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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 3rd Oct 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

McVeigh – well-run companies suffer at the hands of life support for zombie businesses: Charlie McVeigh, the founder of Draft House and chairman of Butchies, has argued that well-run companies are suffering at the hands of life support for zombie businesses. Writing in Friday’s Propel Premium opinion, McVeigh said where there was once a firm belief that a balanced budget and free enterprise were the best route to “deliver wealth and happiness to an aspirational nation”, government and voter now look to solve any perceived unfairness “with yet more rules and regulation funded by an ever-greater deficit” – a trend which accelerated during lockdown. “At the same time, since 2009, the huge amount of free quantitative easing-cash swilling around the system has caused an asset pricing bubble on a scale not seen before in the UK,” McVeigh said. “For our sector, this has led to huge increases in freehold and rent pricing. And for the same reason, many of our so-called zombie businesses with failed brands and business models have continued to find funding as they lurch from company voluntary arrangement to company voluntary arrangement. While this may have protected jobs and temporarily kicked the lender-can down the road, a high street full of struggling brands has clogged up the market and dampened the animal spirits we need to drive growth, innovation and sustainable employment. For every Loungers, there may be as many as two or three such zombie businesses. And well-run businesses suffer at the hands of this government and financier-led life-support. What level would property costs be at without it, for example? We might be about to find out.” McVeigh went on to say that the “radical new economic strategy” of lower taxes and deregulation presented in chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget was necessary to finally deliver “the economic promise of Brexit” – but was let down by “cack-handed and excessively ideological” presentation. “Even a well presented, well thought through version of the mini-Budget would have resulted in increased uncertainty and instability given the 18-month window available to see results,” he added. “Most businesses are dialling back growth plans as no one really knows the mid-term impact of all of this will be. So, the cure looks worse than the disease right now. I didn’t vote for Brexit, but it does present an opportunity – with the right government – to roll some of this stuff back – and in time also to reduce the tax burden. I hope the terrible pratfalls of the current Tory clown-car don’t deprive us of this opportunity for another generation. I still think there is a way through – it requires Ukraine to resolve and several other big bits of luck – but the security shutter on the emergency exit is rumbling shut.” To upgrade your subscription to Propel Premium, email

Industry News:

Number of experiential concepts to feature in next edition of The New Openings Database, 14,500-word report included: A number of experiential concepts will feature in the next edition of The New Openings Database. The database will show the details of 268 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published on Friday (7 October), at midday, including which company has opened a site or plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis, and the next edition features Lumberjack Axe Throwing, founded by entrepreneur Matthew Griffin, which opened its debut site in Cardiff, in 2019, and has now opened a second site, in Swansea. Also added this month is indoor karting concept Drift Stop, owned by Andreas Aristotelous, which is set to open a site in Leeds. In addition, Mitchells & Butlers’ new interactive darts experience Arrowsmiths, will be featured. Crazy golf concept Caddies, which opened its debut site in Southend and has opened its second site, in Crawley, is also included. Premium subscribers will also receive a 14,500-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate, the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group, and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Panel discussion on sector investment landscape to be held at final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2022, three free places per company for operators: A panel discussion on the sector investment landscape will be held at the final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2022, which takes place on Thursday, 10 November, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London, and is open for bookings. The all-day conference will focus on “new ways of working”. The panel discussion will be led by Andrew Ball, of Haysmacintyre, with serial sector investor Luke Johnson; Darrel Connell, of Imbiba; Lisa Boden, of Edition Capital; and Robin Rowland, of TriSpan. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing

Video series launches to help operators harness technology to drive their business forwards, Chopstix and Cote to feature: In a new series of Propel videos, leading suppliers explain how operators can harness their technology to drive their businesses forward. In the first video, Rob Burns, marketing director of fast-growing quick service restaurant brand Chopstix, and Jimmy Muldoon, director of insights and digital at Côte, share with HGEM’s Keit Vende and Steve Pike the technological solutions they have implemented within their businesses, and how these drive success for their brands. They also discuss key challenges such as return on investment and internal buy-in, and overcoming these potential hurdles, along with the digital solutions that are on the radar for the near future. The video will be sent at 9am today (Monday, 3 October).

Big brands battling over prime plots as UK drive-thru sales rocket by £500m over three years: Brands such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Costa, Greggs and Starbucks are racing to find plots of land to build new drive-thrus following a £500m rise in sales at such sites since 2019. According to data from NPD Group, British consumers spent £2.9bn in drive-thrus in the year to the end of August, £500m more than three years ago. The growth in demand means potential sites in are in high demand and competition for them can be fierce, reports The Times. Some property owners have reported eight or nine competing bids on the best locations, while rents have risen from between £25-£35 per square foot each year before the pandemic to £35-£45 now. “There is strong demand for drive-thrus, so we can get good terms and good rents,” said Allan Lockhart, chief executive of New River Reit, which owns a large number of retail parks. “Build costs have been going up, but operators are willing to pay higher rent to justify them.” Costa hit a landmark in August when it opened its 300th UK drive-thru site, in Sunderland, and said it would commit £20m to expanding its drive-thru presence here. James Hamilton, Costa’s property and store development director, said he was increasingly getting into “strong bidding negotiations” for new sites. “Everyone wants to operate these units because it’s really where convenience is going,” he said. “When I joined, drive-thru was a new thing, whereas now it’s the largest proportion of our store-opening programme.” Drive-thrus today make up 5% of consumer spend out of the home, compared with 4% before the pandemic, and for operators, such sites typically have higher sales and margins. NPD figures show customers spend more per order in a drive-thru: £5.27 per person, compared to £4.18 for those eating in a restaurant. Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK, which has 155 drive-thrus, said the “simple reason” behind the rapid growth was they allow you to sell more from the same store, with transactions about 30% bigger. Starbucks said a third of its sales now come from drive-thrus, of which it has 284 in the UK, and that 75% of its new outlets here will be drive-thrus. Furthermore, it said drive-thru customers typically order 15% more than walk-in ones. Greggs has 15 drive-thrus and is planning more, with property director Tony Rowson adding that while they were “expensive to fit out”, they would “drive that evening trade that we haven’t historically traded in”.

UKHospitality calls for tourist accommodation registration scheme: UKHospitality has urged the government to introduce a check-based tourist accommodation scheme, to help create a level playing field for all accommodation providers. In its submission to the recent consultation on short-term lets registration (for England), the trade body highlighted that such a scheme for all short-term let properties would build a fairer, safer and more sustainable industry. Under the current scheme, with the growth of the digital economy, some sites can unfairly benefit from a lack of regulation and a reduced tax burden, it said. Meanwhile, the wider sector is over-burdened by regulation and taxes as it struggles to recover from the pandemic. Implementing the scheme for all would also ensure all short-let accommodation are safe for consumers and would help address the imbalance between short and long-term rentals in rural and coastal communities, and tourism hot spots. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “At present, there simply isn’t a level playing field across accommodation providers. There is a real lack of transparency around where short-term letting properties are located, how they operate and who operates them. A registration scheme, with the ability to check and enforce compliance of rules and regulations already being followed by other accommodation businesses, would fundamentally address the issue of transparency. We also believe such a scheme will help to eradicate the issues currently facing certain areas of the UK where there is an imbalance in long and short-term accommodation available and go some way to building a more sustainable tourism industry in the UK.”

Almost two thirds of Brits want their coffee sustainably sourced: Almost two thirds of Brits want their coffee sustainably sourced, according to a survey from roasters Lincoln & York. The company surveyed more than 2,000 Brits to mark International Coffee Day on Saturday (1 October), with 63% saying ensuring their coffee is sustainably sourced is high on their agenda, while just under half (49%) say they are more likely to support brands actively reducing their impact on the environment. Environmentally friendly options are notably more important to younger consumers, with those looking for sustainably sourced coffee increasing to 76% among 18 to 34-year-olds. However, almost three fifths (57%) say they find it difficult to know which brands are taking steps to support the environment, and which are not. The research also found that three quarters (75%) will purchase a coffee when out and about, and almost a third (32%) do so at least once a week. Ross Schofield, commercial director at Lincoln & York, said: “Today’s consumer is much more conscious and aware of the impact their purchasing habits have. We believe that when it comes to creating a better future for us all, you can never stand still.”

COREcruitment MD has debut novel published: COREcruitment managing director Krishnan Doyle has had his debut novel published – the first in a series of five. Dirty Angel is now available on Amazon in Kindle or paperback format. It tells the story of former military explosives expert George Travers, who is now an upcoming player in the cut-throat world of corporate banking about to land the deal of his career, but who finds himself caught up in the murky world of a group of ruthless entrepreneurs. The second book in the series, which Doyle started writing during lockdown, is due to be published next summer. Doyle has worked for COREcruitment for the past 17 years, covering leadership and senior business development roles spanning across restaurants and bars, venues and events, hotels and resorts and contract catering among other areas.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a business in the luxury restaurant sector that is seeking a managing director. The company has six sites, all high volume, in London and overseas, with more openings in the pipeline for 2023-2024 and beyond. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The managing director will lead the operations team and have five key reports across the world. Working with the owner, this role is about putting in the right practices to get the best out of the people and the business. They will have strong commercial awareness and be able to demonstrate their leadership skills, to help drive the new vision for the business.” The position is based in London, with occasional international travel, and offers a salary of up to £200,000. For more information, email

Company News:

AMT Coffee promotes Matt Cundrick to MD as brand seeks fresh backing, Paolo Peretti steps into advisory role: AMT Coffee, which operates a circa 55-strong estate of sites in transport hubs and hospitals across the UK, has appointed Matt Cundrick as its new managing director, Propel has learned. Cundrick has been the brand’s operations director for the past year and was formerly head of food services at Rontec. He has also had stints at Greggs, Marks & Spencer and BHS. It comes as the brand seeks fresh investment and, according to the Sunday Times, has appointed Interpath Advisory to find a buyer. This after reporting in its most recent accounts, for the year ending 3 January 2021, that it was in good position to grow and prosper following recapitalisation, with property entrepreneur David Maxwell having completed a deal for a majority stake in the business in June 2021. The deal is understood to have left the founding McCallum-Toppin family with a small minority shareholding in the business. Meanwhile, Paolo Peretti, who has been interim managing director of AMT Coffee since last summer, has become an advisor to the business. Peretti, formerly of Leon, Vital Ingredient and Patisserie Valerie, has overseen the beginning of the next stage of the company’s development. Peretti said: “I have had an enjoyable time with the business and feel that in my sixth turnaround project, my team and I have made a difference as the business is in a very different place to where it was. We have secured new leases for existing units, won tenders for new units, built up strong relationships with our landlords and suppliers, refreshed the brand and revised our food offer, commenced a partnership with Change Please and achieved like-for-like sales which are ahead of many of our competitors. Matt Cundrick has been a huge support every step of the way on this journey, and I am really pleased to be passing the baton to him as he steps up into the managing director role.”

San Carlo Restaurant Group – trading this year very strong, set for US debut: San Carlo Restaurant Group, the north west-based operator, has said trading this year has “been very strong”, while it is set to make its US debut in 2023, Propel has learned. The 25-strong business said it should finish its current financial year with gross turnover of circa £85m, with an operating Ebitda of £12m. For the year to 30 September 2021, it posted turnover of £29.109m (2020: £38.86m), with a pre-tax loss of £2.2m (2020: £578,789). Talking to Propel about trading in 2022, managing director Marcello Distefano said: “Although sales have been strong, operationally, it has been a very difficult year. Recruitment, as with most in the industry, has been tough, though this has settled recently. It will be interesting to see what happens leading up to Christmas. The current economic situation does leave a bit of guesswork of what will happen to the market over the next six to 12 months. After last year’s work-from-home directive during Christmas, we are expecting a much stronger festive period this year. 2023 is a busy year for us, with upgrades to the current portfolio including a really exciting refurbishment in Liverpool. We have further sites opening in Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as two very exciting sites in Dubai and Miami. We are still looking for new sites in the UK and feel we are well placed to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.” Earlier this spring, the business opened the latest site under its Cicchetti brand. The 286 square-metre, two-storey Italian restaurant launched at 6 Hans Road in Knightsbridge, adjacent to Harrods. It follows on from the Distefano family owned Cicchetti restaurants at Piccadilly and Covent Garden in London, in Manchester and overseas in Doha, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Two UK breweries file for administration, blaming lasting effects of Brexit and covid: Two UK breweries have filed for administration, blaming the lasting effects of Brexit and covid for falling sales. Kent’s Old Dairy Brewery, which was chosen to help champion export opportunities for the government after Brexit, has said it is set to appoint administrators in a race to find a buyer. Propel reported last month that the brewery, which appeared in a government video last year promoting the potential to boost Brexit export sales, had only one customer left in the EU, blaming burdensome customs checks and paperwork for a slump in sales on the continent. It has now filed notice of its intention to appoint administrators in an effort to fend off creditors while it seeks a buyer, reports the Sunday Times. The brewery, which was founded in 2009, is owned by a collection of investors, including Alexander Hoare, former chief executive of private bank, C. Hoare & Co. The news comes as Cornish brewer Skinner’s confirmed over the weekend that it was collapsing into administration after 25 years in business, blaming rising costs and sales hit by the pandemic. The business last year raised £80,000 in a crowdfunding campaign when it feared it would go bust, but owner Steve Skinner said he was “deeply saddened” to say that from today (Monday, 3 October), it would enter administration. Bishop Fleming have been appointed as administrators. A spokesperson for the brewery wrote on Facebook: “Our strong hope is that a buyer can be found, and that the brewery in some form will continue to be part of life in Cornwall for many years to come. Please be reassured that the Old Ale House is not affected by this and will remain open at all times as it is not owned directly by the brewery.”

Farm Girl set to crowdfund to roll out eponymous brand and Roll Baby concept: Farm Girl, the London-based healthy eating café concept, is to launch a crowdfunding campaign to aid the roll out of its eponymous brand and its new Roll Baby format, Propel understands. It is understood that the business, which said it “survived the pandemic and came out stronger than ever”, is set to launch a crowdfunding campaign through Seedrs with a goal to have ten Farm Girl sites and 25 Roll Baby sites operating across London by 2027. The business opened its first site in Notting Hill in 2015, with a second following two years later in Soho. Today the business, which is the brainchild of Rose Mann and Anthony Hood, operates five sites in total across the capital. Last year, the company also launched a sister concept, Roll Baby, with the opening of a kiosk site in South Kensington Underground station. Mann and Hood said the inspiration for Roll Baby came from the Vietnamese street food served in Melbourne, Australia. The concept serves eight styles of gluten-free rice paper rolls, which are freshly made each day, available with a choice of seven different sauces – costing between £3 and £6. 

Mark McFadyen to return to Greene King as business unit director: Mark McFadyen, currently group operations director Brewhouse & Kitchen, is to return to Greene King as business unit director for the company’s Farmhouse Inns division, Propel has learned. McFadyen, who has been at Brewhouse & Kitchen for the past four years, will take up his new role on 28 November. He previously spent nine and a half years at Greene King, including five years as operations director for Old English Inns. He also spent four and half years at Spirit Group. Andrew Wilson MBE, managing director, Greene King, Destination Food Brands, said: “Mark brings a wealth of experience within hospitality and has great knowledge of digital transformation and customer service, and I can’t wait for him to bring all this to my team. I want to wish Mark a very warm welcome to the Destination Food Brands team and a welcome back to Greene King!”

Individual Restaurants converts Gino’s My Pizza and Prosecco Bar sites to new ‘Piccolo’ by Piccolino concept: Individual Restaurants, the operator of the Piccolino and Restaurant Bar & Grill brands, has converted its three Gino's My Pizza and Prosecco Bar sites to new concept ‘Piccolo’ by Piccolino, Propel has learned. The Gino’s My Pizza and Prosecco Bar sites inside the Next stores at Manchester Arndale, Hull and Leeds have now all reopened under the new brand, which the business describes as a “small Italian restaurant with big dreams”. At the start of this year, Individual Restaurants, the Karen Forrester-chaired business, announced it planned to close and rebrand several Gino D’Acampo My Restaurants – at the Corn Exchange in Manchester, Castle Street in Liverpool, Temple Row Birmingham and Park Row in Leeds. All have since become new Riva Blu restaurants. In Harrogate, the Gino D’Acampo My Restaurant was rebranded as a Piccolino. 

Bala Baya to open Soho flagship site: Bala Baya, the Tel Aviv-inspired concept from former Ottolenghi chef Eran Tibi, is set to open a flagship site in London’s Soho. Propel understands that the business has lined up an opening at Ilona Rose House, the mixed-use redevelopment of the old Foyle’s Bookshop site on Charing Cross Road in Soho, where it will join all-day Australian restaurant Milk Beach. An opening is scheduled for next month. The debut Bala Baya opened in Southwark at the start of 2017. The restaurant – based in one of the arches in Union Street – was the first standalone project by Israel-born Tibi, who has also worked at Made In Camden and Zest at JW3. Pre-pandemic, Tibi said he would like to open a West End site for Bala Baya before exploring international expansion opportunities. He also said he was looking for a partner to aid expansion of the concept overseas, someone who could help with “investment and strategy”.

Sam Bourke joins Fuller’s as retail marketing director: Fuller’s has appointed Sam Bourke, formerly of The Restaurant Group and ETM Group, as its new retail marketing director. Bourke, who is currently marketing director at Wasabi, will join the Simon Emeny-led Fuller’s on 28 November 2022. She also previously held marketing director roles at The Restaurant Group and ETM Group and is also a non-executive director of Wireless Social, the hospitality Wi-Fi and analytics specialists. Emeny said: “I’m delighted to welcome Sam to the team. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge of hospitality retail marketing and a laser-like focus on the consumer. She will be a great cultural fit and I’m excited to see how she develops our marketing in the coming months.” Bourke added: “Fuller’s has an incredible heritage, with a real commitment to giving its customers a distinctive and memorable experience. I am looking forward to bringing the true Fuller’s experience to life by transforming the way we engage with our customers as we innovate for the future. Fuller’s is a business I have long admired, and I’m looking forward to being an integral part in the next stage of its history.”

Neds Noodle Bar looking to go completely robotic in kitchens: Neds Noodle Bar is looking to go completely robotic in its kitchens. Propel reported last month that Azzurri Group is trialling robot servicing technology through one of its Zizzi sites, while Taiwanese dim sum brand Din Tai Fung will be doing likewise at its new Centre Point site, and buffet brand Cosmo introduced robot servers at its latest restaurant, in Bournemouth. Meanwhile, Neds – which operates three sites in London as well as further locations in Oxford, Southampton and Milton Keynes – is introducing robotic chefs. “For the last eight months, I’ve been researching products to help my business deal with staff shortages, and two months ago I purchased two machines from China, and they are now live in the South Bank branch,” co-founder Roberto Marroni told Propel. “We have now programmed the machines and they are in service. We are working on maximising efficiency during service, and after that, the South Bank branch will be robots only in our kitchens. Subsequent to that, it will be rolled out to all stores. There will still be people operating them, but obviously they don’t need kitchen experience and we will need a third less labour. We are also looking at self-ordering kiosks.”

Ex-Cote MD Keith Lloyd returns to Nando’s: Keith Lloyd, who stepped down from Cote as its managing director, has re-joined Nando’s, as its new head of planning and central operations. Lloyd spent a year as managing director of Cote, the French brasserie chain backed by the Partners Group. He had previously been with Nando’s for over eight years, including a year and a half as central head of operations for the UK & Ireland. Earlier this summer, Cote announced that Adelle Taylor was returning to the business as operations managing director after a year off. Taylor started as a general manager in 2010 and has worked in several roles across the business including area manager, operations director and director of change.

Yorkshire operator to bring Brazilian and Japanese concepts under one roof for first time: Yorkshire operator Zack Isaak is bringing his Brazilian and Japanese concepts Estabulo Rodizio and Sakku Samba under one roof for the first time. Estabulo Rodizio is a Brazilian Gaucho-style bar and grill with 11 UK locations, predominantly across the north east and Yorkshire, while Sakku Samba is a Brazilian-Japanese concept in Leeds. Isaak, who is also behind Caffé Noor in Wakefield and Fleur Restaurant in Leeds, is bringing the concepts together at Rotherham’s Forge Island development. Isaak has also taken a separate unit to open a second site for Caffé Noor, while a final lease has been secured by Portuguese and southern African concept Casa Peri, from MasterChef star Bobby Geetha. They will join Travelodge and boutique cinema operator The Arc, which have both previously signed up, at Forge Island, with construction expected to start in October. 

Deliveroo launches Too Good To Go partnership in four new cities: Deliveroo has launched its food waste reduction partnership with Too Good To Go in Cambridge, Bristol, Brighton and Manchester following a successful trial in Battersea. It will help thousands more people reduce food waste across the UK by offering them the chance to buy £15 worth of food nearing its sell-by date for the cost of £5, via a Deliveroo HOP site. Deliveroo customers can download the free Too Good To Go app, select their local Deliveroo HOP site and purchase a “magic bag” of unsold food to collect each day between 3pm-10pm. Stephen Goldstein, global head of grocery and Deliveroo HOP at Deliveroo, said: “We’re excited to be expanding our partnership with Too Good To Go across the UK after seeing the demand from our customers in London earlier this year.”

Everyman signs as anchor leisure tenant at London’s landmark Turing Building: Cinema operator Everyman has signed as anchor leisure tenant at London’s landmark Turing Building. Both the cinema and the building, located within International Quarter London (IQL), are set to launch in 2024. Guy Thomas, head of place assets at landlords, Lendlease Europe, said: “As well as responding to corporate and consumer priorities of sustainability, wellbeing and flexibility – having the right amenity mix is critical. That means we have to get the ground floor right, and when the decision was made to have an integrated cinema to support the cultural boom in Stratford, Everyman was top of the list.” Shelley Sandzer, Nash Bond and CF Commercial represented Lendlease at IQL, while Everyman dealt direct.

Dorchester Collection set to open new bar at The Dorchester in December: Luxury hotel company Dorchester Collection is set to launch a new bar at The Dorchester in December. The opening of Vesper Bar, in the space formerly occupied by cocktail venue The Bar, will signal the completion of the first phase of the hotel’s most comprehensive transformation for more than 30 years. Vesper Bar’s cocktail menu will showcase “both timeless and signature cocktails inspired by The Dorchester”, curated by head bartender Lucia Montanelli. The name relates to The Dorchester’s many connections with James Bond, including Bond author Ian Fleming staying and dining there throughout his life. The Dorchester Collection also includes 45 Park Lane in London and Coworth Park in Ascot, as well as hotels in Paris, Milan, Rome, Beverley Hills, Los Angeles and, opening in 2023, The Lana in Dubai.

Drop goes west for third site: Bottle shop and wine bar concept, Drop, has opened its third site and first in west London. The concept, launched by restaurateurs Ian Campbell and Will Palmer in 2016, has sites in Drury Lane and Clapham. It has now also opened at 37 Earls Court Road, a site which will be run independently by Dominic Corden, reports Hot Dinners. It is a second franchise site for Drop, with the Clapham one operated by Victor Guyonnet. Campbell and Palmer launched Drop’s franchise model in May 2021 with a view to expanding to 85 sites across the UK over the next three years. It raised £1.25m to support its expansion plans, including £500,000 in a crowdfunding campaign.

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