Menzies Hotels forced to renegotiate debt after breaching bank covenants Menzies Hotels - the 17-strong chain acquired by Iranian tycoon Robert Tchenguiuz in 2006 - has been forced to renegotiate its debt after breaching its banking covenants. Tchenguiz bought Menzies in late 2006 through his investment vehicle R20 for £180m. This included a debt package of £225m supplied by HBOS, the troubled bank that was controversially merged with Lloyds TSB. Menzies will have to submit a new business plan and budget to HBOS over the coming in return for a new set of financing terms that may require a £5m cash injection from R20. - 15 February, Read the full article in the Sunday Times >>
Turkish restaurants sold stolen vintage wines at rock-bottom prices Turkish restaurants throughout London and the South-east have unknowingly bought thousands of stolen bottles of vintage French wines for a fraction of their real value. Turkish folk singer Dogan Arslan conned French vineyards out of more than 100,000 bottles between January and October 2007 after pretending to work for top London hotels and paying with cheques that bounced. Arslan, who was jailed for four-and-a-half years last week, then sold on wines with a retail value of up to £200 a bottle for just £60 a case. Police were alerted to the scam after a tip-off from staff at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel, who became suspicious after a French vineyard contacted them over a £50,000 order they had not made for 7,200 bottles. Officers found 37,000 bottles of wine in Arslan's Tottenham warehouse and an invoice book in his car that showed he had netted more than £1m in two months alone from the deception. - 14 February, Read the full article in the Independent >>
Nick Nairn puts second Cook School on ice as business plummets The credit crunch has forced celebrity chef and restaurateur Nick Nairn to put his plans for a second Cook School on ice until the economy picks up. He had planned to invest £1.5m in a new Cook School at the Inchmarlo golf course at Banchory, Aberdeenshire, later this year, followed by more venues in Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and England. But a slowdown in bookings and a 40% slump in January revenue at his existing school near Stirling has compelled the Ready Steady Cook regular to slash cuts and lose up to 18 staff. Nairn expects revenue to be 15% lower than last year's £1.2m and said the school could make a loss if he did not make savings. - 15 February, Read the full article in Scotland on Sunday >>
Restaurant chains intensify discounts to survive recession The recession and increased competition from pub chains are driving restaurant chain operators such as Pizza Express, Carluccio's and Tragus to discount more heavily than usual in the quiet post-Christmas season. Mailshot and website promotions are offering two meals for the price of one, a free bottle of wine, or 50% off the bill. None have yet reached the levels seen in the US, where diner chain Denny's offer of a free breakfast for one day attracted two million customers. Nevertheless, some consultants fear the intensified price war will undermine the chains' profitability, devalue their brands, and encourage customers to expect special offers as the norm. Mindful of this, some companies are experimenting instead with the loyalty schemes seen in coffee chains. Clapham House, for instance, is poised to launch a loyalty programme for its core Gourmet Burger Kitchen brand following trials with its smaller Tootsies and The Real Greek chains. - 15 February, Read the full article in the Sunday Times >>
By Angela Frewin
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