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Tue 24th Feb 2015 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

UK’s most sustainable pubs and restaurants named: The Truscott Arms in Maida Vale, whose award-winning Sunday roasts are all served with free-range meat, has been named Sustainable Pub of the Year. Andrew and Mary Jane Fishwick, owners of the Victorian gastro-pub, received the award from Raymond Blanc, President of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) yesterday. The award recognised The Truscott Arms’ dedication to serving its loyal customers exceptionally well-sourced food and carefully selected, often ultra-local beers and spirits. It’s also committed to meeting the needs of its customers’ with food allergies and is a specialist caterer for coeliacs. It is also a founding member of London Living Wage. Among the other awards presented, Daylesford, with three cafes, and The Captain’s Galley, whose owner and chef Jim Cowie worked as a fish trader and had never so much as boiled an egg before opening his harbourside restaurant in Scrabster, Caithness, were jointly named Sustainable Restaurant of the Year. Both restaurants launched in 2002 with a mission to serve high quality food from ingredients produced with principles on their doorstep. Daylesford’s 2,000-acre organic farm provides the majority of the ingredients for its cafes, while the ocean outside the Captain’s Galley serves as its larder. Meanwhile, Star Bistro has been named The People’s Favourite, topping a poll of five restaurants shortlisted from more than 850 nominations. The Cheltenham restaurant, which offers customers a fine-dining experience with immaculately sourced ingredients, and gives people with physical and learning disabilities the chance to gain work experience both front-of-house and in the kitchen, won the lion’s share of the public’s near 10,000 votes. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was this year’s recipient of the Raymond Blanc Sustainability Hero award for standing out as ‘the person who shows the greatest connection to seasonality, sustainability and traceability’. Thomasina Miers’ Mexican restaurant group Wahaca, which has been serving grasshoppers to demonstrate how they can be a tasty and sustainable alternative protein source, won the award for Sustainable Innovation. The Pig in Brockenhurst was named Sustainable Hotel Restaurant of the Year. At the awards gala lunch at Oval Space in Bethnal Green, Raymond Blanc said: “These awards are for me as important as Michelin Stars. They represent what everybody who is passionate about food should regard as the perfect ingredients: good ethics, an understanding that food touches every part of our lives and a desire to ensure that future generations will be able to experience from it the same pleasure as we have.”

Industry News:

Wetherspoon cuts price of soft drink and meal combination in wake of tougher drink drive law: JD Wetherspoon has amended its Scottish pricing structure in the wake of tougher drink driving laws in the country – by cutting the cost of club meals and other menu items that include a soft drink. The company’s 65 Scottish outlets have begun to charge £1 less for meal/drink combinations where customers choose a soft drink rather than alcohol. The offer will cover steak night, curry club and chicken club offers, as well as salads, pastas and meals from the grill. It comes after the Scottish government introduced tougher alcohol limits in early December, reducing the limit to 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood. The level elsewhere in the UK is 80mg. A Wetherspoon spokesman said: “After the new Scottish legislation we felt it was appropriate to offer customers a reduction in price if they chose a non-alcoholic drink. We believe it could be positive for customers and positive for us.” Greene King revealed at the start of the year that the tougher drink-driving laws in Scotland cut about half a per cent off sales over the festive period. Some trade bodies have reported that the new drink-drive laws had reduced takings for Scottish publicans by an average of 30%. Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, has predicted closures on a scale that could surpass the smoking ban unless action is taken. “We have been told, anecdotally, of a dramatic, significant, catastrophic decrease in business,” he said. “We have not heard of anyone that has not been affected. It is a serious problem and for many people it will mean closure.”

Colliers research shows towns where retailers most likely to benefit from ratings appeal: Colliers International has published research showing the Top Ten retail locations across the U, that have seen the largest increase in vacancy rates coupled with a significant decrease in rental value. These are the locations in the UK that are most likely to benefit from lodging an appeal against their business rates, backdated to 2010, before the 31 March 2015 deadline. The following are ranked by highest increases in vacancy rates between 2010-2014: 1: Telford, 2: Boston, 3: Swansea, 4: Merry Hill, 5: Neath, 6: Poole, 7: Aylesbury, 8: Barnstaple, 9: Marlow, 10: Swindon. John Webber, head of rating at Colliers International, said: “This research is compelling. It combines the MSRR rental information from Colliers with the LDC data. This isn’t just a smoking gun, it is two smoking barrels of evidence that the VOA should be happy acting on to reduce the rateable values of retail units in those worst affected towns.” Between 2008 and 2014, retail rents have fallen most in the following regions: nationally by 14% or 22% if London is excluded; Wales, down 38%; North East of England, down 31%; West Midlands, down 26%; South West, down 24%; Eastern England, down 21%; East Midlands, down 19%; North West of England, down 19%; Yorkshire & Humberside, down 19%; South East of England, down 17%. London rents have increased by 28%. Outer London has seen rents flat, but in real terms have declined if inflation in factored in.

Greene King gives IPA youthful new look, launches online training platform to boost cellar skills: Greene King has launched a three-pronged assault on the beer market with a bold new look meant to appeal to younger drinkers for its flagship IPA ale, a new online training platform called Beer Genius designed to improve licensees’ cellar skills and a beer quality accreditation scheme for pubs. The new look for IPA, with a new colour scheme of teal and copper, and new graphics, is a response to figures from the Campaign for Real Ale showing that 15% of all cask drinkers tried cask ale for the first time in the past three years, and 65% of those new drinkers are aged 16 to 24. Dom South marketing director for brewing and brands at Greene King, said the redesign was a “really contemporary look and feel that won’t alienate people who already enjoy a pint of Greene King IPA but that will genuinely bring younger people into the category and into the brand.” He added: “But what we do need to focus on is making sure every pint is served perfectly and making sure it looks good for the younger consumer.” To that end, Greene King has launched a website giving free training, troubleshooting and best practice videos, available at www.beer-genius.co.uk. Chris Houlton, managing director of Greene King Brewing and Brands, said: “Beer Genius, provides a one-stop shop for licensees who are looking to grow beer sales in their pubs.” The brewery has also launched a quality accreditation scheme that will see unannounced pub visits made by either Quality & Dispense Services (QuADS), a senior Greene King representative or a third party quality agency. A pub will be required to pass ten quality tests, which include the taste, aroma and temperature of their Greene King IPA through to whether it is served in the right glass and the ability of bar staff to describe it accurately. Pubs that are judged to pour a perfect pint of Greene King IPA will be awarded with a plaque and certificate. Pubs that do not pass first time will be educated on the importance and benefits of looking after their cask beer range before another visit is made. Houlton said: “It makes sense to reward those pubs that consistently serve a great pint of Greene King IPA.”

PUB15 trade show attracts more than 3,100 visitors: The first ever PUB15 trade show attracted more than 3,100 publicans and entrepreneurs last week. Luke Perry, PUB15 event director, said: “We’re elated with the response to PUB15 in its first year. The industry response has been hugely encouraging with over 3,100 visitors eager to hear and see new ideas and discover techniques and products for helping improve their pub offering and their profitability. We designed the show specifically for multi-site and independent operators, aiming to create a face-to-face networking event that would deliver tangible value. Early feedback suggests this was successful and we look forward to developing and improving our offering ready for 2016.”

 

Company News:

McDonald's links with Channel 4 in big push to position McCafe as serious High Street coffee brand: McDonald's is attempting to position its coffee offering, McCafe, as a serious challenger to High Street rivals such as Starbucks and Costa in a partnership with Channel 4 believed to be the first of its kind. The restaurant chain and the television station are to launch “McCafe moments”, a ten-month collaboration that will see 40 pieces of content aired showing a series of conversations between “real people” drinking McCafe beverages, in clips inspired by Gogglebox. The people in the spots will talk about what is happening on their "favourite" Channel 4 programmes, such as Location, Location, Location or Made in Chelsea. Alistair Macrow, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of McDonald’s UK and Northern Europe, told Marketing Week he hoped the campaign will put McDonald’s "front of mind" when people were thinking about going for a quality cup of coffee. Last year McDonald’s sold more than 140 million cups of coffee, and was the biggest seller of traditional and non-specialty coffees, Macrow said. According to Crest data from the first half of 2014 quoted by the chain, McDonald’s ranked second behind Costa for total coffee servings in the UK. However, many coffee drinkers were still likely to overlook McCafe when considering a cup of coffee, Macrow said. “It’s not that we’re small, but too many of our coffee occasions are purely through convenience,” he told the magazine. Chris Braithwaite, agency principal for Channel 4, told Marketing Week that this was a first-of-its-kind partnership for the company, with a direct link to its programming never having been done at this scale.
 
Suburban Inns lodges plan to open boutique hotel in Birmingham: Suburban Inns, led by Adrian and Sharon Harvey, has lodged an application to build a new 31-bedroom hotel in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, creating 40 full and part-time jobs. The company, which has re-launched the Village Inn in Moseley, has lodged plans to convert the two floors above the Rope Walk pub in St Paul's Square. The space at 15-20 St Paul's Square is currently used as offices and the site's rear car park would remain as part of the development. A design statement prepared by the Leamington Spa-based AT Architects said: "The proposal will bring jobs and further revenue as well as additional visitors into the area which will add to the local services.” Suburban Inns also owns the Royal Hotel in High Street, Sutton Coldfield.
 
Marston’s boss Findlay joins Bovis board:
Marston's chief executive, Ralph Findlay, has been appointed a non-executive director of Bovis Homes Group with effect from 7 April. He will be a member of the nomination committee, the remuneration committee and the audit committee and will chair the audit committee from the conclusion of the 2015 annual general meeting.
 
Starbucks chief operating officer Troy Alstead explain reasons for sabbatical: Starbucks' chief operating officer, Troy Alstead ,has explained his reasons for taking an unpaid sabbatical after 23 years with the company. He said: “I’ve been wanting to invest more time in my family, with four kids at home and one of them ready to go off to college, and every time my wife and I talked about it, I’d think, ‘Not yet, not yet, not yet.' The reason I know I can step away now is because the company is in extraordinary shape. Starbucks depth of leadership and financial performance are exceptional, and the strategy has never been clearer. All of this makes it possible for me to leave for a while. Not easy, but possible.” In the months ahead, Alstead will pursue non-profit work related to his passion for ocean preservation. He will also ride his motorcycle and scuba dive more, too, he said.

Aspirational Pub Company to open fifth site next month: Aspirational Pub Company, led by Jason Keen, will open its fifth pub on 6 March, The Three Compasses Pub & Kitchen, Patchett Green, Herfordshire, its first Charles Wells site. It will serve traditional British food, having served Thai, when it was operated by Orchid, and then Indian food. Aspirational runs its own in-hour talent academy and donates £1 to Giving Africa for each portion of fish and chips it sells. Operations director Joe Holdsworth said the company was finding Charles Wells “very collaborative and super-professional” to work with. Aspirational also operates two Punch pubs and two Spirit leased sites.
 
New smokehouse concept to open second site this week: A new smokehouse concept, Blue’s Smokehouse, is set to open its second on Friday (27 February). The brand, set up by entrepreneur Carlos Maidana, launched at a Star Pubs & Bars site, the Red Lion in Bracknell, Berkshire in June last year after a £250,000 co-investment – the site is taking £30,000 a week. Now Maidana is to open a second site at the Twickenham Tavern in Twickenham, Middlesex, also a Star Pubs & Bars site, after a similar co-investment. Talks are under way over securing another three sites for 2015 with two sites, one tied lease and one a free-of-tie lease, already identified. Maidana, who also operates PS The Pub Company, developed barbecue expertise over years running a corporate catering company. The concept has also input from the company’s executive chef, Jackie Weight, the only non-American to have won the Jack Daniel’s Invitational BBQ World Championships.
 
Loungers lines up Newport site: Loungers, the cafe bar brand founded by Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop, is to take a 3,000 sq ft unit in Usk Plaza, the leisure section of Friars Walk in Newport, Monmouthshire, the ninth restaurant or bar chain to take space in the development. It joins Nando's, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Le Bistrot Pierre, Frankie & Bennies, Chiquito, Las Iguanas, Prezzo and the buffet brand Cosmo in the multi-million-pound city centre shopping and restaurant complex and regeneration scheme, which is due to open in November. Reilley  told the local newspaper: “We already have a presence in South Wales with restaurants in Cardiff and are really excited to be opening a Loungers in Newport city centre. We will be naming our Newport restaurant the Drago Lounge, which is Italian for Dragon, and fitting as we will be located close to the Newport Gwent Dragons rugby ground.” Chris Daly, of the developer Queensberry Real Estate, said: “Loungers is an excellent brand, adding an exciting all day into evening offer to our already strong line up of restaurants planned for the Usk Plaza at Friars Walk. This announcement highlights the pull for new restaurants to Newport.. We have one further restaurant under offer, leaving one last opportunity. We are looking for an operator that adds something different to the mix but complements it at the same time. It would be great to add a local or regional restaurant.”

TGI Friday's to open at Leicester Highcross: TGI Friday’s is lining up an opening at Leicester Highcross centre, occupying a “dead” corner of the shopping mall. It is take over the empty Highcross unit by Next, on the corner of Bath House Lane and Causeway Lane. The unit was previously a beauty products shop but has spent much of the time empty since the centre opened in 2008. In a planning application for large signs outside the restaurant, Clive Cunio, the planning agent for TGI Friday’s, said: “The area around the unit appears visually ‘dead’ during the daytime and particularly in the early/late evening. The premises have experienced extended periods of vacancy despite repeated marketing attempts.” He said the restaurant would “increase the vibrancy and footfall in this area, which is currently lacking” and bring “significant investment to Leicester”. Leicester Council has now given full planning permission for the restaurant with an opening expected with five months.

Stonegate hires Tim Cullum to lead Bars and Venues division: Stonegate Pub Company has hired Tim Cullum as managing director for its Bars and Venues division. In this role, he will lead the development of the Slug and Lettuce and Yates’s brands, as well as Stonegate’s late night venues. Cullum was most recently chief executive with Novus and prior to that was operations director with TGI Friday’s. The remainder of the Stonegate estate will be operated within the ‘Proper Pubs’ division, with Graham Jones, currently chief operating officer, leading this business. Stonegate chief executive Simon Longbottom said: “I am delighted to welcome Tim to Stonegate. His experience in developing and operating successful brands will be a great asset to our business.”

Coast to Coast joins Intu Potteries leisure extension: The Restaurant Group’s Coast to Coast brand is joining the line-up at the £20m restaurant and leisure extension at Intu Potteries in Stoke on Trent, due to open in the autumn 2015. Jonny Buckle, head of acquisitions, leisure at the Restaurant Group, said: “Intu Potteries is a well-established centre for the region with impressive visitor numbers giving a great opportunity for us to delight more customers.” This is the sixth restaurant at the 60,000 sq ft extension to the shopping centre in a list that features Nando’s, PizzaExpress, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Chiquito and Frankie & Benny’s, plus a 1,100 seat, nine-screen Cineworld. Coast to Coast has signed a 25-year lease for 6,000 sq ft within a stand-alone building on the pedestrian boulevard running along the front of the restaurants. With the Stoke-on-Trent campus of Staffordshire University nearby, as well as Keele University and Stoke-on-Trent College, the student population in the area is high. As a result, some 20% of the 12 million annual footfall to Intu Potteries is in the 16-24 age group.

Jamie Oliver’s parents apply to add pizza oven at pub: Jamie Oliver’s parents, Trevor and Sally Oliver, have applied to add a pizza oven to their pub, the Cricketers in Clavering, Essex. Sally Oliver rebutted claims that the pub was struggling, insisting sales had risen "year on year" since 2012. The pub is the biggest employer in the area, with 60 members of staff. The planning application says that offering freshly cooked pizzas is a "natural extension" of the pub's lunch and evening meals. It said: "There would be benefits to the community in providing additional facilities for visitors, customers and village residents which would support local services. The local economy would continue to benefit from the provision of this additional facility and to maintain the current levels of service and employment."

Masterchef restaurant collapsed owing hundred of thousands:
The failed Masterchef restaurant in London collapsed owing hundreds of thousands of pounds, the Daily Mirror has reported. The venue was launched by Swiftsure Projects to capitalise on the popularity of the BBC show. The caterer Baxter Storey is owed almost £400,000 and Bus Business £100,000. The venue was open for several months in the autumn. The 130-cover restaurant and bar was on the 12th floor of an office block overlooking the Thames, St Paul’s and The Shard. The company is run by Simon Davis a former journalist turned TV presenter who appeared on Channel 4 as Gordon Ramsay’s sidekick in Ramsay’s Best Restaurant.

Flavourly rejects Dragon’s Den investors to launch crowdfunding push:
Flavourly, the business that helps consumers discover the best craft beer and specialist food products via a monthly delivered parcel, has rejected an investment from Dragon’s Den entrepreneurs Peter Jones and Piers Linney, who offered £75,000 in return for 20% of the firm’s equity. Instead, the business has launched a crowdfunding drive on Crowdcube, offering to sell 16.67% of its equity for £300,000 So far 58 investors have pledged £52,530, which means it is 17% funded. The pitch says: “Once consumers discover their new favourite products, the Flavourly marketplace aims to be the most effortless and affordable place to re-order them.”

Red Mist Leisure starts work on sixth pub:
Red Mist Leisure, founded Mark Williams and Mark Robson, has begun work on its sixth pub, a £450,000 refurbishment of the Headley Hill, a 17th century pub in the village of Headley, near Epsom, Surrey. Phase one of the refurbishment, which will see the pub’s name change to its original, the Cock Inn, is an investment of £350,000 to turn the 17th century pub into a destination venue serving fresh, seasonal and local British food, as well as a wide array of local ales and craft beers. A further £100,000 will be invested later this year. The Cock Inn is due to reopen its doors in mid March. Other pubs in the portfolio include three pubs in Surrey, the Stag at Eashing, near Godaming, the Queens Head in East Clandon and The Wheatsheaf Bar & Grill in Farnham.
 
Brands begin licence application process for new Bournemouth leisure complex: Tenants of the new £50m leisure complex in Bournemouth town centre have started applying for their licences. The West Central complex is being built on the NCP car park site in Exeter Road and will eventually house a ten-screen Odeon cinema and a string of restaurants and shops. Work only started in December but several of the restaurant operators taking units have applied for licences ahead of the opening in late 2016. Coast to Coast, Chiquito’s and Frankie and Benny’s have all submitted licensing applications to Bournemouth council.  Nando’s, Handmade Burger, Prezzo, Ask Italian and TGI Fridays are among the other brands signed up to the new scheme.

Michelin-starred chef opens fish and chip restaurant:
The chef Josh Eggleton, who holds a Michelin star for the Pony and Trap in Chew Magna, Somerset, has opened a traditional fish and chip restaurant, Salt and Malt, next to Chew Valley Lake. Eggleton, who starred in the BBC’s Great British Menu last year, told the Bristol Post: “I want to be able to replicate this where it will work. Bristol is an option. But a pre-requisite is that it has to have a view of the water, so the Bristol docks is absolutely a keen target.” The Salt and Malt takeaway opened on 29 December overlooking Chew Valley Lake on the site of the old Chew Valley Lake Tea Shop, Walley Lane. Now the Salt and Malt fish cafe and restaurant has opened next door.

Provenance Inns seeks to expand its headquarters: Provenance Inns, which announced the launch of a new brand, Yorkshire Steakhouse & Grill, last week, is looking to expand its headquarters to cope with its growth. The company, founded by Chris Blundell and leisure entrepreneur Michael Ibbotson in 2009 with the acquisition of three North Yorkshire pubs, has now grown to seven pubs and 270 employees. Its current HQ is based in two separate site offices at the Punch Bowl in Marton cum Grafton, near Harrogate, which it acquired three years ago, while group meetings are currently held at one of the company's pubs, causing disruption to front-of-house business. The company has now put in a planning application to extend its current offices and incorporate an existing outbuilding. Planning documents drawn up by DEB Town Planning and Development say that the proposed new offices, meeting room and storage facilities will help drive the ongoing growth of the group and contribute to the creation of more than 80 jobs over the next 36 months. The main Punch Bowl building is listed, but the documents say the proposal for the outbuildings would cause no harm to the significance or setting of the principal property. Provenance is due to launch the Yorkshire Steakhouse & Grill, concept on 12 March at the Oak Tree Inn in Helperby, North Yorkshire. It comes with a £10,000, two-tonne, 400-degree wood-burning oven, which will produce chargrilled meat, fish and seafood.
 
Wetherspoon set for June opening in Maldon, Essex:
JD Wetherspoon is set to open in Maldon, Essex (population: 21,461), in June, occupying a former Punch Taverns pub, the Rose & Crown in the High Street. The pub has been closed since 2013. Renovation work starts yesterday on a £1.6m refurbishment that will create 45 jobs. Wetherspoon was in discussions to buy the old post office, next to Moot Hall, in June 2013. But the company abandoned its plans after disagreements with Maldon Council. The site has now been occupied by a Morrisons Local supermarket. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: "We are pleased we are starting building work very soon and looking forward to opening our pub at the end of June. We believe the pub will appeal to a wide range of people and also be an excellent addition to the town."
 
Mitch Tonks expands Dartmouth site: Restaurateur Mitch Tonks is who is opening a new restaurant in Brixham, Devon this spring, is investing further in South Devon. The Rockfish fish and chips restaurant in Dartmouth is currently being expanded and new jobs are being created. A new mezzanine-style floor is being opened upstairs. It adds 25 covers, including two tables on an outside balcony overlooking the River Dart. Tonks runs the nearby Seahorse restaurant in Dartmouth, and a Rockfish in Torquay, while the Rockfish in Brixham opens in April. He said: "We always wanted to have the upstairs space and letting in the light really opens the whole place up, making it feel even more like a big stylish beach hut.”

Simon French issues ‘buy’ note on Restaurant Group shares ahead of Friday results: Cenkos Leisure's leisure analyst Simon French has issued a buy note on Restaurant Group shares, with a target price of 725p on its shares, ahead of full-year results on Friday. He said: “We forecast £78.1m PBT (having downgraded our forecasts at the post year-end update) in line with consensus of £78.5m PBT. Current trading should be robust following strong restaurant data in the Coffer Peach Tracker for January with LFL sales up 4.1% reflecting in part a strong cinema slate but also growing evidence of consumers trading up from value food pubs to casual dining restaurants. This trend should be beneficial to TRG, albeit we have some concerns that Frankie & Benny’s may be over-reliant on value-focused customers. The stock trades on a 2015E adj EV/ebitdar of 9.7x, which does not appear expensive given the self-funded roll-out, which underpins double-digit earnings growth.”
 
Exeter operator plan see-through cocktail bar planned for Exeter: The team behind the  Lloyd’s Kitchen restaurant in Exeter has applied to open a transparent cocktail bar at Princesshay. The Lloyd’s Kitchen's owners wants to transform part of Catherine Square above the public toilets to create a glass-fronted outlet where an existing outside cafe is currently located. The structure would allow “maximum transparency” to maintain views across and through the square. A sliding door system would mean three sides of the structure would be fully openable. A supporting letter to the city council’s planning committee says: “Key to the proposals are to maintain an open and permeable site in order that the feeling of a public square is not lost. The proposed building is seen as a lightweight, low-impact insertion over approximately half of the square, anchored to the corner of the existing public convenience entrance.

Shepherd Neame launches comedy night in Faversham: The Kentish brewer and pub operator Shepherd Neame is launching a new monthly comedy night at The Old Brewery Store in Faversham. The events venue at the Shepherd Neame brewery will be hosting a comedy night on the first Thursday of every month, with the inaugural show on Thursday, 5 March. Shepherd Neame's visitor centre manager, Graham Hukins, said: “We were overwhelmed by the response we received when we advertised for comedians to perform. There aren’t many venues in Faversham and the local area offering comedy, so we hope this will prove popular. We are purposely keeping the ticket price very affordable to encourage as many people as possible to come along and see this talented bunch of up-and-coming comedians.”

McDonald's in the US under pressure to increase wages after Wal-Mart rise: Labour experts in the United States claim McDonald’s is under renewed pressure to increase hourly pay after the supermarket chain Wal-Mart increased its hourly rate. Wal-Mart said last week it would increase entry-level pay to $9 (£6) an hour, a move it estimated would cost $1bn and affect some 500,000 employees. Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Massachusetts, said there was substantial overlap between fast-food and Wal-Mart workers in smaller communities. "They are going to have to raise their wages," Chaison said of the fast-food brands in Walmart locations. "They cannot afford to be unstaffed." Franchisees set wages for roughly 90% of McDonald’s more than 14,000 US restaurants. McDonald's said it can increase pay only in the small number of restaurants it operates.
 
West eyes Easter opening date for Woodland Road site: West Brewery in Glasgow has announced it is aiming for an Easter opening for its second Glasgow bar, West on the Corner, which is going into a site formerly occupied by the Halt Bar in Woodlands Road, Glasgow. Petra Wetzel, West’s founder and managing director, said in an email: "We have officially concluded the lease and it's now ALL GO. The builders are in, the kitchen is ordered and the dining chairs are being built by E15 as I type. We think it will be a wonderful place for a quiet pint, lunch with the family or a stop on your dog-walking route. We are hoping to be open for Easter 2015 but we are firmly in the builders' hands at present."

JW Lees' Manchester Pale Ale launches Refreshing Sounds music competition:
The independent Manchester brewery JW Lees is launching a new multi-platform marketing campaign for its Manchester Pale Ale brand called Refreshing Sounds, designed to find the UK’s best new music. It will be the biggest campaign for Manchester Pale Ale since its launch in April 2013 and is aimed, the brewer said, at maintaining MPA’s rapid growth in sales, which has remained at double digit growth in JW Lees managed houses and national sales since its launch. The Refreshing Sounds competition will launch on 23 February with publicity via radio, consumer PR, social media and digital and in the on and off trade. Bands and artists who enter the competition can win a selection of c prizes including a one-off recording session in the established recording studios 80 Hertz, a professionally produced music video and a headline gig at an "iconic" secret location in Manchester. The acts will be judged by well-known music professionals and voted for by fans through the MPA website.

Harviestoun looks to build on top-end success by doubling turnover: Harviestoun Brewery, led by Toby Knowles and based in Alva, Clackmannanshire, is aiming to grow sales from £4m at present to £8m over the next three years. The brewery has already enjoyed rapid expansion, with turnover rising from £2.6m a year ago. Knowles said: "What sets us apart from other Scottish breweries is our growing presence in high-end hospitality venues in London. Our beers, especially our craft lager, Schiehallion, are very popular with chefs and sommeliers, where the focus is on food and beer matching." As well as being sold at premium hotels in Scotland including the Balmoral, Cameron House and Gleneagles, the brewery's ales are offered at top London hostelries such as the Connaught, The Rosewood Hotel and The Square at Mayfair. Knowles plans to recruit further staff over the coming year, adding to the firm's headcount of 17 workers. He said: "We will shortly take on another sales person in London to manage current demand and engage with more hotels and restaurants. I'll also be looking for someone to help cover the north of England and the Midlands. We're already strong in Newcastle but we want to spread beyond into Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester. We're also considering taking on someone to manage our accelerating export business and grow it even more."

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