Wetherspoon’s 99p pint set to spark price war - For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

by Angela Frewin, Monday 5th January 2009 10:21

Wetherspoon’s 99p pint set to spark price war
High street pub operator JD Wetherspoon looks set to spark a price war after slashing the cost of a pint of Greene King IPA to just 99p. It is part of a price promotion that cuts the cost of five meals (including cottage pie, chips and peas) to £2.99 and four other drinks to, for instance, £4.99 for a bottle of Blossom Hill rosé wine and £1.29 for a shot of Sailor Jerry rum. Rival operator Town & City Pub Company – which has been selling 10 drinks, including John Smith’s bitter and Foster’s lager, at £1.25 a pint in 30 outlets – said it would review its prices immediately. Wetherspoon’s move has angered both Alcohol Concern and Greene King tenants, who pay much more for their beer from Greene King. Keith Down, finance director at Wetherspoon, said the cuts were an extension of the company’s normal January sale and that the prices were still quite expensive compared to the supermarkets. – 3 January, Read the full article in The Times and the Daily Telegraph>>

Inns fight recession with £1 menus

Locals inns are offering £1 menus to keep their heads above water during the economic squeeze. The Four Crosses Inn near Cannock, Staffordshire, claims to have originated the idea, which has boosted lunch covers from 30 a day to 300-plus at busy times and increased bar takings four-fold.
"At first it was one day a week, but it filled the place up so we went up to two, then five, and now seven days a week," said owner Tony Rabbitts. "We'd been struggling to pay the bills and would have had to close, but we refused to be beaten."  The £1 meals – which cost Rabbitt about 30p to produce – are now attracting minibuses of pensioners from Wolverhampton. Stimulated by the Four Crosses’ success, the Blue Bell at Boroughbridge has brought the £1 credit-crunch menu to North Yorkshire since November. The landlord believes the pub won’t survive if the cheap meals do not work. The award-winning Clachnabarry Inn in Inverness launched a Scottish version of the £1 meal in the month before Christmas, covering mince and tatties, fish pie, shepherd's pie, and stovies, and will relaunch the £1 menu this month. Owner Charlotte Boyle said the move had helped protect jobs, but added that she cannot afford to offer everything at such a low price..  – 3 January, Read the full article in the Guardian >>

India Dining restaurant chain let down by bank
The owner of the India Dining restaurant chain is the latest small-business victim of the recession, which the Forum of Private Business fears could send 200,000 small firms to the wall if banks do not increase their lending to small firms in the next few months. Asad Khan faces repossession and the loss of £100,000 in fitting costs after his bank backed out of a £280,000 mortgage loan to replace a costly bridging loan on his third India Dining restaurant. “They will not allow us to exit the bridging loan without having the restaurant up and running but we can’t progress any further because we have run out of money,” said Khan. We seem to have exhausted all the options.” The interest rate on Khan’s loan will double in two weeks to 36% to a level he cannot meet. . “We are not satisfied with the level of lending or the approach taken by a number of banks, including those that have benefited from the bailout,” warned the FPB’s Phil McCabe. “There’s a creeping tendency to label small businesses in certain sectors as high risk.” – 4 January, Read the full article in the Sunday Times >> 

Excel centre revives casino ambitions
The Excel exhibition centre in London’s Docklands has revived its abandoned ambitions to open a large casino, holding talks with potential operators such as the Rank Group. Its local authority, Newham, is one of 16 councils awarded a licence to run a new casino and is now tendering to decide its location. Excel, which was bought for £320m last year by a group backed by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, faces competition from rival schemes including one put forward by shopping-centre owner Westfield. – 4 January, Read the full article in the Sunday Times >>

Asian stakebuilder helps boost InterContinental share prices by 5%
Shares in the InterContinental Hotels, the world’s largest hotel group, has benefited from a near 5% boost to 588.5p on the back of a stakebuilding move by Malaysian investment group Hong Leong. Its Guoco subsidiary has increased its holding in the hotel operator – which is expanding rapidly in Asia - to above the 3% disclosure level. – 3 January, Read the full article in the Guardian >>

Food firms face regulation if anti-obesity campaign fails
The Government has threatened to regulate food firms who have been promoting unhealthy eating habits via misleading school information packs. One pack distributed by the European Snack Association (which is sponsored by Pringles, KP and Walkers) claimed that crisps were healthier than apples. Although health minister Ben Bradshaw described the claim as “absolutely unacceptable”, he added that it was up to schools whether or not to use the pack. The Government today launches a healthy lifestyle campaign aimed at reducing obesity that is backed by £200m-worth of sponsorship from 35 food, supermarket, fitness and advertising companies. "We have already made progress on things like labelling and fat and salt content working with the industry," Mr Bradshaw added. "But if this three-year campaign does not succeed, we don't rule out regulating in future."  – 3 January, Read the full article in the Independent >>
 
 By Angela Frewin

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