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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 4th Dec 2014 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Scottish licensees step up pressure for MRO option: Licensees in Scotland are stepping up the pressure for pub tenants in the country to be given the same right to a "market rent only" (MRO) option as pub company licensees in England look likely to enjoy. The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), which represents 700 licensed premises in Scotland, is looking for further meetings with the Scottish government on the issue, with Paul Waterson, the organisation's chief executive, telling Propel: "It would be wrong that English tenants were afforded the advantages of not having the beer tie and Scottish tenants weren't." Around a thousand Scottish licensees are tied tenants, Waterson said, just over one in five of all licensees in the country. The English legislation will only affect tenants of pub companies with more than 500 tenancies, and Waterson said that "we'd maybe have to look at that pro-rata in Scotland to bring that number down." Large owners of tenanted pubs in Scotland include Greene King, through Belhaven, Punch Taverns and the Heineken-owned Star Pubs and Bars. However, he said, there were some smaller tenanted pub companies in Scotland that were still quite significant in numbers locally. In some cases, Waterson said, pubco tenants were paying 50% more for their beer to their pubco than if they were able to buy it themselves, as someone in the free trade could. "What's happened over the past few years is that the rental element, which should have been low, to allow people to enter the trade, has gone up, and the prices for beer and other commodity prices have gone up, and that's why we see so many problems among tenants in Scotland. If the beer tie is done away with, it will make a lot of businesses far more viable, and that's why we're supporting it," he said. The majority of tied tenants in Scotland are earning only between £10,000 and £15,00 a year, Waterson said, "which makes them eligible for tax credits." The SLTA and other groups, such as the Small Businesses Federation, has been lobbying the Scottish government since 2013 on the subject, Waterson said, and since the debate in Westminster that saw the MRO clause inserted into the small business bill, "there's a general consensus among all partners up here that this is something Scotland has got to push for." he said. "The SNP's six MPs at Westminster all voted in favour of the MRO, and you would think from that that the Scottish parliament would be sympathetic to it."

Industry News:

Chancellor raises 'Help for the High Street' business rates discount by 50%: The £1,000 "Help for the High Street" business rates discount for local shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs that came in last April will be increased by 50% next year to £1,500, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced yesterday in his Autumn Statement. The discount, available on premises up to a rateable value of £50,000, is estimated to be worth more than £272m of tax relief this year and to benefit 75% of pubs. George Osborne also announced a full review of the business rates system, accompanied by a doubling of small business rates relief for another year and a cap on inflation-linked increases in business rates of 2%. Other measures that will help the hospitality sector included increases in small businesses' access to funds and the abolition of National Insurance contributions for young apprentices. The chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, Kate Nicholls said: “The ALMR has repeatedly called for a root and branch reform of a system that currently sees pubs and bars paying 15p per pint in rates, compared to about 1p per pint in supermarkets."

Scotland faces personal licence renewal crisis: Thousands of personal licence holders in Scotland have been told their licences are being revoked after they failed to meet renewal deadlines. John Gaunt, of John Gaunt solicitors, said: “We have previously reported and warned that Scottish personal licence holders must undertake their mandatory refresher training within five years of the grant of their licence and then evidence that training to the relevant licensing board within three months. Failure to take those steps would result in the revocation of the personal licence, with the inability to re-apply for five years. A significant number of personal licence holders had to complete that re-training before 1 September 2014 and file evidence to the board by 1 December. Herald Scotland reported yesterday that an estimated 10,000 people are being notified this week that their personal licences, required to sell alcohol since 2009, are being revoked for failing to meet legal needs over training. In Glasgow alone, 1,300 personal licences, almost one in five, have been revoked. Of these 130 are managers, meaning if the business does not get a new, fully trained-up manager in place within six weeks they will be banned from selling alcohol. In Edinburgh, the figure is around 1,000, while in Aberdeen it is close to 600 and almost 700 in the Highlands Council area. Paul Waterson, the chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: "There's no doubt that this has created a chaotic situation. The communication round it has been very bad. We're bounded by more than 40 licensing boards and it depends on how those licensing boards want to enforce this. Every one could be different, and there'll be an inconsistency of enforcement. The Scottish government is talking about changing the law, but it's too late for those who haven't done their refresher courses this time round."

Chief executives line up to appear at Casual Dining Show
: Karen Forrester, chief executive of TGI Friday’s UK, Stephen Holmes, chief executive of Ask Italian and Zizzi, and Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, are among the keynote speakers now confirmed for Casual Dining 2015. The free Keynote Theatre programme, catering specifically to the business needs of casual dining operators (including multiple and independent pubs, bars, and restaurants), and running throughout the two-day show on 25-26 February at the Business Design Centre in London, will also include sessions by Anthony Pender, the new chairman of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) and managing director of the Yummy Pub Company, and Kate Nicholls, new chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). On Thursday 26 February, at 11.45am, Propel managing director Paul Charity will host a panel on "how pub operators are diversifying" featuring James Nye of Anglian Country Inns, who is brewing and selling bagels, Yummy Pub Company co-founder Tim Foster, who is selling coffee and plenty of cocktails, Oliver Thain, founder of the gastropub operator Cambscuisine, who has opened a smoked food concept called Smokeworks, and Kevin Charity, the managing director of coaching inn operator Bulldog Hotel Company, who has developed strong coffee and accommodation revenue streams. To register for a free trade pass, please visit and quote priority code CDPR1.
Buying expert warns of returning food price inflation: The UK’s leading expert in food pricing, Prestige Purchasing, has warned that food inflation is due to return to 2% in 2015, after it fell by 1.5% this year, the first time food inflation has reversed in 14 years. The fall in food inflation was due to consistent good weather; a significant drop in the price of crude oil and ranging economic factors, including the strengthening of the pound against the euro. However, longer-term factors including global population growth, water scarcity and an unstable international political environment will mean that this trend reversal is expected to be short-term, Prestige said.
Fleurets reports average freehouse sells for £727,000 in 2004:
The property agency Fleurets has reported the average pub freehold sold for £726,862 in 2014, up 24.8% on the average price achieved in 2007. However, while prices rose 32% in the south they dropped 18% in the north. Sales volume was also down by 25% (20% in the south and 43% in the north). The multiple of fair maintainable trade was up in the South but down in the North. Fleurets said: “The disposal of public houses inside the M25 accounted for half of the freehouses we sold in the Southern region last year. This resulted in the average sale price increasing 32% across the South, lead by the South Coast region and London and the Home Counties. We saw a number of multiple operators being prepared to dispose of some core sites to take advantage of exceptional pricing bolstered by foreign investors seeking to capitalise on low interest rates and secure long-term prospects in the London market. The West region saw a significant increase in activity, with the volume of sales more than trebling from the previous year and the average sale prices increasing by over 50%.The disparity between North and South has never been more obvious. The Northern market was down on the number of transactions, down on the average sale price and down on the multiple of FMT. In contrast, the Southern regions saw a jump in average sale price and an increase in the FMT multiple to over 2x for the first time since 2008.” The average sale price of leasehold pub was £50,783 (up 23%), with the north down 17% and the south up 35%. The sales volume was fairly static, with 48% of leasehold deals involving tied lease transactions, up 12%.

Company News:

Alistair Darby – ‘personal embarrassment’ factor is driving Christmas Day bookings: Mitchells & Butlers' chief executive, Alistair Darby, has argued that the risk of personal embarrassment while cooking the big Christmas Day meal is driving bookings across its pub restaurants. Last week, Darby reported that “Christmas Day particularly is very strong [for the company] – bookings for Christmas Day are up by about 10% so far.” However, he said, "that is compared with exactly the same point last year. It is still the case that actually the vast majority of Christmas bookings come in this week and the next week. That is because people leave this very, very late. So we are very pleased with where they are at the moment, Christmas is looking good, but there is a big chunk of bookings still to come in the next two weeks. I think the fundamental point is that when it comes to big occasions, Christmas, Mother’s Day, then nobody wants to be embarrassed and they are going to put on a big show at home or increasingly – because how many people cook big meals at home now? – they want to go out and be looked after. When you are eating at one of our premium pubs on Christmas Day before buying any drinks, you are looking at 50 to 60 quid a head, so this is a big thing. But people don’t want to be embarrassed, they want to have a great time with families and friends.” According to the restaurant booking service, the number of Britons eating out this Christmas is up 150% compared to three years ago. The company's database of 800,000 diners was collated to create its quarterly dining trends report. Joe Steele, chief executive of Bookatable, said: “It’s interesting to see the significant rise in demand for restaurant bookings at Christmas, as more and more Britons are opting to eat out rather than endure the stress and growing costs for cooking a traditional family feast at Christmas. As our data shows, the earlier people book, the better the deal they receive, and as Britons continue to look for ways to save money at Christmas, we predict that this will only continue to grow over the coming years." The most popular date for consumers to dine out during the Christmas period is expected to be 6 December, with the most popular lunch bookings being on Christmas Day. The average spend per head is £25.27 on Christmas Day and £27.23 on Boxing Day, Bookatable said.
Whitbread hosts event to boost hub by Premier Inn pipeline: Whitbread hosted an event last night in London aimed at boosting the property pipeline for its new hub by Premier Inn format. The company told guests: “Since we opened our debut hotel in November on St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, we’ve been delighted by the response and are excited about opportunities for rolling out the brand. We’ve added 2,000 bedrooms to our pipeline within the last 18 months and are actively looking for more. We’re looking for new sites across London, Edinburgh and the rest of the UK.”

Coffee Republic signs new franchisee for Leicester opening: Coffee Republic is to open its 23rd coffee bar, in Leicester high street, on 11 December, close to Leicester Cathedral and a bustling shopping district. The 1,600 sq ft bar at Unit 3, 49-50 High Street, has 72 seats, free wi-fi and power sockets. This will be franchisee TNNG's first Coffee Republic bar, and the company has expansion plans for the future with Coffee Republic. Richard Shakespeare, head of franchising at Coffee Republic, said: “We are pleased to welcome the team at TNNG to the Coffee Republic franchise estate. The owners have an excellent track record in operating multi-site locations, with previous extensive experience within major food and beverage brands, and already they are planning, with our full support, additional openings of other franchised bars from the Midlands into London.”

Marston's buys sites from Sainsbury's for £6m: Marston’s has struck a £6m deal with the supermarket group J Sainsbury to buy two sites in Staffordshire for pub-restaurants. The company is to buy sites in Liverpool Road, Newcastle under Lyme and Churnet Way, Leek. The Newcastle under Lyme site fronts a Sainsbury’s supermarket which opened in 2010, completing the final phase of the redevelopment of the former Newcastle College site after its relocation. The Leek site fronts a Sainsbury’s superstore that opened in late 2012. Tina Moorhouse, acquisitions manager for North West England and North Wales at Marston’s, said: “Both locations front recently developed stores and are ideal for Marston's new-build programme. We look forward to working with Sainsbury’s in the future.” Planning permission for the two sites was agreed earlier this year.

Ladbrokes begins search for new chief executive: Ladbrokes has begun a search for a new chief executive to replace Richard Glynn. The company said: “Richard Glynn was appointed CEO of Ladbrokes in April 2010, with a clear mandate to implement the recovery programme within a five-year term. Following extensive and constructive discussions between the board and Richard, it is intended that he will complete his term and continue in his role as CEO into 2015. The board will shortly start a process to identify his successor and the search will evaluate both internal and external candidates. Once an appointment has been made, Richard has agreed to remain in post as required to ensure an orderly transition.” Glynn said: "It has been a privilege to lead Ladbrokes over this crucial phase. I am very proud of the resilience and professionalism the team has shown during this intense period of activity. It is the right time for Ladbrokes to identify my successor. I will continue to serve the company to help ensure a smooth succession I look forward to the company, the shareholders, our partners and in particular everyone in the team reaping the benefits, over the next few years, of all that has been sown."
Celebrity chef Andrew Nutter to open first gastro-pub in 2015: Celebrity chef Andrew Nutter is to open a gastropub. Nutter has taken over the Bird I’th Hand pub on Rochdale Road in Birtle, Rochdale, just ten minutes down the road from his long-established Nutters fine dining restaurant in Rochdale, with plans to turn it into a destination dining venue. He intends to revamp the old pub over the next few months in time for a spring launch. Nutter said: “When we’re full at Nutters, there’s nowhere decent nearby that we felt we could recommend for food for our customers. So we thought, why not do a great dining pub, somewhere not as formal as Nutters, but still with great food. It will be classic pub dishes, but in a more refined and sophisticated manner. And I’ve got plans to create a champagne terrace at the rear of the venue too, because the views really are beautiful here.” Nutter will be submitting plans to the local council in the next few weeks to extend the existing kitchen and transform the upstairs of the pub to create a larger dining space for up to 100 covers in total.

Bistrot Pierre reveals three new sites: The French restaurant chain Le Bistrot Pierre has announced three new venues for 2015, in Bath, Birmingham and Newport, South Wales, which will take it to 15 sites. The Bath branch will open in March on George Street after a fit-out expected to cost £700,000. The Birmingham venue is on Gas Street. In Newport, the chain is moving in to a unit in the multi-million-pound Friars Walk shopping centre development. Co-founder Robert Beacham said 2014 had been a great year for the company, with openings in Cardiff and Torquay. He said: "We’ve spent years creating a restaurant brand that is firmly focused on great-value French dining and good food and are proud that this combination has proved to be the right mix and that it has enabled us to get where we are today." In September 2013 Le Bistrot Pierre, headed by Beacham and John Whitehead, announced it had secured around £4m of funding from NatWest to allow the company to grow to 20 units by 2017.
Free-of-tie lease on Stoke Newington pub offered for £350,000:
The free-of-tie lease on Scenario, a pub in Stoke Newington, East London is being marketed by the property agent AG&G for £350,000. The pub has a late licence on Fridays and Saturdays, eight studio flats to rent out on the upper floors and a lease that runs to 2031. “With eight flats included in the lease, letting income could make a big dent in the £72,000 a year rent,” said Michael Penfold of AG&G. “Scenario’s setting is excellent, with several mid-market food offerings nearby, making it something of a destination location. And it’s roughly midway between two commuter stations, Stoke Newington around 1,200 metres to the north and Dalston Kingsland around 800 metres to the south.”

Daniel Batham reports small turnover and profit dip: The Midlands pub operator and brewer Daniel Batham has reported turnover dipped slightly to £5,174,000 in the year ended 30 June 2014, from £5,197,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit was £1,290,000, a fall from £1,312,000 in 2013. A dividend of £472 per share was paid.
Costa signs 15-year £30,000 per annum lease on Pangbourne site: Costa Coffee has signed a 15-year lease at £30,000 a year to open a coffee shop in Pangbourne, Berkshire. The corporate estate agency Hick Baker, which arranged the deal, said the coffee shop would be open by Christmas. Costa Coffee won permission to open the cafe in a former pet shop in Pangbourne in September despite opposition from both the village and planning officials.
Man jailed after burglary at James Horler's upmarket La Sala restaurant: A man has been sentenced to 16 weeks in prison after being convicted of burglary following a break-in at the La Sala restaurant in Woodford Bridge, Essex, which is run by a company headed by industry veteran James Horler. Daniel Serra was arrested and charged with burglary after the break-in at the Chigwell Road venue in the early hours of 7 November. Barkingside Magistrates Court was told that Serra was seen running away from the building at 2.40am on the night of the break-in, before being detained by police. A spokeswoman for Redbridge police said while no items were found on Serra when he was arrested, six mini iPads and a blue laptop had been piled up outside the back door of the building. The Woodford Bridge La Sala is the sister site to the celebrity-oriented Spanish restaurant in Marbella.
Simon French initiates Domino’s coverage with 'sell' recommendation: Cenkos' leisure analyst Simon French has initiated coverage of Domino’s Pizza UK with a “sell" recommendation. He said: “Domino’s has been the best performing leisure stock this year (up 36%) as the group has benefited from the rebalancing of profits towards franchisees, which has improved store-level performance. The UK business remains a juggernaut but possibly overly reliant on discounting, and facing competition from third-party aggregators, supermarket branded pizzas and consumers trading up. With question marks remaining over Germany we think the share price has once again run ahead of itself. Q4 LFLs should be robust despite the tough comparative of 10.4% but thereafter we become more cautious. The company remains a market leader but the stock is too expensive. Trading on a 2015E P/E of 22.6x, we initiate coverage with a 'sell' recommendation.”

Wetherspoon wins two 'peace and quiet' awards: JD Wetherspoon has won two awards in the "Quiet Corners" competition, which is aimed at showcasing companies and individual outlets that do not play piped music. The awards are run by Pipedown, the Campaign for Freedom from Piped Music. The awards were given to the company itself as the best quiet pub chain award as well as to one of its pubs, the Waterhouse in Manchester, which was named as the best individual quiet pub. The pub was praised for its “cosy atmosphere with armchairs and small, intimate rooms of character.” Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin was presented with both awards from pub-lover and musician Julian Lloyd Webber. Pipedown's national secretary, Nigel Rodgers, said: “Our members nominated Wetherspoon and the Waterhouse, and both are deserved winners of their respective awards. I founded Pipedown 20 years ago because I found it difficult to find a pub without piped music. A small but vital part of Wetherspoon’s continuing success is that you can go into one of its pubs and know that you will not find unwanted music. Instead you can eat, drink and talk in peace which appeals to people who love music and hate it being misused.” Martin said: “We are proud to win both these awards. In my view, good conversation and drink and food is the key to a popular pub, as is the chance to have a pint and read the newspaper in peace.”
Greene King opens Old Speckled Hen pop-up bar off Oxford Street: Greene King's Old Speckled Hen ale brand has launched a one-day-only pop-up pub off Oxford Street that allowed customers to avoid the crowds and have their presents wrapped by "ale elves". They could then settle their bar tab by sharing a picture of their pint on Twitter using the hashtag #Oldspeckledhaven. The concept pub, named The Old Speckled Haven, opened its doors yesterday (Wednesday) at the Masons Arms on Maddox Street, 300 metres south of Oxford Circus and ran from 12 noon to 6pm. Greene King said the idea will be rolled out to support other busy shopping periods nationwide next year. Old Speckled Hen is the UK’s number one premium ale brand, and according to Nielsen Scantrack data, over the 12 months to 8 November premium ale is growing at ten times the rate of total alcohol.

Garden centre brand launches three catering brands: Wyevale Garden Centres has now launched three new catering brands. The brands include Botanic Kitchen, a "brand new restaurant offering the garden on a plate". The other brands are Coffee Ground "micro-roasting artisan coffee shops" and Garden Kitchen Restaurants "bringing a sparkle to our current restaurants". The 143-centre garden centre chain is advertising for staff to be "part of the next big foodie revolution as garden centres become leisure destinations" including baristas, chefs and managers to work in an "inspiring place with no late nights, fun natural environment, with free car parking".

Prezzo lines up second Welsh opening: Prezzo, which opened its 250th site in Newcastle upon Tyne last week, is lining up its second opening in Wales. The company will create 18 jobs in Carmarthen when a Prezzo opens in St Catherine’s Walk next week. It is set to open a 96-cover venue on Friday, 12 December on the site of the former Real China restaurant in Catherine’s Walk after a £500,000 refit. A double horseshoe bar sits in the middle of the restaurant, where guests can take a drink before their meal. Prezzo's chief executive, Jonathan Kaye, said: “We are looking forward to opening our new restaurant and are confident it will be an excellent addition to Carmarthen’s social and dining scene. Hopefully it will also act as a catalyst for other businesses to invest in the town too.” The only other Prezzo in Wales is in Cardiff.

Almost Famous adds downstairs cocktail bar at Leeds site:
The better burger brand Almost Famous has added a downstairs cocktail bar at its Leeds site. The brand opened over the former Escobar site on Great George Street back in August, and has now added a downstairs bar, which is called 314 in Progress. The bar, which takes its name from the Californian police code for indecent exposure, will serve up a mix of drinks including American-themed cocktails. Almost Famous’s Leeds site is the fourth for the company, which also has restaurants in Manchester and Liverpool.

Fleurets plans to add to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter restaurant supply by vacating offices: A new restaurant could be opening in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter courtesy of sector agent Fleurets vacating its existing offices. Fleurets has lodged plans to convert its Grade II-listed office building on the corner of Ludgate Hill and St Paul's Square into a new restaurant and flats. The company is working with the Jewellery Quarter-based architecture practice The Space Studio on the project which would see the creation of a new commercial unit on the ground floor to include dining space and servery, staff area in the basement and a one-bedroom flat on each of the first and second floors.

Robinsons scoop design award for Foundry pub: The design team at the Stockport-based brewer and pub retailer Frederic Robinson has scooped a Northern Design Award for its work on the Foundry Vaults, Llangefni, Anglesey. The awards, now in their 12th year, celebrate the achievements of the region’s designers ,with accolades being awarded to leading architects, designers, trade and retailers. This year’s judging panel included Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia, TV presenters George Clarke and Linda Barker and designer Wayne Hemingway. Neil Robinson-Stanier, a director of Robinsons Brewery, said: “The award is the culmination of a fantastic year for the new in-house design team, headed by our senior designer, John Riley. We knew that we had the expertise to lead the way and this award is a testimony to all the hard work and passion that is delivered day in and day out. 2015 will be an even bigger year for Robinsons Brewery."
TGI Fridays in the US rediscovers the bar: TGI Fridays in the United States is putting a renewed emphasis on the bar in remodelled sites. Chief executive Nick Shepherd said new and remodelled units have more prominent bars, which serve as a focal centrepiece for the restaurant, with differentiated seating, televisions and a colourful display of liquor bottles. “Over the years, some of it to do with logistics, some of it to do with positioning, we sort of forgot about that bar heritage. It’s such an incredible part of the brand’s DNA,” he said.
Arsonists torch Flaming Grill: Arsonists have closed a Flaming Grill pub, the Fox and Crown, in Skegby, near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. The pub, on Dalestorth Road, was set alight around 3am, and it took two fire engines more than hour to put out the flames. A police spokeswoman said: “Police are investigating an arson at the Fox and Crown pub. No one was inside the property at the time of the incident. House to house enquiries have been conducted and CCTV is currently being reviewed.” A spokesperson for the Spirit Pub Company said: “We can confirm the pub has suffered extensive fire damage. The police are investigating so it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this point. We are working to try and reopen the pub before Christmas, all guests with bookings prior to this are being contacted to discuss relocating their parties.” Skegby residents have taken to Facebook to say they felt disgusted at the deliberate attack. One wrote: “It’s not the first time this place has been set a fire, not only have they ruined a perfectly good pub, they’ve destroyed the lives of the landlord and all his staff, who are now jobless and Christmas is nearly here.”

Liverpool's Secret Diners Club holds biggest event yet using four camping stoves and an oven: The Secret Diners Club, founded in 2013 by Liverpool chefs Michael Harrison and Daniel Heffy, has hosted its largest event yet, preparing and delivering a five-course seasonal menu using a makeshift kitchen with just four camping stoves and one oven in full view of the 45 guests. The £50-a-head meal, put on in a completely empty space below Liverpool's Static Gallery, included a fish course of scallop and oxtail, a main course showcasing venison and a sticky toffee pudding dessert. Harrison, who previously worked for London Carriageworks, Signature Hotels and the Kozi restaurant in Prescot, Knowsley, said: “We’re always looking to challenge ourselves and so we are thrilled that we hosted our biggest event in a completely empty space, using just a few camping stoves and an oven to deliver the menu.” Heffy, this year’s Merseyside Young Chef of the Year, currently works for Paul Askew’s new venture The Art School and was also previously at the London Carriageworks. The pair say their aim is to “rip the traditional fine dining format straight from its often rigid framework, and vibrantly recreate it in a new, exciting setting; giving birth to an unconventional and exciting, fine dining experience.” The next Secret Diners Club is in the process of being organised but will be taking place in January.

Starbucks trials mobile advertising campaigns: Starbucks is exploring the use of location-based marketing and has been trialling targeted mobile advertising campaigns. The company has been working with the American mobile ad tech firm xAd, and says it has been able to create greater brand awareness and increase store traffic through the use of this emerging area of what is known as "mCommerce". XAd says its technology allows retailers to measure return on investment in terms of mobile ad spend, as it monitors the increase in foot traffic as a direct result of each campaign. The UK trials, which also include working with the supermarket chain Asda, represent xAd's latest move to take its technology outside the United States, where it has already established a range of clients. Ian Cranna, VP for marketing and category for EMEA at Starbucks, said the chain "strongly believe[s]" in the use of mobile to engage potential and existing customers. He said: "We aim to deliver relevant content at the right time, and through xAd's proximity targeting, mobile gives us the unique ability to do that while providing insight on the content that resonates most."

McDonald's competition offers chance to win personalised knitted Christmas stocking: McDonald's is running a Christmas promotion that offers winners the chance to design a special Christmas stocking that will then be knitted and sent to them in time for December 25. The "Knitmas" webpage allows customers to choose a Christmas greeting for a "virtual" stocking, pick the colour of their yarn and select from a range of seasonal patterns to finish it off. Designs can then be shared via social media, with friends and followers encouraged to join in the fun. The promotion was created by Razorfish, the digital agency, and the British knitwear firm Grannies Inc will turn the digital creations of a number of lucky participants into real custom knitted stockings. The promotion page also features McDonald's Christmas menu and some particularly tacky music.

Hawthorn puts pub it bought from Greene King on market: Hawthorn Leisure has put one of the 275 tenanted and leased pubs it brought from Greene King six months ago on the market. The Greene King deal saw two investment firms, Avenue Capital Group and May Capital, pay a total of £75.6m for the pubs, including the Lambton Arms in Eighton Banks, Gateshead. Since then Hawthorne has bought other packages of pubs, including a portfolio of 25 pubs in the North West of England from Nectar Taverns. Now the Lambton Arms has been put up for sale via the property agency Fleurets for £320,000. The move has prompted a group of locals led by regular Marc Birkett to apply to Gateshead Council for the pub to be declared an asset of community value, and to try to buy it. The campaign would return the pub, which dates to the 19th century, to its original name of the Engine Inn, and possibly create a brewpub on the site. Birkett said: "We intend to revert the pub back to its original name to hopefully break the connection with the cycle of new owners, then closure, which the pub has suffered for the last few years. We would look to our local breweries rather than beer wholesalers and would take the place to what it once was, quiet, relaxed, family and dog-friendly. We could even look at creating a brewpub, as we have people with the interest and the skills and the space and out-buildings for a nano-brewery.”

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