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Wed 1st Apr 2015 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Thwaites to invest £25m from Marston's deal in buying new pubs: The £25m that the Blackburn-based operator Daniel Thwaites is getting for selling its beer trading operations and the Wainwrights Golden Ale and Lancaster Bomber beer brands to Marston's will be invested into buying new properties and improving its pubs and hotels, the company said yesterday. Thwaites's chief executive, Richard Bailey said: "It is our intention to redeploy the proceeds into both our existing, and new properties, and the sale of our third party beer business allows us to move forward with our strategy to provide superb hospitality in outstanding properties in great locations.” Thwaites is keeping its Crafty Dan microbrewing operation, but the rest of its beers, worth just over 100,000 barrels a year, will be brewed by Marston's at its Wolverhampton brewery, as they have been since February last year, and distributed to Thwaites's 320 pubs by Marston's under a ten-year supply deal also signed yesterday. At the same time, Thwaites' licensees will be able to stock Marston's beer brands, while Marston's licensees will be able to stock Wainwrights and Lancaster Bomber. Marston's is also acquiring the distribution rights to the 1,200 free-trade pubs Thwaites currently serves, to add to the 3,000 free trade outlets it already actively supplies. On plans to build a new brewery at Mellor Brook, just outside Blackburn, a spokesman said yesterday that Thwaites had bought the site and "it is still a strong option which they will be considering in light of today’s announcement." Meanwhile, Richard Westwood managing director at Marston's Beer Company, has told Propel that the deal, which sees Marston's also take on the distribution of Warsteiner, Kaltenberg and the other portfolio of brands that Thwaites currently sells, will not be the last that Marston's makes. "This is yet again an indication of how ambitious we are, how aspirational we are. I don't think this well be the last," Westwood said.
 

Industry News:

BNP Paribas forecasts restaurant and pub business rates review winners and losers: The leisure property adviser BNP Paribas Real Estate has warned pubs and restaurant owners and occupiers across the country that after the 2017 revaluation, the Uniform Business Rate (UBR) in England applied to ratepayers’ rates bills is likely to be set at 50p in the pound. This would be the highest level ever, and is equivalent to 50% of the current rental value of a property, so that the government can collect £26bn in revenue. Pubs and restaurants most affected by the 2017 rating revaluation will be in London, where West End prime rateable values are forecast to increase by 55%, according to BNP, and in the City increases of 20% are expected. Manchester is another loser, with increases of 25% expected, and Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow are expected to see increases of 19%, 10% and 10% respectively. There are no real winners but Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham licensed leisure properties will see little change in what rates they are paying currently. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said: “For far too long the business rates system in the UK has failed to take into account the needs of modern licensed hospitality businesses. We are in need of a much more flexible, responsive system that takes into account the changing nature of pub and bar businesses and does not penalise successful employers.”
 
Camra – Three quarters of pub-goers say pubs are as important as post offices and community centres: A pub is just as important to community life as a post office, local shop or community centre, according to statistics released today to mark the start of Community Pubs Month, run by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). The Camra survey found that 75% of pub-goers believed a well-run community pub was as important to community life as other local services. The important role pubs play in local communities makes it even more vital to reverse the decline in numbers and a net closure rate which sees 29 pubs per week close for good, the organisation said. Camra's chief executive, Tim Page, said: “Pubs are unique in their ability to bring together all sides of a community in one single welcoming environment. A well-run pub which engages with its surrounding community – whether that is via charity events, family fun days, live music or quizzes – will not only help to remain popular and profitable, it will also be viewed as something of real value to locals.”
 
More companies join ALMR: A number of new companies have joined the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). New members include the gastro-pub operator Livelyhood pubs, Smoke BBQ, Blackdog Ballroom and Steam and Rye. New supplier members include CACI, Chip & Pin Solutions and Nicoccino.
 
PizzaLuxe attracts £100,000 of investment since the weekend: PizzaLuxe, the fledgling better pizza operator led by Harrods’ former director of food, Paul Goodale, has attracted around £100,000 of investment since the weekend after allowing smaller £5,000 investments in the business and reducing its investment target to £300,000 from £500,000. The company has not, however, as reported, reduced its valuation a second time. So far, 119 investors have pledged £350,300, which means it is 116% funded with five days left.
 
Seedrs says it is Europe's most active equity crowdfunding platform: Seedrs is claiming it has become Europe’s most active crowd-funding platform. The company said: “We’re proud to have become Europe’s most active equity crowdfunding platform, completing more deals than any other platform. Meanwhile, 2015 is off to an outstanding start. We've seen over £10m of investment come through Seedrs in the first quarter, we've had more new investors join us this quarter than ever before, and we continue to see an expanding range of companies (both by size and sector) seeking capital through us.”
 

Company News:

Ask Italian becomes first brand to take sourdough pizzas nationwide: Ask Italian has launched its spring menu, the fifth created in conjunction with menu consultant Theo Randall, and introduced a new range of sourdough pizzas. Ask Italian is the first high street brand to take sourdough pizzas nationwide – developed after an ‘inspiration’ trip to Bologna. To celebrate, Ask Italian has launched a campaign named #AllAboutTheBase – which sees Ask Italian searching the country for the nation’s best pizza flarers. Theo Randall said: “Great pizzas start with the dough and I love the pizzas at Ask Italian. The new sourdough pizza range was inspired by a pizzeria we visited in Bologna and has a delicious tang in the base, which works really well with the special ingredients we’ve selected such as Luganica sausage, smoked prosciutto and rump steak. For the non-meat eaters, we have a Sicilian-inspired pizza that uses grilled aubergine, red and yellow peppers, plum tomatoes, zucchini and oregano.”

Glendola Leisure sells the Cricketers Pub to Brasserie Bar Co: Glendola Leisure has sold its only rural site, The Cricketers in Cobham, to Brasserie Bar Co, the business behind the Brasserie Blanc French restaurant chain and The White Brasserie Company pub group. Alex Salussolia, managing Director at Glendola Leisure, said: “We were approached to see if we would be open to offers on selling the pub and since our focus has moved to more bespoke city centre operations we decided this was the right time to part with The Cricketers. Our new operations, Alston Bar & Beef in Glasgow and Silk & Grain in the City of London, have been incredibly successful so we are looking for new city centre sites all over the country where we can develop more unique concepts. I hope to be announcing shortly details of two new sites for Glendola and further UK Hotel development for our Carlton Hotels Division. We would like to wish Brasserie Bar Co all the best for their new venture and am sure they will continue to invest in the property and create an amazing business in Cobham.” 
 
Ping Pong reports Ebitda doubled in ‘transformational year: Ping Pong, the chain of eight premium Dim Sum restaurants across London, has reported a ‘transformational financial year’. Like-for-like sales were ahead by 10% and total sales were £15.25m. Operating Ebitda was £2.9m, representing a 32% increase over the prior year. Group Ebitda at £1.6m was more than double the previous year. Commenting on the performance, chief executive Art Sagiryan, who became chief executive in late 2013, said: “This is a very strong set of results for Ping Pong and is testament to the hard work the team have put into delivering product innovation, customer service, store management development and improved controls. On the back of these results, we are keen to expand into other Central London locations and are actively looking at a number of opportunities where there is the right demographic density to sustain a successful Ping Pong restaurant.”

Downing invests further £6m in Downoak joint venture with Oakman: Investment fund Downing have provided more than £6m of further funding to Downoak Limited, a partnership between Downing and Oakman Inns and Restaurants. The deal is aimed at unlocking ‘significant freehold/leasehold marriage value’. Steven Kenee, of Downing, said: “This is an innovative transaction which provides a safe home for our funds and frees up significant expansion capital for Oakman. The investment was made possible by the success of Downoak’s first acquisition – The Akeman Inn, Aylesbury – which was refurbished and relaunched in November 2014. Whilst the site opened well and is outperforming expectations, its real success is the trust and professional respect it generated between our firms, which allowed for this follow-on investment to happen.” Peter Borg-Neal, of Oakman Inns, said: “We’re delighted to have completed this transaction with Downing. Steven Kenee and his colleagues went to great lengths to understand the future needs of this business and to tailor make a funding solution that represents a “Win-Win” for both partners. Oakman Inns now has a balance sheet that will enable strong but sensible growth in the future.” 

Twisted Burger Company seeks new franchisees: Twisted Burger Company is seeking more pub franchisees after the success of early franchise sites. Sales and marketing manager Charlotte Leaver said: “We have had to cut our teeth at The Harley in Sheffield, an incredibly tough test. It’s a much-loved live music venue, where 85% of trade came after midnight. This has now transformed to a near 50/50 split. Our pilot franchisees have at least doubled dry take whilst serving our burgers. We know our formula works, and we want to share it with other venues who want to evolve and attract new punters. We believe we’re the first to offer a ready-made solution to such a common challenge to the pub market.” Twisted have spent the past year piloting the concept in diverse venues across Leeds and Sheffield.

PizzaExpress to recruit 2,500 people over five years: PizzaExpress is to recruit 2,500 people in the UK over the next five years as part of its expansion programme, which will see circa 20 new restaurant openings a year across the UK. It also outlined plans to grow its apprenticeship scheme with an ambition to have at least one apprentice in each of its restaurants. There are currently 448 PizzaExpress restaurants nationwide. Since its launch in 2013, PizzaExpress has recruited 377 people onto its apprenticeship scheme. The 12-month programme was created by PizzaExpress, along with vocational education specialists Lifetime Training and City and Guilds. As part of its wider recruitment programme, the company is also looking to employ 2,500 people in the UK over the next five years, with roles available at all levels, from entry level to management. PizzaExpress, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, currently employs 10,000 people in the UK. Chancellor George Osborne said: “The expansion of a great British brand like PizzaExpress means thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new apprenticeships up and down the country.” PizzaExpress chief executive Richard Hodgson said: “PizzaExpress has been at the forefront of the restaurant industry for 50 years and as such we have a responsibility to invest in the future of the sector. This means investing in people, creating new opportunities and giving our teams a reason to feel good about what they do, and the valuable contribution they make.”

Greene King launches doggy menu across estate: Greene King today launched a menu for dogs across its pubs. To coincide with national pet month, the company has devised a menu featuring starters, mains and desserts that dogs can enjoy while their owners spend time at the local. The company said its food development team at Greene King head office in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk has spent months working with a team of canine tasters to help put together a selection of tasty treats. The most popular dishes were selected to make up the doggy menu, including chicken liver paw-té, fish and chops, mixed growl and sticky doggy pudding The menu will now be rolled out across the Greene King pub estate. Canine nutritionist Dr Jacques Russell, who supported the food development team in building the menu, said: “Dogs are an important part of the family and deserve to be treated to excellent food when they visit the pub just as their owners do. Our team of canine tasters have had their chops around a range of meals in the last few months and have helped us settle on a menu that we feel is top dog. To all dogs that visit a Greene King pub to give our new menu a try we would just like to take this opportunity to say ‘bone-appetit’!”

Costa trials customer 'power nap' service: Costa Coffee is trialling a new service, "Costa and a Kip", from April which will let customers nod off and have a power nap when they hit an afternoon slump. With sales figures highest between 3pm and 4pm, the time when people are most in need of a coffee "pick-me-up", Costa is offering customers a chance to book a 15-minute snooze. Specially imported, Japanese-inspired "ostrich pillows" will turn tables into relaxation zones. Customers will be able to place their coffee order, let staff know what time to wake them using the specially designed table clocks and take a nap, before being gently nudged back into consciousness by a friendly barista with their drink. Clair Preston-Beer, chief operating officer at Costa, said: “Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always an option with busy and hectic lifestyles. Daytime power napping has been scientifically proven to boost productivity and relieve stress during the working day. Firms like Google and Nike already provide nap rooms for staff. With this in mind, we are bringing a similar concept to UK high streets with our ‘Costa and a Kip’ service.”
 
Luminar reports 5.1% like-for-likes at start of 2015: The UK’s largest nightclub operator, the Luminar Group, has announced a like-for-like sales increase of 5.1% across its 58-strong estate for the period between 4 January and 28 March 2015. Since the start of the year, the company has experienced strong weekend trading with early week student sessions holding up well. The newly acquired Chicago Leisure business continues to trade in line with expectations. Chief financial officer Russell Margerrison said: “We’ve had an extremely positive start to 2015 and our new financial year and are pleased that the continuing investment in our estate and spend on our entertainment strategy, which was up 50% in 2014, is paying dividends. Whilst there’s been lots of speculation about the health of the late night sector, we believe that our consistently solid trading proves that, when you deliver the right combination of well-invested sites, compelling customer offers and high quality entertainment, trade will follow.”
 
Virgin Trains signs deal with Caffe Nero: Virgin Trains has signed a deal to serve a Caffe Nero roastery produces blend called "Aroma by the Nero Roasting Company". The new coffee will be available in all Virgin Trains’ onboard retail shops, which collectively sell 900,000 cups of coffee a year. The partnership, which Virgin Trains said meant it was enhancing the quality of its coffee without increasing the cost to the customer, will see Aroma by Nero Roasting Company as the only coffee available for purchase on board Virgin trains. It will be sold in a number of varieties, including Americano, latte, cappuccino and espresso. Simon Thomas, head of business development at Caffe Nero, said: “Partnering with Virgin Trains is a really exciting move for us and it’s brilliant to be able to demonstrate our coffee-roasting credentials. We’re passionate about ensuring coffee fans have access to the best blends and we hope travellers enjoy drinking the Aroma by Nero Roasting Company on-the-go.”
 
Brothers to expand tapas concept: Brothers David and Jon Perkins are to expand their tapas concept with the opening of Baresca on 1 June in the former premises of Dogma nightclub in Byard Lane, Nottingham. The brothers run the Perkins' Restaurant and the Carriage Hall wedding and events venue in Plumtree, Nottinghamshire and the Escabeche tapas bar in West Bridgford, Nottingham. They have teamed up with chef-director Sarah Newham for the new venture. The Perkinses are spending more than £500,000 on the venue after securing a 20-year lease and are recruiting for 35 to 40 new staff. Jon Perkins said: "Escabeche was our first tapas venture, but we now want to grow our tapas brand by developing it for the city centre. We want to establish ourselves as an all-day venue." The menu will be inspired by Barcelona's Boqueria market and Old Town. The building is being refurbished into a 180-seat all-day venue that will also have a cellar bar.
 
Ippudo to open second London site at Canary Wharf: The global ramen restaurant group Ippudo is to open a second UK site in Canary Wharf, which is scheduled for this summer. It comes after the opening of the chain's European flagship in Central St Giles, Central London last autumn, and an outlet in Paris, scheduled to open in the spring. A no-reservations policy will operate in the 65-cover restaurant, which will be in the new 115,000 sq ft Crossrail development. Ippudo, founded as an independent ramen restaurant in Fukuoka, Japan, by Shigemi Kawahara in 1985, now operates 120 restaurants in 13 different countries, serving more than 50,000 bowls of ramen each day.
 
Mark Andrew Developments plans three Manchester Northern Quarter openings:
The growing Manchester bar group Mark Andrew Developments has confirmed plans for three new bar and restaurant venues in the Northern Quarter, the Manchester Evening News has reported. The company, known as MAD Limited, owns a number of popular bars and restaurants in the Northern Quarter already, including Walrus and Tusk on High Street and the Rosylee restaurant, The Fitzgerald bar and Hula, all on Stevenson Square. The company has now applied for planning permission for a restaurant and a bar, both to be housed in an empty unit on the edge of Shudehill and Nicholas Croft, in the building known as Basil Chambers. A spokeswoman has confirmed the two separate businesses will be “totally new concepts” for Manchester, with further details to be revealed soon. She added that the company hopes the restaurant on the site will be: “ready in eight to 12 weeks”, while the bar venue will follow later in summer. Meanwhile the group has also secured the old Habib House site, formerly a bank, next door to Rosylee on Stevenson Square, with the hopes of transforming that into potential new venues in future too.

Harry Ramsden’s completes return to its West Yorkshire roots: The fish and chip restaurant chain Harry Ramsden’s has returned to West Yorkshire, more than 80 years after first launching in the county. A new site has opened in Shipley, with funding support from NatWest. Franchisee JVP Ventures is planning to open a number of outlets throughout Yorkshire in the months ahead, with the venue on Wrose Road, Shipley being the first. Harry Ramsden’s opened in Guiseley in West Yorkshire 1928, though that restaurant closed three years ago. There are Yorkshire Harry Ramsden’s at Scarborough and at Woodall Services on the M1 in South Yorkshire, but the Shipley branch marks the return to the old West Riding. Shashi Patel, of JVP Ventures, said: “Harry Ramsden’s is traditional fish and chips at its best and we are delighted to be bringing the brand to Shipley.” Outlets in Huddersfield and Sheffield are due to open in the near future.
 
Ma Kelly’s expands estate with Lytham St Annes sports pub: The North West of England multi-site operator Ma Kelly’s has expanded its estate by re-launching the Albert pub in Lytham St Annes as the Albert, a sports pub. The pub has had a chequered past, and in 2013 Blackpool Council reviewed its licence, adding a number of new conditions after a spate of police incidents. The walls of the pub are now hung with sports memorabilia, including shirts signed by football teams such as the Brazilian national side. The company already has another venue on Lytham Road, and premises at Foxhall Road and Talbot Road in Blackpool, and in Fleetwood.
 
Chipotle confirms seventh site, first in City of London: Chipotle Mexican Grill has confirmed it has secured a seventh unit in London, and its first in the Square Mile. The 1,493 sq ft London Wall site is in a prime location close to Moorgate station. Jacob Sumner, London managing director at Chipotle, said: “We are delighted to continue our growth in London. Our customers are responding very positively to Chipotle, and as we continue to develop our teams and provide an exceptional experience, we will look to grow sustainably and sensibly in the right locations across London and into the UK.” Thomas Rose, head of leisure and restaurants at Cushman & Wakefield, said: “London Wall is a great acquisition for Chipotle: the dynamic City market will provide a new trade zone for the brand as it expands into new areas across the capital. This site will be the first of several new strategic growth locations over the coming years.” Cushman & Wakefield is retained for all acquisitions on behalf of Chipotle. Fawcett Mead acted for the landlord.
 
Staffordshire chef expands: Staffordshire chef Paul Gilmore is launching a new bar and restaurant at the Wheatsheaf in Oulton. Gilmore, who has run the award-winning Restaurant Gilmore in Uttoxeter for the past 12 years, which will be closing soon for a major refurbishment, is going to be running the Wheatsheaf in a partnership with Stone businessmen Matt Wilcox and Alan Appleby. The Wheatsheaf has been used in the daytime for some months now as a base for the "Recipe for Success" project, where local marginalised young people learn and train under former restaurateur Niven Ziad.
 
Juice company boss – European regulation is killing my business: Ridiculous, viability-threatening delays in bureaucracy are getting in the way of communicating the clear and proven health benefits of a sugar-free drink, according to Adam Pritchard, managing director of the British juice manufacturer PomeGreat. An application for approval for a safe sugar alternative made from natural fruit extract has been mired in red tape in Europe for five years. Without approval, PomeGreat is unable to make health claims, despite the extract having passed multiple stringent clinical reviews. The extract makes PomeGreat a far healthier alternative to other juice drinks that routinely contain large amounts of sugar, the company clams. It says PomeGreat sits on shelves alongside many sugar-sweetened competitors and yet is unable to make clear in advertising, on pack or on its website the significant health benefits that the drink offers. “We’re caught in the crazy situation of having a drink that is proven to be healthier than our competitors and yet we can’t say so,” Pritchard said.
 
SSP Group signs franchise deal with Dunkin Donuts for Danish expansion: Dunkin’ Donuts has signed an exclusive franchise agreement with SSP Group to begin developing Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in railway stations across Denmark. The franchise agreement calls for the development of at least five Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in railway stations throughout the country over the next five years, with the first location planned to open at Copenhagen Central Station today (1 April). Paul Twohig, president of Dunkin’ Donuts & Baskin-Robbins Europe and Latin America, said: “Denmark consistently ranks among the top countries worldwide in terms of coffee consumption, so we are very excited to announce our entry into the country with Dunkin’ Donuts. SSP brings an incredible depth of expertise in operating restaurants at transit stations around the world, so we feel they will bring strong experience as we begin developing Dunkin’ Donuts in key train stations across Denmark.”
 
Castle Rock Brewery adds to its estate: Castle Rock Brewery, the East Midlands-based brewer and operator of 20 pubs, has bought the freehold of the Horse and Plough, an established pub and restaurant in the commuter town of Bingham, ten miles from its home in Nottingham. The pub has been acquired by The Beer Consortium Ltd, an EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) company set up in late 2014. It will be managed by Castle Rock and operated under the company's long established real ale ethos. Castle Rock has experience of EIS-funded growth. According to the company's chairman, Geoff Newton, its first EIS-funded pub, the Poppy and Pint, a former British Legion clubhouse in Pierrepont Road, Nottingham, is an outstanding success both in its day-to-day operation and in its early financial backing: "Ever since we set about funding the purchase of the Poppy, we knew we had a loyal and discerning shareholder base who would look favourably on further opportunities," Newton said. "The Poppy paid a double-digit dividend to shareholders in its third year's trading. Many of those investors have stepped up again to be joined by others in this new scheme where fundraising has again been excellent. Approaching £1 million has been raised so far and we plan to leave the scheme open until 30 April to allow others to invest. The Horse and Plough is a traditional establishment in the attractive market town of Bingham. We've been in discussion with the vendors for some time and, though there'll be change under the Castle Rock banner, we are confident the residents and customers in Bingham will welcome the quality of ales, food and service that have become the hallmarks of the Castle Rock estate.” Plans are well advanced for a second purchase later this year, Castle Rock said. The contract for the acquisition was completed on 30 March.
 
PizzaExpress opens new site in Croydon: A new PizzaExpress influenced by Croydon trams has opened at Valley Leisure Park in Purley Way, Croydon, South London. The 200-seater restaurant has created 30 jobs. The design of the restaurant has been influenced by the Croydon tramlink. Large screens formed of copper pipe on the walls are supposed to reflect the tram route.

Neil Morrissey – I cleared millions of debt from previous hospitality business last year:
Actor Neil Morrissey, who is hoping to expand his new pub business, MSW, after re-opening a Punch Taverns pub, has cleared millions in debt owed by a previous hospitality company he owned. The Plume of Feathers in Barlaston, near Stone, opened after a £400,000 refit. Of his previous business, Morrissey said: “The actual business was a huge success. Unfortunately, we weren’t so good at looking after the money – but that wasn’t my department. Even so, I had to find millions to pay off our debts, which I finally cleared last August. I was still keen to go into business again but with fresh eyes and a much better team behind me. We also have a clearer focus on what we want to achieve: great service, great food, great beer.”
 
Star Pubs to spend £360,000 on Carlisle pub: Star Pubs and Bars is closing the Border Reiver in Holmrook Road in the Sandsfield Park area of Carlisle from next Tuesday while construction workers move in to carry out a £500,000 refurbishment project that will transform the pub into a family friendly pub offering traditional pub food and a new coffee lounge offering authentic Italian coffee. The pub reopens in early June, creating seven new jobs and it will be renamed The Reiver. It will be open all day and will be the only pub in the area to offer coffee and wi-fi, to serve food and to put on live entertainment. Funds are being spent on a complete overhaul of the interior and exterior of the pub creating a light modern pub with a welcoming traditional decor. The layout of the pub will be open plan with distinct drinking, coffee and dining areas, increasing floor space by 25%. The lessees are Tony and Michelle Greerson.

Starbucks begins Danone partnership in the US: Starbucks and the yogurt firm Danone have begun selling a smoothie line at more than 4,300 Starbucks outlets in the United States as part of a yogurt partnership that will also include yogurt parfaits and ready-to-eat yogurt to be sold by grocers. The rollout comes as Starbucks seeks to double food sales. The coffee chain will offer smoothies made with its own Evolution Fresh juices and an exclusive-to-Starbucks Danone Greek yogurt at shops in Washington state, Oregon, Alaska, Northern California and Idaho. The smoothies, priced at $5.95 for a US pint (473ml), will come in three flavours and can be customised by adding ingredients such as protein powder and fresh kale, said Jeff Hansberry, president of Starbucks' Evolution Fresh brand. n early May, Starbucks and Danone will begin selling Evolution Fresh Greek yogurt parfaits in about half of Starbucks' US stores. This summer, the partners will start selling fruit-on-the-bottom Greek yogurt cups at US supermarkets.
 
James Horler – social media needs careful thought: Industry veteran James Horler has argued that careful thought needs to go into a social media strategy – but not using it is a wasted opportunity. In his Nottingham Post column, he wrote: "For a restaurant or bar looking to have a presence on social media, careful thought needs to go into how they will react to everything that comes their way. That means having a team responsible for sharing content and dealing with interactions. Whilst social media can open up the floodgates for negativity, it's then simple to get in touch with the complainant and turn the situation around. Publicly dealing with issues like these demonstrates other customers that your venue is willing to listen to feedback and improve, which if done correctly, builds loyalty and trust. Considering Nottingham's vibrant student population who are particularly active on social media, it's a wasted opportunity for a restaurant or bar not to get on board. It might take a bit of getting used to, bravery and hard work, but the results will speak for themselves.”

Scottish tenanted legislation campaign steps up pressure: The campaign for Scotland to introduce legislation on tied pubs has been stepped up, with research claiming the present system is having a negative effect on tied sites. The research document, delivered to MSPs, claims that, based on performance over the past two years, tenanted pubs across Scotland are 62 times more likely to close than their free trade counterparts. In the research, which will help inform a debate planned in the Scottish Parliament on 30 April, three out of four Scottish publicans surveyed said they felt worse off as a result of the tie, and almost all –  96% believed that paying a reduced rent did not fully take into consideration the extra cost they bear on tied products and services. Even more – 99% – of publicans want the same level of protection as is being planned in England and Wales. Over the past year, free-trade revenues for draught beer grew by 6%, whilst leased and tenanted outlets saw sales fall by 4%, it is claimed. Beer prices to tied publicans are typically inflated by around 50% versus free-trade pricing for draught beer brands, according to the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA). In a free-of-tie value chain, the publican takes around 80% of the available margin; this falls to around 50% for the tied model, with the pubco taking around 40%, removing around £40m of margin from the Scottish economy, according to the SLTA. Paul Waterson, chief executive of the SLTA, said: "Campaigners in England and Wales are rightly celebrating – the passing of the Bill is a big, progressive step forward for the licensed trade down south. It will see a freer, fairer industry emerge as a result of the legislation and we're glad that their hard work has paid off. In Scotland though, we're still lagging behind. A MSP debate on the issue is currently scheduled for Holyrood at the end of April and, at this, we'd like to see some definitive actions agreed. Our message remains clear: we need parity with the rest of the UK, and we need it fast. Not only do pubco companies create an unfair, uncompetitive marketplace, they also have a serious effect on the economy and the fragile health of the licensed industry. For tied premises to be 62 times more likely to close than their free-hold neighbours is extremely concerning, and we need to turn that tide.”

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