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Wed 26th Jul 2017 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Late-night food delivery service Feast launches £150,000 crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Late-night food delivery service Feast has launched a £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company is offering 3.61% equity to fund the expansion of the service across London. The campaign has raised £47,300 from 19 investors so far, with 28 days remaining. The largest investment has been £25,000. Feast was founded by Simon Pusey after he became frustrated at “not being able to find good food after 10pm”. The company previously raised £460,000 in seed investment from angel investors. The bid states: “In partnership with some of the best 24-hour and late-night restaurants, we deliver great food at times you can’t get it delivered anywhere else – between 7pm and 5am. Founded in December 2015 by one man on a Dutch bike, Feast now has more than 40 drivers on the road. We’ve served over 20,000 hungry customers. During the past three months we have a total order value of £179,291, which would equate to a total order value run rate of more than £500,000 over the next 12 months. We’ve also signed up more than 80 hotels to our bespoke site at www.NightRoomService.com. This allows hotels and luxury apartments to outsource their night-time food needs to us and make money from every order their guest places. We currently take £2.50 from the customer per order and 25% of the price of the order from the restaurant. We aim to fulfil 28,000 orders in 2017, which would equate to a total order turnover of more than £500,000. We plan to use our Crowdcube funds to increase the area we serve in London to include the whole of Zone 2. We will also hire a second full-stack developer and another salesperson to bring on more hotels to NightRoomService.com.”

Industry News:

New Propel and Mark McCulloch masterclass to unlock secrets of social media: The schedule for the first Social Media for Profit masterclass has been revealed. Propel is launching the social media “boot camp” with Mark McCulloch, founder and group chief executive of brand, marketing and digital agency WE ARE Spectacular. Attendees will learn how to go toe-to-toe with their marketing department, team and social media agency, while adding value to their social media strategy. McCulloch will give insights into how delegates can build their sales and brand by using social media. He will also explain the ways in which social media is evolving and provide an in-depth explanation of the latest social media landscape, its various channels, and how to use them to your advantage. McCulloch will also provide sessions on all major social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and reveal how you can target potential customers with the right messages to drive sales. Looking back on his vast experience in the industry, McCulloch will also explain the best methods to use in the event of a social media disaster, from a mere blip to a national crisis. The half-day event takes place on Thursday, 14 September at One Moorgate Place in London. Tickets are £345 plus VAT for operators, £445 plus VAT for suppliers, and £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers. To book a place, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com or call 01444 817691.

Foodservice inflation runs at 8.8% in June: Wholesale foodservice prices saw inflation of 8.8% in June, according to the new edition of the CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index. The rate is fractionally down on the figure of 9.0% recorded in May, which was the index’s highest point in nearly nine years. However, June’s figure of 8.8% is still significantly ahead of historical averages and continues a year of substantial challenges in the categories of wholesale foodservice that depend on imports. The index also reveals the disparity between foodservice price inflation and the Consumer Price Index, which measured 2.3% in June, according to the Office for National Statistics. It highlights how the foodservice supply chain is exposed to notably more inflationary pressures than some consumer-side sectors. Inflation ran high in June in most of the categories measured by the CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index. The most sharply affected category was Fish, where inflation stood at 20.8%, driven by sea lice problems in Norwegian and Scottish farms, concern over cod and tuna quotas, and the pressure low exchange rates is placing on imported catches. In the Ambient Hot Categories, meanwhile, inflation was running at 12.0% in June, driven by rising coffee and tea prices. Inflation in Fruit, a category particularly dependent on imports and vulnerable to exchange rates, stood at 13.6%. One bright spot in the foodservice market was found in the Sugars, Preserves and Confectionary category, where prices in June were 5.1% lower than in June 2016. The dip has been caused by increased sugar cane production and yields in Brazil, healthier beet sugar production across the EU, and relatively low cocoa prices. There are tentative signs that inflation in some other food and drink categories could also be starting to ease a little. However, uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations is likely to keep the value of the pound low and general foodservice price inflation high in the coming months. 

Leisure chief executives back ‘CEO for a day’ initiative: Chief executives in the leisure and hospitality sector, including Domino’s Pizza and Welcome Break, are backing an initiative to encourage bright young people into business careers in the sector. CEO for a Day, run by global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, seeks to widen access to experience at the top of businesses to all UK undergraduates. The move comes as Odgers Berndtson urged companies to do more to attract bright new talent as leisure and hospitality becomes more digital and experience-led. Holly Addison, head of travel, leisure and hospitality at Odgers Berndtson, said: “A key issue for the hospitality and leisure sector has long been the sense that young people ‘fall into it’, often from casual jobs in bars and restaurants, rather than aspire to careers in the sector. CEO for a Day enables young people to see for themselves what this industry can offer, and open doors to the incredible career potential many wouldn’t otherwise know existed.”

Peckham to gain major new food, drinks and art destination: Peckham will gain a major new food, drink and arts destination this autumn as seven floors of its iconic multi-storey car park are transformed into a creative hub of studios, workshops, markets and street food sites. The Rye Lane building, which has Frank’s Cafe and Campari Bar on its roof, will become home to Peckham Levels, a temporary project planned to occupy the unused space for the next six years. The first five levels will contain work space for emerging artists, designers and entrepreneurs – primarily from the local area – while the two upper levels will become a food, drinks and events space. In total, more than 100 businesses are set to feature, becoming “members” of the building – 75% of these will come from Peckham itself and 85% from within the borough of Southwark. Levels five and six will be open to the public daily and feature seven street food traders, a cafe, bars and events space as well as yoga studios and a hair and beauty salon. The food offering will include chicken wings from Drums & Flats; an outlet of Camberwell’s Kurdish restaurant and coffee shop Nandine; regional Chinese street food from Hao Hao Chi; chicken burgers from Otherside Fried; and new stall Canard serving confit duck. Natural wine bar and kitchen West will offer Californian-inspired breakfast and small plates alongside coffee. Drinks will also be on hand from an as yet-to-be-announced cocktail bar as well as Lady Godiva, a craft beer bar from the team behind Peckham and Brixton-based pizza restaurants Made of Dough. A built-in events venue will be run by Parched London, which operates local pubs The White Horse and The Montpelier.

David Bruce in funding bid for charitable trust: David Bruce, co-founder of Firkin Pubs, The Capital Pub Company and The City Pub companies and currently chairman of The West Berkshire Brewery, is asking for support to gain funding for his charity The Bruce Trust. The trust has been nominated by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to receive funding, with the amount it receives dictated by the number of online votes the charity gets. Bruce said: “The MCF Community Awards – Tercentenary Fund is donating £3m to be shared by 300 charities, of which we are delighted to be one, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England. During the past 28 years, the trust has enabled 20,000 disabled, disadvantaged or elderly people, together with their carers, to enjoy holidays on our four purpose-built boats on the Kennet and Avon Canal. The £25,000 grant we hope to be awarded will be spent specifically to further improve and maintain our boats.” To vote for the trust, visit www.mcf.org.uk/region/berkshire and click on The Bruce Trust “vote” button. Voting closes on Monday (31 July).

Company News:

Five Guys site on the Champs Elysees averages €303,000 a week: Five Guys UK has reported its second opening in France, on the Champs Elysees, Paris, in November 2016, has averaged sales of €303,000 a week. Its first store in France, in Bercy Village, Paris, has averaged sales of €163,000 a week since opening in August 2016. Both sales levels are records for a Five Guys outlet. UK sales stood at £86,193,892, while France sales were £3,388,767. Spain had sales of £843,539 – a site in Madrid opened in October 2016. Five Guys UK has reported sales rose to £90.4m in the year to 25 December 2016, up from £63.3m in 2015. Ebitda was £10.5m (2015: £9.6m) but there was a net loss of £13.4m (2015: loss £8.4m). Pre-opening costs amounted to about £7.3m of that loss (2015: £2.9m). The group had £7.3m of finance costs in the year. Five Guys UK opened 19 stores in the UK in 2016, taking the total to 59. Five Guys UK has £32.8m of retained losses. 

Stonegate to invest £1m in opening Birmingham superclub next month, closes Walkabout in Temple ahead of new brand: Stonegate Pub Company is to invest more than £1m in opening a new superclub – Rosies – in Birmingham on Friday, 18 August. The venue in Broad Street will offer five rooms providing an eclectic mix of premium cocktails, luxury spirits and state-of-the-art sound, lighting and atmospherics. Open from 5pm six days a week, rooms will include Montana bar; Dao (meaning “the way” in Chinese) offering VIP booths, LED “chopstick” lighting and an additional bar offering Asian-inspired cocktails; Retro, providing a playlist of party and singalong classics; the Vault Room, playing R&B with hidden VIP Bourbon booths overlooking the DJ and dance floor; and Laundrette, a speakeasy bar giving the illusion of a humble wash room providing 50% off drinks Monday to Saturday, 5pm to 10pm. Alan Armstrong, head of marketing for Venues at Stonegate Pub Company, said: “This is one of the biggest investments in Stonegate Pub Company’s history and shows our dedication to investing in the late-night sector and also the city of Birmingham. What we are producing has been done with the Birmingham customer in mind. Every room will provide an experience unlike any other.” Meanwhile, Stonegate Pub Company will close its Walkabout bar in Temple on Saturday, 29 July to make way for a new-brand destination venue. While the name and details have yet to be revealed, the new-look bar will launch on Thursday, 14 September following an investment of more than £1m. Stonegate Pub Company operates more than 690 pubs split into two divisions – Branded (Slug and Lettuce, Yates’s, Walkabout, Common Room and Venues) and Traditional (Proper Pubs, Town Pub & Kitchen, and Classic Inns).

Online beer subscription service BeerBods passes half-way mark on £250,000 crowdfunding campaign on first day: Online beer subscription service BeerBods has passed the half-way mark of its £250,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube on the first day. The company is offering 10% equity and has so far raised £146,020 from 223 investors with 28 days remaining. The largest investment so far is £10,000. The company, launched by Matt Lane in 2012, previously raised £150,000 on Crowdcube in 2014. It is seeking further investment in a bid to become the “leading independent online retailer of beer in the UK”. Shares will be issued from holding company Drink Beta, of which BeerBods is a wholly owned subsidiary. The bid states: “We believe BeerBods was the UK’s first beer subscription service. We have one simple aim – to get more people drinking better beer. After being named ‘one of the 100 most innovative small businesses in the UK’ by Smarta and O2 in 2014, we raised some seed investment and broke crowdfunding records in the process, raising £150,000 in 36 hours on Crowdcube. Nearly all the money came from our amazing customers. Since then we’ve grown our subscriber numbers almost four-fold, our revenue five-fold, and our team six-fold. Today we have almost 4,000 active subscribers and another 14,000 members who buy mixed cases or gifts from us on a less frequent basis. Since launching we’ve sold more than £1.4m of beer (gross merchandising value). We think we’ve laid the foundations to become one of the leading independent online retailers of bottled beer in the UK. Now we want to grow our impact by bringing a tech team in-house, develop ideas for new products, and invest in an ambitious marketing strategy.”

Nando’s partners with Paytronix to manage loyalty scheme: Paytronix, the US restaurant reward and guest engagement programme company, has partnered Nando’s across 384 UK sites to manage its Chillies loyalty and gift card programmes. Millions of Nando’s Card reward and gift card programme accounts have migrated to the Paytronix platform to ensure “continuous up-time”. Guests can pick up a Nando’s Card at any restaurant and start earning chillies straight away. Guests add a new chilli to their “chilli wheel” for every bill of £7 or more. As they move further around the wheel, they bank bigger and better rewards. To claim a reward, guests need to register their card online or on Nando’s mobile app. There is a bonus chilli for registering. Paytronix Systems president Andrew Robbins said: “Nando’s was able to take advantage of our proven technology and process to seamlessly migrate millions of customer accounts on to the Paytronix Rewards platform. Now Nando’s has a reliable service that is always available to its guests, anytime, anywhere.”

New grab-and-go Nikkei concept Waka to launch in City of London: New grab-and-go Nikkei concept Waka is to launch in the City of London in early September. The restaurant will open at Eastcheap in the Square Mile offering “Go Food” boxes to take away, including sea bass ceviche with wasabi leche de tigre, hot chicken teriyaki rice bowl with Peruvian purple potato, and salmon tiradito with apple and passion fruit sauce. Waka will also offer a selection of hand-made sushi dishes, gyoza, tiraditos and hot options. While Waka is predominantly aimed at the grab-and-go sector, the restaurant will also offer a 60-cover basement dining area. Nikkei began its evolution in Peru in the late 1800s, when settlers from Japan – known as Nikkei – adapted their home cuisine using local ingredients.

Snaffling Pig crowned winner of Foodpreneur 2017: A pork scratchings business is the winner of Virgin StartUp’s Foodpreneur 2017, a competition run in partnership with Intu to find the country’s best new food and drinks business. Nick Coleman and Andy Allen founded Snaffling Pig in 2014 but are already suppliers to some of the UK’s largest pub companies and secured investment for their business on BBC 2’s Dragons’ Den last year. They beat almost 200 other food and drinks entrepreneurs to be named winners of Foodpreneur 2017, with their prize to open a shop for six weeks free of charge at Intu Lakeside, one of the UK’s largest shopping destinations. They will also receive mentoring from Intu and Virgin StartUp executives. Foodpreneur judge Levi Roots said: “It was a hard decision to make but Snaffling Pig blew us away as their energy, flair and passion made them a clear favourite.”

Neil Rankin opens second Temper site with focus on curry and gin: Neil Rankin has opened a second site for his Imbiba-backed concept Temper, this time in the City of London. Temper City has opened in Throgmorton Street focusing on curry and gin rather than the whole animal barbecue concept featured at the debut Temper, which launched in Soho in November. Curries are cooked on open flames, while there are 20 gin and tonics and a bespoke cocktail for each dish. The menu includes meatball masala, mutton rolls, laksa lamb belly, and a fiery lamb scotch bonnet vindaloo. Temper City also offers a thali-style set menu at lunchtimes, enabling diners to sample a bit of everything, as well as a breakfast service. Rankin told Hot Dinners: “Curry is my first food love and still my favourite.” Regarding further roll-out of the Temper concept, he added: “I have four ideas in mind but we’ll decide when we pick a site. I like to keep things fresh and my chefs inspired.”
 
Cairn Group buys two Aberdeen hotels out of administration: Newcastle-based hotel and bar operator Cairn Group has bought two hotels in Aberdeen out of administration, adding to its portfolio of 31 hotels and 30-plus bars across the UK. The company has acquired the 155-bedroom Holiday Inn Express City Centre and the 86-bedroom Holiday Inn Aberdeen West for an undisclosed sum. All 125 jobs across the two sites will be retained. The hotels were owned by European Development Company, which called in administrators in November. Joint administrators Tom MacLennan and Iain Fraser, partners at FRP Advisory, appointed JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group to sell the two sites, subject to existing franchise agreements with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). Cairn Group finance director Richard Warren told Chronicle Live: “We know Aberdeen very well and have a strong relationship with IHG so we are confident we can turn round the fortune of the hotels as the regional market recovers. We’re looking forward to doing more business here and investing in the economy.” Cairn Group owns and operates two hotels in the area – the Station Hotel in Aberdeen city centre, in which it is set to invest £5m, and Best Western Summerhill Hotel and Suites Aberdeen, three miles outside the city.

Former Dean Street Townhouse chef launches Clerkenwell venue: Radek Nitkowski, a former chef at Soho House’s hotel and restaurant Dean Street Townhouse, has launched his own venture, The Great Chase, in Clerkenwell. The venue has opened in St John Street offering classic dishes and an alcohol-free drinks list to complement the food. Large plates on the evening menu include free-range chicken breast with asparagus, croquettes and spicy miso aioli, and sea trout with sour cream and tobiko. The weekend brunch menu includes hot-smoked salmon kedgeree with poached egg, seaweed and keta roe, and burger with brisket, smoked cheddar, baby gem, house barbecue sauce and fries. Drinks include the Bee’s Knees (sparkling alcohol-free rosé infused with pink grape and green tea), and Pineapple Boy (homemade pineapple and bayleaf cordial with coconut water and orange). The Great Chase also focuses on tea, with unusual brands such as Cornish Peppermint and Chinese Emerald Green, Hot Dinners reports.

Cott agrees to sell Cott Beverages for $1.2bn: Soft drinks company Cott Corporation has agreed to sell its traditional beverage manufacturing business Cott Beverages, which has its UK head office in Derbyshire, in a deal worth $1.2bn (£923.1m). The transaction between Cott Corporation and Refresco includes Cott’s businesses in the UK, North America and Mexico but excludes its RCI International division and its associated concentrate facility as well as the Aimia Foods division. Cott Beverages has been trading for more than 60 years and generates about $1.7bn in revenues. The company’s management will now report to the executive board of Refresco. Cott chief executive Jerry Fowden said: “After a thorough strategic review in 2013, we developed an accelerated diversification and acquisition strategy in order to transform our company and create a business weighted towards better-for-you products in categories with top-line growth, a more diverse channel and customer base, higher margins, and strong free cash flow generation. This transaction is very much in line with this strategy and enables our traditional business to become an integral part of a larger global beverage manufacturing company that pursues the same high customer service and quality standards Cott has been known for.” Refresco chief executive Hans Roelofs added: “We have been focused on growing our platform in North America and Europe and this transaction is a significant enhancement to our buy-and-build strategy, which will provide Refresco with enlarged scale, synergies, and savings alongside Refresco’s manufacturing footprint, geographic diversity, product range and customer service. We will now have a well-balanced portfolio with exposure to all categories for retailers in North America and Europe in addition to a scale contract manufacturing footprint throughout these geographies from which to continue to grow both organically and by pursuing our buy and build strategy.”

JD Wetherspoon reopens Norwich hotel following £2m facelift: JD Wetherspoon has reopened the Bell Hotel in Norwich following a £2m refurbishment. The 15th century building in Orford Hill, which closed in February for work to commence, features an additional 1,500 square feet of space after utilising vacant office space, while the garden has been extended and bars, cellar, kitchens and toilets upgraded. An additional 70 jobs have been created to take the total number of staff to 120. Shift manager Andy Thompson told the Eastern Daily Press: “The upstairs bar used to be half the size and we decided to open it out and build a massive bar. A big part of our reinvestment was using office space that had been empty for two years. We have added about 100 covers. The garden has been levelled. We have had some landscaping and got a lot of fixed benches. We have installed a beautiful light canopy so it’s lit up at night.” Wetherspoon acquired The Bell in 1993, its first venue in Norwich. Meanwhile, the company said it intends to start work on a new-build pub in Diss (population 7,500) in Norfolk before the end of the year to open in 2018. The pub in Mere Street will have a total floor space of 953 square metres, with more than 50 jobs created following a £2.2m investment.

Hotel Collection sells final site, Shrigley Hall Hotel: The Hotel Collection, represented by agent Savills, has sold Shrigley Hall Hotel, Golf & Country Club in Pott Shrigley, near Macclesfield, to a private investor. The property was the last remaining asset in a ten-strong portfolio of regional UK hotels known as Project Solstice, which came to market for a combined guide price in excess of £130m last year. The grade II-listed country house hotel features 148 bedrooms and is set within 262 acres (106 hectares) of private grounds. Now a four-star hotel, it also offers an award-winning restaurant, bar, health club, 18 hole-golf course and 13 conference rooms. Martin Rogers, head of UK hotel transactions at Savills, said: “This deal is of particular significance as it brings the sale of the high-profile Project Solstice portfolio to a close. The UK hotel market has had a strong start to 2017, with high levels of demand from overseas and domestic investors. We expect the second half of the year to be equally robust.” Tom Cunningham, hotels director at Savills Manchester, added: “The hotel market in the north of England is particularly attractive to investors due to the prices and returns available. With multiple income streams and a strong corporate and leisure trade, Shrigley Hall appealed to numerous different investor types. We are pleased with the excellent result achieved on behalf of our client.”

Goodbody – we forecast 2% like-for-likes at M&B amid ‘very difficult time’ for the sector: Analysts at Goodbody Leisure have forecast 2% like-for-like growth at Mitchells & Butlers amid a “very difficult period for the sector”. A note stated: “Mitchells & Butlers will release a trading update on 27 July 2017 in which we expect it to give like-for-like trading trends for the year to date and quarter three. Overall, we forecast +2% for FY17, which follows on from +1.9% in the first 30 weeks. An update on the estate development programme is also probable, with 178 capital-generating projects (conversions, remodels and acquisitions of new sites) completed in the first half, the company is on track to complete circa 300 this year. We will also look for further clarity on the disposal programme, while an update on the pension negotiations with the trustees is possible. This is currently a very difficult time for the UK eating and drinking out sector, with cost headwinds, UK consumer concerns and intensifying competition all prevalent. This will make profit growth for all operators difficult to achieve in the medium term. However, we continue to believe Mitchells & Butlers’ estate development programme is the right strategy and will help to alleviate the aforementioned challenges over time. Furthermore, the valuation reflects a lot of the risks and we believe the material discount to peers facing the same challenges is unwarranted.”

Paul Nunny – Cyclops acquisition ‘crucial to upgrade of CaskFinder app’: Cask Marque, the industry watchdog for quality beer, has taken over management of Cyclops. Cask Marque director Paul Nunny said Cyclops, the industry-standard beer-tasting note system, would be a crucial element of the pump clip recognition upgrade to its CaskFinder app. For the past decade, a steering group that includes Cask Marque, the Society of Independent Brewers and the Campaign for Real Ale have overseen the evolution of Cyclops. Brewers are being invited to describe their beers on a new website that will integrate with the CaskFinder app. Nunny said: “As we further develop the CaskFinder app to include pump clip recognition it is important all beers are ‘Cyclopsed’, as this will be used by the app to describe the beer. In future, there will be no cost to brewers to have their artwork and beer descriptions on Cyclops and this should encourage the whole industry to use Cyclops as a marketing tool. I am pleased we will retain the current steering group to help us evolve Cyclops.” Cyclops co-founder David Bremner, who is also director of marketing at Robinsons Brewery, added: “Cyclops had outgrown its home but, thanks to Cask Marque, with its focus and proven record in improving beer quality and staff training, we have a great new steward of our independent scheme.” 

Zimbabwe-based QSR group Simbisa Brands seeks London listing: Zimbabwe-based quick-service restaurant (QSR) group Simbisa Brands has said it is seeking regulatory and shareholder approvals for a secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange AIM to access additional funding for expansion. Simbisa is an Innscor Holdings QSR spin-off and listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange in 2015. In addition to 193 sites in Zimbabwe, Simbisa has 205 outside the country, Zimbabwe Daily reports. The group plans to increase its footprint in Zimbabwe and the wider region as it pursues growth opportunities in its largest regional market, Kenya. The group added: “Further to this expansion initiative, shareholders are also advised Simbisa is currently in negotiations for the acquisition of an international complementary business.” In its half-year ended December 2016, group revenue increased 3% to $79.1m, compared with $77m in the previous year. Operating profit rose 3% to $10.4m, compared with $10.2m for the same period the year before.

Magpie takes flight for Pidgin owners’ second London site: James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy, who operate Hackney restaurant Pidgin, have opened Magpie in Heddon Street for their second London site. The 54-cover venue offers 30 dishes, with diners picking what they want from trollies as they are wheeled around the room – having as much or as little as they want and in whichever order they choose. The menu features British small plates, including chicken heart popcorn with hot sauce, mussels with miso and beef dripping toast, and duck rillettes with sourdough and nukazuke pickles. Wine and cocktails are also served from the trolley, featuring pre-mixed cocktails and a wine list of ten whites and ten reds. The decor features high ceilings, a poured concrete bar and leather stools, while interiors feature Asian and Californian influences that include canvas-hung walls and a huge landscape imprinted on the back wall. Ramsden said: “We’d discussed doing something like this before we even opened Pidgin. It seemed a fun and novel approach to our current eating out habits and a way of tackling some of the more frustrating aspects of ‘sharing’ plates.”

O2 renews sponsorship of music venues: O2 has renewed its sponsorship of music venues across the UK in cities that include Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool in a deal worth about £70m. The agreement sees the mobile phone operator retain the O2 Academy naming rights to the music venues in 13 cities. The ten-year deal, struck with Live Nation and Academy Music Group, which own the venues, is thought to be worth about £7m a year. O2 chief marketing officer Nina Bibby told The Guardian: “The Academy venues are local venues, part of the communities in which they are located. They support grass-roots music communities. It is amazing to me when you look at how the music industry has evolved over the last decade. Live music is now so important to artists and the venues are to their communities and to music fans. This isn’t just some badging exercise paying some money to be a naming partner. It is so much more than a sponsorship.” In February, the telecoms company spent £125m to keep naming rights to London venue The 02 until at least 2027.

The Alchemist calls time on plastic straws: The ten-strong Alchemist brand has joined the growing number of operators to call time on plastic straws. The move will save The Alchemist an estimated two million straws from going to landfill this year alone. The Alchemist managing director Simon Potts said: “Most straws are not recyclable, yet many bars and restaurants relentlessly provide these for customers, sometimes two at a time. We want to educate and engage with our customers about the environmental impact of ditching straws and I’m sure our customers will welcome it with open arms. Straws are still available on request. However, they will not be served as standard and this little change is going to save The Alchemist an estimated two million straws per year. We are absolutely focused on decreasing our environmental impact wherever possible, which is why initiatives such as ‘war on straws’ are so important to us as we evolve as a brand. We hope other operators follow in our footsteps.” Established in 2009, The Alchemist is backed by Palatine Private Equity, which supported a buyout from Living Ventures in 2015.

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