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Radisson, Thistle and Starwood in pricing-fixing probe – For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

26 April 2011 by
Radisson, Thistle and Starwood in pricing-fixing probe – For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

Radisson, Thistle and Starwood hotels named in pricing-fixing probe The Thistle and Starwood hotel chains and the Radisson-owned May Fair hotel in London are to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading for alleged price fixing. If found guilty of the charges of breaching competition laws - which they deny - the hotel groups face fines of up of to 10% of their turnover. They are accused of secretly setting room rates with online travel agents and ordering them not to offer discounts. The investigation follows claims from a whistleblower that rooms at the May Fair hotel were advertised on three online travel sites at the same £204 cited on the hotel's own website. A dossier passed to OFT officials suggested senior executives tried to enforce ‘rate parity' to prevent their own website prices being undercut. - 23 April
Read the full article in theDaily Mail >>

Walkout chefs at Ramsay Manhattan restaurant accused of sexism The male chefs at the Michelin-starred Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Manhattan's London NYC hotel walked out on Saturday after refusing to work with a female commis chef who had complained that their sexist behaviour had turned the kitchen into a ‘Dante's inferno' for her. Janet Kim, 31, claimed she was called a whore, was groped, and was propositioned for oral sex. When she complained, she said was sent to a part of the kitchen referred to as ‘the c* corner'. Kim's lawyer, Jeffrey Brown, has filed a complaint with the State Division of Human Rights against both the hotel and the chef. Although Ramsay no longer owns or runs the restaurant, Brown claimed his influence as a consultant had ‘abetted' the hostile work environment. The restaurant is expected to reopen this week. - 22 April
Read the full article inThe Times >>

Firmdale board appointments spark flotation or investment rumours Firmdale Holdings, which owns six boutique hotels in London and one in New York, has appointed two non-executive directors in a move that has prompted speculation of a flotation or strategic investment. The new directors are Christopher Brotchie, former chief executive of Barings Private Equity Partners and solicitor John Gray. Firmdale, which has funded expansion to date from capital provided by its founders, Tim and Kit Kemp, and from debt related to its properties, is believed to have talked to at least one bank about external investment. The group made an operating profit of £4.7m on sales of £54m in the year to January 2010 and is expected to report a further rise in profitability in the next few months. A spokesman for Firmdale denied there were plans for a flotation. - 24 April
Read the full article in theSunday Telegraph >>

Brighton hotel faces court action after refusing lesbian couple Human rights group Liberty is taking legal action against a Brighton hotel on behalf of a lesbian couple who claimed they were turned away for being gay. Rebecca Nash, 22, and Hope Stubbings, 19, booked into the Brunswick Square hotel by telephone but said they were told on arrival that there were no rooms available and that the hotel only accepted straight couples and families. They added that the hotel manager had become aggressive and threatened to call the police if they did not leave. The couple, from Andover in Hampshire, were forced to drive back home when they could not find alternative accommodation. The hotel's manager described the incident in October as a misunderstanding, adding: "This is Brighton - we have taken hundreds of gay people here. This is really upsetting. The only time we send people away is if they are loud or hooligans." - 22 April
Read the full article in theIndependent >>

Costa Coffee to challenge Starbucks in five overseas markets Whitbread's new chief executive Andy Harrison is expected to announce increased overseas expansion plans for Costa Coffee when he presents the group's full-year results on Thursday. The brand, which now has 1,850 stores, is under pressure from investors to challenge Starbucks in five of the world's fastest-growing markets. They include China (where Costa currently has 60 stores), India (60), Russia (25), parts of central Europe (198), and the Middle East (228). Although Starbucks is ten times bigger than Costa, Costa has more stores in the UK (1,200 against Starbucks' 703), central Europe (where Starbucks has 31 outlets) and India, which Starbucks is expected to enter later this year. Whitbread is thought to be more likely to focus expansion of Premier Inn budget hotel rooms on the UK following mixed success for pilot developments in the Middle East and India. - 24 April
Read the full articles in theObserver >>

UK McDonald's achieves 20th quarter of consecutive growth Fast-food giant McDonald's has reported its 20th consecutive quarter of growth in the UK, serving 25 million more customers in the three months to March than in the same period in 2010. The group said the last weekend in March - when it served 12 million customers - was its best yet in the UK. Growth was achieved across the whole menu, including coffee where sales now amount to 250,000 cups a day. In the first quarter, the global business boosted net income by 11% to £1.2b (£724m) on turnover 9% ahead at $6.1b. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported that a 17-year-old from Bolton has become the youngest person to win a big prize in the group's Monopoly game. Josh Sargeant scooped a £500,000 prize when he went in to a McDonald's for his first ever Big Mac. - 22 and 23 April
Read the full articles in theDaily Mailand theIndependent >>

By Angela Frewin

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