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OFT launches investigation into alleged price fixing at lastminute.com – For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

11 October 2010 by
OFT launches investigation into alleged price fixing at lastminute.com – For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

OFT launches investigation into alleged price fixing at lastminute.com The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has launched a formal inquiry into suspected breaches of competition law by online hotel booking site lastminute.com. The British company's US parent, Sabre, admits in a document held by the Sunday Express that it monitors the prices hotels charge on all their advertising channels and takes action against those offering cheaper prices elsewhere in violation of what it terms "rate parity". A spokeswoman for lastminute.com said price parity ensured its customers paid the same rate that they would if booking directly with the hotel. But Dorian Harris, director of Brighton-based hotel booking website Skoosh.com, slammed the policy as "price-fixing" designed to prevent smaller rivals undercutting their rates, and said he had lost 30% of hotels listed on his sites over the past three years as a result. He also claimed that lastminute.com's "Top Secret Hotel" deals - which offer discounts of up to 45% - were bamboozling the public, as they did not know the name of the hotel until after they had booked. - 10 October
Read the full article in theSunday Express >>

Gordon Ramsay nearly doubles profits after a tough two years Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has nearly doubled the profits from his restaurant empire to £4.2m in the 11 months to the end of August, up from £2.47m for the same period a year ago. The new figures mark a turning point for the chef, whose over-rapid international expansion in 2008 brought him close to administration as his Gordon Ramsay Holdings International (GHRI) business lost £8.3m, forcing the chef and his business partner Chris Hutcheson to inject £5m into the business and to close restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and France, which are now run on a consultancy basis. Ramsay has since merged GHRI with Gordon Ramsay Holdings and closed the Ventures business which owned pubs in London and restaurants in Prague, Florida and Cape Town. This year, Ramsay has reopened Pétrus and next month reopens the Savoy Grill, which contributed £1.2m in profits in the year before it closed in December 2007 when the iconic London hotel began a £200m revamp. He also plans to open an informal dining site at One New Change in the City in early 2011. - 10 October
Read the full article in theSunday Telegraph >>

Report uncovers shocking levels of salt, fat and sugar in hospital meals for children Hospital meals for children can contain up to 10 times more salt and fat than similar dishes in schools, according to a survey by food campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH). Its analysis of 451 main meals, snacks and desserts - supplied by Apetito, Anglia Crown and MediRest - found that 85 dishes contained levels of salt or saturated fats that would not be allowed in schools, and that 30% would be classed "red" under the traffic-light food labeling system. According to CASH, a hospital chicken tikka masala with rice contained 14 times more salt and 8.5 times more fat than a school chicken and vegetable balti with rice, while a hospital lasagne was packed with 3.2g of salt, almost six times the 0.57g found in a school lasagne. Eighty-two desserts were found to exceed the 18.9g of sugar allowed in school canteens, including treacle tarts with up to 58.2g. The CASH findings have elicited expressions of "unease" from the Department of Health and prompted senior doctors to demand that minimum nutritional standards be extended from schools to hospitals. - 9 October
Read the full article in theGuardian >>

Marriott to launch new brand in partnership with Spain's AC Hotels Marriott is to join forces with Spanish hotel group AC Hotels in 2011 to launch a new brand across Europe and Latin America. The US-based hotel giant will rebrand 90 existing AC hotels in Spain, Italy and Portugal under the AC by Marriott banner and roll out new properties. It intends the new chain to become a market leader in urban, four-star properties that will offer a "unique blend of quality, comfort, design and technology". The 33 million members of the Marriott Rewards program will gain access to the new properties and AC by Marriott customers will also be able to earn points. - 9 October
Read the full article in theIndependent >>

McDonald's apologises for serving halal chicken to unsuspecting customers Fast-food giant McDonald's has admitted selling unlabelled halal chicken to unsuspecting consumers of Chicken McNuggets and McChicken Sandwiches across its 1,200 British outlets. The group told the Mail on Sunday that the halal chicken - which is not stunned before slaughter - had entered its supply chain without its knowledge and the group apologised to its customers. McDonald's sources its chicken from Cargill's Sun Valley abbatoir in Hereford, which is certified by the Halal Food Authority to sell chicken slaughtered to Muslim religious requirements. "While is it not a quality issue, halal chicken is outside of our specification," the company said in a statement to the newspaper. "We have received assurances from Cargill that halal meat production from this abattoir has now stopped." - 10 October
Read the full article in theMail on Sunday >>

Costa Coffee falls foul of animal welfare charities in first TV ads Whitbread's Costa Coffee chain has fallen foul of five animal welfare charities by using primates in its first television advertising campaign, a move that may compromise its relationship with the Rainforest Alliance that certifies its coffee. The charities claim the adverts, which show 16 monkeys from five species clambering over coffee machines and breaking crockery, undermines the animals' welfare - contravening both the Animal Welfare Act and the new Code of Practice on the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-Human Primates - and will encourage people to want to buy them as pets. They want the Rainforest Alliance, which does not like to be linked to the use of captive wild animals in ads, to demand their cancellation or to withdraw Costa's certification. Jim Slater, marketing director at Costa, denied compromising the animal's welfare. "The monkeys were provided by a specialist organisation and have appeared in movies and on TV many times before." - 10 October
Read the full article in theObserver >>

Walkers to make crisp packets from potato peelings Walkers is planning to make its crisp bags out of recycled potato peelings in place of cellulose from wood pulp, which it suspects are disconcertingly "crackly". Richard Evans, president of Walkers' owner PepsiCo UK and Ireland, said this new, greener packaging could appear within 18 months, most likely on some of its smaller brands to start with. "We could use the peelings we have, that today go to animal feed and other recycling uses, to be turned into a crisp packets," Evans said on Radio 4's Today programme. "In reality, if you think about starch - and you know how sticky starch is - if you could mass it together you could create a layer of starch and stabilise that." Leicester-based Walker's, which produces more than 10 million bags of crisps each day, has 16 different crisp brands, including Doritos and Quavers. - 9 October
Read the full article in theDaily Telegraph >>

By Angela Frewin

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