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M&B chairman gets offices swept for bugs – For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

25 January 2010 by
M&B chairman gets offices swept for bugs – For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

M&B chairman gets offices swept for bugs
Simon Laffin, the beleagured chairman of pub operator Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), has called in security specialists to sweep his home and office for bugs in a sign of the total breakdown of trust between the M&B board and a group of its biggest investors, reports the Observer. Laffin is not expected to survive a showdown at the group's annual general meeting on Thursday with the rebel shareholders, led by Joe Lewis, who own the Sandy Lane hotel in Barbados. They plan to put forward four new board directors, matching the number of directors representing their interest whom M&B ejected in November, and demand Laffin's resignation. Although the Takeover Panel has ruled there is no evidence the shareholders are acting in concert, MPs have expressed concerns that they are working together take control of the company against the interest of M&B's 60,000 shareholders. On Friday, M&B announced plans to aggressively expandObserver, the Sunday Times, and Scotland on Sunday >>

Gordon Ramsay falls foul of recruitment firm - and Channel 4 viewers
Gordon Ramsay was forced to recruit chefs and front of house staff via the Gumtree website this December after he was boycotted by a catering and hospitality recruitment firm who he had failed to pay. According to the Sunday Express, the chef started to delay bill payments for up to 90 days after his business suffered a 90% fall in profits last year. It reports that a source close to the recruitment firm, Mise en Place, said that the delayed payments failed to materialize despite repeated requests. Mise en Place said the matter had now been resolved. Meanwhile, Channel 4 received 116 complaints about Ramsay's three-part series, Gordon's Great Escape, in which he visits parts of India. Viewers were angered by his 'disrespectful' treatment of a vegetarian Indian guru, who he likened to Father Christmas and his use of obscenities when speaking to local people. - 24 January, Read the full articles in the Sunday Express and the Mail on Sunday >>

Ducasse laments loss of home cooking skills in France 19-Michelin-starred French chef Alain Ducasse fears that the French are losing the art of home cooking that underlies the country's reputation for gastronomic excellence due to the rising number of working women. The Monaco-based chef said French women were no longer passing on their skills to their daughters and, through lack of time, had relegated home cooking from a daily skill to a weekend hobby - unlike women in Italy. He credited this waning tradition for the success of the cookery school he opened last May, which he believes would not have been needed 25 years ago. Nevertheless, Ducasse maintained that French restaurants were second only to Tokyo's in quality, with London's diverse restaurants the third best in the world. In an interview with the Independent, Ducasse also lamented the demise of the long lunch, lauded British chef Gordon Ramsay, praised gastropubs for keeping the tradition of popular cooking alive, and revealed his love of traditional English pies. - 23 January, Read the full article in the Independent >>
Center Parcs in Suffolk beefs up security after crime spree
Security has been beefed up at the Center Parc resort in Elveden Forest, Suffolk in response to a crime spree by what Center Parc bosses believe is a single gang of determined thieves. Criminals have made off with 362 high-value bicycles worth £272,603 in the past two years from outside villas at the forest resort that bans cars. Burglars have also broken into 14 villas in the past two months to steal cash and valuable electronic gadgets from guests. Center Parcs spokesman Simon Kay said the resort had spent £150,000 on security fencing, CCTV cameras and tripling the number of security personnel patrolling the site, including officers with dogs. He added that the resort has commissioned independent security specialists to advise on further measures, planned to joint-fund a Police Community Support Officer, and was meeting police chiefs tomorrow to discuss security further. - 24th January, Read the full article in the Mail on Sunday >>
Jamie's Italian to be joined by barbecue-based brand Jamie's Italian, the restaurant chain launched by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, is set to develop a second barbecue-based brand. The first Barbacoa will open in the One New Change development next to St Paul's Cathedral in October. - 23 January, Read the full article in the The Times >> McDonald's UK arm reports record year The UK arm of fast-food giant McDonald's has reported a record year in 2009, with annual turnover topping $2b. Like-for-like sales growth of 11% outperformed the total group growth of 3.8% to make the UK the corporation's best-performing market, while UK customer visits grew by 7.5%. UK chief executive Steve Easterbrook said the group's saver and Little Tasters menus had grown sales by 12% and that customers appreciated its offer of predictable, everyday prices rather than 'buy one get one free promotions'. Key growth drivers, he added, included breakfasts, coffee and chicken items. The group expects to create 5,000 new jobs this year, partly from earlier opening times at 6am instead of 7.30am, and from the opening of 10 to 15 new outlets. The group will also continue refurbishing its 12,000 restaurants to a new café-style format, which is now half complete. The refitted stores are outperforming the market by 6%. - 23 and 24 January, Read the full articles in The Times, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday
Landlord to close down Tragus' Oriel restaurant after disappointing meal
The historic Oriel brasserie, which has been serving food in London's Sloane Square for around 25 years, is to be closed because the landlord did not like the food and found the prices too high. Earl Cadogan - who owns 90 acres of some of London's most expensive land and is believed to be worth £2b - confirmed yesterday that his company, Cadogan Estates, would not renew the Oriel's lease when it ended. He plans to look for another restaurant to replace the Oriel once refurbishment is completed in 18 months. Oriel's owner, Tragus - which also operates the Bella Pasta and Café Rouge restaurant chains - has decided not to fight the closure in court, although a group of Sloane Square residents have reportedly set up a petition to oppose the move. The Oriel has received mixed reviews of late, with the Harden's guide awarding it a mere five for food and four for service, and customer comments on the London-eating.co.uk website proving distinctly lukewarm. - 23 January, Read the full article in the Independent >> Recession cost Italian hotels €1.7b in 2009
The recession cost Italy's hotels €1.7b in lost revenue last year, according to a sample of 1,000 companies by hotel industry association Federalberghi. Its president, Bernabo Bocca, revealed that a 3.8% drop in occupancy lost the sector around €1b, while a further €700m was the price paid for lowering room rates by more than 2%. Hotels accounted for 12,000 of the 50,000 jobs lost in the tourism sector last year, with another 25,000 lost in related restaurants and commercial businesses. The sector is "facing 2010 in total uncertainty… both for the national and world economy," Bocca warned. - 23 January, Read the full article in the Independent >>
By Angela Frewin

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