This week’s exclusive Diary includes JDW’s flirtation with opening in Dublin; Maypole’s sale particulars; Subway offering Greene king advice; and Orchid’s new pizza concept. Put it on account We all know about the bounce that the Brit Awards can give sales of CDs but what about our very own Retailer’s Retailer awards? The Underdog Group’s Hawksmoor restaurant in Covent Garden, which picked up the best venue award at this year’s ceremony, continues to go from strength to strength. From what we gather payment through American Express now accounts for a third of all takings. Diary wonders how much is this down to leading sector figures using their expense accounts to check the award-winning venue out? Appetising figures Marco Pierre White, the high-profile chef and restaurateur, and pub operator Powder Train completed the acquisition of the Maypole Group, the operator of six rural inns, out of administration in March for an undisclosed sum. Diary can clarify the situation courtesy of a newly-filed report at Companies House. A delighted Baker Tilly reports that it sold the business and assets for £8m. “The price achieved was considerably in excess of the administrator’s agent’s price guide and valuation,” the administrator reports breathlessly. Maypole fell into administration in October after Clydesdale Bank demanded the immediate repayment of its loans - it operates the Lifeboat and Old Coach House, Thornham, Norfolk; the Angel Hotel, Lavenham, Suffolk; Wayford Bridge Inn, Stalham, Norfolk; the Pear Tree Inn, Whitley, Wiltshire; and the Bridge Inn, Norwich. And for the record, Baker Tilly’s bill was £170,502. Alas, there is no return to unsecured creditors. Borel's a bargain Word is that doughty French VAT campaigner Jacques Borel is offering his services to UK pub and restaurant operators. For those who haven’t heard of him, he introduced luncheon vouchers in France and has won campaign after campaign to reduce VAT on hospitality services in Europe. Borel, who addressed the last meeting of sister publication Publican’s Morning Advertiser 250 club for multi-site operators, is looking for a fee not unadjacent to £1m to render his services on a UK campaign. Worthy every penny, in our view. Dublin dabble You’ll remember that Diary mentioned last week that JD Wetherspoon had a brief flirtation with opening in Dublin, even buying a premises in Temple Bar before selling it again. At the time, the episode went unexplained. Now founder Tim Martin sheds some light on what the heck was going on: “I never went over there to have a look, but it was bought for a vast amount and it was to be a vast amount to do it up. Then, property prices started doubling, or tripling, or whatever they did and we thought that we were going to end up with having just one pub, so we retreated. We sold the place we had before we opened it. Quite wise, really, it could have been a life-saver.” Tabloid champion Hurrah, some good news at last for the pub sector. Diary hears a Sunday tabloid, the Sunday Mirror, is to begin a campaign to support pubs this weekend, Save our Pubs. There’s going to an initial three-week push, then updates over a year. A Sunday Mirror source tells Diary: “Our plan is to persuade our readers to get involved and save these pubs.” It’s a tall order, of course, but you can’t fault ambition. Staying abreast of the situation A kerfuffle in Bristol over Hooters serving a cake to a 12 year-old in the shape of a breast. That’s only the half of it. Protesters are claiming that “the breast-themed restaurant applied for a licence to open on Bristol’s historic Harbourside last year, in the former “Simply Food” premises they are sub-leasing from Marks and Spencer, under another trading name”. And they’re claiming that Hooters held a swimsuit contest in which its female staff dressed in bikinis to be judged by the customers. The event began at 7pm, two hours before children are excluded. This could run and run. Terrific toppings Diary visited Orchid Pub Company’s new genre-busting Bar & Pizza Kitchen, The George in Harpenden, at the weekend. Its takings are up 60% a few weeks since conversion and are topping (sorry) £20,000 per week. It’s very clever, occupying a space between pub, pizzeria and sports bar. It makes liberal use of a strong tagline, 100% fresh dough guarantee, inside and out. And the pizza is first-rate. An Orchid source reports: “We hope to do a few more very soon.” Backing a winner Meanwhile, on Sunday, Diary, buzzing around Harpenden, called in at the White Horse. It’s the Enterprise Inns pub that celebrity chef Jean Christophe-Novelli passed through quite quickly and then, more recently, Urban & Country Leisure traded for a while. The word is that Enterprise was hawking the freehold around for a while before letting it on a free-of-tie lease to Raymond Blanc’s former cohort Lee Cash’s Peach Pub Company. The pub was jammed to the rafters on Sunday, which is as well because it’s quite a small pub. Its saving grace, though, is a stonking external area offering as many table as inside the pub. It’s finger crossed for decent weather this summer. Wrapped up It never ceases to amaze Diary how generous companies are in our sector in sharing their knowledge. Greene King is nine pubs into trialling a franchise agreement within its tenanted division. But where have the franchise learnings come from? Diary hears it was Subway that was more than helpful in offering the benefit of its vast franchising experience.