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Mon 15th Sep 2014 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Samba Swirl launches crowd-funding push: Samba Swirl, the first self-serve frozen yogurt chain in the UK, selling fresh juices, gluten-free crepes, Acai bowls, smoothies and shakes, has launched a crowd-funding push on Crowdcube, looking to raise £285,000 in return for 7.3% of its equity – eight investors have pledged £760 so far. The pitch states: “We have diversified revenue based across four sites and are looking to open an additional three mall sites (one approved) ahead of private equity investment. We launched in October 2010 and have fast-growing revenues, from £350,000 in Year One to £750,000 for the latest financial year (to 30 June 2014). We have already secured £105,000 of funding from Santander Corporate and a £100,000 equity investment stake from the family of Sir Julian Horn-Smith, former chief operating officer of Vodafone. Samba Swirl is seeking £275,000 – £450,000 to open three to five new mall sites across the UK, as part of a strategy to target this lucrative and less weather sensitive area of the sector. Two private equity funds have expressed interest in investing a large sum (>£2m) once the mall concepts are launched in order to complete our UK expansion to 20 sites nationwide, while in parallel for the international franchise to launch up to 50 sites. This will provide us with two key exit points for investors.” Meanwhile, wine maker Chapel Down has raised £2,104,608 by this morning on crowd-funding website Seedr, which means it has raised 126.2% of the original sum it sought seven days after it became the first listed company to seek funding in this way.

Industry News:

Revolution vodka bar boss to present at the next Propel Multi Club Conference: The boss of the UK’s largest premium bar operator will present at the next Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 20 November at the Lancaster Hotel in London. Mark McQuater, chief executive of Revolution and Revolution de Cuba operator New Inventive Bar Company, will provide insights on how the company’s evolved its brands into a contemporary premium offer. Operators can book up to two free places by emailing adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

Deadline looms for sector benchmarking survey: This is the final week for operators to take part in the haysmacintyre Propel Benchmarking survey, which has a deadline for entries of Monday 21 September. Propel is partnering chartered accountant and tax advisors haysmacintyre to produce the most comprehensive benchmarking survey ever undertaken in the hospitality sector. Those taking part will have access to the full results. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “We think the results will prove invaluable in allowing sector businesses to understand how they compare to industry averages in key areas of the business. All information provided to us will be treated in strictest confidence – and the results go straight to haysmacintyre without Propel seeing them. However, we would like to simply list the companies who took part in the study (if you wish to be kept totally anonymous please tick the box at the end of the survey).” To take part in the survey go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZKBXRRR

Teenagers turn socially conservative: The Sunday Times has reported on the rise of the ‘socially conservative’ teenager in a decade. Only 9% of teenagers report consuming alcohol in the past week compared to 25% in 2003. For those under 18, the percentage who said they had tried alcohol has fallen from 61% to 29% in the same period. There has also been a large fall in teenage pregnancies and levels of smoking. The change has been linked to the rise in social media, which allows teenagers to interact without visiting pubs or congregating on street corners.

Two French fast food chains cause outcry by introducing unlimited soda fountains: KFC and hamburger chain Quick have introduced “drink as much as like” soda fountains in France, causing a national outcry. Head of national nutrition Serge Hercberg said: “This must be banned. It is in total contradiction with public health recommendations.” The French eat an average of 14 burgers per year, making them the second biggest burger eater in Europe after the UK, where an average of 17 are consumed per head each year.

Independent – Sevenoaks has reached restaurant saturation point: Sevenoaks has reached restaurant “saturation point”, the owner of the town’s latest independent eatery to close has claimed. Owner George Liu has closed Ginseng in Bank Street due to falling trade. The Chinese restaurant, which has been in the town for 12 years, is the second independent to close in recent weeks. Its demise follows that of House On The Hill on London Road, which announced its closure last month. “It’s really sad but there are too many restaurants in Sevenoaks now,” Liu told The Sevenoaks Chronicle. “Wagamama killed my lunchtime trade and the new Thai (The Giggling Squid) just finished me off.”

Company News:

Ping Pong losses widen: Ping Pong has reported widening losses in the year to 20 March 2014. Turnover dropped 3.4% to £13,924,810 while losses before tax climbed to £1,487,000 from £296,000 the year before. The company opened new sites in December 2013 and March 2014 and closed one restaurant and the Ping Pong Now takeaway concept. Companies House accounts report that the ‘core business’ saw a 3.9% increase in like-for-like sales. Within the accounts, the company stated: “Average spends per head remain competitive and future focus will be placed on core profitable sites. Following the opening of two new sites in high footfall retail developments, the company will continue to evaluate UK opportunities both inside and outside London. Both new sites were opened a part of a revitalised branding strategy, which will be implemented across the remaining UK estate.” The company currently has losses of £1,475,534 to carry forward against future profits (2013: £615,124). It also reported that one of its two sites ear-marked for sale was sold for its carrying value of £550,000 in June 2014.

On-line JD Wetherspoon merchandise makes slow start: An on-line shop within the JD Wetherspoon website, launched a few months ago selling a range of six beer and cider festival Wetherspoon T-shirts, priced a £9.99 each, has made a slow start, chief executive John Hutson has reported. Sales so far are in the hundreds. “We’re not yet challenging Hard Rock (on merchandise sales) – sales are in the hundreds,” he said. Hutson stressed that the T-shirts are high quality Fruit of the Loom-produced items and the company “makes hardly anything on them” with a £1 donation to charity with each item sold.

McMullen to re-open former town centre Bramwell pub with pizza and rotisserie offer: Hertford based brewer and retailer McMullen is to re-open a landmark former Bramwell Pub Company site where it owns the freehold with a pizza and rotisserie chicken offer. The Old Post Office, in Baldock Street, Royston has been closed since last December when Bramwell went into administration. Peter Furness-Smith, managing director of McMullen, told the local newspaper: “Details are being finalised but we are planning to create a pub with a number of interesting design features which will serve excellent value pub food including freshly-cooked rotisserie chicken and homemade pizzas. The bar will be stocked with a good range of world beers, local cask ales from our Whole Hop Brewery in Hertford, an interesting wine list and the best quality coffee.” The re-opening of the pub, which has been known by various names including The Barracuda bar and The Old Crown, will not happen before February 2015.

Malholtra Group pledges support to Tax Equality Day: The Newcastle-based Malhotra Group, which runs nine high-quality venues in the north east, has pledged its support for Tax Equality Day on Wednesday 24 September. The day will see around 50 companies reduce their prices to show consumers the benefits of a reduced VAT rate for the sector. Malhotra marketing co-ordinator Julia Robson, said: “We have issued a press release (locally) and will also be advertising by way of posters.”

Multi-site operator – ‘Wetherspoon has bought the freehold of the pub I tenant’: A multi-site pub operator, who asked to remain anonymous, has told Propel that JD Wetherspoon has acquired the freehold of a London pub he operates for £1.9m. The operator’s lease expires in December 2016 when Wetherspoon is expected to start operating the site – in the meantime he is paying a free-of-tie rent of £55,000. The operator stated: “It’s a good pub and sells 12 real ales at all times, but they paid a big price and so are entitled to expect to get their hands on it.” The London pub is one of three freehold pub investment sites that Wetherspoon has bought in the past year.

Des McDonald opens second Fish & Chip Shop with 50% off soft launch offer: Des McDonald, the former chief executive of Caprice Holdings, the company behind The Ivy and Le Caprice, is opening his second outlet in the planned Fish & Chip Shop chain at Dashwood House, Broad Street, in the City of London with a 50% off food soft launch offer on 2 and 3 October. The first Fish & Chip Shop opened in Islington last year. The City branch will be bigger than the Islington restaurant, with room for 60 diners inside and an additional 16 seats outside as well as a dedicated takeaway window. The kitchen will be run by Steve Wilson, formerly of Scott’s and Daphne’s, while the bar will be run by Allan Farrell, former bar manager at Sushihno. The official opening date is Monday 6 October. Opening hours are Monday to Friday 11.30am till late. Earlier this year McDonald told The Sunday Telegraph he hoped to turn Fish & Chip Shop and his barbecue restaurant offer, Q-Grill, into chains, with ten locations each in London, before branching out nationally. Q-Grill is currently limited to one outlet in Chalk Farm Road, Camden and a pop-up on the roof of Selfridges in Oxford Street, central London.

Four new brands confirmed for Nottingham shopping centre: Four new restaurant brands are to move into Nottingham’s Victoria Centre as part of £40 million plans to revamp the shopping mall. Restaurant Group’s Coast 2 Coast, burger brand Handmade Burger Co and Mexican chain Tortilla will move into the centre’s lower level, close to the clock tower. Ed’s Easy Diner will be situated on the upper level. Janine Bone, regional centre director at Intu, which owns the centre, said: “We are really excited to reveal the first four new names to the centre.”

Byron set to open in Leicester as part of a five new brands plan: Better burger brand Byron is set to open in Leicester at the end of September. The restaurant will occupy the unit that used to house men and women’s clothing retailer, Lacoste. The fashion brand relocated to a vacant spot inside Highcross shopping centre earlier this year. The arrival of Byron is part of an on-going plan to turn St Peter’s Square, near John Lewis, into a restaurant quarter. By Christmas, Highcross is planning to have overseen the opening of five new foodservice venues. These include Red Hot World Buffet, Australian juice bar Boost and Latin American restaurant Chimichanga.

Starbucks may let its baristas reveal their tattoos: Starbucks is considering relaxing its rule that baristas must have all tattoos covered while working. In an internal email, the company’s chief operating officer, Troy Alstead, said Starbucks was revisiting its “dress code, including the tattoo policy”. Other items on the agenda for reform include how to structure pay to better reward employees according to their performance and their length of employment, an on-shift “food benefit”, and allowing tipping on the company’s Android app. A Starbucks spokesman said the email was part of a detailed follow-up to chief executive Howard Schultz’s announcement earlier this summer of a campaign to improve staffers’ careers. The company invited its more than 135,000 US employees to comment about the process on a dedicated Facebook page. Its current strict dress code allows black or white polo shirts only, black or tan trousers, earrings limited to two per ear and no other piercings visible, while perfumes and aftershave are not allowed “because the smell affects the taste and aroma of our coffee”.

Seven restaurants and cafes planned for £12m development in Yate: The £12m Yate Riverside development in South Gloucestershire will include seven restaurants and cafes, as well as a six-screen cinema operated by Cineworld and three retail units, it has been announced. Operators for some of the units are due to be announced soon and are expected to include several high profile brands. Andrew Lowrey, the manager of Yate Shopping Centre, said although planning permission was approved by South Gloucestershire Council in May and Cineworld had confirmed it will run the cinema, other leases were still being signed by operators. “Although some preparatory works have started, we don’t envisage major construction work starting until early next year,” he said. “There is always a time lag after any planning permission is granted as typically operators hold back on committing until there is certainty about the development. We will be announcing the other high street names taking space over the next few months.”

McDonald’s expands ‘ordering by tablet’ test: McDonald’s has expanded its testing of a system that lets customers order a customised burger by tapping on the screen of a tablet computer then wait for their food to be delivered to their table. The McDonald’s tablets offer different burgers, buns, cheeses, sauces and toppings, such as guacamole, garlic aioli and pickled jalapenos. A calorie counter in the corner climbs up with every addition. The tablets were launched as a pilot last winter and expanded across San Diego in Southern California last week.

River Cottage Winchester to open on 24 September: The latest River Cottage Canteen, housed in the converted grade II-listed Abbey Mill in Winchester city centre, is due to open on 24 September. It is the fourth canteen to be set up by River Cottage, the brand founded by the TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The business also has venues in Axminster, where it was formed, and in Plymouth and Bristol. The head chef at the new restaurant, Mark Price, said: “It has been a wonderful job seeking out local producers for the new Canteen, there is a wealth of incredible produce within the area and I am passionate about meeting the producers and hearing their stories. As the Canteen opens, more and more small growers, breeders and producers will be discovered. We never rest on our laurels and our door is always open to new suppliers that meet our ethos.” Abbey Mill was constructed in 1793 as a silk mill and was a restaurant for servicemen during the Second World War. Winchester Council spent £1m to take the building from a shell to a functional unit, and a further £750,000 was spent on amenities and decoration. The partly open-plan former mill, in Colebrook Street, will have an open kitchen, a separate bar, a private dining area and a staff area as well as the main seating room.

Punch seeks to turn York pub into 59-bed hostel: Punch Taverns is seeking planning permission to turn a pub in York city centre into a 59-bed hostel for “independent world travellers”. The company wants to put six triple bed bunks in an area on the ground floor behind the bar at Monroes, Gillygate, nine triple bed bunks on the first floor and seven double bed bunks on the second floor. Punch recently reopened The Gillygate pub nearby after a £500,000 refurbishment. A Punch Taverns spokesperson said: “With York being such a popular tourist destination, the opportunity at Monroes lended itself to the development of some form of letting accommodation. Having recently invested heavily at The Gillygate, we wanted to create a point of difference, and saw the independent world traveller as a potential customer. We have submitted an application for a hostel type accommodation, but retaining a bar on the ground floor, and creating a small food operation.” Clare Wood of Milson Associates, the agent for Punch Taverns, said: “The management and control of this hostel will be extremely robust reducing the opportunity for unacceptable behaviour by guests. We will be installing an electronic key system to ensure controlled and monitored access to accommodation areas and overall staff will be trained in operating policies to ensure smooth operating eliminating crime.” However, local residents have written to York City Council objecting to the development on the grounds that it was likely to attract hen and stag parties.

Pizza Hut sends out emails offering £5,000 finder’s fee for new sites: Pizza Hut has been sending out emails offering a £5,000 finder’s fee for new sites suitable to be turned into a Pizza Hut Delivery outlet. The chain said it is seeking sites of between 850 and 1,000sq ft, freehold or leasehold, with at least 15ft of frontage and planning consent or potential for A5 use as a hot-food takeaway. It will consider high street or secondary parade locations, which must have parking. The email says: “Our finder’s fee offer only applies to Pizza Hut Delivery stores and is £5,000 per store that qualifies for the fee. The fee will be payable as long as you are not the landlord or acting on behalf of the landlord, as this will create a conflict of interest.” Pizza Hut Delivery currently trades from more than 300 locations across the UK and the company says there is “ample scope to develop a further 400 locations, thanks to the strength and popularity of the brand with the UK population”. Its website currently lists more than 340 towns and suburbs where it would like to open a delivery store, including 16 in Glasgow, ten around Birmingham, eight in Manchester, seven in Leeds, six in Newcastle upon Tyne, five in Edinburgh, four in Bradford and five in Coventry.

Adnams wins first canned beer contest: The Suffolk brewer Adnams has won what was billed as the world’s first competition for canned beers, with its Ghost Ship pale ale. More than 70 brewers entered the competition, sponsored by the Can Makers in partnership with the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), with more than 100 beers. The finals took place in East London on Thursday night, with 12 beers making the cut, and 13 Guns from the Lancashire brewer Thwaites and Breakfast Stout from Arbor Ales of Bristol coming second and third respectively. Chiara Nesbitt, beer buyer for Tesco, and one of the five independent judges, said: “The competition was very tight but Adnam’s Ghost Ship clearly stood out from the others. All 12 finalists are great examples of how independent beers look and taste great in cans.” Nick Stafford, SIBA’s commercial director, said: “There are many superb independent beers in the market which pay tribute to the craft, quality and innovation of the industry. We’re pleased to have been involved in this competition, which has generated huge interest in cans and encouraged SIBA members to explore it as another way of bringing their beers to the growing number of craft beer drinkers.”

Lasan fingered as tenant for new restaurant site in heart of Birmingham’s business district: The Birmingham restaurant group Lasan has been fingered as the most likely candidate to occupy a new restaurant site on Colmore Row in the heart of the city’s business district. The site, a Grade II-listed building at 130 Colmore Row, at the Victoria Square end of the street next to the Chung Ying Central restaurant, was bought by Chinese investors in February. It had been used for offices until now but a planning application has been lodged with Birmingham City Council seeking permission to carry out internal renovations to create a building suitable for a bar or restaurant occupier. It is believed that the Lasan group is keen to occupy the site as a second venue for its Lasan Eatery brand which specialises in Indian street food. The group’s flagship Indian restaurant, in James Street, near St Paul’s Square in the city’s Jewellery Quarter, was named Asian Business Restaurant of the Year 2013 at the Asian Business Awards. The group, founded by Jabbar Khan and Aktar Islam, also runs Lasan Eatery in Hall Green and the Argentinean steak restaurant Fiesta Del Asado in Edgbaston. 

Hungry Horse to open in Doncaster: Greene King has signed to take a 5,800sq ft unit in the Food Mall at the Frenchgate Shopping Centre in Doncaster to open a Hungry Horse pub restaurant. Fit-out work is due to start soon. The opening will create 40 new jobs for the town, and locals are being encouraged to vote for their own name for the pub. The opening is part of phase two of a £10m investment plan at the centre, which will also see the arrival of New Look, Poundworld and a Lifestyle Fitness gym. 

Scottish town ends talks to sell council offices to Wetherspoon: Councillors in the Scottish town of Forfar have ended private talks over the sale of Angus Council’s offices to JD Wetherspoon. Pubs and restaurant owners voiced their concerns over the plans, claiming the opening of a Wetherspoon pub would affect their businesses. On Friday, Angus Council confirmed that it had now decided to put the premises on the open market. A spokeswoman for the local authority said: “It was agreed at Thursday’s meeting of full council that Angus Council will place the property 5-7 The Cross in Forfar for sale on the open market.”

Ex-Pizza Hut area manager acquires franchise, plans more: A former Pizza Hut area manager has now become a franchisee with the chain, with plans to expand. Zakir Hussein Niamut, has acquired the franchise of a Pizza Hut restaurant in Silver Street, Bury, Lancashire, through his newly established company Zarr Enterprise. Niamut said: “Becoming a franchise owner has been my objective for a long time and I couldn’t be happier to say that I have finally achieved my goal. I’ve worked in the industry for nearly 12 years. I started out doing pizza delivery and since then have worked my way up to an area manager before becoming a franchise owner. When the previous owner informed me that he was intending to sell the business, I knew it was an opportunity not to be missed. Having worked for Pizza Hut for almost 12 years in total, with two of those spent managing Silver Street, I know the brand, the restaurant and many of its customers extremely well. I am hoping to acquire two more outlets this year and my plan is to eventually own a chain of Pizza Hut franchises.” The acquisition was funded with the help of a commercial loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Starbucks integrates taxi-ordering program Uber into its app: Starbucks has integrated a specific button for Uber, the mobile taxi-ordering service, into the most recent update of its mobile application. The app redesign, which includes a new interface, a mobile tipping service and a personalised dashboard, also offers customers a ride to their local coffee shop. The user clicks the Uber button from within the Starbucks app and requests which store they want to visit. The Uber app launches and prompts a car request. Starbucks said the integration makes it simple to hail a car for a coffee and lunch run simultaneously. The Uber service is available in major cities around the globe, but so far only in London and Manchester in the UK.

McDonald’s to close Southport restaurant: McDonald’s is to close its restaurant on Eastbank Street in Southport after 30 years. A spokesperson for McDonald’s said: “On 18 October we will close Eastbank Street. We are sad to leave this site but decided that now is the correct time following a thorough review. Restaurants in the Ocean Plaza and Scarisbrick New Road continue to serve the local community. We are pleased to say that all staff are being offered transfers to neighbouring restaurants.”

Nando’s to open in Chesterfield: Building work has started on a new branch of Nando’s in Chesterfield, at the site of the former Blockbuster store on Alma Leisure Park. It will join other restaurant brands including Frankie & Benny’s and McDonald’s. The restaurant is expected to open some time this autumn although an exact date has not yet been revealed. A Nando’s spokesman said more details would be released soon. The chain’s current nearest outlets to Chesterfield are in Sheffield, ten miles away, where it has four branches, and Nottingham, 17 miles away. 

Blackstone sells 260 Burger King outlets: The investment company Blackstone Group plans to sell about 260 Burger King restaurants owned by a subsidiary in the US Midwest to the Texas-based fast-food franchisee Houston Foods, Bloomberg has reported. Blackstone has agreed to sell the restaurants for less than $100 million as it tries to cut exposure to an increasingly sluggish fast-food industry, the report said quoting an unidentified source. Blackstone’s Heartland Food Corp, which is making the sale, owns about 330 Burger King outlets in eight Midwestern states, the report said. Blackstone acquired Heartland in 2008.

Punch pursues property firm over pub with £25,000 rent arrears: Punch Taverns is going to court over £25,000 in rent arrears amid claims that a property company has taken over one of its pubs without consent. The pub is the Stobswell Bar in Dundee, and Punch has entered a civil action at Dundee Sherriffs Court. A Punch spokesman told The Evening Telegraph newspaper the case had been bought after the non-payment of rent on the pub since April: “The case involves our legal tenant and also Mylnefield Properties, who have taken over operation of the site without our legal consent.” Mylnefield Properties is a developer based in Dundee. A recent advert for the £59,950 leasehold of the Stobswell Bar, from the property firm Bruce & Co, described it as an extremely busy business which was trading extremely successfully. It said the end-terraced property had been completely refurbished in 2010, was of a traditional construction and “occupies a central location”.

Chimichanga to open its doors in Telford on 1 October: Prezzo’s Mexican restaurant chain Chimichanga is to open its new restaurant in Telford on 1 October, creating 20 new jobs. There will be seating for 174 diners,114 in the restaurant itself and a further 60 outside. It joins outlets for PizzaExpress, Harvester, Zizzi, Bella Italia, Nando’s and Wagamama in the development. Prezzo now includes 245 restaurants, with the Telford opening joining others Newcastle and Newquay in bringing the total number of new additions to the group to 25 for the current financial year.

Restaurant insolvencies leap despite overall fall in businesses going bust: The number of restaurant insolvencies has climbed 15% over the past 12 months to 747, an average of two a day, according to the restructuring and insolvency team at Moore Stephens. This was despite a fall in overall business insolvencies of 4% to 15,356 over the same period. Moore Stephens said the tipping point for many restaurants has been the extremely bad weather last winter, with heavy flooding through key trading periods including Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day hitting trade hard. In addition, gas and electricity prices have risen by 6.9% over the past year, and 5.8% a year since the credit crunch in 2008. Average food prices have also increased, by 4.5% per annum since the financial crisis. At the same time consumer spending on eating out has only marginally increased in real terms, by 0.8% over the past year, despite falling unemployment, the firm said. Mike Finch, a partner in the Moore Stephens restructuring and insolvency team, said: “The fact that the weather can push so many restaurant businesses into insolvency shows how fragile the finances can be in this sector. Restaurants are being squeezed between rising costs and stagnant consumer spending on eating out. Many have struggled through five years of belt tightening by customers, which has seen cash reserves run extremely low.”

Greene King produces exclusive brew for two Michelin-starred tenant: Retailer and brewer Greene King has produced Sparkling 5X for exclusive use at Tom Kerridge’s Hand & Flowers pub in Marlow. A mix of 5X ale with sparkling wine yeast, the unusual product is served in a champagne bottle. Only 54 bottles have been produced, each individually numbered and signed by Greene King master brewer John Bexon. Run by Tom Kerridge, The Hand & Flowers, a Greene King leasehold site, is the only pub in the UK to hold two Michelin stars. Kerridge said: “Drinks at The Hand & Flowers play a significant role in the overall experience for our customers, so we take great pride in serving such a unique Greene King product.” Clive Chesser, business unit director for Greene King Pub Partners, said: “Since the recent extension to The Hand & Flowers, the bar plays a greater role at the pub. Recognising this change with Sparkling 5X seemed like the ideal fit, matching the prestige of the pub’s renowned dishes with such a special and unusual ale.”

Burger King risks losing US customers if it moves to Canada: Burger King is at risk of losing American customers over a decision to move its headquarters to Canada, according to a survey from YouGov BrandIndex. Consumer perception of the brand, measured by YouGov BrandIndex’s Buzz score, has turned negative after the announcement last month that Burger King is merging with the Canadian coffee-and-doughnuts chain Tim Hortons and shifting its headquarters into Canada, where corporate taxes are lower. Purchase consideration, which measures the portion of consumers who might visit the chain on their next fast-food run, has also fallen, the research firm said. Of the 30,000 Americans surveyed, 28% now say they would consider going to Burger King, down from 32% in the previous survey. Burger King’s chief executive, Daniel Schwartz, has said the tax benefits of moving to Canada were not central to the company’s decision to relocate. He told investors last month: “We don’t expect our tax rate to change materially. This transaction is not really about tax. It’s about growth.” However, a group of US senators has urged the company to scrap its plans to invert, or move its tax domicile to Canada, saying that the move was unfair because many Burger King workers count on programmes such as Medicaid and food stamps that rely on taxpayer funding, and the burger chain uses taxpayer-supported roads, food safety inspectors and other perks of doing business in the United States. 

Activist investor releases 294-slide report criticising Darden management of Olive Garden: Activist investor Starboard Value has issued a 294-slide report crticising the management of the US Olive Garden brand by owner Darden, which reported a $19.3 million loss over the last three months compared to the same period last year. Starboard argued that the restaurants unlimited breadstick promotion has led to ‘massive unnecessary waste’ as the average consumer does not eat three breadsticks, which is the average serving per customer. That adds up to nearly 700 million breadsticks per year. Starboard also claims servers are filling salad bowls to the brim with as much as four times the recommended serving of dressing leading to even more waste and soaked, unappetising salads. It also claims Olive Garden is losing out on lucrative alcohol sales by not pushing wine and other spirits with the Olive Garden customer typically drinking much less than at other restaurants. Starboard also claims Olive Garden is not salting the water in which cooks pasta leaving it flavourless.

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