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Fri 17th Apr 2015 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Restaurants and pubs missing out on millions in energy savings: Restaurants and pubs in the UK are missing out on millions of pounds of profit because they are not paying enough attention to managing their energy consumption, according to Mitchells & Butlers' former head of energy, Richard Felgate. He told Propel: “Often energy is the one commodity that any employee can freely use to their heart's content without any approval or retribution. How crazy is this, when, after the cost of food, drink and labour, energy is normally the next biggest cost on the P&Ls of restaurant businesses. The big managed house groups started to tackle their energy consumption several years ago and are now enjoying millions of pounds of additional profit after making significant reductions in their energy consumption, but many smaller businesses are yet to benefit from the savings.” 2015 sees the introduction of the government's Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), a mandatory scheme for companies with more that 250 employees. Felgate believes that so many businesses are missing the point of ESOS and viewing it as a cost rather than a route to delivering savings and additional profit. Even the British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA), he argued, has missed the point and opportunity of ESOS by promoting its "low-cost compliance package". Felate said: “This is really short-sighted. This route is just adding another business cost, rather than using it to gain a competitive advantage." Felgate is now managing director of EnStrat –

Industry News:

Camra spotlights historic pubs of Midlands: The Campaign for Real Ale publishes Real Heritage Pubs of the Midlands today, shining a light on historic pubs in the Midlands that have interior features of historical significance. The book, subtitled "Pub Interiors of Special Historic Interest", aims to highlight the importance of preserving historic pub interiors at a time when there are five net pub closures a week across the Midlands. Real Heritage Pubs of the Midlands is the latest Camra regional guide to the country's best historic pub interiors. By celebrating what it calls "hidden treasures of Britain's cultural heritage", Camra hopes to encourage more people to visit and enjoy them in all their splendid variety, said Paul Ainsworth, editor of Real Heritage Pubs of the Midlands. The book features 201 pubs throughout the East and West Midlands that still have interiors or internal features regarded as of real historic significance. They range from rural "time-warp" pubs, some with no bar counters, to ornate drinking palaces, and include some unsung interiors from the inter-war period. This is the first guide of its kind for the Midlands.

Sainsbury’s to reduce food space by 6%: The supermarket chain J Sainsbury is planning to convert shop space equivalent to almost 40 supermarkets from selling food into non-food as it tries to fight back against a fall in grocery sales. The company has identified 1.5m sq ft of space across the UK, which represents 6% of its portfolio, that it no longer needs for food as customers switch spending to convenience stores, the discounters, and online. Sainsbury's intends to use half of this space to sell its collection of own-brand non-food products, such as kitchenware and homeware. For the remaining half, the company is in talks with other retailers about subletting space. It has already agreed deals with Argos and Jessops to open concessions within Sainsbury's supermarkets.
Alex Polizzi’s new TV series focuses on head chef recruitment: The new TV show featuring hotelier Alex Polizzi will focus on helping independent venues recruit a head chef. Chefs on Trial will see Polizzi take on the challenge of finding head chefs for restaurants that have a desperate need to fill a vacancy. The show follows candidates over a week as they go through a rigorous interview process. As well as having their technical cooking skills tested, all candidates will have a face-to-face interview and a chance to cook a signature dish that shows off their culinary abilities. The new series star next Monday (20 April) on BBC Two at 8pm.

Ed’s Easy Diner bends to local opinion and takes alco-shakes of the menu in Inverness: Ed’s Easy Diner has moved to assuage local opinion in Inverness by taking alco-shakes off the menu before its opening in the city's Eastgate shopping centre next week. It comes after unease in some quarters earlier this month after Highland Council’s licensing board gave the green light to Ed’s to serve alco-shakes and allow children under 12 into the licensed premises unaccompanied. The leader of the Scottish Christian Party in Inverness criticised the licensing board for breaking “Highland tradition” by allowing the brand to let children under 12 into the licensed premises unaccompanied. It will now be the only one of the 37 Ed’s Easy Diners which will not serve the alco-shakes. The company also confirmed that the alco-shakes would be removed from the menu indefinitely and would not be added at a later date. Ed’s chief executive, Andrew Guy, said: “While we would never sell alcohol to underage customers in our diner, it has come to our attention that there has been concern from some of the local people of Inverness regarding the possibility that we may inadvertently serve it to unaccompanied children under 12 years of age when alco-shakes are listed on our menu. We are a responsible company and listen to all feedback, and as a result we have made the decision to remove alco-shakes from our menu at our forthcoming diner in Inverness. It was never our intention to upset people and we are really looking forward to opening our doors on Monday.” Meanwhile, Guy is to be guest speaker for the Arena summer event on Friday 26 June at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in Belgravia, London. Guy will give his views on the industry and share his story. Call 07803 853 618 to book tickets.

Company News:

Tesco poaches Greene King’s Master of Wine: Tesco has strengthened its wine-buying team by poaching Greene King’s resident Master of Wine, James Davis. Davis is senior buyer at Greene King and worked for the company for seven years. He previously worked at Tesco as a wine buying manager before joining Greene King in 2007. Davis became a Master of Wine in October 2013, joining an elite group of just 312 Masters of Wine across the world, having successfully completed more than five years of study. Chief executive Rooney Anand said at the time: “Greene King is proud to have a Master of Wine in the team. This is one of the toughest professional qualifications to gain, which makes this achievement even more impressive. It is pleasing to see James join this elite club; it is rare for a pub company to have a Master of Wine and we are excited by the commercial opportunities and competitive edge that this appointment will offer us in the future. Wine has become an integral ingredient of pub culture in recent years and this achievement shows just how far we have come as an industry. Wine will be very firmly on the menu in Greene King pubs and restaurants in the coming years.”

Simon French – it’s not possible to justify Domino’s current share rating: Cenkos leisure analyst Simon French has issued a 'Sell' note on Domino’s shares ahead its AGM on Tuesday 21 April. He said: “We believe Q1 has been very strong for the group reflecting favourable weather conditions and continued improvement in marketing spend and efficiency. After the first eight weeks of 2015, UK like-for-like sales were up 9.5% and we forecast 10.0% like-for-like sales growth for the quarter. The outlook however remains less favourable with intense competition in the space from Just Eat, Hungry House, Uber, PizzaExpress and Burger King to name a few. Furthermore with more challenging comparatives in June/July from last year’s football World Cup and a three-month heat wave forecast, which would negatively impact sales, we think it is not possible to justify the group’s current valuation; the stock trades on a 2015E P/E of 25.9x and yields 2.6%.”
Barclays analyst – Wetherspoon remains a category killer: Barclays' leisure analyst Richard Taylor has issued a note on JD Wetherspoon, with an "overweight" recommendation and a target price of 880p on the shares, in which he described the company as a "category killer" thanks to its value-for-money offer and focus on investment. “We believe that Wetherspoon is a category killer within the UK pub sector," he said. ‘It has sector-leading sales densities driven by constant innovation and a value-for-money offer. It is also investing heavily in its estate, could add circa 60% new sites, and is relatively conservatively financed. It is also the second best performing share in the pub sector over the past 20 years, just behind Young’s … over the very long term, this is clear evidence that happy customers means happy shareholders.”

Agent offers three prime London freehold pub investments for £6m: The property agent James A Baker is selling three West and Central London pub investments with a combined guide price of £6m. The pubs are all in prime locations, Marylebone, Notting Hill and Shepherds Bush. The Duke of York, Harrowby Street, Marylebone has a guide price of £2m. The passing rent is £78,590 and there is additional income from a tie with barrelage of around 135 and £3,100 a year rental income from Vodafone. The pub is let until September 2031 and there are annual CPI linked reviews. The total income is £81,690 plus barrelage. The tenant is Marylebone Pubs. The Oak, Westbourne Park Road, Notting Hill is offered with a guide price of £2.25m. The passing rent is £98,807 and there is additional income from a tie with barrelage of around 26. The pub is let until March 2043 with annual CPI linked reviews. The tenant is Hillmaster. The Oak, Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush is offered with a guide price of £1.75m. The passing rent is £76,317 with additional income from a tie with barrelage of around 70. The pub is let until February 2043 and there are annual CPI linked reviews. The tenant is Willow Inns.

Red’s True Barbecue to launch in London: Red’s True Barbecue is to open in Shoreditch, East London in July. The company, which already has four sites in the North of England and the Midlands, is to open on 52-54 Great Eastern Street, a 5,400 sq ft building where there will be £1.4m investment. It will be the first time Red’s will work with the designer Russell Sage, who will be creating a space for 150 covers split over two floors. James Douglas, Red’s co-founder, said: “For the last two years we’ve worked hard to build a trusted brand portfolio serving more than 70,000 believers each month. London was always part of the strategy. Now with our strengthened management team, the time and location is right to strike. Unlike the north, where a huge part of our role as brand leaders has been to educate customers about US barbecue, there is already a saliency here in London. We think we can capitalise on this with our authentic style, commitment to quality, great design and lively guest experience. Red’s will for sure bring something unique to Shoreditch.”

BrewDog unveils Leicester site, first to open for breakfast at weekends: BrewDog, the Scottish brewer and bar operator, which claimed yesterday that its value should be comparable to Shake Shack based on current profit trajectory, opened in Leicester yesterday, with the site the first in the estate to open at weekends for breakfast. The new bar is the brewery’s 19th UK site and brings the total global bar count to 27. BrewDog Leicester has a curved bar and cinema-style draft beer board, vintage arcade games and pinball machines. The bar has capacity for 170 people and will serve 20 beers on tap as well as a comprehensive menu including rye bread sandwiches, burgers, hotdogs and ribs. The breakfast menu features American-style classics with a BrewDog twist, such as 5AM Red Ale cured bacon with rye bread, and eggy bread with maple syrup. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “Leicester is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city and we’re thrilled to be finally setting up a BrewDog home there. The craft beer fans in Leicester have been crying out for a BrewDog bar for years and we’ve responded with a truly outstanding craft beer hub. With BrewDog bars in Nottingham and Birmingham, and now Leicester, we have well and truly put our stamp on the Midlands. We want this bar to serve as an inspiration to microbrewers, home brewers and craft beer drinkers in the region. The passion for great craft beer has taken firm roots in the symbolic heart of England and continues to thrive.”

Everards sets out timetable for £83m retail development: The Leicester-based brewer and retailer Everards has set out the timetable for its proposed £83m retail development on its existing brewery site at Castle Acres adjacent to the Fosse shopping park, which is being developed in partnership with Next. The company expects a planning decision by Blaby Council by the summer after submitting an application this month. If consent is received, construction works would start in March 2016 with the opening of the new Castle Acres shopping park in Easter 2018. Everards is planning to invest in a new "state of the art" food and drink park to be called Everards Meadows ,south of Soar Valley Way, including a new Everards brewery as well as offices, a pub, restaurants, and craft food and drink production facilities. In total, it is anticipated that the companies occupying the new food and drink park will employ around 300 people, a significant increase on the 100 people currently working for Everards Brewery. However, Everards need to sell its existing Castle Acres site to fund its relocation.

McDonald’s workers stage day of action over wage levels: McDonald's workers have staged a day of protest demanding higher wages. Disgruntled workers staged a global "day of action", with demonstrations and walkouts in more than 230 McDonald’s locations, including the United States, Britain, France and New Zealand. It came despite McDonald's new chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, who is originally from Watford, raising pay for 90,000 of the company's restaurant workers in the United States employed directly by the company at the start of this month, taking their hourly wage from $9.10 to $9.90 (£6.70). Rather than quell revolt the pay rise seems to have fuelled one – it is a long way short of the $15 an hour many have been calling for and actually ignores the wage demands of 750,000 staff in the US. In London, protesters outside McDonald's Trafalgar Square site called for an hourly rate of £10 and held placards saying "Scrap zero hours".

Jamie Oliver reveals second New Zealand opening as he wages war on childhood obesity in the country: The chef-entrepreneur Jamie Oliver has revealed that a second Jamie’s Italian will open in New Zealand. Oliver said he would open a branch of Jamie's Italian, in Auckland next year. It was announced earlier this year that Oliver's first New Zealand restaurant would open in Wellington, in the Public Trust building on Lambton Quay. Oliver is also recruiting local New Zealand lobby groups to press the government to provide food education in schools. He said: "If diet-related disease is the biggest killer, which it is in New Zealand and England and many other countries, then education's job is to react to that reality by spending out buck or dollar or pound in the most economical way, which is at that place where we decide to send our kids 190 days a year."

Jamie Rollo – beer volumes in the on-trade seem to have stabilised: Morgan Stanley's leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has argued that beer volumes in the on-trade appear to have stabilised. He said: “The most recent statistics for beer consumption in the on-trade (ie consumed on premise) are encouraging. On-trade beer sales totalled 13.7m barrels last year, a drop of only 0.8% on 2013, the smallest drop in a decade. This stabilisation reflects the recovery in craft beers, a small drop in excise duty, the stronger economy, and less discounting in the off-trade following political pressure ,amid proposals for minimum pricing of alcohol. Beer still makes up 40 to 50% of an average pub's revenue, so these trends are encouraging.”

Longshot lines up seventh Bel and the Dragon opening:
Longshot Country Inns will open its seventh Bel and the Dragon at the Swan in Kingsclere, Hampshire on 19 May. The venue will have en-suite bedrooms and locally sourced food, with a rotisserie offer. Joel Cadbury, founder and director of Longshot Country Inns, said: “We are delighted to be opening Bel and the Dragon at the Swan in Kingsclere. We will restore this stunning historic building to its former glory, so that it is once again the heart of the community. Our focus is on seasonal and local produce, as well as using the best of British ingredients. Our wine list will provide fantastic value for money at all levels, ranging from magnums of house wine, where our customers are only charged for what they drink, to a cellar list celebrating the best vintages and finest wines in Bordeaux, at extraordinary prices.”
Peyton & Byrne opens restaurant and cafe at Lyric Hammersmith: Peyton and Byrne has a new Peyton and Byrne Bakery and Café as well as the Lyric Bar and Grill at the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith  West London. The company claims the  Lyric Bar and Grill concept has been "inspired by popular street food". The menu includes dishes such as beer-fed Dexter beef topside with watercress and blackened fillet of sea bass with chilli pickle served on freshly baked pita bread. Peyton and Byrne has also opened a bakery and cafe on the ground floor, serving coffee and Chelsea buns at breakfast, superfood salads and hand-made pies at lunch time, modern British cakes and treats throughout the day and sourdough bakes and quality wines in the evening. Oliver Peyton, founder of Peyton and Byrne, said: “Both the Peyton and Byrne bakery and café and the Lyric Bar and Grill exude a community presence unique to Hammersmith. The Lyric is a truly remarkable and diverse space and as our first venture into West London we couldn’t think of a better place to showcase our unique food, excellent cocktails and summer barbecue offer. There is something for all tastes and budgets and we are proud to offer quality products at all price points.”

easyHotel acquires Liverpool site: easyHotel, the owner, developer, operator and franchisor of "super budget" branded hotels has acquired a freehold office and restaurant at 47 Castle Street in the centre of Liverpool, where it intends to convert the offices to an easyHotel. The property three minutes' walk from the Liverpool One shopping area and the Cavern Club tourist attraction, around ten minutes' walk from Liverpool's main railway station and close to the Albert Docks area of galleries, shops and restaurants. Subject to planning consent, the company plans to convert the four upper floors of the building into a 68-bedroom easyHotel, which is expected to open in spring 2016. The ground floor of the building will remain a restaurant operated by a third party. In total, the purchase of the building and conversion project is expected to cost around £3m. Chief executive Simon Champion said: "This acquisition in the centre of Liverpool is fully in line with our strategy to expand our owned hotel portfolio into targeted major UK cities. It provides us with the opportunity to create a centrally located hotel for leisure and business customers looking for good quality accommodation at an affordable price. Liverpool has substantial inbound tourism, with over half a million visitors per annum, aided by recent inward investment and one of the UK's busiest airports. This, combined with domestic demand, means it is an attractive location for an easyHotel. "

Steven Gerrard’s Merseyside restaurant up for sale: A restaurant in Southport co-owned by Liverpool FC captain Steven Gerrard is up for sale. The Warehouse in West Street was opened 20 years ago by Southport businessman Paul Adams, who also owns a boutique hotel, The Vincent, in Southport. Buyers are being sought for the West Street restaurant, a favourite with footballers and celebs. The business is being sold to allow Vincent to focus on the new Vincent Cafe and Cocktail Bar in Exchange Flags, Liverpool. This new venue will open in Exchange Flags, in the heart of Liverpool's  business district at the end of May. The 190-cover, 6,000 sq ft restaurant will serve a mixture of British and international dishes, including Gringo Sushi – a meat alternative to fish – a concept which Adams claims to have brought to the UK. Adams told the Liverpool Echo: “The Vincent Cafe and Cocktail Bar is something new. It is in a fantastic location and I am hoping it will be a great success. The concept of offering everything from breakfast, through to brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, evening dinner and cocktails, provides people with choice which is what is so important in modern society. I feel it is something which is well suited to Liverpool. People will know when they visit us they are guaranteed fantastic, delicious fresh food and in great surroundings too. We want to welcome everyone from 16 to 80. Whether it’s after-work cocktails, an early breakfast or an express lunch, Vincent Cafe has something for everyone.”

Starbucks set for Loughton return four years after withdrawing: Starbucks is to return to Loughton in Essex four years after its branch in the town shut down. The company, which left the town in 2011 claiming rents were too high, will return this year after leasing another former coffee shop, Caffe Latte, at 243 High Road, Loughton, which closed last year.

Masterchef semi-finalist to take over Michelin-starred restaurant: A former Masterchef semi-finalist is to take on Dorset’s only Michelin-starred restaurant. Marcus Wilcox, who is currently head chef at the Rose and Crown in Trent, near Sherborne, Dorset, will be taking over Sienna in Dorchester after Russell and Elena Brown leave the venue later this month. There will be a short break before the restaurant is re-opened with Wilcox at the helm. He said: “It will be interesting, obviously it’s a small place but I’m really looking forward to taking it over. Obviously there are big shoes to fill but I’m really excited.”

CAU to open biggest site yet, in Liverpool, next month: CAU will open its biggest site so far next month, in Liverpool, a 6,000 square foot site in Castle Street. It will open on the ground floor of the Queen Insurance Building. CAU Liverpool will mark the group’s second restaurant in the north of England following the opening of CAU Wilmslow in February of this year. It will offer 150 covers including an outside terrace for al fresco dining (providing an additional 50 covers).

Masterchef winner quits Laine Pub Company site: The Masterchef winner Natalie Coleman has parted company with the Laine Pub Company a few weeks after taking over the kitchen of the company’s Dissenting Academy pub in Newington Green, North London. Coleman was appointed general manager and head chef at the pub in February. At the time she said she was “planning more entertainment and creating a menu that will appeal to everyone”. In a statement the Laine Pub Company said: “We've been working with Natalie on the development of a menu for the Dissenting Academy for a few weeks and during that time it has become clear that our strategic visions for the pub are not aligned. After discussing this with Natalie, we have therefore agreed not to continue working together on the project. We have very much enjoyed the food she has produced and wish her the best of luck with her future projects.”

McDonald’s franchisees in US report like-for-likes fell 3.7% in March: McDonald’s operator outlook is the worst it has been in more than a decade, and so is the franchisee relationship with the company, according to the latest survey from Janney Capital Markets' analyst Mark Kalinowski. The franchisee survey provides a grim picture of McDonald’s sales ahead of its quarterly earnings report next week, and suggests that early turnaround efforts have not yet taken hold, Kalinowski said. .“McDonald’s system is broken,” one operator said in the survey. “They talk menu reduction to help our people, simplify our menu for customers, but add products to help sales and it does not work. We continue to fall and fail.” The survey covers 32 operators who own 215 restaurants. Operators in the survey indicate that March was not a good month from a sales standpoint. Franchisees in the survey said like-for-like sales fell 3.7%, only a slight improvement from the 4% fall in February. Surveyed franchisees were also negative on the company’s recent Turnaround Summit in Las Vegas. “The Turnaround Summit was a farce,” one operator wrote. “The ideas presented – such as Create Your Taste – do not fit our business model. McDonald’s has jumped the shark. The problem is an unwieldy menu (too big) and trying to be all things to all people. The suits in Oak Brook still don’t get it. And we need operations people in charge. And a new, younger and geographically diverse board of directors, not the geriatrics we have.”

Wirral nightclub to close after 50 year of trading: A long-established nightclub in New Brighton, on the Wirral, is to shut, six months after it faced allegations that the behaviour of its customers made neighbours too scared to leave their homes at night. The Tav on Magazine Lane, New Brighton announced on its Facebook page that it would shut on 25 April after 50 years of trading. Owner Steve Cooley said its reputation had been damaged by a string of accusations against drinkers and the club was facing mounting legal costs in a fight  against new conditions licensing officers wanted to impose. The allegations, which saw the Tav ordered to appear before Wirral Council’s licensing committee in November, included property being damaged and people having sex and taking drugs in a nearby alley and urinating and vomiting in the doorways of residents’ homes.

Hallsworth steps away from Ramusuke involvement to focus on restaurants: Scott Hallsworth, the former head chef of Nobu and chef-owner of London's two Kurobuta outlets and Joe’s Oriental Diner in the King's Road, Chelsea, West London, is parting ways with the membership club Ramusake on the Old Brompton Road in South Kensington with immediate effect. A spokesman said: “Scott has very much enjoyed being a part of the launch of Ramusake but moving forward, he will focus on other interests. His two Japanese Izakaya restaurants, Kurobuta in Chelsea and Marylebone and the recent opening of Joes Oriental Diner will remain his main focus. In addition, Kurochan will open at the Mandarin Oriental in Bodrum this year on 1 June.”

Rotherham brewery produces beer in honour of bottle manufacturer: A Rotherham brewery has named a new beer in honour of the bottle manufacturer Beatson Clark, one of the oldest businesses in the town. Chantry Brewery Teaser is a 4.5% pale ale brewed with Bravo American hops which has just been launched by the Parkgate brewery. Tim Swetnam, technical and environmental manager at Beatson Clark, has been drinking Chantry’s beers since the brewery opened at the end of 2012. He noticed that the names of the beers focused on Rotherham’s steel heritage, with brews called Women of Steel, Kaldo and 18 Eight, a grade of stainless steel. The Beatson Clark glassworks has been in operation in Rotherham since 1751, and Swetnam said: “I suggested to Sean Page from Chantry that he brew a glass-themed beer for Beatson Clark.”

Eat reports £26.3m loss in year it invested £11.7m: The sandwich shop chain Eat has reported that losses more than doubled to £26.3m in the year to 26 June 2014, from £12.8m the year. Turnover was slightly higher, at £93,953,000, against £93,596,000 the year before. Capital expenditure rose to £11,724,000 from £2,506,000 in 2013. Operating losses were £4,726,000, a rise from £3,064,000 in the previous year. The company said: “The 2014 financial year was a year of investment. Following a successful rebrand trial in the 2013 financial year, a full refurbishment programme commenced during the year. At June, close to half of all Eat stores had been refurbished with the new re-invigorated brand proposition. Rebranded stores have delivered a solid top-line sales uplift, driving positive full year like-for-like results.” During the year, the group refinanced its senior debt. The previous £20m senior debt facility was replaced by a new £40m facility, including a £12.5m new store capex facility. There were exceptional items of £9,618,000. These included a £4,408,392 provision for VAT liabilities, including an amount of £3,660,000 in connection with the Sub One court case decision, covering hot takeaway food, and an amount of £749,000 in respect of VAT previously accounted for incorrectly. There was also a £3,227,000 provision for onerous leases and a £1,062,000 of impairments for leasehold improvements.

Walkabout operator Intertain reports loss of £3.4m: Intertain, the operator of the Walkabout chain, has reported a loss of £3,426,000 in the year to 1 February 2014, 23.5% down on the losses of £4,480,000 in the year before. Turnover was £50,560,000, 14.1% down from £58,854,000 the year before. The loss of £3,426,000 included exceptional costs of £3,465,000 (2013: £5,408,000). The exceptional costs included a fixed asset impairment of £3,042,000 against 15 venues and an onerous lease provision of £1,181,000 against 15 sites. The company made an operating profit before exceptional items of £436,000 (2013: £1,976,000) which, it argued, is "the best representation of underlying performance”. At the end of the year, 14 sites had been refurbished since the programme stated in September 2010. Intertain said: “The overall returns from the investments are excellent at 43% on a gross basis and 50% net of landlords’ contribution. The three refurbishments undertaken during the reporting period performed exceptionally well, providing affirmation of the board’s commitment to the new design template and brand positioning of Walkabout.” Like-for-like sales at continuing sites were down 1.8% in the year. Intertain undertook at CVA earlier this year, after its acquisition by Better Capital, at a cost of £1,689,000, the majority of which comprised compensation payments to landlords including 12-month indemnities for general rates, and which will provide a pay-back of around one year as result of removing loss-making sites and rent reductions. Six sites closed and at least one further site will close within a 12-month period. Intertain will open a new Walkabout in Brighton in the first half of 2015, refurbish the Bristol Walkabout and add a new cliff-top garden to its Newquay site.

Restaurant fires chef for posting fake reviews of rivals on TripAdvisor: The owner of a restaurant in Barnards Castle, County Durham has fired his chef for posting fake reviews on TripAdvisor slating rivals. Chris Gamack was dismissed from his job at the Amen Continental Cafe after he was exposed on Facebook as the author of a series of reviews posted under the name Chris G Darlington. The reviews awarded one-star ratings to Valentines Restaurant, The Bengal Merchant, the Old Well Inn and Penny's Tea Shop, all in Barnard Castle, describing one as being so dirty that he wished he'd brought a vacuum cleaner. Another complained of a 40-minute wait for food. Meanwhile, "Darlington" reviewed the Amen Continental Cafe and gave it a glowing five-star review. When Paul Smith, the owner of the Amen Continental Cafe, found out what Gamack had done, he fired the chef and apologised for Gamack's behaviour. Smith wrote: "I am the owner of The Amen and totally disgusted in my employee's behaviour … totally totally out of order! This person has been dismissed with immediate effect! My sincere apologies to all those concerned."

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