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Wed 3rd Jun 2015 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Mentoring programme launched to develop pub industry’s female talent: A mentoring programme has been started to recognise and develop female talent in the pub industry and help address the gender imbalance at senior level. Athena, which was officially launched yesterday at the BII annual lunch, is part of a joint initiative between BT Sport, the BII, the ALMR and Inapub. The programme, which will run over the course of a year, aims to help address the imbalance at senior level within the sector with women currently making up only 18% of the major pub company boards. It sees high calibre, senior executives impart their knowledge and experience to a future generation of industry leaders. The selected mentees will be paired with a personal mentor and over a series of one-to-one sessions will work with them on pre-defined development areas to channel their talents and encourage professional growth. Mentors who have already signed up to support the programme include Spirit Leased managing director Chris Welham and Everards Brewery managing director Stephen Gould. BT commercial account director Emma Causer, who developed the programme, said: “This mentoring programme is groundbreaking for females within the sector and will shine a spotlight on the pub industry. We hope it will encourage more highly focused and talented females to progress onto company boards having been mentored by some of the best leaders in the industry.” Applications are now open but places are limited. Further details can be found at www.athenamentoring.com

Industry News:

Durham nightclub ordered to reduce alcohol strength of ‘student favourite’: A Durham nightclub has been told it must reduce the alcohol content of an iconic drink, or risk losing its licence. Representatives from Klute, in Elvet, Durham, were called before Durham County Council’s licensing committee after police raised concerns regarding the ongoing sale of “quaddies”, two double measures of vodka served with a mixer, despite repeated pleas from police to review the sale. The student favourite will be watered down with 22% measures of Vodkat replacing 40% measures of vodka which will almost half its alcohol content from more than four units of alcohol to just over two units. Along with diluting “quaddies”, the venue must install CCTV as well as ensuring staff are given up to date training on the sale of age-restricted goods.

KFC sues over eight-legged chicken social media post: Yum Brands KFC unit in China is suing three companies it claims are using social media to spread false rumours about the brand, including it uses eight-legged chickens. Yum says the campaign, which includes digitally altered photos of deformed chickens and allegations of maggots in a KFC delivery order, have been spread through ten WeChat accounts operated by Yingchenanzhi Success and Culture Communication, Shanxi Weilukuang Technology Company and Taiyuan Zero Point Technology Company. It is demanding each company pay up to 1.5 million yuan (about $242,000), apologise and stop the alleged behaviour. “The rumours about KFC using chickens with six wings and eight legs have been around a long time,” the chain said in a statement posted on KFC’s China website. The legal manoeuvre comes as KFC, which suffered two food safety scares within two years, fights to win back customers in China, which is Yum’s top market for revenue and profit.

Barista apprenticeship scheme launched in Brighton: An apprenticeship scheme that is the first type of its kind in the country and offers unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds the chance to master barista skills has been launched. The Professional Barista Apprenticeship in Speciality Coffee has been set up by One Church Brighton, Taylor St Baristas and Small Batch Coffee Company with support from Portslade Aldridge Community Academy. Part of charity One Church Brighton’s base in Gloucester Place has been turned into a barista school for ten apprentices to get weekly practical training for the one-year course. They will spend the rest of the week on placement at nine cafes where they are expected to take up permanent positions. Andrew Tolley, co-founder of Taylor St. Baristas, added: “We have a skills gap in the speciality coffee sector that no colleges are currently able to fill. The cafes have the knowledge and expertise, but training is expensive. The apprenticeship aims to fill that gap, taking industry expertise and targeting people looking to work in a dynamic and progressive sector. It encompasses all the skills that are the foundation to a career in coffee. Technical skills, sensory skills, coffee knowledge, customer service and functional maths and English are all covered. It is an opportunity to join the most dynamic and exciting part of the coffee industry. Best of all, it is accessible to everyone.”

Luke Johnson takes chairman role at communications agency: Westbourne Communications has hired sector investor Luke Johnson as its chairman, PR Week has reported. As part of the leadership team at Westbourne, Johnson will be involved in the agency’s annual Change Opinion Awards. The agency works with clients including LinkedIn, Hitachi, Centrica and HS2. Westbourne managing director James Bethell told PR Week: “There is not a business challenge out there that Luke has not dealt with during his prestigious career. Communications are booming as everyone takes reputation more seriously, but the industry is changing so fast to keep pace with the digital and consumer revolutions that there will be winners and losers. Westbourne is on a mission to build our Change Opinion platform into a distinctive, integrated series, and it’s great to have the advice of an entrepreneur like Luke as we build our business.” Johnson added: “Westbourne has shown remarkable skill and savvy to capitalise on significant growth opportunities in the market over the past few years, and I am looking forward to being part of the next chapter.”

Licensing update: Licensing solicitors John Gaunt & Partners produce a useful monthly summary of topical issues and the latest can be accessed here: LINK

Company News:

Spur Group debuts new RBW concept in Corby: South African-based multi-franchisor Spur Group, which operates 505 restaurants around the world including 318 Spur Steak & Grill and restaurants and 79 Panarottis Pizza Pasta sites, debuted a new concept in Corby called RBW serving ribs, burgers and wings yesterday. It opened as part of a new cinema complex in Corby town centre alongside a Nando’s and new Prezzo. The site is anchored by a new Savoy cinema being built by Mulberry Developments next to the Cube. Once completed, the cinema will be capable of seating more than 900 people across six screens and will be fully digital and kitted out with the latest audio-visual technology.

Nigel Mansell to open £700,000 restaurant and bar in Welsh caravan park: Former Formula One racing star Nigel Mansell is to open a £700,000 restaurant and bar at a caravan park in Wales. Mansell will open the venue, called Nineteen57, at the 25-acre Islawrffordd Caravan Park at Talybont, near Barmouth, on the west coast of Snowdonia next month. The former Henry’s Bar has been transformed into a 40-cover fine dining restaurant and a bar area that will seat 90 people and is in keeping with other five-star facilities on the site. Nineteen57, which will be open all year round, has created 20 full and part-time jobs. The new chef manager is Sion Wellings, who has worked at Portmeirion Hotel, and his parents, Paul and Lola, will assist him. Mansell has holidayed at the park since he was four and is a close family friend of owners, Gwynfor Evans and his sons, Dylan and Gerain. Evans lays claim to putting Mansell on the road to motor racing stardom by starting him go-karting. The park, which has recently received a Gold 5 Pennant from the AA, has 200 caravan holiday homes, 75 fully serviced, hard standing pitches for touring caravans and motorhomes and 30 tent pitches. The facilities include a swimming pool complex with a jacuzzi, sauna and luxury toilet block and an entertainment complex.

Burger King extends delivery trial to west London: Burger King has extended a delivery trial it started in February to west London. For three months, residents of Acton and Hayes will be able to get Burger King food from the comfort of their sofa, between the hours of noon-3pm and 6pm-10pm. The service is expected to roll out nationally later on this year. Burger King’s marketing director Matthew Bresnahan said: “Burger King is firmly committed to delivering great-tasting food at affordable prices to all of our customers. We are extremely excited about this home-delivery service trial so customers can continue to enjoy the perfect combination of taste, at great value prices, now delivered straight to their homes.” Burger King announced in February that it would be offering home delivery in seven UK markets.

Albert Roux adds to Scottish restaurant portfolio: Chef Albert Roux is to open another restaurant in Scotland. He is opening a Chez Roux on the Green at the 19th hole of the famous golf course at the Roxburghe Hotel in Kelso, part of the estate owned by Sir Guy David Innes Ker, the 10th Duke of Roxburghe. The Roux on the Green menu will offer golfers more relaxed Roux dining experience with a menu specially designed for them, to complement the fine-dining menu at the established Chez Roux within the hotel. Head chef Lee Pattie, who was born in Nairn and attended Inverness Technical College, will oversee Roux on the Green as well as Chez Roux at the Roxburghe, following the restaurant’s acquisition by M Roux last autumn. Pattie trained at numerous Michelin starred restaurants across Europe including De Karmeliet (Bruges) and Roux’s three Michelin starred La Gavroche (London). Under his guidance Chez Roux at Inver Lodge Hotel was awarded two AA rosettes and five star restaurant status. Roux on the Green at the Roxburghe Hotel joins Cromlix, Greywalls, Inverlochy Castle and Rocpool Reserve in the Chez Roux portfolio of hotels, which are managed by ICMI (Inverlochy Castle Management International) on his behalf. The chef himself oversees all the menus with the help of his son Michel Roux Jr.

Fuller’s Parcel Yard site licensed for weddings: Fuller’s flagship The Parcel Yard site at London King’s Cross railway station has become an approved venue for civil marriages and civil partnerships. Set in a Grade I-listed building in the heart of the station, the pub spans two floors and showcases original features throughout. The rooms that are now licensed for marriage ceremonies are The Waiting Room (capacity 80), The Board Room (capacity 12), The Games Room (capacity 20), The Station Master’s Room (capacity 40) and The First Class Lounge (capacity 50). Jonathon Swaine, managing director of Fuller’s Inns, said: “This is fantastic news for The Parcel Yard, the first of its kind, allowing the pub to delve into another market. It is a unique and stunning venue, in one of the most accessible transport hubs in the world, and already enjoys a considerable reputation in the beer and food world. I cannot wait to congratulate the first couple to marry in the pub. I am certain their special day will be made all the more unique by having their ceremony in what is believed to be the first station pub with a marriage licence.”

Molson Coors promotes ‘craft specialist’ Martin Coyle as marketing director for its UK & Ireland business: Brewer Molson Coors has hired Martyn Coyle as its new marketing director, assuming full responsibility for all brands across Molson Coors’ portfolio. As part of his remit, Coyle will also continue to be responsible for the business’ craft brands, which include products across Sharp’s Brewery and Franciscan Well. He has been in the business for over a decade, and since September 2013, has held the position of director of Ireland, Scotland and Craft at Molson Coors. Prior to this, Coyle’s remit within the business was extensive, and has spanned various roles such as head of sponsorship, customer director for Asda and brand director for Carling. Within the business, Coyle has been commended for his unique “big and small” approach to brands of all sizes, which has led to the implementation of successful strategies for brands across Molson Coors’ diverse portfolio. His work on craft brands such as Franciscan Well and Sharp’s has seen the businesses’ Irish, Scottish and Craft operations go from strength to strength over recent years. Simultaneously, he has been instrumental in the development of repositioning strategies for larger brands such as Grolsch, resulting in new and innovative ways of building consumer connections. Coyle said: “This new role offers an opportunity to really combine the best of both brand worlds, taking the consistent quality of big scale brands, the innovative freedom of craft, and the passionate and talented people throughout our business, to give consumers the choice of exceptional beers they deserve. Scale brands and craft brands have a lot to offer the category individually, but harnessing the strengths and opportunities of both is how we can ensure the beer category thrives in the future. It is my ambition to work across our business to maximise these opportunities, making the category healthier and more valuable for everyone.”

Starbucks issues notes with a view to acquisitions: Starbucks has priced an underwritten public offering of senior notes. The company plans to use the net proceeds from the offering of $500 million of 2.700% senior notes due 2022 and $350 million of 4.300% senior notes due 2045 for general corporate purposes, which are expected primarily to include the redemption of the company’s outstanding 6.250% senior notes due 2017. The net proceeds may also be used for repurchases of Starbucks common stock under the company’s ongoing share repurchase programme, business expansion, payment of cash dividends on Starbucks common stock, or the financing of possible acquisitions. The offering of the senior notes is expected to close on 10 June, 2015, subject to customary closing conditions.

Farmers call for Caffe Nero boycott: Farmers have reacted angrily to reports coffee chain Caffe Nero has banned milk from the badger cull areas in response to threats from activists. Farmers and industry leaders took to social media threatening to boycott Caffe Nero, with some even calling for the industry to stop supplying the chain. NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison has accused the coffee chain of being arrogant and ignorant and has called for farmers and those who support the cull to boycott it. A report in The Mail on Sunday said the company was believed to have implemented the ban on milk from the Gloucestershire and Somerset pilot cull farms after learning that activists planned to stage protests at Caffe Nero outlets during an anti-austerity march in London on 20 June.

Brothers extend tapas concept as new restaurant opens in Nottingham: Brothers David and Jon Perkins have extended their tapas concept with the opening of Baresca in the former premises of a Nottingham nightclub. They have teamed up with chef-director Sarah Newham to open the 150-cover market cafe and tapas bar plus a 65-cover cellar bar over three floors on the site of the Dogma nightclub in Byard Lane. The trio has spent more than £600,000 on the new restaurant after securing a 20-year lease and it features an open kitchen on the first floor and lowly lit booths and leather seating in the cellar bar, which is called Cellar9. Baresca serves fives tapas menus – breakfast, menu del dia, main menu, escabeanies menu and the Cellar9 menu – reflecting and revolving around the flavours of Spain and her near neighbours. As well as continental and own-branded beers and hand-picked wines, the bar sells cocktails, sangria, Barista brews, fresh juices and smoothies. Jon Perkins told West Bridgford Wire: “Our new market cafe, tapas and cellar bar is the result of years of research and development coming together to create a Baresca concept which boils down a simple premise: We aim to promote the excitement of enjoying great food and drink with good friends. We hope our visitors agree that Baresca represents our four core values of offering something that’s fresh, quality, vibrant and good value.” 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.

McDonald’s egg supplier affected by American bird flu outbreak: McDonald’s has been forced to find new sources of eggs for its American restaurants after one of its suppliers was affected by bird flu. Many US egg producers have been affected by the outbreak of avian flu this spring with officials saying the virus has led to 40 million dead birds, nearly all in the Upper Midwest. These are mostly turkeys and egg-laying chickens, either from the disease or euthanised to prevent the spread. McDonald’s said one of its suppliers has been directly impacted and had taken “appropriate biosecurity precautions”. The company said in a statement it has developed other supply plans and added: “We do not anticipate an impact to our ability to supply eggs to our restaurants and serve our customers.” Iowa is the nation’s largest egg-producing state, and the flu there has wiped out 24 million chickens, or 41% of its commercial hen population, The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Canadian property firm buys Center Parcs: Canadian property firm Brookfield Property Partners has won the race to buy Center Parcs. The deal follows months of speculation that the company’s private equity owner Blackstone was inviting bids for the company at an estimated £2.5bn. A potential flotation was also rumoured. Center Parcs operates Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire; Elveden Forest, Suffolk; Longleat Forest, Wiltshire; Whinfell Forest, Cumbria and Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire. Ric Clark, chief executive officer of Brookfield Property Group, said: “To date, Brookfield Property Group’s investment activity in the UK has focused primarily on the office and logistics market; however, our global portfolio has always encompassed a broader mix of asset types including property deriving its returns from leisure activities. Center Parcs’ villages are high-quality, popular short break destinations for friends and families, with loyal guests and outstanding service. Although these resorts are already producing steady streams of cash flow supported by nearly full occupancy year-round, we see compelling opportunities to grow the business and enhance our investment returns.”

Thai Square owner drops into loss: Catering UK, owner of the 15-outlet Thai Square restaurant chain, has announced an operating loss of £493,000 for the year to 30 June 2014, a turnaround from a profit of £784,000 the previous year, of which £543,000 was from continuing operations. Total turnover for continuing operations at the company, which has 12 outlets in London and others in Windsor, St Albans and Richmond in Surrey, fell 4.5% to £14.3m, while the gross profit margin slipped from 77.5% to 76%. The business is owned by Haim Danous and Michael Cohen.

Pizza Hut launches pizza box that doubles as a smartphone film projector: Pizza Hut is delivering its pizzas in boxes that can be converted into a film projector for smartphones, as part of a trial in Hong Kong. The Blockbuster boxes come with a lens and phone stand inside. The user inserts the lens into a perforated hole in the side of the cardboard box and puts their handset on the stand inside the box, projecting the film onto a wall. Each box includes a QR code that customers can scan with their smartphone to access a Pizza Hut-made movie, but the system can be used to project any content from a smartphone onto a wall. The Blockbuster Boxes were created in conjunction with the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather HK. Pizza Hut is yet to confirm whether it plans to launch the Blockbuster boxes in other territories.

Dessert bar expands into home delivery: A dessert bar in Blackburn, Lancashire that opened a second branch in the town earlier this year has now expanded into home delivery with a service called Dial a Dessert. Melt Dessert Bar, in the Whalley Range Bazaar, Plane Street, will deliver everything from sundaes and shakes to cookies and crepes, all until after 10pm at night. Yusuf Lambat, who founded the business in 2011, opened a second branch, Mini Melt, in the food hall at Blackburn Market, taking on three apprentices. The business is now delivering desserts to customers within a three-mile “no melt” radius of its main store, with free delivery on orders over £10. It is also looking for potential franchisees to expand the business.

Italian restaurant brand Zizzi set for Birmingham’s New Street: The Italian restaurant brand Zizzi is set to open in a Grade II-listed former cinema in New Street in Birmingham. Walsingham Planning has submitted the proposal to Birmingham City Council on behalf of Azzurri Restaurants Ltd. The company hopes to convert the ground floor of the four-storey building into a 132-cover restaurant and there will also be seating outside. The restaurant could create a total of 37 jobs, 25 of which would be full-time. A statement accompanying the application said the development could bring a “new lease of life” to the listed site. It added: “The restaurant will have important social and economic benefits including providing a popular new place for people to meet, bringing a vacant unit back into gainful use, investing in a listed building, promoting the diversity of uses in the city centre, supporting neighbouring uses through linked trips and providing local employment.” The building is within the city’s Colmore Row & Environs Conservation Area. It was originally used as a cinema until the 1970s, but more recently as a Cashino amusement centre, which shut in 2013. The property has been on the market since 2012.

Brothers open third site, rebrand as Victus Bistros: Brothers Adam and Shaun Pullum, who run the Lemon Tree restaurant in St John’s Street, Colchester, and the Crown Inn pub-restaurant, in Wormingford, Essex are taking on a third site in Brightlingsea and rebranding the entire operation Victus Bistros. The Pullums have announced plans to open a restaurant in the Old Movie House, in High Street, Brightlingsea, in eight weeks’ time. Adam Pullum told The Colchester Gazette: “There seems to be nothing else available in Brightlingsea. They’ve got takeaways and fish and chip shops and pubs doing pub food. But this is something different, without being too fancy or pricey.” The new restaurant will take on about ten staff. The brothers took over the St John’s Street restaurant a year ago and will now relaunch it under the name The Colchester Town Centre restaurant to bring it in line with their other business. Adam said: “We want to focus on one brand.”

Brewhouse & Kitchen launches Fathers’ Day campaign: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the EIS backed micro-brewer and pub operator, has launched a Fathers’ Day campaign called “Say No To Socks Yes To Hops” to help drive sales. The company, led by Kris Gumbell and Simon Bunn, is using the slogan to encourage people to buy one of their beer-related products instead of socks for Fathers’ Day on 21 June. The campaign, which will be on beer mats, video and online, suggests booking a table for lunch and buying a voucher for the company’s brewery experience, a Brewhouse & Kitchen hamper, a mini keg of beer or a beer masterclass for two. Gumbell said: “Our Father’s Day campaign will definitely strike a chord with dads. As a father myself I can think of nothing better than a great lunch in a great pub that brews its own beer.”

Greene King beats target to raise £1.6m for Macmillan Cancer: Greene King has exceeded its £1m fundraising target by netting £1.6m for Macmillan Cancer Support over the past three years. Company employees have come together to raise funds for the leading cancer support charity, Greene King’s first national charity partner, since April 2012. Events have included donations on selected desserts from Greene King menus, which raised more than £150,000, while the company’s locals division has just completed its annual “Macmillan May” challenge. Pubs hosted events such as fun days, sponsored walks and raffles and it is hoped the initiative will beat last year’s total of £118,000. Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said: “I am immensely proud of our team and our customers who have gone above and beyond what we had thought possible to raise £1.6m for Macmillan. When we launched our partnership in April 2012 we hoped that it would bring together our teams from right across the business, and the unique fundraising ideas, team spirit and support for Macmillan has been inspirational – every one of us is touched in some way by cancer, and hopefully we have done our bit to help Macmillan provide support to those people affected.” The company has also made a £30,000 donation to the Woolverstone Macmillan Centre Appeal, which will help fund a new cancer treatment centre at Ipswich Hospital, near to Greene King’s head office site in Bury St Edmunds. Later this year, Greene King’s pubs and restaurants will get behind Macmillan’s flagship fundraising event, the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, for which they have raised £342,000 over the past three years.

Mojo bar owner centralises offices to aid expansion plans: The company behind the Mojo bar chain, which has sites in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, has taken office space in Leeds to restructure its HQ functions and allow head office staff to work under one roof. Mojo, which runs rock-themed cocktail bars, and is targeting its first bar in London this year, has signed a five-year lease at Andrews House, Meanwood Road, Leeds on 2,480 sq ft of office and storage space Martin Greenhow, managing director of Voodoo Doll, Mojo’s parent company, said: “To better facilitate the management of the business and to implement our expansion strategy, we decided to seek suitable premises close to Leeds city centre, and Andrews House proved to be ideal for us.” Cameron Ritchie of Mawsons, who handled the letting on behalf of the landlord, A Andrews & Sons, said: “Ever since meeting Martin at the premises for the first time, it became clear that it was well suited to their business needs and was pleased that we were able secure a letting in a quick turnaround for both parties concerned.”

Franco Manca confirms two more sites: Franco Manca has secured sites in Earl’s Court and Covent Garden, sized 1,650 sq ft and 1,465 sq ft respectively. Franco Manca at 151 Earl’s Court Road will trade across two levels, a 900 sq ft ground floor and a 750 sq ft basement. Opening in early October, it will have space for 64 covers in total. Shelley Sandzer acted for Franco Manca directly in the deal. The brand is also taking a site located at 36/39 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, in which Shelley Sandzer acted on behalf of landlords Wolfe Nominees Ltd. Similar to the location in Earl’s Court, the site is spread across 750 sq ft ground floor and 715 sq ft basement levels with space for 80 covers. It is due to open in late July. The rapidly expanding brand takes its number of London restaurants to 15 following this announcement, with the most recent opening in Belsize Park. 

JD Wetherspoon criticises ‘misleading’ statement that led to misreporting of court judgment: JD Wetherspoon has criticised a “misleading” statement by solicitors that led to misreporting of a court judgment about travellers being refused entry to one of its pubs The Coronet. The judgment in the case: Irish Traveller Movement in Britain and Others v JD Wetherspoon Plc was published on May 18, following a hearing at Central London County Court. It relates to travellers being refused entry to the north London pub in November 2011, following the Traveller Movement’s annual conference close by. But JD Wetherspoon says key aspects of the complex 45-page judgment were misinterpreted by some news outlets, following a “misleading” statement issued by Brentford-based solicitors Howe + Co. It acted for the claimants and two of its solicitors, including senior partner Martin Howe, were also claimants and witnesses in the case, having attended the travellers’ conference. A number of newspapers and websites stated the following in their report: “Wetherspoon thinking was ‘suffused with the stereotypical assumption that Irish Travellers and English Gypsies cause disorder wherever they go’.” Wetherspoon chairman, Tim Martin, said this was incorrect because his Honour Judge Hand QC actually said the following: “In my judgment the whole of the thinking of [the pub manager of the Coronet at the time], in so far as it can be inferred from the evidential material, was suffused with the stereotypical assumption that Irish Travellers and English Gypsies cause disorder wherever they go.” The judge added: “On the contrary, it seems to me that this was an ill thought out strategy, which [the pub manager of the Coronet at the time] arrived at without sufficient reflection. It does not seem to me, however, that he can be said to have had a truly discriminatory motive.” Mr Martin said: “I was perplexed as to how The Times, The Evening Standard and The Irish World, for example, misreported the judgment in print. Additionally The Mirror and The Islington Gazette, for example, misrepresented the judgment online. I am astounded to have now been shown a press release from the solicitors for the claimants, Howe + Co, which is clearly the source of the misrepresentation. The Howe + Co press release misleadingly suppressed the first part of the judge’s sentence and substituted the word ‘Wetherspoons’, which entirely alters what the judge said. Howe + Co also omitted to state that the judge did not accept that any ‘discriminatory motive’ was proved, which is an extremely important element of the judgment. Since this was a case which depended heavily on evidence as to what was said at the door of The Coronet pub several years previously, and the senior partner in Howe + Co was a claimant and witness, as well as the solicitor for the other claimants, it will be deeply disturbing for lawyers and the press, in my opinion, for the judge’s words to have been misreported in this way.” The judge found in favour of nine of the claimants and awarded eight of them damages and costs. The judge rejected nine further claims and awarded costs to JD Wetherspoon in respect of those claims. JD Wetherspoon has apologised to the successful claimants and is reviewing its training.

Olive Garden launches breadstick bun sandwiches: Olive Garden, the 800-restaurant US Italian-American casual dining chain criticised last year by activist investors for its policy of giving away unlimited breadsticks, has launched a range of breadstick bun sandwiches as part of a revamped menu. The sandwiches come in two varieties: Italian meatball, for $6.99, and chicken parmigiana, for $7.99. Each sandwich comes with garlic Parmesan fries, unlimited breadsticks and a choice of soup or salad. Olive Garden’s unlimited breadsticks became a focal point in the proxy fight led by the activist investor Starboard Value, whose slate won all 12 seats on the board of directors of the restaurant chain’s parent company, Darden, in October last year. Starboard argued that the chain was too liberal in its distribution of breadsticks, and that it should give tables a single breadstick per person, plus one additional stick, at the beginning of a meal, and afterwards only upon request. Olive Garden is promoting its breadstick sandwiches with a seven-week food truck tour of the United States, visiting 20 cities across the country. The tour can be tracked on the website BreadstickNation.com. Other new items on the chain’s menu include sausage stuffed giant rigatoni and a new Italian mac and cheese mini pasta bowl.

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