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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Mon 8th Sep 2014 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Former PizzaExpress chief executive reveals progress with investment portfolio: David Page, the former PizzaExpress chief executive and chairman, has reported strong progress with his sector investment portfolio. Page, who worked with Luke Johnson and Hugh Osmond to increase the PizzaExpress share price to 23 times its 1993 public launch value of 42p, is currently involved in eight different sector companies, often as chairman. He told Propel: “All the businesses I’m currently involved in aim to do the best product in their market segment at the lowest price. My role is usually to raise the start-up money and find the sites. I then leave the managers and my partners to run the businesses and get to bed at 2am.” His most high profile investment is MEATliquor, the better burger concept led by Scott Collins and Ioannis Papoustis, where Page is chairman and holds a circa 13% stake. MEATliquor opened its fifth site in Trinity Leeds last Friday before adding sites in Islington and Bristol in the coming year and Glasgow in 2016. Page drew up the original business plan for the company after meeting its founders three years ago. Rapid expansion this year comes after remarkable success at early sites reflected by a rent roll that is currently just 3.5% of turnover. The Welbeck Street site in Central London, just off Bond Street, produces more than £4m turnover per annum – and its Brighton site in the off-pitch but emerging London Road is producing £1.5m of annual turnover with a rent of just £30,000 per annum. Page said: “The Trinity Leeds opening is a good deal on a site with a very low base rent. Everybody has looked at the site but it’s down an alley way at the back. It’s ideal for us. The brand is so strong that we don’t have to be on the main drag.” Meanwhile, the seven-strong Real Greek business has grown turnover to £12m per annum in the three years since it was spun out of Page’s Clapham House vehicle that also housed Gourmet Burger Kitchen prior to its sale to Nando’s. Ebitda has risen from £650,000 three years ago to more than £1.5m this year, with sales up 15% year-on-year. “We have re-calibrated every dish on the menu in the past three years,” Page said. Franco Manca is the third medium-sized company that Page is currently involved with and it also adheres to the “best product, lowest price” in the marketplace philosophy. “It’s top-selling pizza is 50p below the cost of a PizzaExpress Margherita,” said Page. Overall rent to turnover across its eight sites is between 5 and 6% – the two most recent openings produce turnover of £1.25m and £900,000 respectively on rents of £30,000 each. He maintains that “with a better product at a better price restaurants can really prosper in off-pitch locations”. Page’s other sector investments are: Bokowski Charcoal Grill (sites in Brixton and Shoreditch), Wild Caper (a deli brand with one site in Brixton), Fulham Shore (a small listed company that has opened a Franco Manca franchise on a site found by Page that the main company turned down), Rocca di Papa (full-service Italian with sites in South Kensington and Dulwich), Chillbox (the world’s largest frozen Greek yoghurt chain with franchised sites in Brixton market and two in Crete), and Hobo Beer Company (imported Czech lager brewed in the Northern Bohemian town of Zatec).

Industry News:

Green Party calls for £10-an-hour minimum wage: The Green Party of England and Wales is calling for the minimum wage to rise to £10 an hour by 2020. In an address to Greens’ autumn conference, party leader Natalie Bennett said Britain was a low-wage economy and people deserved “a decent return on their labour”. Under the plans, wages would rise by £1.15 to £7.65 an hour next year before increasing each year until 2020. The party also proposes a “wealth tax” on those with assets of more than £3m.

Luke Johnson praises Paul Chase book in Amazon review: Sector investor Luke Johnson has praised the new book, Culture Wars and Moral Panic, by Propel columnist Paul Chase. Describing the book as “much-needed”, Johnson, whose review appears on Amazon, said: “This is an important book, which acts as an antidote to the obsessive anti-alcohol brigade. Chase points out that alcohol consumption is down almost 20% in the last ten years, and youth binge drinking down perhaps 50%, but still the anti-booze lobby wants to restrict our behaviour much further. Some would have us mimic a society like Saudi Arabia – all for our own good, of course. Anyone who enjoys a drink, believes in freedom and self-determination, and wants to understand the facts about alcohol sale and consumption, should buy this book.” The book costs just £10 and signed copies are available by emailing Holly Carr on holly.carr@cpltraining.co.uk or through Amazon.

Nine in ten Britons “unaware” that alcohol consumption is in decline: Almost nine out of ten adults in Britain (89%) are unaware that British people are drinking less than they were a decade ago, and binge drinking is in decline, according to a new YouGov poll. Rates of binge-drinking – drinking double the recommended guidelines in one day or session – have dropped significantly with the steepest fall among 16-24 year olds. The proportion of men aged 16-24 binge drinking declined 31% between 2005 and 2012 while for women of the same age the drop was 37%. Despite these significant declines, a staggering 89% of adults polled by YouGov were unaware of the changes in the UK’s drinking habits with just 11% thinking we drink less than we did ten years ago. Portman group chief executive Henry Ashworth said: “There’s is no doubt about it, our relationship with alcohol is changing for the better and we should acknowledge the seismic shift that’s happened over the past decade. People are more interested in living healthier lifestyles, we understand the effects of excessive consumption thanks to better information and we are not prepared to tolerate anti-social behaviour in the same way we did. The fact is that binge-drinking has plummeted and the vast majority of us drink within sensible limits. While we still don’t know exactly why this is happening, it is vitally important that the alcohol debate recognises these significant societal changes and continues to build on the positive social norms.”

Equity launches campaign to boost live entertainment in pubs: Pubs around the UK are being urged to host live entertainment – including theatre shows – as part of a new campaign launched by Equity. The Live Entertainment Works! campaign is aimed at highlighting changes to licensing laws introduced in 2012, which make it easier for pubs and small venues to host live entertainment, such as music and theatre performances. Under the Live Music Act, performances of plays and dance for audiences up to 500 are permitted without a licence. Live music events for audiences of 200 or fewer do not need a licence either, providing the event does not take place before 8am and after 11pm. According to research conducted by the Musicians’ Union in 2012, 24% of pubs reported an increase in taking of between 25% and 50% on nights they featured live entertainment, with 71% seeing an increase of between 10% and 25%. On average, pubs without music were found to be three times more likely to close. Equity has issued a guide as part of its campaign, which informs venues about the best way to introduce live events, including liaising with customers, how to advertise and how to book acts. 

Company News:

Barworks signs for ninth London site: London bar premium operator Barworks has secured its ninth site. Barworks have completed on a new 25-year lease for the former No 1 Sports Bar at 1 City Road at the intersection of Silicon Roundabout, Shoreditch and the City through agent AG&G, the second site the agent has found for the company in a year. The premises is one of Barworks’ biggest venues comprising the ground floor and basement of a six-storey building which is approximately 560 sq m (6,027 sq ft) in total. Planning consent has been obtained to convert the basement into a cocktail bar. The latest acquisition takes Barworks’ portfolio of pubs and bars to nine, while its sister business The Diner has recently added an eighth restaurant following the addition of a site in Dalston Junction. Barworks intend to operate their newest acquisition in the same style as Harrild and Sons in Farringdon Street, EC4. This has a gastro-pub above one of its sophisticated 5cc cocktail lounges. “These are exciting times for Barworks, who have built up an excellent reputation for their well-thought out pubs, bars and restaurants. We are pleased to have been able to help them on their upward trajectory by finding them a second quality venue – the first being The Three Johns in Islington in August 2013,” said Michael Penfold of AG&G. “1 City Road is a great address, within easy reach of the City and Shoreditch, and the premises is a good size. It’s got plenty of potential and we’re sure Barworks will make the most of it.”

Losses increase at Hand Picked Hotels: Losses have increased at Hand Picked Hotel, the operator of 17 hotels with a total of 1,231 bedrooms led by Julia Hands, wife of financier Guy Hands, in the year to 28 November 2013. Turnover dropped 2.9% to £58.1m, with like-for-like sales down 1.1%. Ebitda increased to £8.9m compared to £8.3m the year before. Pre-tax losses were £9.1m compared with £6.9m in the prior year. The company took on management contracts at two more hotels in the year to bring the total to three under management. It earned £2,396,298 in respect of management fees and service fees from the managed contracts (2012: £41,202). The company owes Julia Hands £14m and Guys Hands £11.2m, a combined £25.2m. Company House accounts show the company has an interest rate swap liability of £22.1m, down from £31.1m the year before. No dividends were paid and the highest paid director earned £210,000. 

Deal for UK’s biggest pub to open in Ramsgate’s Royal Victoria Pavilion ‘imminent’ says council: An agreement to lease the Royal Victoria Pavilion to JD Wetherspoon, creating Britain’s biggest pub, is expected to be completed “imminently”, according to Thanet Council. A spokesman for Wetherspoon indicated that a deal was still some way away, saying: “We are still in negotiations with the local authority on this site and progressing very slowly, but we have not exchanged.” However, Thanet Council’s cabinet member for financial services and estates, Rick Everitt, said: “The council has had to be satisfied that the integrity of the building will be respected and its future assured, which has been the subject of lengthy negotiation. I am satisfied we have done this and that if the relevant consents are granted this substantial investment in Ramsgate will be a big boost to the regeneration of the seafront and the town as a whole. I am delighted by the prospect that this important building will be restored to its full glory and brought back into public use without any imposition on council taxpayers.” It is estimated it will cost £3m for the derelict building to be restored. Wetherspoon has been involved in talks about the project since at least November last year.

First Jamie’s Trattoria to open in Australia: A Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Trattoria is to open in Sydney, Australia, the first in the country and a second Jamie Oliver restaurant in Sydney. Plans for the new opening were submitted to Parramatta City Council last week. The first Australian restaurant opened in Sydney’s Central Business District in 2011, with others following in Perth, Canberra, Brisbane and Adelaide. The Pacific Restaurant Group, which holds the franchise for the Oliver restaurant brand in Australia and New Zealand, told council it plans to spend up to $1.4 million redeveloping and fitting out the former bridal store site which fronts Church Street mall, renaming the venture Jamie’s Trattoria. The restaurant will operate between 7am and midnight, seat 200 customers with approximately 20 staff at any time and plans to open early next year.

Residents protest against M&B plan to turn Orchid site into Miller & Carter steakhouse: A total of 2,800 residents have signed a Facebook campaign in less than a week protesting against plans by Mitchells & Butlers to turn Orchid Group’s Cock and Dragon, in Chalk Lane, Cockfosters, north London into a Miller & Carter steakhouse. They say losing the pub, which specialises in British cask ales and serves Thai food, will be a blow to the community. Mitchells & Butlers bought The Cock and Dragon in June when it acquired the majority of Orchid Group in a £266m deal. A spokeswoman said: “We plan to invest in The Cock and Dragon and open a Miller & Carter restaurant in early 2015.”

Michelin-starred chef steps down: Celebrity chef Alan Murchison is moving on from Michelin-starred L’Ortolan in Shinfield, just south of Reading in Berkshire after 13 years as executive chef. He has resigned to have a “break from the kitchen” – he will continue until a replacement is found. He reopened L’Ortolan with owner Peter Newman in 2001 and the restaurant went on to win many awards. A Michelin star was granted in 2003 and has been retained ever since. Murchison said: “I have had an amazing 13 years at L’Ortolan and have achieved all that I wanted to. It is a good time now for me to have a break from the kitchen and pursue some of my other interests.” 

Starbucks to test new upmarket and express stores: Starbucks is to test two new styles of store, an up-market cafe for “reserve coffees” and an “express” store. It plans to open a “first of its kind” 15,000 sq ft small-batch reserve roastery in the hipster Capitol Hill neighbourhood in Seattle in December, as part of plans to open at least 100 reserve-only cafes globally over the coming five years. The company will consolidate roasting of its reserve coffee offerings, including Geisha and Jamaica Blue Mountain, in the new Seattle facility, which will house a store, a tasting room and a cafe devoted to reserve coffees. The new roastery is expected to give Starbucks the potential to expand its reserve lineup from 15 to 30 offerings. Some recent Starbucks reserve coffees sell for $15 to $50 for an eight-ounce package. Starbucks also plans to test its first “express” store in Manhattan in 2015. The company said the New York store would be small and convenient, with a limited food and beverage menu. It will use digital payment and mobile ordering to speed up service. Starbucks declined to say how many express stores are planned.

‘Street food market in the sky’ plan for Battersea Power Station: Battersea Power Station will be home to a ‘street food market in the sky’, with up to 60 vans and stalls hoisted on to the third floor of the South London landmark, under plans revealed on Friday by the Battersea Power Station Development Company. The market is part of a plan to transform the Thames-side building and its surrounding 40 acres of land into a new “village” for London, with hundreds of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. The Grade II listed former power station will have a central lift to bring street food vans up to its third level. The development company’s chief executive, Rob Tincknell, said: “It will be the most amazing food court in London. The vehicles will go up and park in their space on the third floor, 60 different vendors in the street food environment.” The developers are planning for 115 food and drink outlets in the power station and 250 across the whole £8bn development. The scheme was unveiled just before Tincknell and his team, together with senior executives from the Malaysian backers of the development, set off on a global “roadshow” aimed at attracting brands from all over the world to open at Battersea. They will visit 13 cities in 11 countries in October and November. The first 40 operators are expected to open when the first phase of the redevelopment, known as Circus West, is completed in late 2016.

Plan for McDonald’s next to Newcastle’s biggest school turned down by councillors: Newcastle upon Tyne’s planning committee turned down an application by McDonald’s on Friday to build a new restaurant close to the city’s biggest school. Planning officers had recommended approval for the two-storey drive-through outlet on Kenton Lane on the site of the old Crofters Lodge pub, saying the existing highway network would be able to cope with increased traffic while the council’s draft core strategy, which seeks to control the location of, and access to, “unhealthy” eating outlets, did not justify refusing the proposal on public health grounds. However, councillors rejected the application by six votes to four, because of concerns over the impact the restaurant could have on road safety as well as it providing access to unhealthy eating for the nearby 2,000-pupil Kenton School. They also criticised the poor design of the proposed building, describing it as “bland and uninteresting”, which would have been located at the “gateway to Newcastle”. After the decision, which was met a huge cheer from the public gallery, one of the local residents who had protested against it, Siobhan O’Neil, 46, said: “We’re absolutely delighted with this brave decision. It’s a victory for democracy and common sense. It just goes to show what a community can do when it works together.” A McDonald’s spokesperson did not rule out appealing against the decision, which the company would have to do within six months. “We’re going to take a bit of time to think about this,” she said.

Pot noodle brand inspired by Wagamama hits £2m of sales: Premium pot noodle brand Kabuto, launched four years ago and inspired by Wagamama, will see sales go through the £2m mark this year after contracts were secured with Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose. The company was set up by former Pieminister sales director Crispin Bush, who saw a market gap after struggling to find the quality of ramen in supermarkets on offer at Wagamama. “I would walk over the road from Wagamama and look at the noodle section in the supermarket and it would be stocked with the like of (Pot Noodle’s) Bombay Bad Boys,” he said.

Five Windsor sites placed in administration: Four pubs and a restaurant in and around Windsor have gone into administration, leaving the businessman who owned them ‘facing homelessness’. The River House Restaurant & Bar in Thames Side, Bar 51 in Peascod Street and The Royal Oak in Datchet Road, Windsor, along with The Royal Stag on the Green in Datchet and The Prince George in Eton High Street, operated by WPC Leisure, formerly WPC Inns, are all in the hands of administrators. In an email to the local newspaper, former owner Nick Long said he and his wife Denise now had significant debts after using their savings to bolster the business and pay staff. “We have no money and face the possibility of being homeless,” he added. “They were our life, the pubs and staff were our passion. I worked seven days a week and the only day off I had this year was for a family funeral – we haven’t had a holiday for years,” he said. “We invested everything we had into the business and three times this year we paid wages from our pension fund. There’s nothing left, we’ve lost everything.” He explained he had been legally advised not to go into details about the collapse of his company, WPC Leisure, formerly WPC Inns Ltd. David Thurgood from administrators Menzies is now running the bars and the restaurant. He said there were no plans for redundancies, adding the plan is to sell them all. “We want tourists and local people to continue using the businesses and in the meantime we will continue running them,” he said. 

Brunning and Price scoops hat-trick of Good Pub Guide awards: Brunning and Price, The Restaurant Group’s gastro-pub brand, has scooped a trio of awards in the latest edition of the Good Pub Guide. The Hand and Trumpet in Wrinehill, has been awarded the Staffordshire County Dining Pub of the Year for the sixth time in seven years, and was joined by sister pub The Fox in Chetwyn Aston, which was awarded the Shropshire County Dining Pub of the Year for the sixth year in succession. “Obviously we are extremely proud and delighted,” said managing director Mary Willcock. “Serving up great food is at the heart of every one of our pubs so it’s fantastic for the crew to get recognition like this from such a well-respected guide. Our chefs are super-creative, introducing their own frequent changes, so that the menus stay fresh, interesting and appropriate for their local market.” Brunning and Price has a third reason to celebrate: Old Harkers Arms in Chester, one of the first pubs in the Brunning and Price estate having opened 25 years ago, has been named the UK Town Pub of the Year in the same publication. 

Travelodge moves back into the black: Budget hotel chain Travelodge has filed accounts for the year to 31 December 2013 that show it has moved back into profit. Turnover rose to £426m from £391m the year before. Pre-tax losses of £71.1m were converted into profit of £37.7m. The company’s owners, Goldman Sachs and a number of US hedge funds, invested £75m into the estate after a restructuring in 2012 that saw £709m of debt written off and landlords agreeing a creditors voluntary arrangement. 

KFC franchisee buys Hemel site with guide price of £1.3m: SME Group has bought a 1.44-acre site at 47 Maylands Avenue, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire with planning permission for a KFC drive-through restaurant off a guide price of £1.3m. SME Group runs franchised outlets for KFC and Pizza Hut, Costa Coffee, and the Comfort Inn hotel chain. The site was sold on behalf of Angle Property by Aitchison Raffety and Lambert Smith Hampton. Planning permission was granted in March for drive-through restaurant, offices on two floors above, and a separate industrial unit totalling approximately 1,378 sq m (14,832 sq ft). The site sits next door to where a Travelodge hotel and Toby Carvery are currently being constructed.

Albert’s owners open third Manchester venue: The owners of Albert’s Restaurant & Bar have opened a third venue, in Worsley, Salford, to add to their other sites in Didsbury and Shed in Manchester city centre. The £1.2m project, which started in May 2012, involved a “complete and radical facelift” of a building on the East Lancashire Road which had been disused for some time. The two-storey venue now includes a 172-cover restaurant, bar area and private dining room for up to 32 people on the ground floor with a function room and associated bar and external area with 148 covers. The function room, with glass balustrading to the terrace, is used for corporate and private events and if the bar is not required it can be hidden behind a sliding screen. The project was overseen by the Wilmslow-based architecture and interior designer firm Fasciato Architects. 

TCG raises £110,000 for Cancer Research UK: Managed pub and bar operator TCG has raised a total of £110,000 for Cancer Research UK following a final push with a company-wide ‘Run, Row and Ride’ event on 3 September. Over the course of the one-day challenge, TCG employees ran, rowed or cycled with the aim of breaking through the company’s £100,000 fundraising target. Chief operating officer Nigel Wright and his team of regional operations managers led the charge with stints on spin bikes and rowers brought onto The Tattershall Castle, and ran around London from the company’s flagship bar and restaurant moored at Embankment.

Third bid from McDonald’s for outlet in Alnwick: McDonald’s is making its third bid for an outlet in Alnwick, Northumberland, with a full application to Northumberland County Council for a site which already has outline planning permission at Cawledge, between the A1 and the Alnwick Services petrol station. The chain first made an application to open in Alnwick in 2001 at the Willowburn site, alongside the then under-construction sports centre, which fell through because of problems with access. The following year another application, for a 60-seat restaurant with a drive-through facility, was made but never followed up. The Northumberland Gazette reported on Friday that in an online poll over whether the latest bid should be supported, more than 6,000 people lodged their votes with 54% in support of McDonald’s opening a restaurant and 46% against. 

Costa Coffee to open in former Cleethorpes solicitors’ office: Costa Coffee is to open in the former Wilkin Chapman solicitors’ offices on St Peter’s Avenue, Cleethorpes in February. Planning permission has already been granted for the store which is set to create eight to ten jobs. The chain’s arrival marks the end of a long saga over the fate of the building. In 2012, an application was refused by North East Lincolnshire’s planning committee to demolish the red-brick Victorian villa and replace it with an Iceland food store.

Premier Inn given green light for Matlock hotel: Plans to build a Premier Inn on derelict land in Matlock, Derbyshire have been agreed by Derbyshire Dales Council’s central and northern area planning committee. The £4m hotel will have 60 bedrooms and an on site restaurant. It will sit in front of Arc Leisure, off Bakewell Road. Helen Binns, of brand owner Whitbread, told the committee: “Whitbread has been looking for a site in Matlock for many years now and this is the only site that meets their requirements. Premier Inn does not currently have a presence in the town or anywhere in the Matlock area – the nearest Premier Inn is in Ripley.” 

Domino’s loses bid to turn former Nuneaton pub into pizza takeaway: An application to turn a former pub in Nuneaton into a Domino’s Pizza takeaway has been thrown out by councillors. Despite the application being recommended for approval by planning officers, Nuneaton and Bedworth Council’s planning committee rejected proposals to turn The Punch Bowl, on Tuttle Hill, into a hot food takeaway. Councillors decided that the plan went against the local authority’s policy S7, which states that takeaways should not be permitted outside a town or district centre. Local ward councillor Ian Lloyd said that not only was the application against policy S7, it was in an area where obesity was “rife” and in a location close to two primary schools. “We shouldn’t be putting a pizza takeaway right next to a primary school,” he said. But Fergus Sykes, speaking on behalf of Pegasus Planning, the agent acting for DP Realty, Domino’s property arm, argued that the new venture would only create as much noise as a pub and not as much anti-social behaviour a pub. He said: “This site could lawfully revert to a pub, restaurant or retail unit.” Sykes added that the takeaway would create 35 part time jobs and the majority of custom would be delivery orders. Planning officer Rhiannon Hill told the committee that although the plans went against the S7 policy, a pub or restaurant could serve food so would not be dissimilar to a takeaway, meaning the council may lose at appeal. However, the application was refused by eight votes to three, with two abstentions.

Queen’s fish and chip restaurant chain opens fourth site in Barnwood: The family-run Queen’s fish and chip takeaway and restaurant chain has opened a fourth venue in Barnwood, Gloucestershire. The business, run by the Singh family, opened its first outlet in Queen Street, Droitwich, Worcestershire in 1994 and now has outlets in Longbridge in Birmingham, and in Cheltenham. The Barnwood venue is licensed, and sells champagne. Owner Joe Singh said: “My father has been in this line of work for 35 years. We called them all Queen’s because our first restaurant is based in Queen’s Road and we wanted to keep it the same.”

Almost Famous hit by fresh woe as mouse droppings bring closure: The burger chain Almost Famous, which was in trouble last week because of allegedly misogynist decorations in its women’s toilets, was hit by fresh woes days later after a routine visit by Manchester city council’s environmental health team found mouse droppings in one of its restaurants. As a result, the chain voluntarily opted to close its outlet at the Great Northern Warehouse on Peter Street, Manchester temporarily. The restaurant, one of two Almost Famous outlets in the city centre, was allowed to open again by the council a day later. A council spokesman said: “We visited Almost Famous at the Great Northern Warehouse and found evidence that mice had been getting into the premises. The owners agreed to close the restaurant immediately while they carried out pest control work and ensured all access points were sealed. We have now allowed them to reopen but will continue to monitor the situation at the premises closely.” Marie Carter, director at Almost Famous, said: “Almost Famous in the Great Northern voluntarily closed to review its pest proofing and ensure all the necessary measures were taken to ensure the premises remain pest-free. This was a routine ‘scores on the doors’ visit by the EHO. No evidence of mice living in the premises was found, only potential for them to access part of the building.” Any possible access points were filled and the restaurant reopened for business as usual the next morning, Carter said. Almost Famous opened its restaurant at the Great Northern in November 2013. Last week it was forced to paint the walls of the women’s toilets at its new outlet on Great George Street in Leeds after a furore over the “misogynistic” slogans in the walls. The slogans included “Why can’t I be thinner?”, “My boobs are too small” and “My eyes are too close together”.

Restaurateur Rick Stein to film series on Mediterranean food: BBC2 has commissioned a six-part Mediterranean cookery and travel show fronted by restaurateur Rick Stein from Devon-based indie, Denham Productions. Denham, which has previously followed Stein to India, Spain and the Far East for the BBC, will venture to the Mediterranean to explore Byzantine cuisine in Rick Stein: from Venice to Istanbul. In the six times 60-minute series Stein will travel from Italy, through Croatia, Albania, Greece and Turkey paying visits to local markets, working men’s cafe’s, restaurant kitchens and people’s homes to dig beyond the perceptions surrounding Mediterranean food. “Many of us think we know the food and the people of the Mediterranean but as this new BBC2 series shows, there is so much more to discover,” Kirkham said.

Bath multi-siter submits plans to add to city centre estate: A Bath businessman has unveiled plans to turn a former wedding dress shop into a wine bar. Kambiz Shayegan, who owns a number of restaurants and nightclubs in the city centre, has submitted a licensing application for 5/6 Seven Dials, which used to be Caroline Castigliano and Drop Dead Gorgeous. The new venture would fill the gap left by the closure of his bar Market, which shut its doors in June to make way for the casino development in Sawclose. However, it is already facing opposition from nearby businesses, with concerns about the possibility of an increase in antisocial behaviour and drinking.

McDonald’s UK sees profits leap 27% as turnover hits £1.5bn: McDonald’s UK saw post-tax profit for 2013 leap 27% to £194.93m, as turnover for the year to 31 December rose by £180m, or 13.7%, to £1.5bn. Pre-tax profit, after payment of £73m in franchise fees, up 10.6% on 2012, rose 21% to £244.89m. The company’s tax bill was £50m, up 2% on 2012. Administrative expenses fell 6.2% year-on-year to £70.98m. The biggest leap in turnover was in licensee income, from franchised restaurants, including rental income, service fees and licence fees, which was up 60% to £438.85m. Income from the company’s owned restaurants was up 1.5% to £1.06bn. In its financial statement, McDonald’s UK said the company had “continued to deliver sound results in a difficult business climate” in 2013, with periods of high food cost inflation. Gross profit was up to £377.8m from £339.3m in 2012, and operating profit up to £233.8m from £197.5m. The improvements were due to higher sales and margins within company-owned restaurants and positive sales growth from franchisee restaurants, it said. Directors’ remuneration, before pension contributions, fell 11.8% on 2012 to £1.5m, with the highest paid director’s remuneration falling to £951,000 from £1.05m. The highest paid director also received £454,000 on the exercise of share options during the year, up from £391,000 in 2012. Total staff costs, including social security and pension costs, rose just 0.4% on the year to £320m. The average number of employees rose by 663 to 37,796.

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