This week’s exclusive Diary includes McDonald’s boss Jim Skinner’s unique take the US debt crisis; Loungers exceeding expectations; Sports Bar & Grill’s Dave Evans on re-branding the sports bar; and Redcomb Pubs’ bizarre copyright dispute. What’s in a name? We all remember stories of international fastfood firms taking action against companies they believe are purposely infringing their copyright by using sound-alike names (think McDonald’s action against the Scottish owner of the McMunchies sandwich shop in Buckinghamshire in 1996). This could be a first, though. Redcomb Pubs boss Dan Shotton was stunned when he was contacted by the owner of the Box Tree restaurant in North Yorkshire demanding he rename the firm’s pub of the same title in Boxhill, Surrey. The restaurateur claimed to own the trademark on the name, which, incidentally, Redcomb had chosen after a holding a vote among the local community. Shotton said: “I spoke to the lady trying to reason with her, pointing out that our two businesses were hundreds of miles apart, very different in nature, and neither of us ran a ‘brand’ (I’d understand if we’d renamed the pub ‘Sainsburys’ or something similar!). Furthermore there are already a number of businesses also trading under the name ‘The Box Tree’ across the country.” She wouldn’t back down, Shotton said, so Redcomb relented and renamed the pub The Tree on Box Hill. As they say, you couldn’t make it up. Very Cosy The third Cosy Club from Loungers, the privately-owned group led by Alex Reilley, which opened last week in Stamford is already surpassing expectations. Average net turnover per week for Cosy Clubs is usually around £23,000. However, Diary hears that the new site comfortably topped that figure in its first week, with turnover for the period nudging the £30,000 mark. Further sites under the brand are set to follow in Cardiff, Exeter and Salisbury. Melting away? Word reaches Diary that Mark Robson is to step down as finance director at Thorntons, the high street chocolatier, after over two years with the company. Previously finance director of SFI Holdings Ltd, the pub and bar chain, Robson is to leave Thorntons in March next year to take up a position with a private equity-owned company. With plenty of private equity firms circling the pub sector, the odds of Robson returning to the industry must have surely shortened. Ditch the tax Earlier this year, we heard from Howard Schultz, chairman, president and chief executive of global behemoth Starbucks, talk about his company needing to get back “in the mud” to work things out. Now Jim Skinner, chief executive of that other global giant McDonald’s, is talking about animals and ditches when it comes to the debt crisis in the US. He asked Sky News earlier this week: “The question is, how can we get the ox out of the ditch?” It’s a fair point. Out in the cold Living Ventures Management, the restaurant and bar company led by entrepreneurs Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts, opened its first pub, the Oast House in Manchester, at the end of September. Based on a 16th century Kent oast house and offering traditional ales, continental beers and sharing platters, the site has another defining characteristic – an outside kitchen. It is believed to be the first ever permanently exterior kitchen in the UK in modern times. According to people in Manchester it’s the first time a kitchen has been placed outside since the Romans had their kitchen against the fort walls in Castlefield more than 1600 years ago. Best sports bar, bar none Sometimes Diary wishes we could be more like our cousins across the Atlantic. Darren Tristano of American restaurant research firm Technomic told delegates at the MA250 business seminar that one of the fastest growing full service restaurant chains in the US is the 732-strong Buffalo Wild Wings, which specialises in authentic buffalo wings and, crucially, a family-friendly sports format. In contrast, David Evans, founder of Sports Bar & Grill - named Best Newcomer at the MA250 Awards - said sports bars still have a “stigma” in the UK, associated with bad behaviour and ladishness rather family entertainment. Evans worked hard to rid of that association by introducing a top-notch food offer and insisting on the highest standards of presentation. This extended to expectations of staff uniforms. “If they don’t come to work in clean, ironed whites I make them buy one,” said Evans, explaining that he’ll deduct the cost of the uniform from their wages. That’ll learn ‘em. Donut skip this dessert One US menu concept that tickled and intrigued the audience at the MA250 event was Drunken Donuts, the nickname given to donut-shaped fig semolina strudels served with port wine syrup at the Gilt Restaurant and Bar in New York. It’s just one example of an emerging trend of ‘drunken desserts’, according to Tristano - see also the Guinness Sundae served at the Harp Irish Pub in Cleveland, Ohio. Minimum pricing, maximum confusion Despite chief exec Don Shenker’s favourable stance on community pubs, many in the sector won’t be shedding tears with the news that Alcohol Concern, the health campaign group that has lobbied for measures such as minimum pricing and a tougher licensing regime, is to lose its Government funding. In contrast, another pro-minimum pricing health lobby group, Balance North East, will still receive Government cash. One insider flagged up the curious situation of a group using Government money to campaign for a policy that, in the words of its own health minister Anne Milton, is “probably illegal”. Strange times.