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Sun 1st Dec 2013 - Sunday Breaking News
Former M&B executive hired for Mercedes concept cafe: Former Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) executive David Singleton has been hired to consult on a Mercedes Benz concept cafe that is set to open in Moscow. Singleton oversaw the roll-out of the 82-strong Premium Country Dining Group set of gastro-pubs at M&B during a 28-year career at the company. For the past 18 months, he’s overseen the development of IL Patio, the 160-strong Italian brand operated by Russian restaurant company Rosinter, which is led by former M&B colleague Kevin Todd. Mercedes Benz plans to open an innovative cafe-bar with integrated Mercedes Benz branding in Central Moscow where customers can learn more about the “brand, products and the world of Mercedes Benz”. Its planned opening is in Spring 2014, targeting 20-28 year-old aspirational Muscovite professionals with an international menu from breakfast to late at night. A spokesman told Propel: “David Singleton has been engaged to work with the German design team to deliver the Mercedes Benz concept in Moscow, bringing the design and concept together before handing over to the operators.”

Alistair Darby – fryers and chips will boost Crown Carveries: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) chief executive Alistair Darby has told City analysts that the introduction of fryers, extraction and chips – alongside a new £3.69 best-value main meal price-point for sausages and limitless chips and vegetables or a “saver carvery” – will help reverse the 20% of lost volumes at the 117-strong Crown Carveries brand. Darby reported this week that pushing the best-value main meal to £4.19 had resulted in the loss of 20% of food volumes at the budget carvery brand, which serves the largest number of meals per week per site in the M&B estate and a total of 30 million meals a year – the same number as the entire Marston’s managed estate. Darby told analysts: “We are (now) offering products alongside carvery like sausages, like fried fish, but the vegetable selection is the carvery vegetable selection. So effectively you go up to the carvery deck, you can take a piece of fried fish and then you serve yourself vegetables. So the complexity that we are introducing to the offer is very low, all we have done is put in fryers. And you are effectively using the same vegetable choice as you were before. The other thing, though, we have been able to do is – and this is important in this market – we have been able to introduce chips because formerly potatoes were mash or roast. And you can probably appreciate in this market, chips are important. So that is quite a big guest appeal feature. And the other thing we are trying to do is make sure we can develop and offer food on the deck that we can cook off not only in fryers, but also in existing carvery kit. It is important to remember that the kind of kit that we use to cook roast is also multi-use so you can use it to cook other food as well, chicken, for example. So we are pretty content that by just putting a bit of kit into Crown, that we haven’t overstretched the offer. The biggest issue in Crown has been, when you put fryers in, you have to put in extraction hoods or extend extraction hoods and that is probably what has delayed us in getting that done. We have lost about 20% of our volume in Crown, so as you start to build that back in, you get the efficiencies that flow from that. So we are pretty confident that this is going to work.”

Turnover and profit stead at Daniel Batham: Black Country brewer and retailer Daniel Batham, which operates 11 pubs, has reported turnover and profit in the year to 30 June in line with the previous year. Turnover was £5,196,842, less than £2,000 below the year before. Pre-tax profit was £1,311,871, circa £7,000 below the year before. Dividends for the year were £304,000.

John Lewis to recreate the high street in larger stores: John Lewis is to recreate the high street in its larger stores with plans to introduce restaurants, opticians, barbers, and post offices. The company has identified 700,000 square feet of space at 30 larger stores where it can implement the plan. John Lewis opened the first of a number of food service concessions this week with sandwich bar chain Joe & The Juice opening at its Solihull site. Next year, Hotel Chocolat will open in its Edinburgh and York stores. Retail director Andrew Murphy told The Mail on Sunday that it was vital to give shoppers more reasons to visit stores and encourage them to spend more time in them.

Lord Bilimoria – Cobra sacrificed bottom line profit for growth: Lord Bilimoria has admitted that Cobra, the beer brand he launched in 1989 that is now 51%-owned by Molson Coors after it was bought out of administration, sacrificed bottom line profit for sales growth. Bilimoria, who retains 49% of the business, told The Sunday Times: “For a period, I should have grown Cobra at a slower pace rather than focus on borrowing and expansion. We grew at 40% a year for the first 18 years. I was basically sacrificing bottom-line profit for growth. Like most people, we hadn’t seen the financial crisis coming. Also, we were too heavily geared. The partnership with Molson Coors is a long-term deal and we are about half-way through. We made profits before tax of £3.6m in the 12 months to the end of last year and I’m expecting a much better figure this year.” 

KFC’s first UK Christmas ad sends up the schmaltz: KFC’s first ever Christmas advert in Britain, which aired last night during X Factor, is a send-up of Christmas Number 1-style music videos with a Twitter hashtag campaign attached. The video shows unlikely characters crooning about how normally they loathe each other, but have come together over KFC chicken, with lyrics such as “typically I hate your guts, and I’d try to kill you but, one of everybody’s vices, is 11 herbs and spices”. The advert, created by the agency BBH, is supported by a week-long Twitter competition with the #UniteThisXmas hashtag encouraging KFC fans to tweet about someone they would like to make peace with over the holiday season. The winner will have the opportunity to resolve the conflict by starring in a second advert during the X Factor final on 14 December. Meg Farren, marketing director at KFC, said the advert was intended to “send up the schmaltz of Christmas”. Farren said: “This Christmas, we not only wanted to do something different but also wanted to stay true to what KFC is about – bringing people together over a shared great taste – whilst having fun and encouraging people to join in. We’re also really excited about using social media in this way and engaging consumers using Twitter.”

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