This week’s exclusive Diary includes Luke Johnson’s sage advice on business partners; the next installment in the Du Vin series; the coffee shop/office cross over; and Joe Lewis’s view of carveries. Johnson tells it straight For those that missed it, serial on-trade investor Luke Johnson has provided a very handy list of the kind of business partners to avoid. Highlights included not partnering up with people who have had too many divorces. “Everyone can make such an error once, but to repeat it several times shows poor judgment and lack of willpower,” he writes in the FT. “I know more entrepreneurs brought emotionally and financially low by repeated divorce than through their companies going bust.” And one other top tip - avoid “philanderers”. “Owners who sexually exploit their staff are toxic – and surprisingly common,” he notes. “Their private lives are chaotic, and their extracurricular activities often generate discrimination claims.” Diary wishes he’d stop mincing his words and say what he really means. Martin is Johnson’s number one And talking of Luke Johnson, it’s good to see him stressing the need for people who run restaurants and pubs to get out and about. And he even has a nomination for his favourite pub landlord, spotted by Johnson recently on a train with his executive briefcase. He writes: “Every leader should be on the road as often as they can, touching the material, judging the mood where customers actually spend money. I admire Britain’s cleverest publican, Tim Martin, who tours his Wetherspoon bars about two days a week. And I can confirm he isn’t grand about it – I shared a train journey with him recently, Tim with his trademark plastic carrier bag.” Diary asks the meaty questions Diary was treated to a very long meeting with close associates of Mitchells & Butlers shareholder Joe Lewis recently. Alas, no invite to his yacht, with the All Bar One at London Bridge serving as the venue for the meeting. In a full and frank exchange of views, the only question that seemed to stump his advisors was, Diary admits, a real tester: “Does Joe like a carvery?” It was clearly a question that even top-notch City PR firm Maitland (hello, Neil), sitting in watchful attendance, had failed to predict might be asked. Eventually, after some persistence with this penetrating line of inquiry, an answer was forthcoming: “He’s definitely not a vegetarian.” It’s the sort of stuff that you can rely on M&C Report to get to the bottom of. All branded out Never let it be said that Robert Cook, the man behind the Hotel du Vin and Malmaison chains, doesn’t like a brand extension or two. First there was Pub du Vin, then Bistro du Vin. Earlier this year, Cook mentioned to Diary his idea for a country lodges chain called Retreat du Vin. Now we hear talk of Petit du Vin, a miniature version of Hotel du Vin aimed at affluent market towns. At this rate we may get du Vin-stroke! M&B ex-directors are fit for purpose Diary hears of further ties between Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) and the fitness sector. Following current M&B interim chairman Bob Ivell’s connection to the Next Generation chain, ex-M&B directors John Lovering and Mike Balfour have reunited at Fitness First, the health and fitness club business. Lovering, who stepped down as M&B chairman in February, has taken a small stake in the fitness chain, which was funded by Balfour, who recently stepped down as a non-executive director at the managed pub operator. Chipping in With a new £20m equity injection in place to fund expansion, you would have thought John Lederer, managing director of Brasserie Blanc, would be out looking at new site opportunities. This maybe the case, but it doesn’t stop him mucking in. As Diary can attest when it found itself being served coffee by the man himself as he popped in to check up on the business. And it doesn’t end there, with Lederer also cooking for the chain’s managers on a regular basis when they need to catch up. However, with an expanding business he will either have to extend his kitchen or cook more lunches to cover everyone! Double espresso and a stapler, please Coffee shops have increasingly diversified over the years, doubling up into such things as bookshops and craft workshops. Indeed, Look Mum, No Hands, in London, is a coffee bar twinned with a cycle-repair business. Now US TV network CNN has entered the fray, with its first CNN-branded “coffee office” in Seoul, South Korea. The new “coffice” offers customers a range of office services, from free wi-fi to computers and printing services, and also features CNN world news content across different platforms. New avenue for the pop-up genre Usually the domain of high-end chefs, restaurant operators and fashion houses, the pop-up sector will get an unlikely new entrant this week, Morrison’s. The supermarket chain is launching The Kitchen, opposite the Liberty department store in London, for three nights, as it looks to test reaction to its new upmarket food range – M Kitchen, which according to reports is “aiming for M&S quality at Morrison’s prices”. Apparently consumers won’t be told its a Morrison’s venture until after the testing, oops!