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Wed 4th Mar 2015 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Camra – 500 election candidates have pledged active support for the pub sector: The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has revealed that 500 election candidates from across the parties have pledged support for community pubs and real ale ahead of the general election. Camra has issued a challenge to each of the parties to get their candidates to add their support. Candidates from 350 constituencies backed the campaign. So far Labour candidates have shown the most support with 167 backing the pledges, against 108 Conservative candidate, 103 Liberal Democrats, 76 Green Party candidates and 31 from UKIP. Camra's’s chief executive, Tim Page, said: “Camra is delighted that 500 general election candidates have committed to back real ale and community pubs. It’s looking like a three-horse race to win the title of 'most pro-pub party', with Labour, Conservatives and the Lib Dems all having more than 100 candidates signed up already. This overwhelming response from candidates is great news for beer drinkers and pub goers alike and will be crucial to Camra delivering yet more successful campaigns over the next five years.” With 29 pubs a week currently closing in the UK, Camra argues that it is essential that future MPs pledge their support for the pub and beer industry, an industry which it is clear people still believe to be important, the campaign says, with 75% of pub-goers saying a well-run community pub is as important to community life as a post office, local shop or community centre. “Pubs are hugely important and deserve to be properly protected and supported. Camra want to see action in the next Parliament from newly elected MPs and we are urging all parties to include commitments in their manifestos to supporting real ale and community pubs,” Page said.

Industry News:

Propel launches Social Media Masterclass: Propel has launched a Social Media Masterclass in partnership with Digital Blonde’s Karen Fewell. The Social Media Masterclass provides a comprehensive overview of how to make the best use of social media (CLICK HERE to see the programme). Tickets are £295 for ALMR members and £345 for non-members. Email to book.

SME Survey confirms hospitality businesses are driving growth:
Research released yesterday by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills confirms that licensed hospitality businesses are driving growth in Britain and are more optimistic about future prospects than the wider business community. The Small Business Survey 2014 shows that 32% of small and medium-sized employers expect to be employing more people in 12 months’ time, while Association of Licensed Multiple Retailer (ALMR) research shows that 57% of pub and bar operators will be recruiting more staff this year than last. The Survey also shows that “the businesses most likely to be young enterprises were those in food service and accommodation”, where 38% of firms are startups. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The report shows the extent to which licensed hospitality is a bellwether for the wider economy – we were hit harder than most by the recession but as growth returns and wages increase, confidence is rightly high. 70% of alcohol retailers are small businesses and with the number of SME suppliers to the sector growing, the rude health of small businesses can only be a good sign.” The research also highlights continued difficulty in accessing lending, with just 19% of SMEs even applying for finance, down from 24% in 2012, and nearly as many – 14% – not applying despite need. 44% of these businesses did not apply because they expected rejection. Nicholls added: “While access to funding remains problematic for too many businesses, it is encouraging that hospitality firms are experiencing less trouble in this regard than many others. This indicates that our sector is increasingly seen as a good bet by banks and investors and we look forward to seeing their confidence repaid over the coming year.”
Research claims moderate coffee consumption good for  heart: Drinking a few cups of coffee a day may help people avoid clogged arteries, Korean researchers have claimed. They studied more than 25,000 male and female employees who underwent routine health checks at their workplace. Employees who drank a moderate amount of coffee, three to five cups a day, were less likely to have early signs of heart disease on their medical scans. Victoria Taylor of the British Heart Foundation said: "While this study does highlight a potential link between coffee consumption and lower risk of developing clogged arteries, more research is needed to confirm these findings and understand what the reason is for the association. We need to take care when generalising these results because it is based on the South Korean population, who have different diet and lifestyle habits to people in the UK."

John Torode – restaurant industry  no harder than driving a bus: The celerity chef John Torode has claimed that working in a restaurant is no harder than many occupations, and people need to take personal responsibility. In an interview with the Radio Times, Torode said: "People think the restaurant industry is hard and takes no prisoners, but so does baking, so does retail and so does bus driving. You can’t blame your job. You have to control your own destiny and make your own choices. You can’t blame another person for your world being different – or things like divorce. It gets right on my goat when people don’t take responsibility.”
Benugo founder – customers are turning away from bread: The founder of Benugo, Ben Warner has told Allegra’s Coffee Leaders Summit that customers are turning away from bread in favour of more wraps and salads – but eating the same amount of cake. Warner revealed that 20 to 25% of his chain's turnover is from coffee alone. He stressed that changing attitudes need to be reflected in store design and organisation, to ensure that queuing is quick and simple. Allegra Strategies' managing director, Jeffrey Young, reported that a survey of 16,000 consumers found 30% were “passionate” about coffee although 60% still drink instant coffee. He argued that “artisan café culture is becoming the norm”.
Domino’s in the US debuts smartwatch app: Domino’s Pizza in the United States has launched an app that will let customers place and track orders from their Pebble or Android Wear smartwatch. Kevin Vasconi, Domino’s Pizza’s chief information officer, said: “Pairing Domino’s with smartwatch technology couldn’t be more of a natural fit. We are constantly looking for ways to use technology to enhance our customers’ experience and provide them with more convenience. We pride ourselves on having a variety of online ordering options for customers to choose from.” According to the US research firm NextMarket Insights, worldwide sales of smartwatches are expected to grow from 15 million this year to 373 million by 2020, more than a third of the entire watch industry. The American trade magazine Nation's Restaurant News reported that the US fast-casual operator Panera Bread is among companies developing apps for Apple’s Apple Watch, which will be unveiled at an event next week. The app would let users pay for food with the watch.

Government introduces more transparency on insolvency fees: The business minister, Jo Swinson, has announced that insolvency practitioners will be required to provide an upfront estimate of the cost of working on insolvency cases from October 2015 if they seek to take their fees on a time-cost basis. Once agreed an estimate will act as a cap on fees unless further agreement is given by creditors. The changes are meant to introduce greater transparency into the cost of administering insolvency cases. They come after an independent review into the fees charged and consultation with creditors and the insolvency industry last year on proposals for reform. Under the measures, insolvency practitioners will provide a summary of the work they propose to undertake and the anticipated expenses and, where an hourly rate is proposed, an estimate of the expected time.

Coffee shops and food stores lead rise of independent retailers: Independent coffee shops and food stores are leading a rise of independent retailers with the most entrepreneurial presence found on the high streets of the north west of England, according to the latest High Street Tracker by the business insurance broker Simply Business. The number of independent retailers across the UK has more than doubled in the past five years. In 2014, coffee shops emerged as the most popular independent store to open, with more cafes established than any other retailer, and rising by 31% over 12 months. New independent food stores saw the largest rise in 2013, and have doubled between 2010 and 2014. Simply Business analysed more than 69,000 independent retail outlets across the UK in 2014. It found the largest population of independents is now in the north west of England, with an 89% rise over the past five years. There were 10,917 new independent retailers in the north west during 2014.

Company News:

NewRiver Retail in talks with PoundPub operator: NewRiver Retail, which acquired 202 bottom-end Marston’s pubs in November 2013, has approached the operator of the PoundPub concept, Here For You Hospitality, to see whether any of its sites might be suited to conversion to the idea. The PoundPub concept, which sells pints for £1.50 and half pints for £1, is to be offered as a franchise from Easter by its owner, Here For You Hospitality, after success at the first four venues to trial it. The most recent conversion is the Wavertree on Liverpool, which was opened on 20 January. Managing director Mike Wardell told Propel: “The Liverpool site is going really well – better than expected. It’s 25% up in like-for-like terms. We’re still progressing our franchise offer too, aiming for Easter but more likely to launch at the back end of April or early May. We’ve already had six or seven tentative enquires from independent operators.”  

Former Prezzo and Tasty adviser launches crowdfunding push for Pull’d: Pull’d, a new slow-cooked fast casual brand led by a former adviser to Prezzo and Tasty, Sam Plumptre, and the corporate financier Chris Clarke, has launched a crowdfunding push on Crowdcube, looking to raise £100,000 in return for 20% of its equity. The brand launched its first site in the City of London in September 2014 after raising £323,000 from 25 investors. The pitch states: "As of 12 February 2015, we had processed circa 10,000 transactions of circa 25,000 individual products, generating revenues of circa £64,000. We believe we have achieved a lot in a short timeframe but there are still many initiatives we want to implement to grow sales with the help of the proceeds of the fundraising. Our site has a 1,000 sq ft central kitchen which has the capacity to service a further one to two sites. We believe this will allow our next one to two sites to be launched with lower capital and operating expenditure, which will help margins for the overall business of Pull'd.” The company forecast turnover of £350,000 in the year to December 2015 with negative ebitda of £20,000 and a pre-tax loss of £54,400.

PizzaExpress to launch Paddington Bear tie-in:
The marketing agency Whipper Snapper has developed a multi-platform promotion with PizzaExpress that will see Paddington Bear activity sheets distributed throughout the chain's restaurants. The sheets are being launched to promote the release of Paddington on download, DVD and Blu Ray on 23 March. PizzaExpress customers will find a Paddington activity sheet included with their Piccolo menu, with puzzles, games and a creative competition. Whipper Snapper director Dom Ritson said: "“Whipper Snapper specialises in creating mutually beneficial, family partnerships. We keep kids entertained, using the latest TV and movie characters, so grown-ups can relax. The partnership between PizzaExpress and Paddington is a great example of our approach and how the right partnership delivers measurable results for both parties.” Olivia Hendrick, brand director at PizzaExpress, said: “The fit with Paddington is perfect, we’re known for our great children’s offering and Paddington is an amazing movie that our family visitors of all ages will love.” Kristin Ryan of StudioCanal said: “We are delighted to be working with PizzaExpress to drive awareness of the DVD release of Paddington.”

Chop Chop expands into Glasgow:
The Edinburgh-based Chinese restaurant brand Chop Chop, twice voted Britain’s favourite Chinese restaurant, has opened its first branch in Glasgow. Chop Chop specialises in serving up dishes from the north east of China, rather than the predominantly Hong Kong cuisine of most restaurants in the sector. The Glasgow restaurant, in Mitchell Street, features an “an outdoor design, transporting guests to a park in China with a cherry blossom tree and a garden path leading guests from the entrance to the bar”. Dishes are brought to the table in random order as soon as they are ready. The unlimited banquet option is offered to large groups as a way to try a wide variety of different dishes and costs £20.25 per person. Owner and head chef Jian Wang said: “We are really excited about the new design in our Glasgow restaurant, which will be emulated across our subsequent restaurant openings. We have been planning to expand for a number of years and Glasgow seemed like the obvious next step.” The brand used the crowdfunding platform Angels Den to raise £430,000 to complete the opening of the Glasgow site.
Better burger brand Smoky Boys to launch in Watford: A new better burger and grill restaurant brand, Smoky Boys is set to open on St Albans Road in Watford, Hertfordshire this spring. Smoky Boys is being launched with plans for the brand to extend to other sites across the UK. The restaurant will serve gourmet burgers, from classic beef or smoky barbecue and cheese to red-hot Mexican, at a cost of £6.50 to £8.25. There will also be meat dishes including steaks, hot dogs, marinated wings and chicken, as well as sweet treats such as ice cream sundaes and waffles. The drinks menu focuses on non-alcoholic beverages and includes a range of milkshake options starting at £3.95. Smoky Boys will have around 34 covers, as well as a take-away and delivery service. It is being opened by Hiron Miah and Sharif Rahman, who have many years experience owning and running restaurants, including Burgers Off Broadway in Fulham, West London. Smoky Boys is an evolution of Burgers Off Broadway, with further sites lined up for the brand in other UK cities this year, and a roll-out through acquisition and franchising planned for coming years.
Multi-site restaurateur plans to expand social enterprise restaurant into Newcastle: A multi-site restaurateur is planning to expand his Sunderland-based Indian tapas-style brand, which also has a social enterprise dimension, into Newcastle upon Tyne. The Funky Indian opened on Wearside at the end of last year. It is operated by Kam Chera, also operates as a social enterprise, offering training and employment opportunities for young people. Chera turns the venue into a training academy during the day, running three ten-week courses each year for young people from Sunderland with special needs and disabilities. The venue has partnered with two Sunderland schools, the Barbara Priestman Academy and Portland Academy, as well as the Sunderland-based PSB Training to run the scheme, with supporters of the project including Gentoo and Sunderland AFC. The Funky Indian has also pledged to provide some part-time positions at the end of each course, to add to the six jobs it has already created at its base in Tavistock Place. Chera, who also runs two restaurants under the Amore fascia in the Sunderland suburbs of Roker and Ashbrooke, is putting plans in place to open a second Funky Indian restaurant in Newcastle in the near future. He said: “We are already looking at opening a second restaurant, most probably in Newcastle, within the next 18 months, such is our confidence in this unique concept.”

BrewDog plans expansion into soft drinks: The Scottish-based brewer and retailer BrewDog is planning an expansion into soft drinks and other beverages, and looking to recruit a product development specialist to plan the move. A job advert from the company said: “Our mission has always been to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are, and we are looking for an innovative product development specialist to join us. We’re giving one talented person the opportunity to help us redefine how people experience, perceive and think about alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. Our product development specialist will be a rogue operator responsible for translating our approach to beer to other beverages, ensuring that we continue to be a game-changing producer of flavoursome craft drinks. BrewDog’s product development specialist will join our production team researching, proposing, developing, and launching our new beverages and soft drinks range. We’re looking for someone with bags of enthusiasm, a flair for innovation and a good dose of project management experience.”

Amber Taverns decides against micro-brewery at third Hogarths: The community pub operator Amber Taverns, led by James Baer and Bryan Wardman, has decided against building a micro-brewery at its third Hogarths gin palace, due to open in Ilkeston in April or May after a £500,000 investment. Of the new opening, operations director Gary Robert told Propel: “Gin is a dominant feature, with over 100 gins available at any time and six types of tonic. We are working closely with Hammonds of Knutsford to bring an exciting range of traditional and new gins from established brand owners and new entrants to the market.  We are skipping cocktails to concentrate on 'perfect serve' gins and mixers (not always tonic), working with our friends at Two Birds Distillery. They have helped to develop our very own Willie Hogarths Old Tom Gin. We are extending the Willie Hogarths gins by adding a London Dry Gin soon, product tried and tested, next step find a nice bottle and design a label. The Hogarths gin palace in Bolton also has a micro-brewery which currently delivers three different ales into our estate and also externally to other cask ale partners. Initially, we planned to put another micro brewery in Ilkeston but local entrepreneurs have received planning to open a micro brewery and bar close by, so we thought, 'Let's support them and buy their beer instead.' They are our neighbours and the more successful our neighbours, the more successful the local community. We don't intend to stay from our wet-led policy just yet, but we are planning to continue rolling out a very simple bean-to-cup coffee offer. Ilkeston may see the introduction of a slice of cake, if we can source a local bakery to provide the stock."
Restaurant planned for top of Wales’s tallest building: Plans have been unveiled to create a restaurant at the top of Wales’ tallest office building, with views over the castle and surrounding city blocks. After the departure from Capital Tower in Cardiff' of Admiral Insurance to its new headquarters nearby in Mary Ann Street, the building on Greyfriars is undergoing a major refit to attract a new tenants. The building is still 50% occupied, but with a strong pipeline of potential new tenants. Alan Francis, director of the architectural practice Gaunt Francis who will undertake a refurbishment of the building, said: “In conjunction with the owner, Topland, we have been looking at a range of different ideas, and we have been considering restaurant use on the top floor.”

Developers confirm Wagamama not coming to Loughborough scheme despite wishful thinking:
Developers responsible for a new multi-million pound cinema development at the former Baxter Gate hospital site in Loughborough, Leicestershire have confirmed that Wagamama is not coming to town, despite it appearing on an artist's impression of the scheme in what appears to be wishful thinking. Citygrove said that the operators committed to the scheme were PizzaExpress, Nando’s, the Asian buffet and bar chain Mimosa, Bella Italia, the Brazilian grill-house Preto, Loungers, Starbucks and an eight-screen, 1,118 seat Cineworld cinema – but not Wagamama.

Earl Baker joins Fuller’s: The London brewer and retailer Fuller Smith & Turner has hired Earl Baker as its free trade sales manager with immediate effect. He will head a team of nine regional sales managers covering a growing independent customer base in the free trade across the South East of England. Baker is a well-known figure in the brewing arena, having previously held positions at Daniel Thwaites, Heineken UK and Holsten UK. Simon Treanor, Fuller's on-trade sales director, said: “I am delighted to have secured Earl to head our free trade division. He’s well-liked and respected in the industry and is just the person to develop our portfolio of brands in this market place.”
El Gato Negro finally secures Manchester site: Simon Shaw’s Michelin-Bibbed El Gato Negro tapas bar, which has closed in Ripponden, Yorkshire after ten years with plans to move to Manchester, has finally managed to secure a site in the city. Its attempt to open in a venue formerly occupied by Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie Blanc chain at 55 King Street in Manchester fell through over what were described as “issues with the landlord”. However, the restaurant is now due to open a short distance away at 52 King Street, a former Ted Baker and All Saints shop unit. Shaw said: "52 King Street is the perfect destination for us. It’s a fantastic building – inviting and airy, with great ceiling heights that are so very typical of a traditional tapas bar. It feels like it was made for El Gato Negro. Bringing El Gato Negro to Manchester is a timely opportunity to showcase a broader selection of the dishes and wines I’m so passionate about. There’s a massive resurgence in the new British wave of Spanish restaurants and we want to go further with the dining experience we pioneered almost ten years ago. The redevelopment of King Street, one of Manchester’s most iconic addresses, presents us with the unique opportunity not only to bring El Gato Negro to Manchester but to play a significant role in shaping the heart of the city." El Gato Negro Manchester is a partnership between Shaw and Mills Hill Development, a venture backed by private investors in the North West of England.
Greene King to encourage 1,000 staff to become Dementia Friends: Greene King is supporting the Dementia Friends initiative by encouraging more than 1,000 of its employees to sign up by the end of March. There are currently 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type, affecting 62% of those diagnosed. Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King, said: “As part of our commitment to helping those most in need in our communities, we are encouraging our employees to sign up to become Dementia Friends. We hope more than 1,000 of our employees will become a Dementia Friend, so they can gain a better understanding of the small things that could make a difference to our customers living with dementia that visit our pubs, restaurants and hotels.”

Robinsons targets 30 pubs for refurbishment in 2015:
Frederic Robinson, the Stockport-based brewer and pub retailer, is targeting 30 pubs in its 300-plus estate for refurbishment by the end of 2015, after more than 20 pubs were given a revamp last year. The latest pub in the estate to be targeted is the Bulls Head, Hale Barns, Altrincham, where the 21 guest rooms have been updated with new beds, furnishings and decor, including new showers and toilets, in the first phase of a planned redevelopment that will give the entire pub a complete transformation. The reception area and corridors have also been transformed, with new seating, a dark timber check-in desk and, in keeping with the pub’s name, "quirky" pictures of cows. David Harrison, director of retail operations at Robinsons, said: “The Bulls Head, as one of our first managed houses, is a shining example of the excellence we strive for with all pubs across our estate. The rooms look phenomenal."

Brighton’s first craft beer shop to open:
Entrepreneurs Nick Vardy and Jack Creegan are preparing to open Bison Beer Crafthouse in Brighton on 27 March, the city’s first shop dedicated to craft beer. It will stock more than 300 varieties, from Sussex microbreweries and other sources around the world. As well as choosing from hundreds of beers, customers will be able to get plastic glassfuls from the in-store keg to take to the beach. The store will also will also sell 1.9 litre growlers, glass flagons which can be filled and sealed and which will keep the beer fresh for six weeks. Creegan said: “We were best mates and wanted to do something together that we were both passionate and interested in. There’s something like 63 microbreweries in Sussex alone and a lot of really creative people making really nice beer but with nowhere to sell it.” A "meet the brewer" evening is being planned at the shop, while a brew-school is in the pipeline at a neighbouring pub, the  Fishbowl. There will be iPads in the store to help match beer with food.

Purple Pig is refused Craig Charles gig licence after owner 'seen pouring alcohol direct into friends' mouths from the bar': The Purple Pig burger restaurant and bar chain has been refused a licence to host Craig Charles, the Coronation Street and Red Dwarf actor, for a late-night DJ gig after magistrates were told owner Som Emadi had been seen pouring alcohol into friends' mouths at the chain's Harrogate branch. The chain had applied for a licence for the gig at its Middlesbrough venue until 3am on Saturday 14 March. But Middlesbrough Council's licensing committee turned down the application after Cleveland Police outlined a number of complaints, including serving after-hours, allowing smoking at one premises and holding a staff party until after 4am. Sgt Paul Higgins, licensing officer at Cleveland Police, said Harrogate Police visited the Purple Pig in the town on Saturday 24 January, just weeks after it opened. They found people smoking inside, others drinking outside of permitted hours and Emadi "dispensing alcohol directly into friends' mouths". He said: "Having 150 people drinking until 3am requires operators with the highest standards. It is the view of the police that the operators of Purple Pig have some way to go before they can demonstrate they have that standard." Blake Brunskill, accounts manager at the Purple Pig, countered that the chain, which has three outlets, had recently taken on a highly reputable company to help manage the venues. However, the chairman of the licensing sub-committee, Bernie Taylor, said the police submission was accepted and the application would be refused. The Purple Pig has 21 days to appeal to the Magistrates Court. Brunskill said the management would consider its options in the coming days.

Nick Jones – I recommend asking chefs the chicken preparation question: Soho House founder Nick Jones has revealed he always asks a question about chicken preparation when he is interviewing chefs. He told The Globe and Mail: ”I am definitely an instincts person. There are certain questions that I have found are useful for figuring a person out. When I interview a chef, I will always ask “If I gave you a chicken, what would you do with it?” If they answer that they would cut it up, stuff the breast, poach this, do that, no, no. That would be a one-minute interview. The correct answer is, cut a lemon in half, shove it up the cavity, season it and put it in the oven for an hour. That idea of excellence and simplicity is a big part of how we do things at Soho House.”
Wetherspoon recognised as one of the UK’s top employers: JD Wetherspoon has been certified as one of the top employers in the United Kingdom for 2015. It has been recognised by the Top Employers Institute for its exceptional employee offerings. This is the 12th consecutive year that Wetherspoon has been recognised. The annual international research undertaken by the Top Employers Institute recognises leading employers around the world; those that provide excellent employee conditions, nurture and develop talent throughout all levels of the organisation, and which strive to continuously optimise employment practices. Wetherspoon is one of only 73 companies across the UK to achieve Top Employers United Kingdom 2015 Certification. The Top Employers Institute's director of UK operations, Eleanor Nickerson, said: “At Top Employers we have worked with Wetherspoon for a long time and have clearly seen the dedication that the company has to creating a rewarding employment experience for its people. There is very careful and committed thought that goes into the HR [human resources] planning that ensures initiatives are ethical, sustainable and will improve the lives of employees. The HR practices at Wetherspoon are of a high quality and there’s lots to shout about. The systems and practices created by the HR department affect every single person in the business, but they are so integrated that the majority of employees might not even notice them; they are simply a part of everyday life. With the thorough research that we do as part of the Top Employers certification, we see a full range of these practices and the ones at Wetherspoon are high-quality; well-thought-out, easy to understand and well executed.” Wetherspoon's legal and personnel director, Su Cacioppo, said: “We are extremely proud to be named as one of the UK’s top employers. Wetherspoon employs more than 34,500 staff across its pubs and at its head office and has recently announced its intention to create a further 15,000 jobs in the next five years. Our staff are vital to the success of Wetherspoon and we are committed to offering each and every one of them the best opportunity to succeed and grow with the company.”
Enterprise to spend £200,000 on pub closed for 18 months: Enterprise Inns is to spend £200,000 refurbishing the White Hart in Weston-in-Gordano, Somerset, and re-open it in June, nearly two years after it shut. The news has been welcomed by villagers who have been campaigning since the pub closed in August 2013 for it to re-open. After its closure, an application to list the 18th century Grade II listed pub as an asset of community value was successful, meaning that if Enterprise Inns wanted to dispose of the building, a moratorium period of six months would apply, giving communities and organisations time to make a bid for it. Campaigners then formed a community interest group, raising £200,000 in pledges to buy the pub if necessary. A local businessman also put forward an offer to buy the pub, which was turned down by Enterprise, according to the Bristol Post newspaper.

Franchisee wins permission for fifth Starbucks in Bristol city centre: Starbucks franchisee The Ethical Franchise Guild has been given planning permission for the change of use of a former betting shop on Wine Street in Bristol to a coffee shop. It will be the fifth Starbucks outlet in the city's centre. Permission was granted despite a petition containing 3,760 signatures against the proposal; from people expressing fears that local businesses would be threatened by the opening of a Starbucks. However, a report to Bristol Council's development control committee by planning officials said: "It is not within the remit of planning control to make assessments based on the identity of the applicant and cannot direct whether end operators be corporate or independent; nor is it possible to regulate market competition. Overall, the proposed development will not compromise or detract from the special retail role or character of this part of the old city. In conclusion, it is the view of your officers that the proposals are acceptable on all grounds and therefore approval of the application is recommended."

OpenTable rebrands, gives away 100 dinners at 'iconic' restaurants:
OpenTable, which claims to be the world's leading provider of online restaurant reservations, has undergone a rebranding, with a new logo and a new tagline, "The table is just the start". The new logo changes from the previous four green and magenta disks to a large red O with a small red circle to its left. It and the new tagline "symbolise how we’re building on our heritage to reimagine the role we can play before, during and after the dining experience and the ways in which we connect diners, restaurants and their communities", the company said. To celebrate the rebrand, OpenTable is launching a campaign on 11 March called #100opentables, giving away 100 dining experiences at iconic restaurants in 23 cities around the world, including Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London, Eleven Madison Park in New York City and Bar Tartine in San Francisco. Diners can visit the #100opentables microsite for details on how to participate. OpenTable claims to seat more than 16 million diners a month via online bookings across more than 32,000 restaurants.

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