feels like. Whatever the reason, everyone will find a very warm welcome and a great night out in the city centre.” The scheme hopes to emulate the success of similar dry bars such as Sobar in Nottingham and The Brink in Liverpool.

BrewDog launches pilot brew competition for second year: The Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has launched a pilot brew scheme for the second year running, with the winning brew destined to go on sale at its bars. The company said: “Our brew teams, HQ folk and bar staff are going to be divvied up in teams of two to brew batches of 60 bottles of whatever concoction they can conjure up. Each team will have at least one competent brewer. We will then be shipping these samples out to everyone across our HQ and bar division and taking a vote to see whose brew is top of the hops! Why the bar teams, I hear you ask? Well, the winning duo’s brew will be scaled up and put into production as a limited beer for our bars! Last year’s winner was former BrewDog Grad Schemer Nick Ziegler. Challenged with brewing a sour beer, he dived in head-first and created a Gose hopped with Sorachi Ace and Amarillo. He was helped along the way by a fellow brewer, and it was a landslide victory as everyone who voted opted for his brew! Nick’s Gose was undoubtedly awesome, but the yeast was just a bit too wacky for scaling up.”

Sir John Fitzgerald reports turnover up, profits down: The north east of England real ale pubs and restaurant operator Sir John Fitzgerald has reported turnover rose to £17.56m in the year to 31 January this year, up marginally from £17.54m the year before. Profit before tax dipped to £156,000 from £337,000 in 2012. In its Companies House filing, Sir John Fitzgerald said: “The company’s trading performance has marginally improved in the year with a slight increase in gross contribution. The beginning of 2014-15 has shown a small increase in turnover on the previous year. However, it may be some time before the north east, our trading area, feels more affluent and shows it by going out more. The company will continue to invest in the business and its workforce in anticipation of improving times.”

La Sala hours decision next week: A decision on the opening hours at the first La Sala restaurant will be made on Tuesday. The brand has applied to open the new venture at the former White Hart Pub in Chigwell Road, Woodford. However, residents and councillors voiced opposition to the proposed opening hours. Days before its licensing hearing was due to begin, La Sala submitted an alternative proposal with reduced operating hours. Instead of applying to operate until 2am every day, the owners have now applied for it stay open until 1.30am on Friday and Saturday and 12.30am through the week. Redbridge Council discussed the application at a meeting on Monday but the hearing was adjourned until Tuesday (26 August).

TV production company releases images of Marston’s stars: The television production firm Shine TV have released images of people who work at Marston’s brewery in Burton upon Trent, who will feature in a new Channel 5 programme. The show will be airing in September and is called One Ale Of A Job. It is being narrated by Al Murray, “the Pub Landlord”. The three-part series follows the men and women of Marston’s as they go about their everyday business. Among the people appearing from Burton are: Graham Benford, fleet manager, Jo Topping, supply chain administrator, Simon Bradley and Chris Platt, fermentation department operatives; and Jim Bligh, quality control manager. The series is set to air from 8pm on Friday, 5 September. If it proves to be a success, a whole series could be commissioned.

Entrepreneur plans innovative sports bar and indoor golf site: Plans for an American-style sports bar and restaurant and an indoor mini-golf course have been recommended for approval by council officials in High Wycombe, Bucks. The man behind the scheme, Chris Stretton, managing director of Windsmeet Electrical Services, told the Bucks Free Press newspaper that the facility was being designed by the architects behind The Shard in London. He said: “Everyone we have spoken to say Wycombe is desperate for something like this, it will be a family-friendly venue. This building has been empty for six years. It may not be to everyone’s liking but we cannot hang back and let this part of the town fall into disrepair.” The planning application seeks to change the use of part of Red Lion House, formerly occupied by Woolworths, into a sports bar and restaurant with five golf simulators, an 18-hole indoor mini-golf course, conferencing and small retail areas. It has been recommended for approval with several conditions attached, including restricting the use of the venue to the hours of 10am to 12am Mondays to Sunday. A final decision is expected to be made on 27 August.

Rick Stein plans first restaurant outside Cornwall: Celebrity chef Rick Stein is to open a new restaurant in Winchester. The 70-cover restaurant, to be called Rick Stein, will feature a menu of classic dishes with the emphasis on seafood. Stein said: “I love Winchester; it’s steeped in heritage, with beautiful architecture and seems to have a love of great food. Our new restaurant is about fresh fish, simply cooked. This is a big and exciting move for us, our first outside Cornwall, and we can’t wait to bring our passion for seafood to Winchester.” The new opening with business partner Jill Stein will be family-run operation with all three of their sons involved in the business. Eldest son Edward Stein will work with Jill on the renovation of the site after the signing of the lease last week, while executive chef and middle son Jack Stein oversee the menu development. He said: “With a great local supplier base already established in Cornwall, we will be looking to work with high quality food and drink producers from the Winchester area.”

Magic Rock brewery’s seven-figure expansion plans stymied by landlord’s last-minute objection to tasting room: Plans by the much-admired Yorkshire brewer Magic Rock to expand production have hit a wall after the landlord at its proposed new home raised last-minute objections to a tasting room on site. Richard Burhouse, co-founder of the Huddersfield-based brewery, said the expansion “represents a seven-figure investment for the business”, and the company had spent “a considerable amount on architects’ plans and solicitors’ fees. We have been at full capacity at our current site for around two years. We are also desperate to install a bottle/canning line. The final and key part was an on-site tasting room to allow people to visit and buy beer. We identified what we thought was the perfect site 18 months ago, close to the town centre on an industrial estate with excellent transport links. Unfortunately at the last minute our prospective landlords have decided they are not happy with the tasting room activity. It is therefore with great regret that we have been forced to drop our interest in the site.” Burhouse said the brewery, which started in 2011, and which was declared “second-best new brewery in the world” by the RateBeer website, was “busy identifying new premises for the expansion.”

Carluccio’s set to open in Hale next week: A new Carluccio’s will open in Victoria Road, Hale, Cheshire next week (Friday 29 August). Simon Kossoff, chief executive of Carluccio’s, said: “We have been keen to open in Hale for a number of years now and are delighted to have finally found the right site for us.”

Garden centre reports 82% sales boost after investment in 450-seat restaurant: The family-run Highfield Garden World in Whitminster, Gloucestershire has reported sales up 82% after a major investment in a 450-cover restaurant. Owned and run by the Greenway family for 27 years, Highfield underwent a £2.5m development which pivoted on the creation of the new 450-seater restaurant, which has commanding views across the countryside. Director Tim Greenway said: “A successful garden centre needs to be as much about good food as it does about gardening these days. We prepare as much of our food in-house as we can, sell 1,000 lunches every week, and have three brilliant bakers on-site to keep up with demand for bread, biscuits and cakes. We are projected to have made and sold 23,000 scones and 140,000 hot drinks by the end of summer. This project was a major investment for the business and it’s fantastic to see it beginning to pay off. Since launching the new development, as well as seeing more of our local customers, we’ve also seen people travelling further to come and see us, when historically it’s been within a 50-mile radius.”

Bespoke Costa Coffee site planned for Second World War landmark: A bespoke Costa Coffee is planned for a Second World War landmark at Kings Hill, Sevenoaks, Kent. The Grade II listed art deco-style control tower in Alexander Grove was used to guard the safety of pilots based at the West Malling airfield during the war. Designers say the new shop will be sympathetic to the building’s art deco style. A spokesman for Architecture Design Limited said: “Wait until you see it, we’ve spent a long time designing this. It’s completely different to the usual Costas. Nothing about our design is standard Costa spec for this unit; floating glass signs, solid oak floors, bespoke fixtures.”

Savills advises administrator on £13.5m Novotel sale: Savills has advised David Oprey, Richard Toone and Kevin Murphy of Chantrey Vellacott DKF, as administrators of Pedersen (Liverpool) and on behalf of NAMA, on the sale of Hotel Novotel Liverpool Centre, Hanover Street, Liverpool to Algonquin for £13.15m. The hotel, adjacent to Liverpool One, has 209 bedrooms and is currently leased to Accor under the Novotel brand until 2024. In 2013, it generated an investor return in excess of £1.04m. Robert Stapleton, director of hotel, leisure and trading at Savills, said: “We received significant buyer interest in this hotel due to its strong trading location in central Liverpool and its impressive operating performance. We are delighted to have secured such a strong price for our client, which significantly exceeds the original guide price of £12.3m, and further demonstrates the investment markets’ growing interest in UK regional centres.”

Businesswoman to launch gluten-free cafe with hopes of roll-out: Businesswoman Naomi Stoker is to open Reading’s first gluten-free cafe, Nisby’s Coffee Ship, early next month. She hopes the store in Cross Street will lead to more branches opening in nearby towns. Stoker said: “It has all basically come from a dream I’ve had for many years. Having worked in the investment industry I have taken a complete change and basically hope this is something Reading really needs, because the gluten-free market is massively growing.” Stoker is gluten-intolerant and has found it difficult to find somewhere suitable to eat out.

Cotswold boutique hotel gets go-ahead: Plans to create a boutique hotel in Wood Stanway, Gloucestershire have been approved, despite claims that it could ruin the Cotswold hamlet. Dozens of people had objected to Pickering Real Estate’s application to convert Whitfield House, a Grade Two listed former vicarage, into a small hotel. They argued that the creation of the business, with the traffic that would generate, would destroy the peace of one of the few villages in Gloucestershire residents claim is still unspoilt by modern life.

Government backs new hospitality apprenticeships: Hospitality apprenticeships received a boost yesterday as the government announced its approval of the trailblazer “senior chef – culinary arts” and “senior chef – production cooking” standards. Hilton Worldwide led the group that developed the trailblazer standards, which included 24 other employers and industry trade bodies. People 1st acted as the managing agent for the development of the new standards as part of a process that included consultations with a wide range of hospitality employers, including micro-businesses and SMEs. Nick Boles, the Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, said: “I’m delighted that hospitality has developed new apprenticeship standards in senior chef – culinary arts and senior chef – production cooking standards. Since 2010 there have been 1.8 million apprenticeship starts and the hospitality trailblazer is leading by example in the development and delivery of high-quality apprenticeships that give people the chance of successful careers and help businesses get the skills they need to grow.”

Morgan Stanley initiates SSP coverage with 260p price target: Morgan Stanley’s leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has initiated coverage of the transport foodservice specialist SSP with a price target of 260p. He said: “It is a play on structural growth in travel and eating out, and offers significant margin expansion potential under new chief executive Kate Swann. We see a 16% earnings per share CAGR between 2014-2017 assuming 4% organic sales growth and circa 30bps margins. Air and rail are 93% of sales (few motorway sites), and Southern Europe only 8% of sales, giving SSP a superior sales mix, organic sales growth and FCF conversion to Autogrill and Elior. Swann has a strong track record. SSP reminds us of Compass Group when its new chief executive drove margins from 4.5% to 7.3%.” Rollo said that the key risks are that revenues are cyclical, with passenger volumes somewhat outside SSP’s control. He added: “Some costs are fixed, and margins are low, yet operational gearing in recovery is lower than expected, partly as rent is variable with sales. This is a competitive industry, with SSP seeing low net contract wins in recent years, and rising rental payments. This business model might also make it tougher to grow margin. Q3 net contract wins slowed due to some delays. FX is a c. 6% headwind in H2. Capex needs are fairly high, making EV/Ebit and P/E more relevant valuation tools than EV/Ebitda.”

Mitchells & Butlers wins apprenticeship recognition: Mitchells & Butlers has beaten off competition from hundreds of entrants to be short-listed for the West Midlands final of the National Apprenticeship Awards 2014. The company has been named as a finalist in the BT Macro Employer of the Year award category, which celebrates employers who can showcase their commitment, contribution and the success that apprenticeships have brought to their organisation. The National Apprenticeship Awards, now in their 11th year, celebrate the achievements of the country’s most outstanding apprentices and apprenticeship employers. The award winners will be announced at a ceremony organised by the National Apprenticeship Service which will be held at Mitchells & Butlers’ Retail Support Centre in Birmingham on 16 September.

Tasty secures site for Wildwood in Camberley: Tasty has secured a site for Wildwood in The Atrium Shopping Centre Camberley, Surrey. The 5,080 square foot shell unit will be fully fitted to open in the Autumn and will bring the Wildwood estate to 21 restaurants. The restaurant will also incorporate a large kids play room. The site has been taken a 25-year lease on Units B2 and B3 direct from the landlords Standard Life. Selsian acted for Wildwood whilst CBRE acted for the landlord.

Batemans wins host of awards for beers: Lincolnshire-based brewer Batemans has won gold at the Beer Bottlers Institute competition for B Bock in the category for ales between 6.0% and 7.4% ABV, as well as silver for Black Pepper Ale in the packaging round. The International Beer Challenge saw Batemans achieve a silver award in the tasting round for the Orange Barley beer from the Bohemian Brews range, as well as bronze medals for B Bock and Black Pepper Ale. Furthermore, Black Pepper Ale got a bronze recognition in the design and packaging category. Batemans has also been named as a finalist in the Indie Beer Can Awards with its Orange Barley beer. The winners will be announced at the Indie Beer Can festival in September. Stuart Bateman, managing director of Batemans Brewery, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled with the success of our latest beers, which were launched as part of our 140th anniversary celebrations. They demonstrate the appetite the public and industry have for beers, which offer something slightly different and experiment with more unusual flavours. Black Pepper Ale has proved particularly successful, which we think is due in part to the drinking experience it provides – the beer comes with a small sachet of ground black peppercorns, which are swirled into the beer and sprinkled on top. This creates a real sense of theatre and truly brings out the beer’s flavour.”

John Lewis trial opticians: John Lewis is to host a trial of opticians at two stores, Westfield Stratford and Cardiff, in an attempt to create “destinations” with coffee shops, juice bars and food halls, tempt customers to stay in stores longer and make the shopping experience more exciting for shoppers who might otherwise spend their cash online. The opticians will offer eye tests with hi-tech 3D scanners that can pick up early signs of conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. Customers will then be able to be fitted for glasses from brands including Armani, Prada and Ray-Ban. Last year shoppers were able to book holidays with the travel company Kuoni in eight John Lewis stores. Hotel Chocolat also opened in two branches.

Community pub reopens with cafe and school dinners offer: Villagers who raised £150,000 to buy their pub from Punch Taverns will be able to have a celebratory pint when it re-opens on Friday 12 September, two years after it closed. Grants from the Department of Communities and Local Government, Pub is the Hub and the Geoffrey Watling Charity covered the rest of the £225,000 needed for the freehold of the Kings Arms at Shouldham, in Norfolk. Ian Skinner, the pub’s new manager, said: “Building work started here in March and finished last month, it’s now just about doing the final finishing touches, getting the staff ready and making sure everything is ready.” As well as alterations to the interior of the building to create more space, there will also be a cafe adjoined to the pub. Skinner said: “We had to prove that we are a community asset, so we are offering people a pub, we are offering them a cafe, and as well as that, we shall be providing school dinners for the school down the road from January. This will give the children fresh, locally sourced and very good value meals.”

Scottish nightclub granted licence to host under-18s: Lourenzo’s nightclub in Dunfermline, Scotland is to open its doors to young partygoers after it was granted approval for its licence to allow under-18s on the premises. During a meeting of the Fife Licensing Board, Craig Adamson, director of Tappies Taverns, said that the club, on St Margaret’s Street, was seeking an under-18 licence to allow it to hold disco nights in the club for young people. He told board members, “All alcohol will be removed from the bar during these events and there will be regular toilet checks. In addition, breathalysers have been purchased and the club will contact police or parents if minors appear to be intoxicated. The discos are intended to run from 6.30pm to 9.30pm on a Saturday, leaving an hour an a half before it reopens for adults at 11pm.”

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