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Wed 21st Jun 2017 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Trade-off between time and quality looms large for McDonald’s as roll-out of fresh burgers begins: The trade-off between time and quality is looming large for McDonald’s as it begins to roll-out its fresh burgers. The introduction of cooked-to-order, quarter-pound burgers made with fresh beef is part of the chain’s attempts to improve food quality. The new sandwiches are already in test markets and it is expected they will be served in all US stores by mid-2018. However, the success of the initiative may hinge on satisfying important customers such as the speed-minded drive-thru consumers, who account for 70% of the company’s US revenue. An on-demand Quarter Pounder takes about a minute longer to land in a customer’s hands than the original, according to restaurant managers and analysts, because grilling only begins after an order has been received. However, company executives remain bullish on prospects for the Quarter Pounder, which accounts for about one-quarter of McDonald’s US burger sales. Some industry veterans, however, remain sceptical. Richard Adams, a former McDonald’s franchisee-turned-consultant in southern California, said convenience was paramount for the company’s customers, who could go elsewhere if speed deteriorated. Analysts expect the fresh-beef push, along with moves to ditch artificial ingredients in popular items such as chicken nuggets, to bolster sales by addressing consumer demand for simpler, “cleaner” and fresher ingredients. However, the “speed of McDonald’s” isn’t as fast as many of its competitors. The average service time at a McDonald’s drive-thru last year was 208.2 seconds, according to a study published by QSR magazine using data from SeeLevel HX, an Atlanta-based business intelligence firm. That lags well behind industry leader Wendy’s, at 169.1 seconds, according to the survey, while Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and KFC were all quicker too.

Industry News:

Propel Multi-Club summer conference open for bookings, two free places for operators: The Propel Multi-Club summer conference and party is now open for bookings. The event, which takes place on Thursday, 6 July at the Oxford Belfry, which is just off the M40, will also involve the Propel summer party in the evening. Operators can claim two free places by emailing Jo Charity on jo.charity@propelinfo.com. The speaker line-up for the morning session is NPD Group UK foodservice director Cyril Lavenant, Morar Consulting chief executive Roger Perowne, David Bruce, co-founder of Firkin Pubs, The Capital Pub Company and The City Pub companies and currently chairman of The West Berkshire Brewery, and Ali Khan and Samrien Hussain, who operate escape rooms business Tick Tock Unlocked. Speaking after lunch are Marston’s Revere Pub Company managing director Colin Sadler, The Breakfast Club co-founder Jonathan Arana-Morton, and Black and White Hospitality chief executive Nick Taplin. The final session features Tahola commercial director Simon Blackbourne, Mowgli owner Nisha Katonah, and Rupert Clevely, managing director of Eli Group’s managed expert joint venture Hippo Inns.

Trevor Watson – commercial property market has woken up to the value of freehold pub assets: Davis Coffer Lyons valuation director Trevor Watson has argued that the commercial property world has “woken up” to the value of high-quality freehold pub and other leisure assets in the past few years. The net effect of this has been to drive yields down as investors compete by paying more for the best assets, Watson told the CGA Peach Future of Finance seminar. He also forecast that the casual dining market would see more of a dip in performance than the pub market if the economy stalls and consumer confidence weakens. Watson said the clearest examples of saturated casual dining markets came from affluent south east towns rather than central London. He argued that consumers were loathe to give up their post-war drink in tougher times and in that sense, “pubs carry on like a machine”. He also argued that the tenanted pub world’s much-heralded Market Rent Only provision, which allows the option of opting for a market rent in certain situations, had become subject to “deep pocket syndrome” because operators had found “procedures difficult to work and costly”. 

ALMR and BBPA agree pub summit programme with gaming trade body: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) have agreed a programme of quarterly meetings with Bacta, the trade association whose members include the manufacturers and operators of gaming machines, pool tables and jukeboxes. Machine operators and representatives from the on-trade will discuss issues surrounding gaming and amusements equipment in the pub sector, including how to appeal to millennials, legislation impacting the sector, and opportunities to add value through new technologies. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Gaming machines provide a crucial revenue stream for many pubs but their contribution has shrunk somewhat over recent years. If gaming and amusement machines are to remain attractive for customers and continue to make a positive contribution to pubs, we need a concise and unified voice.” Bacta chief executive John White added: “There are circa 107,000 gaming and amusements machines sited in UK pubs and the businesses and jobs of many Bacta members are linked directly to the health of the pub sector. It is important the principal trade bodies maintain an open and regular dialogue, share insights and help ensure a sustainable and healthy relationship.” Meanwhile, the ALMR has warned the addition of public health as a licensing objective would undermine existing work without tackling perceived areas of alcohol-related harm. Responding to Public Health England’s (PHE’s) findings of its alcohol support package pilot scheme, which recommends the introduction of public health as a licensing objective, Nicholls said: “It is disappointing to see that the PHE has not sought to include the wider eating and drinking out sector more closely in its work and has failed to take advantage of the insight and support we can provide. An additional licensing objective will only undermine current work, could potentially make life very hard for employers and is unlikely to have the desired benefits.”

Restaurants invited to take part in front-of-house ‘switch project’: Restaurants are being invited to take part in a nationwide ideas exchange that will see front-of-house staff switch roles for up to a week. The initiative, known as The Switch, will start on Monday, 9 October and is being organised by the TMRW Project – the collaborative platform “made for the industry, by the industry”. In its second year of championing the theme of collaboration over competition, The Switch is the front-of-house answer to the chef’s stage. By focusing on the people who act as conduits between the kitchen and guest, The Switch gives waiters, managers, bartenders and sommeliers a chance to learn from their peers, experience different environments and be exposed to new ways of working. Headed by Emma Underwood, one-third of the TMRW Project and general manager of Where The Light Gets In, the initiative will pair restaurants based on varying size, location, style and atmosphere, which will each host a “switch” for three to five days. It will allow participants to gain knowledge they can build on and take back to their own restaurants, develop new relationships across the industry, and learn the true art of collaboration. In its first year, The Switch harnessed support from restaurants including Gaucho, Duck & Waffle and The Man Behind The Curtain. To find out more click here.

Pinsent Masons and Christie & Co to host free breakfast briefing: Law firm Pinsent Masons and agent Christie & Co are to hold a free breakfast briefing – Pubs, Restaurants and Hotels Sector: Challenges of 2017 and beyond – this month. The event takes place at Pinsent Masons’ offices at 3 Hardman Street, Manchester, on Tuesday, 27 June. The briefing will cover a range of legal and commercial issues affecting licensed businesses as well as a panel discussion featuring Living Ventures chief executive Jeremy Roberts, Palatine Private Equity investor director Kieran Lawton, Tower Hotel Management managing director Peter de la Perrelle, and Stephen Owens, head of valuation – hospitality at Christie & Co. Topics will include National Living Wage increases, the Apprenticeship Levy, disruption to recruitment following Brexit, business rates increases, rising food and beverage costs, and proposed changes to the Licensing Act. Christie & Co associate director Ryan Lynn said: “We have seen continued transactional activity throughout the UK and buyer demand for pubs, restaurants and hotels has continued to grow with values on the up. We look forward to sharing our analysis and predictions for the future of these sectors and insights focusing on the north west marketplace in particular.” Amie Norris, senior associate at Pinsent Masons, added: “The focus will be the interactive discussion with the panel to gain an insight into how businesses are seeking to address the challenges faced in 2017 and beyond.” Click here for further details and how to register. 

Company News:

Albion and East Group to start expansion after securing Brixton venue for second London site: Albion and East Group, formerly known as Ruth & Robinson, is to start expansion after securing a venue to open its second London restaurant. Agent Shelley Sandzer has secured a site in Ferndale Road, Brixton, with Albion and East set to open a 4,579 square foot cafe and bar in September. The new restaurant is in The Department Store, a development by Squire & Partners architects with the aim of creating an “evolving hub of creative, retail and community uses”. The venue will be split over the basement and ground-floor levels, with an area for outdoor seating. During the daytime, the venue will provide a relaxed workspace environment with a menu inspired by a wood-fired oven and a coffee hatch opening on to Stockwell Avenue. Shelley Sandzer joint managing partner Nick Weir said: “It’s great to see a budding operator like Albion and East continue to grow and in such a brilliant location. We know this tenant will provide a space perfect for employees and locals.” The Imbiba Partnership-backed Albion and East Group, led by Sarah Weir, opened its debut site, Martello Hall, in Hackney in December. Shelley Sandzer acted for Squire and Partners. Albion & East dealt directly.

Giggling Squid secures Beaconsfield site: Thai restaurant group Giggling Squid, which is backed by the Business Growth Fund, is to continue its expansion by opening a site in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, in early autumn. The company, founded by Thai-born Pranee Laurillard and husband Andy, is opening the venue, which will have capacity for up to 200 guests, in London Road. Andy Laurillard said: “We are delighted to be opening in Beaconsfield. It’s a lovely town and we’ve got a fantastic building, we’re really looking forward to contributing to the food scene in the area.” Giggling Squid took a £6.4m investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2015 to accelerate growth plans. Founded in the basement of a tiny fisherman’s cottage, now the Brighton restaurant, the couple opened their first site in Hove in 2009.

Crussh opens first food and juice bar within Sainsbury’s store, eyes widening partnership: Crussh, the London-based healthy food and juice brand, has launched its first site in a Sainsbury’s store. The food and juice bar has opened in Sainsbury’s Pimlico store as the retail giant scrambles to fill excess space to counter shifting consumer habits. As online shopping grows in popularity, supermarkets have been adding to their stores to lure customers back through the doors. Sainsbury’s, has already introduced Argos and Habitat concessions into a number of its stores, as well as 17 Sushi Gourmet counters. Pimlico Crussh offers healthy meals and drinks such as turmeric lattes. Demand has so far been strong and Sainsbury’s told the Evening Standard it is likely to bring the brand to other branches. The move comes as Sainsbury’s closes in on a £130m million deal to buy convenience store chain Nisa amid a wider shake-up of the grocery industry. Tesco has agreed to buy wholesaler Booker, while Amazon is to take over upmarket chain Whole Foods. The Pimlico site is the 29th Crussh food and juice bar in the capital.

BrewDog gives Overworks insight: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has said it is on schedule to enter its new Overworks standalone sour beer facility in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, by the end of July. In its blog, the company stated: “The shell of the building is almost done and the mezzanine level and lab area are starting to take shape too. The next stage is to lay in a whole lot of concrete flooring before we dial in the utilities. Progress is awesome so we’re set to be in the building by the end of July. One of the most important, but oft-overlooked, parts of the new-build is temperature control. The Overworks will be fitted out with state-of-the-art monitors. Wild yeasts and bacteria do their best work across a narrow range of temperatures so ensuring Overworks doesn’t fluctuate is imperative (we’re thinking cold winters if not warm summers). Designs have now been finalised for our stainless steel tanks – some of which will be for primary fermentation and others to max out further in the presence of different fruit. And the coolest part? The wort for all these adventures will arrive through a pipe under the road from our Ellon brewhouse!” The Overworks is due to fully open in the autumn.

Investec launches City pop-up with menu based on diners’ appetite for risk: Investment services firm Investec has launched a pop-up restaurant – Click & Investaurant – in the City of London designed to cater for financially cautious Brits. The pop-up coincides with Investec’s launch of online investment service Click & Invest, with its research revealing three-quarters of respondents wouldn’t consider investing even if they received a sudden windfall of £10,000. Every Tuesday evening in July, people can visit 155 Bar & Kitchen in Clerkenwell and pay £38 per head for a two-course meal based on an “attitude to risk” survey they complete before booking their dinner. The menu will range from a “risk-adverse” meal of burgers and chips to a dish for the “adventurous”, who will be served crocodile and crispy crickets. Click & Invest chief executive Jane Warren said: “Risk is something people encounter in their everyday lives in one guise or another and, with Click & Investaurant, we have been able to create an innovative concept for people to explore their appetite for risk while tasting some delicious dishes.”

McDonald’s wins three-year planning battle to open 24-hour site: McDonald’s has won an appeal to open a 24-hour restaurant in Bristol. Protest group No McDonald’s In Fishponds has been fighting to prevent the round-the-clock drive-thru in Fishponds Road since 2014. A government planning officer has approved the plans for the two-storey outlet despite protests from residents and Bristol City Council rejecting the plans in 2015. In a blog post, locals said they were concerned about traffic congestion, litter, health risks and squeezing out competition. Mike Jempson, of the Say No To McDonald’s campaign group, told Bristol 24/7: “We remain convinced the McDonald’s footprint will be to the detriment of greater Fishponds.” He said the group would “consider its options” before deciding whether to challenge the decision in the High Court. McDonald’s responded in a statement: “We are pleased our application has been allowed but will now take time to review the inspector’s decision. We strongly believe we will make a positive contribution to the local community, not least through the creation of 65 jobs for local people.”

Starbucks to hire 2,500 refugees in European stores by 2022: Starbucks has announced plans to hire 2,500 refugees in its European stores by 2022 as part of a global programme announced in January. The company said the figure would be part of Starbuck’s commitment to hire 10,000 refugees globally. The company will work with agencies that aid refugees in eight countries – the UK, France, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands – to launch the project. The Refugee Council in Britain welcomed the partnership, saying it could “make a positive difference to the lives of refugees”, who bring an “incredible wealth of skills, knowledge and experience which are hugely beneficial to society”. Starbucks’ move came in response to US president Donald Trump’s indefinite suspension of Syrian refugees and temporary travel bans applying to six other nations. Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz said the effort would start in the US, where the focus would be on hiring immigrants “who have served with US troops as interpreters and support personnel”.

Edinburgh restaurant Gardener’s Cottage to start expansion by opening sister site in city: Award-winning Edinburgh restaurant Gardener’s Cottage is to start expansion by opening its second site in the city – Quay Commons – in Leigh. Launched in 2012, the restaurant is known for a focus on seasonality and experimentation. It has secured glowing reviews from food critics Jay Rayner and AA Gill and awards such as Waitrose Good Food Guide Reader’s Restaurant of the Year. Quay Commons will occupy a former warehouse in Commercial Street. It will feature an open plan bakery alongside a bar and eating space, where diners can choose a daily market menu as well as bread, house-cured charcuterie and carefully selected wine. Co-founder and chef proprietor Dale Mailley said: “We are humbled to be opening a sister restaurant to our much-loved Gardener’s Cottage and that Leith – an iconic part of Edinburgh with such a rich heritage of food – will be our home.”

D&D London evolves loyalty scheme: Restaurant group D&D London has evolved its customer loyalty scheme, Club D&D, which sees it expand into a three-tiered model of increasingly attractive benefits. The restructure also introduces the D&D White Card, which unlocks the group’s most exclusive benefits to a select few by invitation only. Club D&D is now made up of three distinct tiers. After their first two visits to D&D restaurants, guests are welcomed to Club Orange, with regular guests upgraded to Club Silver after they have dined five times in one year. After dining ten times in 12 months, those in Club Silver are accelerated to Club Gold. Exclusive perks and incentives are built on and expanded as members make their way from tier to tier, including dedicated content, club discounts, events, parties and partnerships with the likes of Workologie – D&D’s workspace scheme in collaboration with Urbanologie. VIP status is incorporated into the final tier, which serves to further reward D&D’s most loyal clientele. D&D marketing director Tiffany Robinson said: “We’ve operated Club D&D for two years now, with a focus on looking after our very best customers exceptionally well via invitations to exciting events inside and outside our restaurants. We have now decided to develop Club D&D into a broader-based, more structured loyalty programme.”

Deliciously Ella relaunches central London sites with new name, look and menu: Deliciously Ella, founded by food writer Ella Mills and husband Matthew, has relaunched its central London sites with a new name, look and menu. Formerly known as The MaE Deli, they have become Deliciously Ella at Weighhouse Street, Deliciously Ella at Seymour Place, and Deliciously Ella The Kitchen Counter. To mark the new names, all locations feature a freshly updated menu and renovated interiors. The delis now offer a concise, plant-based menu with Deliciously Ella bowls. Dishes on the rotating seasonal menu include chilli and rustic cornbread (five-bean chilli drizzled in garlic with cashew cream, rustic cornbread and crunchy slaw); and tahini cauliflower and spring quinoa (pea, radish, mint and spring onion quinoa with tahini-roasted cauliflower and steamed kale). The delis continue to offer a selection of breakfast options as well as freshly made smoothies, sweet treats, cold-pressed juices and hot drinks. The Weighhouse Street and Seymour Place venues also feature a bright new look, with Weighhouse Street showcasing a fresh color scheme, marble table tops and new outdoor seating. Ella Mills said: “The team has spent a long time perfecting this relaunch. Our new Deliciously Ella plant-based bowls are a particular highlight and are ideal as a grab-and-go lunch or dinner.”

JD Wetherspoon to open £4m Ramsgate pub in August: JD Wetherspoon is to open its £4m pub in Ramsgate, Kent, in August. The grade II-listed Royal Victoria Pavilion will open in Harbour Parade on Tuesday, 29 August. The company is looking to recruit 150 staff having already hired a number through an open day at East Kent College. Pub managers Chris Whitbourn and Charlotte Mason will hold a further recruitment day on Thursday, 29 June. Whitbourn told Kent Online: “Charlotte and I are looking forward to opening the new-look pub on this iconic site in Ramsgate. The pub will be one of the largest, if not the largest in the UK, with a customer area of almost 11,000 square feet, plus a ground-floor and first-floor terrace.” In April, firefighters tackled a blaze at the site after a forklift truck caught alight. The former casino and dance hall has stood empty since 2008 and suffered serious damage in another blaze in 2011.

Humble Grape to launch Islington wine bar on Saturday, third London site: Humble Grape, the wine bar and shop concept founded by James Dawson, is to open its Islington venue on Saturday (24 June), the company’s third London site. The venue will open in Theberton Street at the former Tinto Bar & Kitchen site offering more than 400 mainly organic, biodynamic and sustainably sourced single-vineyard wines. Wine will be available to drink in by the glass or carafe or to purchase at retail price from the shop. Humble Grape Islington will also allow guests to discover the origins of each bottle by exploring the Winemaker Wall, with the space flowing from wine shop, bar and wine library to the dining room. Executive head chef Kishen Raheja will champion independent suppliers such as day boat fishermen from Mersea Island and Wildes Cheese. The menu will feature dishes such as diver-caught scallops, and Laverstock farm black pudding and crispy leeks, Hot Dinners reports. Last month, Humble Grape raised almost £1.3m for expansion on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. A fully-funded fourth site is due to open in August, with funds raised from the campaign going towards opening venues five and six and growing the Wine Club, Wine Bank and online sales. The company opened its first venue in Battersea in 2015 and a second in Fleet Street the following year.

YO! Sushi to open Glasgow city centre site next week: YO! Sushi is to open its Glasgow city centre site on Thursday, 29 June. The restaurant will open in West George Street at a former Pizza Hut site and, in keeping with Glasgow’s status as the UK’s “most vegan-friendly city”, it will offer 16 vegan and 33 vegetarian dishes. YO! chief executive Robin Rowland told Glasgow Live: “Fans can expect to enjoy exciting new food offerings as well as all their favourites off our legendary conveyor belt and set against a cutting-edge restaurant interior. YO! Glasgow Central will be a fitting statement for a city we have a fantastic history with.” The restaurant is the company’s third in Glasgow, with others sites in the Silverburn and Braehead shopping centres. YO! Sushi has also signed a 20-year lease on a 2,300 square foot unit at Glasgow Fort’s new leisure quarter. The company, backed by Mayfair Private Equity, has seen like-for-like sales increases of more than 5% since last summer in the wake of moves to evolve the company in a number of key areas. Menus have been redesigned, while new concepts have launched at Boxpark Croydon and Manchester.

Shepherd Neame opens pop-up brewery store at Bluewater: Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has launched a seasonal pop-up brewery store at Bluewater shopping centre. The company will operate the 1,800 square foot brewing boutique in the Upper Guildhall until Wednesday, 5 July after agreeing a deal with complex owner Landsec. The store includes a bar featuring its first cider, Orchard View, and new Cinque Five Grain premium lager. Guests can also purchase merchandise and Shepherd Neame bespoke products, including bottled beer, from the brew shop. In addition, a pioneering “HOPS360” virtual reality experience has been created, allowing each guest to take a virtual tour of a hop garden. Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame said: “It’s great to have collaborated with Bluewater, an exciting and thriving retail destination in Kent for our pop-up store. We look forward to welcoming enthusiasts and those curious to learn more about beer and brewing.” Bluewater and Shepherd Neame both dealt direct.

Caprice Holdings to open Ivy Cafe at Tower Bridge next month: Caprice Holdings, owned by Richard Caring, is opening its site at London’s Tower Bridge next month. The latest Ivy Cafe all-day restaurant will open at Berkeley’s One Tower Bridge mixed-use development on Wednesday, 26 July. The venue will offer breakfast, elevenses, weekend brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, light snacks, dinner and cocktails, with floor-to-ceiling windows making the most of its riverside location and a 50-cover Parisian-style terrace and bar offering “relaxed yet sophisticated dining” overlooking the Thames. The Ivy Cafe will join Rosa’s Thai Café and Coal Shed at One Tower Bridge, alongside a Welsh restaurant from MasterChef: The Professionals star Tom Simmons, and Sir Nicholas Hytner’s and Nick Starr’s 900-seat Bridge Theatre. It is a busy time for Caprice Holdings, which recently continued regional expansion of its Ivy brasserie concept with the launch of sites in Cobham, Surrey, and Marlow, Buckinghamshire. It also signed a 25-year lease earlier this month to bring The Ivy brand to Edinburgh for a first site in Scotland.

IKEA commits to halve food waste in its restaurants by 2020: IKEA has rolled out a smart device-based initiative that aims to halve the amount of food waste at its restaurants by 2020. The Food Is Precious initiative was piloted in the UK and IKEA is now globally rolling out the scheme, which features smart scales that collect data to find solutions to prevent food being wasted at its restaurants, bistros and food markets. More than 20% of IKEA sites have already applied the system, resulting in a reduction of 79,200kg of food waste. A survey found more than 70% of IKEA food staff are proud of the initiative, with 50% taking measures to cut food waste at home. IKEA food services managing director Michael La Cour told Edie.net: “Thanks to engaged co-workers and the measuring solution, we are seeing up to 30% food waste reduction already after a few months.” IKEA has also become a member of the Champions 12.3 coalition – a partnership of 30 government, business and civil society leaders that aims to accelerate progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 – to halve food waste and reduce food losses by 2030.

Taco restaurant Del 74 to start expansion with second London site: Del 74, which launched a debut taqueria in Clapton a few months ago, is to start expansion by opening a second site in the capital, this time in London Fields. Cantina Del 74 will open in Mare Street on Thursday, 29 June featuring an expanded menu and a new range of frozen margaritas. More than two-thirds of the menu will feature new items, including botana de brisket (“melt-in-your-mouth” beef brisket with tortilla chips), chicken-thigh tacos (24-hour marinated chicken thighs with cucumber salsa), and Mexican shrimp cocktail, served Acapulco market style. The Cantina will be sited in the rear of Scandinavian cocktail bar Helgi’s, leading to “Icelandic in the front, Mexica in the back – like a bad haircut”, a Del 74 spokesman told Hot Dinners. He added: “There will be a tequila and mezcal offering in the back, and Helgi’s cocktail selection and beers in the front.”

TripAdvisor rolls out new UK campaign: TripAdvisor is rolling out a new campaign in the UK that features its owlish mascot Little Wiser for the first time. The campaign will use a series of six different spots in ten-second, 20-second and 30-second formats that will run on a mix of major cable and national network channels. Created by US-based agency Supermom, each spot focuses on a different function of TripAdvisor, beyond its well-known ratings and review function. TripAdvisor chief marketing officer Barbara Messing told Campaign: “TripAdvisor is a well-known brand that’s been around for 17 years, but it’s not ‘known well’. What I mean is, while we are known and loved for our content when it comes to research and planning, most aren’t aware we have a price comparison tool on our app. The goal of this campaign is to push the TripAdvisor brand further down the purchase funnel, from research and planning to when folks are actually ready to make a booking.” In the UK, TripAdvisor’s most recent television campaign, “Don’t just visit”, ran at the end of 2014. TripAdvisor has appointed Joint as its first agency in the UK for creative execution and testing to support the sustained roll-out of the campaign.

The Great Escape changes name of controversial challenge at Leeds venue: Live escape game centre The Great Escape has changed the focus of its latest horror-themed challenge at its site in Leeds following mounting public pressure and a meeting with the city council. The company faced a backlash from mental health professionals after announcing its latest game would be set in an “abandoned asylum”. Tom Riordan, Leeds City Council chief executive and the council’s designated mental health champion, met with the company following concerns raised about its attraction named “The Asylum” at The Great Escape. Riordan was joined by Leeds Mind chief executive Helen Kemp and Leeds and York Partnership NHS Trust chief executive Dr Sara Munro. The game will now be named “Abducted”, with the central plot of the game set to change, reports Insider Media. The Great Escape was launched in Sheffield at the start of last year by Hannah Duraid and Peter Lacole before expanding into Leeds within the grade II-listed Atlas House building in 2016. In April, the company was given the go-ahead for its third site, in Birmingham.

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