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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 2nd Feb 2018 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Scottish multi-site operators outperform independents, Christmas sales poor overall: Multi-site operators in Scotland outperformed single-siters during the festive period with overall sales in the country proving poor, according to the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA). In its Christmas and New Year review, the SLTA said 40% of multi-site operators grew sales during the period versus 22% of single-siters, with no rural outlets in growth. More than half (53%) of the total outlets showed a decline during the period. More than one-third (39%) of outlets grew in the calendar year but this fell to 28% at Christmas. Independent/craft beer sales outperformed the market at Christmas. By contrast, mainstream beers showed 59% of outlets in decline. A total of 75% of outlets are now stocking independent/craft beers versus 62% last year. Spirits and soft drink sales were marginally ahead of the market. Although food sales marginally outperformed the market at Christmas, sales across all categories of outlets that sell food are on a par with those that don’t. The SLTA said the long-term outlook was “mixed”, with fewer outlets expecting growth versus their actual performance in 2017. By contrast, fewer expect a decline. SLTA chief executive Paul Waterson said: “After successive years of decline we are starting to see some emerging signs of growth, with 39% of businesses reporting increases, but this is offset by poor Christmas trading. Government legislation, whether national or local, continues to be the biggest challenge retailers face particularly rural operators, who are often the lifeblood of local communities. The buzzword in 2018 is to expect growth in anything craft and, as a sector, we have a massive role to play in delivering Scotland’s food and drink strategy.’’

Industry News:

Propel and Thinking Drinkers launch fourth Craft Beer Retail Study Tour: Propel is staging its fourth Craft Beer Retail Study Tour on Thursday, 22 March in London, this time exploring the burgeoning beer scene in Bermondsey and Brixton. The tour, led by The Thinking Drinkers, award-winning beer writers Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham, will visit eight venues during the day-long tour including leading craft beer retailers, a cider specialist and a street food market that features its own brewery. McFarland and Sandham will provide the latest craft beer facts and figures, market segmentation analysis, and spot up-and-coming trends while CGA commercial director Graeme Loudon will provide further insights. Site visits will include question-and-answer sessions with some of London’s leading retailers looking at award-winning sites, beer-centric retail, beer sourcing, direct sourcing, menus, brewing on-site, and a host of other issues. The day includes travel between venues by coach where appropriate. Tickets are £345 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £395 plus VAT for non-Propel Premium members. To book, email 

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Jon Collins to present: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2018 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Wednesday, 7 March at the Grange Hotel in St Paul’s, London. Jon Collins, former chief executive of CGA, who has returned to the UK after living in Chicago for two years, will talk about contrasts between the US and UK markets and offer his thoughts on trends and practices over there that could be ripe for adoption over here. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Business Growth Fund investments top £300m in 2017 as it backs more sector firms: Business Growth Fund (BGF), whose sector investments include Barburrito, Coaching Inn Group and Giggling Squid, invested more than £300m in almost 50 companies last year, including more hospitality industry firms. In total, BGF completed 48 new investments and provided £310m in funding to UK smaller and mid-sized companies in 2017, including a £3.5m investment in healthy eating cafe and restaurant company Filmore & Union in September and £2m in Northern Ireland coffee company Bob & Berts in August. Meanwhile, the £79m invested in December, which included £8.5m in bakery business Coopland & Son, was an all-time record month for the investor. In October, BGF made its 200th new company investment and exceeded £1.3bn of invested long-term capital. Notable exits in 2017 included Statesman Travel, BGF’s second investment, made in October 2011, and Bullitt Group, which sold a majority stake to private equity firm Exponent. BGF chief executive Stephen Welton told Insider Media: “The macro-economic and political landscape remains uncertain and the current environment is not easy for any business to navigate. But more and more business owners are recognising that with strong financial backing and genuine support there are as many opportunities as challenges and that growth is out there. It is particularly heartening to see the success many of our investee companies are having in growing international markets, an illustration of the opportunities that exist for well-funded, ambitious UK companies across the world. These results demonstrate that entrepreneurialism across the UK is alive and well and that BGF continues to have the appetite and capacity to back confident, ambitious management teams.” The latest sector company to receive BGF backing is Crepeaffaire, which secured more than £2m last month.

UK brunch bookings up 369% in past five years, breakfast and afternoon tea also surge in popularity: UK reservations for brunch booked through restaurant booking platform OpenTable increased 369% in 2017 compared with 2013. The increase was 105% compared with 2015. In London, brunch reservations last year increased 363% compared with 2013 (2015: 103%). The data also revealed the rising popularity of other early dayparts, with breakfast reservations across the UK rising 276% compared with 2013 (2015: 65%). In London, breakfast reservations last year increased 275% compared with 2013 (2015: 65%). Reservations for a very English occasion – afternoon tea – continued to surge last year, with bookings in the UK up 158% compared with 2013 (2015: 54%). In the capital, afternoon tea bookings in 2017 increased 148% compared with 2013 (2015: 54%). Meanwhile, OpenTable is calling on diners to ensure they make their Valentine’s Day reservation this weekend as new data revealed UK diners book on average 12 days in advance of the big day. Restaurants saw a 41% increase year-on-year in Valentine’s Day reservations in 2017. The top cuisines were British, Italian, steak, French and modern European, with 7.30pm the most requested booking time, the company said.

Six Nations data proves ‘importance of international rugby to pub beer sales’: Some of the highest-volume trading days for beer sales in 2017 came during Six Nations tournament weekends, highlighting the “importance of international rugby in driving pub beer volumes”, beer quality and waste management systems company Vianet has said. Ahead of this weekend’s Six Nations 2018 kick-off, data powered by Vianet’s iDraught beer quality and waste system revealed three of the top ten highest-volume trading days for beer sales last year came during the Six Nations tournament. The list also included “Mad Friday” prior to Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and Grand National Saturday. Vianet managing director Steven Alton said: “Our data consistently shows sporting events – particularly international rugby – are among the most powerful drivers of beer-trading peaks. Operators that focus on delivering quality will drive positive consumer experience, repeat visits and profitability.” The Six Nations tournament starts this Saturday (3 February) and runs to Saturday, 17 March.

ALMR calls for ‘balanced and evidence-based approach’ to Scottish obesity strategy: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has called for a “balanced and evidence-based approach” to Scotland’s obesity strategy. Responding to the Scottish government’s consultation on tackling obesity in the country, the ALMR highlighted the great work already being carried out by businesses in the sector to promote healthier consumer lifestyles. It has also warned the Scottish government that additional legislation would risk stifling the country’s out-of-home operators in delivering jobs and investment in the local economy and, inevitably, damage high streets. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Hospitality businesses are of vital importance to the Scottish economy, contributing £4bn to the economy in wages and profits and directly employing 220,000 people, according to a recent report. Licensed hospitality businesses stand ready and willing to work alongside the government to tackle obesity but any solutions must be workable and evidence-based. Eating and drinking out businesses across the UK are responding successfully to consumer demand and are focused on providing healthier alternatives as well as expanding customer choice. This includes improving menu options, reformulation to reduce sugar and salt content, and innovative cooking methods. Ultimately, the key to improving public health lies in providing and promoting better information about healthy eating and exercise. A one-size-fits-all approach would be ineffective and risk penalising smaller, independent operators in their ability to be flexible when responding to consumer demand. Operators are facing severe headwinds with increasing costs and administrative burdens, so a balanced approach from government that encourages engagement and partnership with businesses is of critical importance. Furthermore, inconsistent regulation and requirements across the UK would mean additional compliance costs and burdens on national operators.”

Company News:

Imbiba £10m fund for latest sector investment to have first closing in April: Imbiba Partnership, which sold Drake & Morgan with a 5.7 times return for investors and backs a number of sector companies, will have the first closing of its £10m leisure EIS fund in April. Imbiba said the fund, which has its first closing on Wednesday, 4 April, would invest in the “growing leisure and hospitality market with a focus on London”. The minimum investment is £10,000 and the fund is targeting a 2.5 times return for investors – the investment time-frame is five years. The offer document states: “The Imbiba Leisure EIS Fund is a unique opportunity to invest alongside the Imbiba team into a portfolio of businesses in the bar/restaurant sector, with a focus on London. Over the past 19 years, Imbiba has created and exited ten EIS startup businesses in the bar and bar/restaurant sector. The Imbiba team has a long and successful track record of launching and developing businesses in the leisure and hospitality sectors, successfully generating significant returns to their previous investors. The Imbiba team won the Best Exit Award from the EIS Association in February 2014 for its trade sale of Drake & Morgan, which generated a return of 5.7 times to investors over a five-year investment term (before the benefit of EIS tax relief). Darwin & Wallace was shortlisted for the Growth Champion Award at the 2016 Growth Investor Awards. Enterprise Investment Partners has been working with Imbiba for more than five years, during which time we have raised in excess of £35m. Each of the investment opportunities will secure long leaseholds and freeholds where possible, providing investors with a diverse portfolio of bar/restaurants and events-based businesses in the London area. Each of the underlying investee companies will have a unique trading strategy with a separate management team.”

Fuller’s promotes Fred Turner to director of operations – tenanted: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has promoted Fred Turner to director of operations – tenanted, with immediate effect. Turner joined the company in 2013 as deputy operations manager before being promoted to operations manager – quality in 2014 and joining tenanted inns as Mike Clist’s understudy in September 2015. Chief executive Simon Emeny said: “Since taking over the running of the tenanted division in November 2015, Fred has introduced a new strategy and several exciting new opportunities around recruitment, food and leveraging our managed experience. The new turnover agreement is just one result of this work and is already proving successful.”

Hop Stuff Brewery starts talks over four Jamie’s Italian sites: Hop Stuff Brewery has started conversations over the potential acquisition of four of the 12 Jamie’s Italian sites earmarked for closure and is also in separate negotiations over a property in Greenwich, south east London. Founder James Yeomans told Propel the company, which is currently embarking on a crowdfunding campaign to aid expansion of its taproom estate, was interested in the Jamie’s Italian restaurants in Bristol, Chelmsford, Kingston-upon-Thames and Threadneedle Street in London. The 12 sites are being closed by Oliver following a strategic review. Yeomans said: “The decor and feel of the restaurants is not too dissimilar to how our taprooms are set up – the pizza oven for example – so it would be a relatively low capex project for us and we could get the sites open relatively quickly. We’re also looking at a site in Greenwich. These are very exciting times for the business.” Hop Stuff has so far raised £551,090 on Crowdcube from 606 investors, having exceeded its initial target of £400,000 within 48 hours of the campaign’s launch. The fund-raise has an upper limit of £800,000 and Yeomans said he expected to close the campaign next week. He added: “This is our third round of crowdfunding and what has been so encouraging this time around has been the number of new investors we seem to have been able to attract.”

Authentic Alehouses acquires Southport pub for fourth site: Leeds-based Authentic Alehouses, led by Burning Night Group boss Allan Harper, has acquired the freehold of the Albert Hotel in Southport, Merseyside, for its fourth site. The property, which is opposite Southport railway station, consists of a large ground-floor trading area and also includes a one-bedroom flat. The deal, for an undisclosed amount, was brokered by agent Fleurets. Harper said: “This is a great building and, as with all the sites we take on, we have a brilliant refurbishment planned. We are confident this unit can become one of our flagship Authentic Alehouses sites. We have some exciting things in store and look forward to celebrating the opening with the people of Southport.” The Authentic Alehouses brand targets freehold pubs, offering refurbishment before operating as principally non-tenanted sites. Its other venues are The Albert Hotel in Hull; The Fountain Inn, Barnoldswick, Lancashire; and The Countess Of Rosse near Bradford. Authentic Alehouses is currently raising £5m on crowdfunding platform Crowdstacker to help fund further growth. Authentic Alehouses is offering investors a 6.5% per annum interest rate through a peer-to-peer loan. Backers are also given the potential to earn income tax-free by investing via Crowdstacker’s Innovative Finance ISA. The campaign has so far raised £4,719,450.

Black Sheep Coffee secures Southwark site for new shop and headquarters: London-based independent coffee shop Black Sheep Coffee has secured a site in Southwark for a new coffee shop and office headquarters. The company has agreed a deal with landlord Goldmarle through agent Colliers International for the lease of 81 Southwark Street for £75,000 per annum. The 1,229 square foot unit is in a newly developed area of Southwark, opposite the Blue Fin Building, Neo Bankside and the Tate Modern. Black Sheep Coffee co-founder and co-chief executive Gabriel Shohet said: “We’re psyched to open in Southwark Street and become a small part of this awesome community. We decided to move our head office there, right above the shop, and all of us are really excited about the move.” Black Sheep Coffee was founded in 2013 by a group of university friends who were determined to set themselves apart from the traditional coffee shops by “leaving the herd” and sourcing specialist coffee beans to create unorthodox coffee. Black Sheep Coffee has 16 shops in London and recently opened another two in Manchester.

Joule’s opens 42nd taphouse, in Bridgnorth: Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s, which is headed by Steve Nuttall, has opened its 42nd taphouse – the Shakespeare Inn in Bridgnorth, near Telford. The company has refurbished the property, including commissioning traditional stained-glass windows. A key part of the restoration has been the creation and restoration of the “Boathouse”, a nod to Bridgnorth’s oldest society, the Bridgnorth Rowing Club. Joule’s property manager Marie Poole said: “We’re proud to have so many craftsmen contribute to our taphouses. Our philosophy is to allow our whole team a great deal of latitude in how they interpret our ideas and I hope people will see the care and research that has gone into the restoration of the Shakespeare.” The pub is being operated by Tony and Gill Williams, who have moved from the Bricklayers Arms in Shrewsbury after six years. Joule’s pubs are in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire.

Peach launches debut events space, in Edgbaston: Peach Pub Company, which operates 19 pubs and a boutique hotel, has launched its first events space. The company, founded in 2002 by Hamish Stoddart, Lee Cash and Jo Eames, has opened The High Field Studio next to its High Field gastro-pub in Edgbaston. The former architect’s studio is an open, flexible space that can be tailored to suit any event. Peach has invested £300,000 in its refurbishment, adding a private bar and creating a venue with up to 80 covers for informal events or 60 for sit-down functions. The decor features brushed gold and rich teal fittings, deep-blue leather banquettes and vintage-style rosewood seating. The Studio is free to hire – subject to a minimum spend – and offers a range of food and drink. Guests booking the venue can also stay at The High Field Town House, the 12-bedroom boutique hotel next to The High Field pub. Sarah Robinson, who manages the studio, said: “Great parties happen in great spaces and this is most definitely one of them. Not only do we have a really open, versatile space that simply looks amazing, we can be the ultimate hosts to throw any kind of party.” Earlier this week, the company took on its 19th site, The Bear & Ragged Staff, in the village of Cumnor in Oxfordshire.

Brend Hotels reports turnover boost but sees profits hit: Brend Hotels, which operates a portfolio of three and four-star hotels in Devon and Cornwall, has reported turnover increased 4.8% to £36,124,919 for the year ending 31 March 2017, compared with £34,481,253 the previous year. Accounts for Percy R Brend & Sons (Hoteliers), which trades as Brend Hotels, showed a pre-tax profit of £585,911, compared with £1,013,660 the year before. Gross profit margin was down slightly to 38%, compared with 39% the previous year. The company stated: “Profitability has been affected by increased wages, repairs and marketing expenditure for the year. The external commercial environment is expected to remain competitive. However, we remain confident we will maintain our current level of performance in the future.” The business was founded by butcher Percy Brend in 1955 and currently has 11 luxury hotels including Saunton Sands Hotel in Braunton, The Imperial in Barnstaple and the Carlyon Bay Hotel in St Austell.

Sushimania ventures north for eighth site with Nottingham opening: Sushi restaurant Sushimania is to continue its expansion by opening a site in Nottingham – its most northern to date. The company will open the venue on the site of a former Azzurri group-owned ASK Italian in Chapel Bar, which shut almost seven months ago. Sushimania has more than 150 items on the menu including seven types of tempura, from sea bass to oysters and kushiyaki, which are grilled skewers of beef, chicken, prawns or vegetables. The list of fish includes tuna, salmon, prawns, octopus, squid, scallops and eel. Customers can also choose chicken terriyaki, wakame seaweed salad, spicy black cod and a host of noodle dishes, reports the Nottingham Post. Sushimania has seven other restaurants in the south, including Brighton, Oxford and Reading. 

Luxury chocolate brand Saint Aymes to open debut boutique cafe: Luxury chocolate brand Saint Aymes is to open its first boutique cafe, at Connaught Village in London – the Hyde Park Estate’s luxury retail quarter. London-born sisters Michela and Lois Wilson will open the venue on Saturday (3 February) having agreed a deal with landlord The Church Commissioners through agent Colliers International. The venue, featuring walls lined with hand-made flowers, is set over two floors across 1,100 square feet. Most of the furniture in the cafe is available to buy. It will serve coffee, cake, 23 carat gold hot chocolate and decadent chocolate. Saint Aymes will also host masterclasses and workshops ranging from chocolate-making and decoration to barista art. The Church Commissioners commercial property manager Joanna Love said: “The boutique cafe will be a great addition to our growing village of leading independent food and beverage, fashion, art and design brands in the heart of the Hyde Park Estate.”

Big Chill reopens King’s Cross venue featuring new brand identity: Big Chill has reopened its flagship venue in King’s Cross, London, featuring the brand’s new visual identity. The 9,500 square foot events space, formerly known as Big Chill House, has undergone an extensive ground-floor refurbishment. Big Chill King’s Cross features a simplified visual identity designed to “embody a new, more dynamic customer proposition, strengthening the daytime offering while further establishing Big Chill as one of London’s premier night spots”. The new interiors include a floor-to-ceiling dance floor and Instagram-friendly private hire spaces. To reflect the day-into-night brand ethos, a retractable partition separates the bar and dance floor to form a creative workspace and afternoon hangout in the split-level venue. The drink and food menus have also been refreshed to feature freshly brewed coffee, cold-pressed juices and a low ABV beer. Big Chill managing director Richard Bigg said: “Refurbishment of the flagship King’s Cross venue marks the beginning of a new chapter for Big Chill. The new brand identity allows us to be more dynamic and creative in our offering while embracing our festival past. This is an incredibly exciting time.” Big Chill Festival was founded in 1994 as a series of ambient parties in Islington, developing into an outdoor festival. The current owners opened Big Chill Bar in Shoreditch in 2004 and the King’s Cross site two years later. The Shoreditch venue has also been rebranded, as Big Chill Brick Lane.

Sussex-based craft brewer Bedlam relaunches Ditchling taphouse following £1m refurbishment: Sussex-based craft brewer Bedlam has relaunched its taphouse The Bull in Ditchling following a £1m expansion and refurbishment. The project, which has been five years in the planning, has created a significantly enlarged pub with 65% more dining capacity while keeping the historic 16th century features and retaining its character. A new bespoke catering kitchen – three times the size of the previous kitchen – has enabled the pub to serve customers in an expanded eating area that includes an additional layout for private dining or meetings. Furthermore, the pub, owned by Dominic and Vanessa Worrall, has added two bedrooms to create a total of six, with plans to create additional accommodation in the future. Dominic Worrall said: “We are delighted after a long period of planning the right kind of development for The Bull that we can now give our customers the interiors and surroundings they deserve." The expansion work has been enabled by a further funding facility from HSBC, which has supported the owners in their plans. Victoria Mutter, HSBC area director in Gatwick and East Sussex, said: “Dominic took The Bull over in 2000 and has grown the business significantly. We provided funding for the purchase of the freehold in 2013 and now, with the help of our latest loan, he has been able to take this further with a major expansion.”

Randy’s Wing Bar to open City restaurant this month for second London site: Randy’s Wing Bar is to start expansion this month by opening a second site in London, this time in Aldgate. Following pop-ups and pub residencies, founders Richard Thacker and Andy Watts opened a permanent site for their concept in Hackney Wick in 2016. They have now signed a 15-year lease on a 2,000 square foot, ground-floor site in the Minories and will open the 56-cover venue on Thursday, 15 February. New items on the menu will include boneless wings, baked oysters, sliders and a homemade sauce. The venue will also offer City workers salad boxes, wraps and boneless wings to take away, alongside cocktails and craft beer. Oliver Green, director in the central London retail team at Savills, which brokered the deal, said: “The brand has established an excellent reputation in the past few years and will be a strong addition to the hub of food and beverage operators in the Minories.” The debut Randy’s Wing Bar opened at Here East, the canal-side dining and drinking area on the site of the former press centre for the 2012 Olympic Games.

AMA Hospitality opens second site for Lebanese concept Maison du Mezze: AMA Hospitality has opened a second site for its Lebanese restaurant concept Maison du Mezze, this time in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey. The company has opened the venue on the first floor of the Bentall Centre next to YO! Sushi and Mexican restaurant Tortilla. AMA Hospitality director Ayman Jaber told the Surrey Comet: “The Bentall Centre was an obvious choice for our second restaurant. Our casual dining offering, unique setting and mix of Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine will sit perfectly with the growing offering and variety at the centre.” AMA Hospitality launched Maison du Mezze in London’s Leicester Square last year.

JD Wetherspoon certificated as top employer: JD Wetherspoon has been certificated as a “Top Employer United Kingdom” for 2018. It is the 15th consecutive year Wetherspoon has been certificated by the Top Employers Institute, the independent organisation behind the Top Employers project. The certification is based on independent research that shows the companies have “excellent working conditions and nurture and develop talent throughout all levels”. Wetherspoon was assessed on talent strategy, workforce planning, on-boarding, learning and development, performance management, leadership development, career and succession management, compensation, and benefits and culture. Wetherspoon commercial, legal and personnel director Su Cacioppo said: “The recognition comes from an independent organisation that researches numerous companies so it is very pleasing to be considered among the best across the UK.” Wetherspoon employs more than 37,000 staff across its pub estate and head office.

Deliveroo launches artisan bakery app to mark end of Veganuary: Deliveroo has launched an artisan bakery app to “help customers see off their January diets in style”. Deliveroo said the move follows a 62% leap in comfort food orders last year as many Brits ended a month of dieting and the Veganuary craze. The Treat Yo’ Self app offers “premium twists on British classics” such as Wagyu steak bakes and “posh-age” rolls filled with smoked mangalitza pancetta, apple and sage. The menu also contains a cheese and onion pasty featuring Baron Bigod cheese, figs and toasted walnuts. Joe Groves, of Deliveroo, said: “More than 150,000 people signed up for Veganuary this year and, for many of them, 1 February will be their first taste of meat in 2018. We saw a 62% spike in orders of comfort food this time last year so we’ve created the Treat Yo’ Self bakery to help Deliveroo customers celebrate the end of their diets in style.” The initiative is available across London while stocks last.

Skye Gyngell to eradicate all single-use plastics at Somerset House restaurant: Chef Skye Gyngell is aiming to eradicate all single-use plastics at her Spring restaurant in Somerset House by 2019. The restaurant banned plastic straws in November and is now looking at biodegradable alternatives to cling film ahead of eliminating the material by the end of the month. Next steps will include banishing plastic containers and all other single-use plastics at the restaurant. Gyngell said: “I looked at Spring and was overwhelmed by the amount of plastic we use. It’s everywhere, from something so simple as a recipe file to cling film. I wanted the elimination of plastic at Spring to be our new goal for 2018.” Last month, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers encouraged its members to stop using plastic straws following the lead of a number of hospitality businesses. Gyngell is best known for her role as Vogue food editor and for winning a Michelin star at the Petersham Nurseries Cafe.

Former Simon Rogan chef opens Stockport restaurant: A chef who found fame with his fizzy Vimto jelly while working with Simon Rogan has opened his own restaurant in Stockport. Mark Grice spent 13 years at The Midland hotel in Manchester, where he featured on a television programme about Rogan and his on-site restaurant The French. Grice was shown making his unusual dessert and became known as the Fizzy Vimto Chef. The dish now features on the menu at Grice’s 54-cover restaurant in London Road, which he has named Jack’s after his 20-month-old son. After leaving The Midland, Grice took a job as head chef at Aiden Byrne’s British Grill restaurant at the Macdonald Craxton Wood hotel just outside Chester before deciding to set up on his own, reports the Manchester Evening News.

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