<b>Restaurants, fast food and takeaways</b>

<b>Domino’s tech-loving boss likes humble pie with his pizzas</b>

Patrick Doyle did not pull any punches. “It sickens me,” he told the hundreds of thousands of viewers who watched his online apology. It was just after Easter 2009 and as the boss of Domino’s in America, it fell to Doyle to explain how the pizza delivery giant would respond to a YouTube clip that had become a sensation. It was posted by two workers in North Carolina who had put cheese up their noses and blown their noses on a Domino’s sandwich.

It hit sales hard, but they rebounded within a couple of weeks of Doyle’s apology. “What we learnt is, if you look straight into the camera and apologise, and tell people what you are going to do to fix it, they are pretty forgiving,” he said. “You can build trust and credibility.”

A year later, and just a few days after being promoted to chief executive of Domino’s, Doyle was apologising again, this time as the star of a US advertising campaign. In the TV ads, he acknowledged that the company’s pizza recipe in America needed to be improved. In its home market, Domino’s had become known simply as the chain that promised to get the pizza to you as fast as possible. The quality of the food had become an afterthought, and that needed to change.

The honest approach seems to have worked. Revenues — mainly fees from its 1,000 domestic franchisees and overseas partners — have climbed from almost $1.6bn when Doyle took over to just shy of $2bn (£1.4bn). Profits have nearly doubled from $88m to $163m, while shares in the New York-listed business have soared from about $12 to more than $100. Analysts at Morgan Stanley expect it to continue grabbing market share this year.

Doyle’s openness can be seen in other aspects of the business, which as well as running about 5,000 outlets across America has franchised the brand around the globe, including to London-listed Domino’s UK. For example, he is revamping all the sites, putting in open kitchens so customers can see pizzas being made. “For some reason, we had made the decision to erect a wall between the customer and the preparation of the food … A lot of [customers] did not know the pizza was made with a fresh ball of dough.”

The growth of the past five years has not been entirely driven by savvy marketing and pepped-up stores. One of the main reasons Domino’s has developed an edge has been its focus on technology.

As Doyle puts it, he wants customers to be able to order a pizza wherever they are. That means gamers in Britain can buy a pizza via an app on their Xbox consoles and Ford drivers in America can order at the wheel using the marque’s Sync Applink system.

This month, Doyle signed a deal that will see its software feature on Pebble and Android smartwatches and he is considering doing the same with the recently unveiled Apple Watch. In America, Britain, Australia, Japan and several other countries, more than half of sales are made via digital channels rather than on the phone or in store.

The innovation the boss seems most proud of, and which may provide a template for the future, is a voice-activated ordering service. “I believe we will look back in 10 or 15 years at all of us walking around with our faces down, thumbing things into our screens, and laugh at the state of the technology. Voice is a far more natural way to interact with technology. You will see homes with microphones embedded in them — in the fridge, in the television.”

Doyle argues that the heavy digital presence allows the company to accumulate vast amounts of data on customers’ shopping habits and use that to enhance its service.

Despite the impressive expansion, he refuses to rest on his laurels. “We sell one in eight pizzas in America. There’s still a lot of room for growth.”

Watch Doyle apologise for the prank video thesundaytimes.co.uk/dominos

<i>Sunday Times</i>


<b>Big trouble in little Chinatown as rent rises force restaurant owners out</b>

Londoners and tourists have enjoyed the oriental food and ambience in this city centre enclave since the 1950s. Now the red lanterns may soon vanish for ever

Jon Man points at the busy KFC a few doors along from his own restaurant on Wardour Street, one of the small number of bustling streets that make up London’s Chinatown. “That’s the best business around here,” he says. “That’s the one I would choose.”

Man’s parents emigrated from Hong Kong in the 1950s to work in Britain’s growing restaurant trade, bolstered as it was by the willingness of those freshly returned from foreign frontlines to taste new foods. His mother washed up while his father made Shanghai noodles, because few others could, before turning his hand to supplying foodstuffs from Covent Garden to the burgeoning number of local restaurants.

Now 52, Man has been working in one capacity or another in Chinatown since his late teens. He knows everyone, and they all know him, but his children, 18 and 21, won’t follow him to work there. More significantly, he can’t see how he or his peers can stay.

London’s little Chinatown is, he suggests, in big trouble. The business model for these few teeming streets, squashed between the inelegant cinemas and hotels of Leicester Square and fashionable Soho, has long been cheap-and-cheerful food sold to theatregoers, office workers, late-night revellers and, to a lesser degree, tourists, not always by the most polite of serving staff. Chinese supermarkets, massage parlours and, for a long time, just three betting shops discreetly tucked away, added to the mix.

A certain authenticity has given the area its niche. It was a genuine community built by the emigrants from Hong Kong who, having been bombed out of Limehouse in the East End in the 1940s, made this patch of London, with its cheap commercial rents, their own.

But London is changing. The rough-and-ready charms of Chinatown today don’t necessarily fit in a city where a square foot of land can demand a rent of £838 a year. Eighteen years ago, Man was paying £66,000 a year in rent. In 2012, after a year of wrangling with his landlord, Shaftesbury, which owns the premises of 71 restaurants in the area, that increased to £244,000.

He is due another rent review in two years, when it will go up again, probably significantly. “I won’t be able to stay,” he says. “There will be no point in me being here. So many of my friends have already gone.”

Shaftesbury admits that about 10% of the restaurants it owns have changed hands in the last two years, although Man says that such churn, so damaging to the community, has been a fact of life for longer than that, and more of the same should be expected.

The Cheun Cheng restaurant, also on Wardour Street, distinctive for the enormous model dragon above its door, was owned by the same family for 40 years. They closed down 18 months ago and, with one eye on custom from the huge new hotels in the area, it is to be replaced by a steak house.

The owners of Loon Tao on Gerrard Street, who have been there for 20 years, are looking to get out having seen their rent soar from £160,000 five years ago to £312,000. The Oriental Dragon, a few doors along, is also up for sale. A raft of new betting shops – there are nine so far and another is proposed – have also appeared, as they can make huge profits from small rooms.

The landlords can be confident in demanding exorbitant rents because if the current businesses won’t pay, others most certainly will. DeVono, a commercial property agency, reports that demand for a foothold in London has tripled since March 2013. They say there is a year-long waiting list for hopeful entrants – “eating brands”.

The right restaurant, often with the financial backing of a chain, can make a fortune. And the landlords setting the rents know it. Shaftesbury, whose real estate portfolio includes 575 properties in Carnaby Street, Covent Garden, Soho and Charlotte Street, as well as Chinatown, saw profits grow by almost 50% in the six months to the end of March 2014.

So the profits are there to be had, but can the independent Chinese restaurants, often one-man bands who have been in Chinatown for decades, be the ones to extract them? “There is footfall,” Man admits, “but they don’t spend money. The tourists come over, have a photo taken and disappear. They go to the KFC.

“There is nothing apart from the theatre to attract people who will spend money here. Leicester Square is just big hotels. One side of one of the roads in Chinatown is the side wall of the M&M’s store. The road is dead and it used to be full of retail. And since the congestion charge, and what with the lack of parking, even those coming for the theatre don’t drive and stay for a meal. They run off for the last train home. As the rent has gone up our turnover has gone down. And I can’t increase my prices because the customers won’t come.”

Shaftesbury says rent rises are just a reaction to market forces. They won’t, they admit, rescue failing businesses because “that would be daft”. And there are plenty of restaurants, Chinese or otherwise, willing to come in and pay the rents.

Man argues that those new entrants might not be so willing if they knew the truth. He has set up the West End Chinatown Tenants’ Association, through which restaurateurs already in Chinatown and those who are looking to get in can share information about rents. “There is new money coming from China, but they come over and accept extremely high rents, don’t know the market here and, within months, want to get out because there is no money to be made.

“That then sets a benchmark for all our rent reviews, and it is artificial. If we can share information, maybe we can help each other keep the rent down.”

But there is also a broader political question, according to Gareth Thomas, the shadow deputy minister for London, who is being mooted as a Labour candidate in the next mayoral election. “The mayor needs to champion small businesses and independent entrepreneurs, putting them at the heart of regeneration and modernisation plans and standing up to the big property companies on their behalf,” said Thomas. The city, he suggests, needs to decide on what it treasures.

<i>The Observer</i>

<b>Food For Thought, London’s iconic vegetarian restaurant, set for closure</b>

One of London’s most iconic vegetarian restaurants, Food For Thought in Covent Garden, is set to close after more than 40 years of business because of the area’s rising rent prices. The busy cafe, known for serving up consistently good food at reasonable prices and being popular with celebrities such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mark Strong, will be closing for good on 21 June this year.

A statement on the restaurant’s website said: “The time has come to call it a day. For more than 40 years Food For Thought has withstood the corporate march, refusing to be processed, packaged or pocketed. For as long as was viable we have remained resolutely independent, offering food that is unashamedly home-spun and hand-made. We have loved being here and hope you have too.”

Laura Roberts, 29, who has been working as a waitress at the cafe for two years, said the closure feels like the end of an era: “It’s very sad. We’ve had lots of support from local people that have been coming for years, but unfortunately it just seems impossible to drag Food For Thought into the future because of the rent hikes.”

The news comes at a time when many small businesses in the capital are falling victim to spiralling rents. In nearby Chinatown in the West End, which has been an enclave of oriental food since the 1950s, eateries are being forced to shut as owners are struggling to pay the rising prices.

Roberts feels London is changing and closures such as this have become inevitable: “If you can’t pay the rent then you can’t carry on. It’s only chains that can afford to be around here now. I wonder which one will replace it.”

Jeremy Lee, a chef and London restaurant owner, is similarly pessimistic. “It’s very sad that this is happening so much in our beautiful city,” he said. “Most likely another hideous, ugly block with no one living in it will take its place. There’s very little left in Covent Garden and London is beginning to look just like any other city.”

Lee added: “Of course things must go on, but if London can’t even support small places like this then it’s quite peculiar. I will miss this area very much. Developers seem to have carte blanche on everything now, it’s very odd.”

According to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the chef and food writer, Food For Thought’s closure will represent a real blow to London’s culinary scene.

“It’s a great shame if any vegetarian restaurant is closing, particularly one of such calibre,” he said. “Vegetarian food is on the march, more and more carnivores are eating it. Restaurants that are not vegetarian are making the effort to serve more veggie food, so this is very much going against the rule of play.”

He added: “Food For Thought goes right back, along with Cranks. It was one of the original veggie places in the capital. This is a real shame. Covent Garden is a nightmare for rents and Londoners are losing out as a result.” The owners say the restaurant will not be reopening elsewhere.

<i>The Guardian</i>

<b>Jay Rayner: Gentrification is ripping the heart out of communities</b>

Only the most fervent of cheerleaders would claim that the food offering in London’s Chinatown is universally wonderful. Too many of the restaurants serve claggy, poorly executed food served by waiters with interpersonal skills that make traffic wardens look like first-class airline stewards.

And yet, in the last decade, Chinatown has steadily improved. A growing appetite for and understanding of China’s regionalism has been met by restaurateurs offering the thrilling cooking of provinces such as Sichuan, Hunan and Xinjiang, alongside the food of Taiwan, rather than just a sloppy approximation of Cantonese.

It would be a crying shame if all this real progress was stopped in its tracks by heavy-handed landlords seemingly with their eyes only on the bottom line.

Historically, British restaurant-goers have always been less willing to pay serious money for “ethnic” food than for European. As a result, central London’s Chinese restaurants – and its Indians and Thais – tend to be high-volume, low-margin operations leaving little wriggle room when it comes to swallowing an increase in the overheads. And when long-standing businesses are forced out, it has a wider, negative impact on the area as a whole.

But to portray multibillion-pound property firms as merely unscrupulous businesses with their eye on nothing but the bottom line is to oversimplify things. In truth, much of what’s happening is just brutal economics, rent hikes reflecting the demographic and financial changes that have taken place across the capital in the past 10 years. But the landlords don’t always sell to the highest bidder; they talk regularly of creating attractive “estates”.

Outside London, independent landlords may well be in thrall to the mid-market chains, but in Soho, Chinatown and the surrounding areas, chain operators are regularly rejected in favour of independents more likely to improve the general mood of an area.

All well and good, but alongside the values of “hipness”, “attractiveness” and “vibe”, there must also be a responsibility to community. In my south London neighbourhood of Brixton and Herne Hill, businesses housed for decades in railway arches are fighting an attempt by their landlord, Network Rail, to force them out in the name of a refurbishment programme, with the prospect that when they return, their new rents will be unsustainably high.

Network Rail promises to bring in only independent businesses, but that’s not the point. Existing businesses have supplied cheap food and services to the local communities for decades. They are its beating heart. Replacing them with glossy, upmarket shops, however independent, will rip out that heart and character for ever. It’s a story repeated across Britain’s high streets, and its quickly gentrifying inner-urban neighbourhoods. Just as in Chinatown, landlords have to recognise that with their multibillion-pound property portfolios comes a responsibility – one that goes far beyond that to their shareholders.

<i>The Observer</i>

<b>Five Guys and Pizza Express to open in Milton Keynes</b>

Five Guys is set to open a site in Milton Keynes later this summer. The popular US burger chain is believed to be opening in the Xscape scheme in August.

At the same time, PizzaExpress is set to open its fifth restaurant in the town at The Hub. The brand already has premises at MK1, Xscape, Centremk and CBX and looks set to add another to its roaster.

A spokeswomen for the company said they hope to have the place open by the end of May.

<i>MK News</i>

<b>McDonald’s opens new drive-thru…for cyclists</b>

Customers at McDonald’s stores in Denmark are getting a drive-thru with a difference. As part of the fast food chain’ #imlovinit24 campaign, a limited number of Danish restaurants will be open with dedicated cycle lanes.

Customers on two wheels can be treated to their usual fayre in sky blue boxes and get to ring a bike bell to mark their arrival. The “cycle-thru’s” are part of 24 new ideas being trialed in McDonald’s restaurants in cities around the world. Unfortunately, the bike lanes are available for a limited time only.

As part of its branching out campaign, McDonald’s also recently released a line of clothing including wellies and dog coats.

<i>The Telegraph</i>

<b>Landmark Taunton restaurant Cosy Club on sale for £1m</b>

One of the Westcountry’s prime restaurant has gone on sale for more than £1 million. Hunts Court is a prominent landmark in the heart of the town. It was commissioned in the 18th Century and completed in 1905 as a school of art for the county. More recently the Grade II listed building was converted into a restaurant and bar with elegant flats above as part of the town’s regeneration. It sits within the Castle Green/Bath Place conservation area.

It is home to the highly successful Cosy Club – a relaxed all day café bar and eatery – which is owned by Loungers Limited that operate from more than 50 bars and restaurants nationwide. It is now for sale with Greenslade Taylor Hunt, which is handling the sale, asking for offers in excess of £1,060,000 are invited for the freehold interest in the landmark property.

Duncan Brown, commercial partner at Greenslade Taylor Hunt said: “This is arguably Taunton’s most attractive building let to a strong tenant on a lease to expire in March 2030 with no breaks. The rent, which is equivalent to £75,800 per annum including ground rents from the seven flats on the upper floors, has recently been reviewed and we believe their are strong prospects for growth over the coming years as supported by other rents within Taunton’s now thriving town centre.”

Taunton’s restaurant offer is enjoying a major renaissance at the moment with a string of new players coming to the county town attracted by its large resident population and wide, yet accessible catchment.

Among those opening shortly will be Bill’s in Fore Street and Wildwood, a small but growing group, in The Market House and an operator from the ASK chain will move into the former Post Office premises in North Street. Popular Portuguese Peri Peri chicken specialist Nando’s opened in North Street last year.

<i>Western Morning News</i>

<b>Russ’s revolutionary cafe is revolting</b>

If an army marches on its stomach then Russell Brand’s merry band of revolutionaries won’t get very far after a trip to his Trew Era cafe. The Sun on Sunday visited yesterday and found it has no menu, no kitchen, no savoury food and is fast running out of cake.

Customers are also in short supply, despite last week’s packed launch. The British comic hailed his creation, which he funded with the profits from his Revolution book, as the first step in his bid to overthrow the capitalist system.

Speaking at Thursday’s opening he said: “We are going to create our own systems, our own federations, our own currencies, our own authorities. We have an opportunity to create something better and it will start with small enterprises such as this.”

The only revolting things in Trew Era are the toilet and lack of food. Entering the small cafe on the New Era estate in Hackney, East London, the first thing you notice is the wall of Russell’s selfies. The second is the fact there’s no menu and not much food.

Most new eating establishments have a soft opening week, during which teething problems are ironed out. But Russell didn’t bother. Hence on opening day they still had not figured out where their “ethically sourced” food was coming from, while the sign advertising frothy coffee was misspelt “Cappicino”.

As the juicer was broken, there was no £4 glass of veg-laden Green Juice or any of the other trendy drinks they hoped to serve. Plus, their capitalist cake supplier let them down so one of Russell’s employees spent the night baking bread, brownies and muffins — not in the cafe’s kitchen, as it has not yet been built, but in a tiny makeshift one behind the counter.

The cakes, priced at £2, are delicious. The only other thing on offer was coffee, which at £1.80 a cup is cheaper than Russell’s hated corporate rivals. However, for the area’s New Era housing estate residents, for whom Russell has campaigned for more affordable rents, perhaps it’s still too pricey.

<i>The Sun</i>


<b>Pub landlords raise a glass as new industry rules could make them £12,000 a year better off</b>

Pubs are set for a £12,000 a year windfall after the biggest industry shake up for decades, claim delighted campaigners. Under the changes, which came into force this weekend, landlords will be able to buy their own beer on the open market at much lower prices than through the pub companies.

Around half of the country’s 51,000 locals are owned by pub companies who lease their properties to tenant landlords at high rents and force them to buy beer at inflated prices. With 29 pubs closing every week, campaigners said the law change could spell a new era for struggling pubs.

The Campaign for Real Ale estimates that allowing tenants to buy their own beer could see then up to £12,000 a year better off and result in more profitable, stable pub businesses. Camra boss Tim Page said: “This historic change in the law could not come have come soon enough.”

The changes were voted through by MPs last November despite opposition from the Government. Two years ago a survey commissioned by Camra found 80 per cent of landlords tied to the large pub companies earned less than £15,000 a year.

The Sunday Mirror’s Support Your Pub campaign, backed by Camra, called on the Government to get behind the ailing industry. Page added: “The implementation of pub company reform is a victory for small business owners, a victory for pub-goers and a victory for the thousands of campaigners who fought over the last decade to create a fairer deal for the people running tied pubs.”

<i>The Mirror</i>

<b>What happens when a county of 590,000 people loses its only gay bar?</b>

In a quiet function room in Gloucester, a group of friends are drinking tea and enjoying some cake served from a table which is adorned with rainbow flags. The members of the Gloucestershire Gay and Lesbian Community (GGLC) seem as optimistic as they are welcoming. But when they hand you a copy of their spring newsletter, you can’t help but notice the rather plaintive note on the back page.

“Local ‘haunt’, The Westgate,” it begins, before adding forlornly: “‘Haunts’ is now ‘haunt’… any ideas anyone?” And now the newsletter is out of date. That last “haunt” has gone. The rainbow flag still flies over Gloucester’s Westgate gay bar. But the doors are locked.

The last dedicated lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) venue in the entire county has closed. This was the starting point for gay pride marches, the place where everyone popped in for a pre-parade pint.

At weekends, the disco would last all night. And this, in a place so far from the self-consciously liberal elites, was a venue where everyone really was welcome. Drag queens performed here, but little old ladies also popped in for tea. A cheerful debate starts up amongst the GGLC men as to whether the ladies were unaware of what the rainbow flag signified, or only too aware and rather happy about it.

“It’s so sad to walk past it and see it boarded up,” said Howard Hyman, 68, a retired local authority worker.

“In the Eighties until the late Nineties,” remembered Mark Merrett, 51, a publications editor, “there was a pretty lively scene: three pubs in Cheltenham, one in Gloucester, a regular evening at a Gloucester night club, monthly nights at Cheltenham racecourse.”

Now there is no LGBT venue in a county of 590,000 people, up to 34,000 of them gay by some estimates.

“If you want a gay night out,” said Mr Merrett, “You have to go to Bristol – a 60-mile round trip – or Birmingham, 50 miles away.”

Gloucestershire may be the most extreme example, but it is far from the only area where LGBT venues are closing, and where some feel the gay scene is contracting as a result. Even in Manchester’s gay village there are reports of bars struggling. In London, campaigners are fighting to save the Joiners Arms in Shoreditch, after the famous gay venue was closed and earmarked for development.

Other gay bars, however, may be closing for unexpected, rather positive reasons. “Sometimes there’s not quite the same need for these venues as there once was,” said Stephanie Fuller, of the Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity which provides support for young LGBT people. “Sometimes people feel safe in other bars, so they don’t need gay venues as much.”

In Gloucester, they agreed. Royston Glue, 26, an administrator from Cheltenham, said this was particularly true of younger generations: “You can walk into some pubs as a gay couple and not get harassed. There is more acceptance.”

The internet, too, seemed to have reduced a sense of isolation, even in supposedly remote rural areas. The decline in that vibrant late Nineties scene, Mr Merrett said: “Seemed to coincide with the rise of online dating.”

<i>The Independent</i>


<b>Business rates poised to soar by £1bn a year</b>

Business rates are forecast to increase by 17 per cent to £32billion over the next five years despite a review announced this month by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The £4.7billion increase – which amounts to almost £1billion in additional tax each year – is bound to dismay all those who have fought an epic battle for an overhaul of the system.

Chancellor George Osborne launched a ‘radical’ review of business rates this month to be completed in time for next year’s Budget. But at the same time he said he would not reduce the overall yield that the tax delivers to the Treasury.

Business rates campaigner Paul Turner-Mitchell said calculations, which were compiled by the Office for Budget Responsibility, were a cause for great concern. ‘The projected rate of increase drawn up by the OBR is nothing short of alarming,’ he said. ‘That puts a lot of pressure on this review to arrive somewhere meaningfully different and soon.’

He said his main fear was that Osborne had already restricted the parameters of the review by saying in advance that the overall yield would not change.

Turner-Mitchell said: ‘We pay more than twice as much in property rates compared to any other OECD country and that has to change if we want our high streets to survive and to thrive.’ However, he warned against imposing a punishing level of tax on online retailers as a means of reducing the burden on the high street.

<b>The Mail on Sunday</b>


<b>Scandal of junk food available in NHS hospitals</b>

More than 100 NHS hospitals in Britain contain fast food outlets, shocking new figures have revealed. Critics argue the presence of Burger King, Costa Coffee and Greggs around sick patients goes as far as being negligent - and is simply adding to the soaring obesity crisis.

There are 128 outlets in British hospitals selling junk food, plus a further 32 branches of WHSmith, which sells confectionery - often at a discounted price. The fast food branches include two Burger Kings, six Subways and one Greggs, an investigation by The Sun revealed.

There are also dozens of coffee shops selling calorie-laden food and drink - with 27 Starbucks and 92 Costas. This is in addition to all the smaller, independent retailers in hospitals selling junk food.

The news comes as figures from Public Health England show that in Britain, 64 per cent of adults are either overweight or obese.

And experts estimate treating obesity and the associated health problems costs the NHS around £6 billion every year - or five per cent of the entire NHS budget. It spends a further £10billion on diabetes.

To make matters worse, some of the UK’s major hospitals have more than one outlet selling junk food. Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge operates a food court with a Burger King, Costa Coffee, Starbucks and pizzeria, while and University Hospital Southampton Foundation trust also hosts a Burger King and a Costa Coffee shop.

Earlier this month it was reported that the Greggs bakery based in an NHS hospital is the fast-food chain’s second busiest outlet in Britain.

The counter at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton is often so busy selling steak bakes, bacon rolls and pizzas that ropes have to be used to separate queues of hungry customers which can reach 20 people deep.


<b>Bid to call time on strong beers risks breach of competition law, MPs warn</b>

A clampdown by local authorities on super-strength alcoholic drinks could be pushing retailers into breaching competition law, MPs have warned. More than 100 councils are trying to reduce alcohol abuse by telling retailers not to stock strong beers and ciders. New licences are often being granted only to those that promise not to stock higher-strength drinks.

The moves, which started in Ipswich but have spread across the country, are unpopular with brewers who say that strong beer – which is still much weaker than wines and spirits – is being unfairly targeted and consumers who like stronger, premium craft beers are being hit.

There are also fears that retailers are being pressured into dropping products and are inadvertently colluding with other retailers, thus leaving them open to prosecution under competition regulations.

Parliamentary Beer Group chairman and Burton Tory MP Andrew Griffiths told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There is an increasing number of examples of local authorities bullying shopkeepers to take part in these schemes, with threats of the loss of their licence if they don’t comply. Given that we have evidence that some of these schemes could be illegal, I’m concerned that councils are overstepping their powers.’

A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association said: ‘We are doing our best to make sure that retailers are staying on the right side of the law. We’re advising them that they shouldn’t remove products from the shelves just because the local authorities suggest they should, and we have asked the Competition and Markets Authority to be clearer in its guidance.’ The European Commission is thought to be examining the schemes.

Last week the CMA issued new advice to retailers on how to avoid breaking competition law. The CMA admitted that some high-strength schemes, or how they are implemented, may possibly carry competition law risks and recommended retailers did not discuss the schemes with other retailers.

<i>The Mail on Sunday</i>


<b>Artisan roasters strike black gold with UK coffee lovers</b>

Echoing the burgeoning craft beer movement, micro-roasters are full of beans as they bring gourmet coffee to south Wales, the West Country and elsewhere Gordon James points to a digital dial on the Probatone 12 coffee-roasting machine. The beans cooking inside its large metal belly are about to hit a toasty 225C (437F).

“The art of roasting is how you control the rise in temperature,” said the co-founder of Coaltown Coffee Roasters. He presses a button and the dark brown beans spill into a circular tray from the mouth of the £40,000 machine. Within seconds, the garage at James’s house in rural Carmarthenshire is filled with the intoxicating aroma of freshly roasted Arabica.

This modest operation is only a year old, but Coaltown is part of a new breed of coffee entrepreneurs who are giving caffeine worshippers an alternative to the bland, generic stuff served at commercial chains.

The proliferation of artisan roasteries across Britain has ballooned in the past five years, as coffee lovers have become more interested in ethics, and have developed a more discerning palette. There are now about 300 roasteries around the country, including the likes of Extract Coffee Roasters in Bristol, Urban Roast in the West Midlands and Bullet Coffee in London.

“The language of coffee is now a bit like the language of wine,” James said. “It’s all about traceability and provenance.”

That may be the case, but these coffee-preneurs probably have more in common with the micro-brewery and craft beer movement that has exploded in Britain. Both are fuelled by dissatisfaction with cheap, mass-produced drinks and have a thirst for more interesting flavours.

Britain’s coffee sector, according to research from Allegra Strategies, was worth £7.2bn in 2014 and accounted for 18,832 outlets, including the big high street brands like Starbucks and Costa.

Jeffrey Young, the managing director of Allegra said: “We have realised that this is a phenomenal trend over the last four to five years, and particularly in the last 18 months,” he says. “It ultimately comes down to taste. Customers’ palettes are changing and these craft coffee roasters are satisfying the thirst for better or stronger tastes.”

Young estimates that craft roasters are growing at around 20% a year. The burgeoning movement has inspired the forthcoming London Coffee festival, which will bring together 25,000 coffee lovers, independent shops and roasters from all over the country for a weekend of bean indulgence at the end of April.

Despite rapid growth, however, the artisan coffee revolution accounts for less than 1% of the total UK coffee market and about 65% of British consumption is still instant coffee. A huge untapped market for fresh coffee in Britain remains.

Lee Bolam, the director of Extract Coffee, said: “There’s no question there is a boom in speciality coffee. In my view, people are searching for a different coffee experience, and that’s what artisan coffee is.”

When Extract started roasting coffee beans in a shed in 2007, there were no hordes of bearded, craft beer swigging hipsters banging down the door for their daily caffeine hit.

“When we started nobody wanted our coffee,” Bolam said. “So we had to create interest. Now, we are spoiled for choice.”

Extract now has more than 300 customers across Bristol and the south-west of England, and an annual turnover of around £2m. Bolam says, however, that the independent sector has “got to keep trying harder” to win new customers and keep loyal fans.

James, 50, agrees. The main reason that chains like Starbucks and Costa have prospered, he said, is because they are consistent: “That’s why they are successful, because they have mastered the art of consistency. It might be rubbish consistency, but you know that what you had today will be the same tomorrow.”

<i>The Guardian</i>

<b>Supermarkets accused of ’bully boy tactics’</b>

Supermarkets have been accused of ‘bully boy tactics’ by offering their suppliers bank loans instead of swiftly settling their debts. Chains including Morrisons and Marks & Spencer have introduced schemes that delay the payment of invoices to small businesses that supply them with goods.

The suppliers have to wait up to a month longer to have their bills honoured, but if they cannot hold on this long, the supermarkets offer them access to credit from a bank. It pays the money earlier than the supermarket would – but charges interest on the loan.

Critics say such schemes force small firms to pay through the nose to get money that should have been handed to them promptly in the first place.

Phil Orford, chief executive of the Forum of Private Business, said last night: ‘This is yet another ethical deficit at the heart of some of Britain’s most well-known companies. Their apparent collusion in this area threatens to break the backbone of the UK economy – small businesses.’

<i>The Daily Mail</i>

<b>And finally…</b>

<b>You really will regret that pizza</b>

The average Briton spends almost £3,000 a year on things they later regret buying – with takeaways top of the list. Savings firm Standard Life found that 64 per cent of people rued the way they frittered cash on things they didn’t really want.

Splashing out on burgers and pizzas led 34 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men to feel unduly out of pocket. More than a quarter of women felt they spent too much on clothes, while one in five men felt guilty about wasting money on alcohol.

The study also showed that the minimum Britons think is worth saving is £145 a month. Julie Hutchison, of Standard Life, said: ‘Due to a culture of instant gratification, many are wasting money which could be put aside for a brighter future.’

<i>The Mail on Sunday</i>