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German Doner Kebab has said it is opening another 12 restaurants this year and creating 480 jobs by the end of 2020 as it pushes on with rapid growth plans despite turmoil in the UK's dining sector.
 
The chain, which has 47 fast-casual restaurants across the country, has seen sales rise since fully reopening sites as it was boosted by new openings and the Government's Eat Out To Help Out scheme.
 
It said UK same-store sales jumped by 46% in August against the same month last year.
 
The expansion will see it open new sites Liverpool, Nottingham, Bradford, Plymouth, London and Edinburgh.
 
The chain was founded in Germany in 1989 but was launched in the UK in 2016 by United Brands under a franchise model.
 
The UK-based business has also outlined plans to open more international sites, with openings planned for Canada, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.
 
Imran Sayeed, chief executive officer of the business, said: "Our game-changing kebabs are revolutionising the kebab and we are excited to be announcing these latest growth plans.
 
"We have found ourselves in very challenging times however there continues to be a huge demand for the German Doner Kebab experience throughout the UK and our international growth regions.
 
"We are excited to build further momentum in our plans for growth and to be creating hundreds of new jobs throughout the country as we maintain our mission of building the fast-casual brand of the future."
Digital learning platform BibliU has partnered with the University of Surrey to provide all full-time undergraduate and postgraduate taught students with free digital access to selected key course textbooks from this term.
 
 The London-based start-up, which spun out of the University of Oxford Innovation Fund, will give a total of 16,000 students access to their core reading materials via the BibliU app.
 
The deal is part of the university’s drive to increase accessibility and ensure that no student is disadvantaged due to their financial circumstances.
 
The BibliU app is also hoped to improve accessibility for students with additional needs, such as read aloud functions, text zoom, descriptions of images and contrasting colours.
 
Catherine Stephen, head of engagement and enhancement at the University of Surrey, said: “By signing this deal we have levelled the playing field for our students. With BibliU, our learners will have guaranteed access to selected core textbooks, no matter what their financial situation is. No one gets left behind.”
 
Digital access will also mean students who cannot travel into campus, can still work effectively offsite: “As a result of the pandemic, our students need to be fully equipped to work away from campus if they need to self-isolate, or if local lockdown restrictions change.
 
“Using the BibliU app alongside our other library resources, students have instant access to all the resources they need, no matter where they need to study,” continues Catherine Stephen.
 
Professor Osama Khan, pro-vice-chancellor of education at University of Surrey said: “The University of Surrey is committed to excellence in all areas and in these challenging times, we have embraced the opportunities of the hybrid education experience.
 
“This project provides students with equal access to some of the essential materials that they need to engage and immerse themselves in their courses no matter where or how they are studying.
 
“By providing these to each student, in addition to our expert academic teams and dedicated support, Surrey is enabling each individual to achieve their full potential.”
 
Dave Sherwood, chief executive officer at BibliU, added: “The University of Surrey has ensured every student is equipped to succeed, no matter their circumstances. Students can access learning resources on any device and engage with learning materials in a completely different way to a static textbook, which is an exciting innovation in the global shift towards digital learning.
 
“Surrey has absolutely embraced the challenge which the future of learning presents. Realising that students today have so much on their plate, eTexts should no longer be something they have to worry about. BibliU is happy to partner with the University of Surrey in their efforts to realise this ambition.”
 
The firm latest partner adds to an existing 130+ institutional partners across the world, including Imperial College London, Oxford University, Coventry University, Phoenix University, and Grand Canyon University.
 
According to earlier media reports, the firm has plans to go public and a float is “definitely a realistic target” by 2023.
AstraZeneca said its Trixeo Aerosphere had been given marketing authorisation in the European Union (EU) for maintenance treatment in adult patients with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
 
The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use of the European Medicines Agency based its opinion on results from a Phase III trial in which Trixeo Aerosphere “showed a statistically significant reduction in the rate of moderate or severe exacerbations compared with dual-combination therapies Bevespi Aerosphere and PT009 over 52 weeks”, the company said on Monday.
 
Trixeo Aerosphere, a triple-combination therapy, is approved under the brand name Breztri Aerosphere in Japan, China and the US for patients with COPD, it added.
 
COPD is a progressive disease which can cause obstruction of airflow in the lungs resulting in debilitating bouts of breathlessness. It affects an estimated 384m people and is the third leading cause of death globally.
 
In a separate statement, AstraZeneca said its Forxiga (dapagliflozin) treatment had been recommended for an indication extension of its marketing authorisation in the EU for the treatment of symptomatic chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction in adults with and without type-2 diabetes.
Fuller’s has launched a range of new campaigns and promotions designed to entice customers back into pubs and hotels across the south of England.
 
Despite doom, gloom and local lockdowns, Fuller’s is prioritising giving customers even more good reasons to visit their sites.
 
For example, a new campaign, based on Visit Britain’s Escape the Everyday initiative, launches this week with a focus on a new dinner, bed and breakfast deal. Supported by imagery inspired by surrealist art, a series of quirky videos will be screened across Fuller’s digital channels and social media to help inspire people out of their houses and away from the groundhog day of working at home and compromising their lifestyle.
 
Episodes of the video include ‘steakation’, ‘fish and trips’ and ‘cauliday’. The campaign will run for eight weeks and each of the vignettes ends with a call to book a dinner, bed and breakfast package at a Fuller’s Beautiful Bedroom pub.
 
For those who want to stay closer to home, Fuller’s has also launched Fuller’s Friday – in conjunction with Asahi. The promotion is specifically designed to help those sites that are suffering from low footfall in their immediate area, and uses geotargeting to reach new and recent visitors to a specific pub with a free pint offer. The promotion is supported through participating pubs’ social media and direct emails to those pubs’ databases.
 
“Whatever else is going on, it’s so important that we continue to make our pubs warm, safe and welcoming and that we give our customers as many reasons to visit as possible,” says Fuller’s marketing director Jane Jones. “We know our customers are missing their local pub – and the local pub is missing them too – so we’ve put together a package of promotions and treats to inspire and engage with both existing and potential customers.”
 
Existing customers are set to benefit too via the launch of ‘Fuller’s Rewards’. All customers on the Fuller’s database will be receiving an offer for either a free pint, 10% off food and drink, 20% off food and drink or a free bottle of house wine when they dine. To further incentivise guests, anyone who redeems their offer will be entered into a draw to win a Sunday roast, or a dinner, bed and breakfast stay for two in one of Fuller’s Beautiful Bedroom sites.
Quintessential Brands, has chosen The Drinks Trust as its first official UK charity partner, committing to raising funds for the charity over the coming year to support the many people in the industry struggling as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
 
Lucy Richardson, Communications Director at Quintessential Brands, said: “The impact of the coronavirus crisis has been felt sharply by many companies and individuals within the drinks trade and it’s incumbent on all of us in the industry to support each other through this crisis as best we can.
 
“All of us at Quintessential Brands are keen to do whatever we can to support our customers and the wider industry, so with our new partnership, we hope we can make a difference and make life a little easier for those most in need of support.”
 
Ross Carter, chief executive, The Drinks Trust, said: “We would like to thank Quintessential Brands and all of the other drinks industry businesses and organisations who have given to The Drinks Trust throughout the pandemic.
 
“The support received has been vital to so many people who have lost their incomes and jobs in recent months. Our most recent initiative, the End of Furlough Grant scheme is now live and has received over 500 applications in two days, so Quintessential Brands’ support couldn’t come at a more vital moment.”
In a recent interview with property portal The Negotiator, Zoopla’s Head of Content, Harry Foges gave his advice for how to stand out in an ever-crowded market.
 
You’ve worked in editorial and content roles at AOL, Orange and BT, and are now Head of Content at Zoopla. What makes a good content creator?
 
In a world where anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection can generate a blog, a YouTube channel or a large Instagram following, more and more people define themselves as ‘content creators’. So for me, to stand out from the crowd you need to tick three key boxes:
 
Firstly, a curiosity to learn from others (brands, colleagues, thought leaders) and use those learnings to develop strong ideas or best practices for your company. Whose blog content do you return to read or watch? Whose social media posts make your thumb stop scrolling? Whose customer service content makes you feel valued?
 
Secondly, a flair for writing engaging copy (whether for long-form articles, social posts or email subject lines). Despite the rise in video and audio content, the importance of writing smart, useful, actionable copy has never been more important. Your customers are being bombarded with information 24/7 – how can you stand out?
 
And finally, a relentless audience focus (for example, in the case of an estate agency, it could be local homeowners thinking of selling). What do you know about your target audience? What action do you want them to take after viewing your content? How will you know if your content has performed well? What can be improved for next time?

Why did Zoopla decide it needed a Head of Content? And why do you think you stood out above the other applicants?
 
Our CMO recognised that a successful brand like Zoopla needs to play a regular and relevant role in the minds of consumers and estate agents, 365 days a year. An ‘always on’ content strategy, which it’s my job to create and deliver, supports that ambition.
 
As for why they hired me, I like to think my career background, initially as a hands-on digital editor and then as a builder of successful content teams, helped convince them I was the right man for the job. Well, that and my obsession with the UK property market!
 
What exactly does the Head of Content role at Zoopla involve?
 
My role is to support our marketing strategy with compelling content that delivers results, including helping encourage more buyers, sellers and renters to view our property listings.
 
I manage an in-house team that creates or commissions content for a number of channels including the Zoopla website, app, social accounts and email comms.
 
Quality content generates more visits from buyers, sellers and renters to Zoopla, which in turn helps us deliver increased numbers of vendor and applicant leads to our estate agents and new homes developers.
 
The term ‘content’ at Zoopla can mean anything from first-time buyer guides to estate agent interviews; house price trend analysis to property renovation tips on social media.
 
What’s your biggest achievement so far at Zoopla?
 
I joined in the summer of 2019 and it’s been a hugely rewarding experience so far. In terms of achievements, I would say our response to the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020 is something I’m particularly proud of.
 
The government released new guidance affecting the property market on an almost daily basis. We quickly turned that guidance into content featuring advice from lawyers and insights from our Research department – helping demystify the impact of coronavirus on the market for consumers, estate agents and developers.
 
We created a dedicated coronavirus content hub on Zoopla.co.uk that quickly ranked on page 1 of Google for many relevant keywords, and we had our most successful period ever in terms of content traffic and engagement.
 
This was particularly important in a time where our estate agent partners were facing unprecedented challenges. It meant we kept consumers primed to use Zoopla for their search when restrictions eased, and we used content to explain which elements of the home-moving process (viewing homes using video tours, for example) were still possible.
 
We were trying to help people whose property moves had stalled or who were facing property-related financial challenges as a result of the pandemic, and I felt we did that.
 
Do you have any content marketing advice for other agents?
 
Knowing how clued-up agents are on marketing their agencies and properties, I wouldn’t assume to know any more than them!
 
We’re spoiled by the amount of content marketing channels available these days – from social media platforms to Spotify playlists, Pinterest boards to podcasts.
 
However, for me, email is often still the most effective way of reaching and talking to your customers.
 
Spending time crafting the content of your emails, analysing the best times to send them out based on open and click-through rates, and learning from past performance can have huge benefits to your business.
Action on Hearing Loss plans to revert to its original name, the RNID, after research showed the old brand was more recognised and trusted, despite not having been used since 2011.
 
A new logo and branding for the hearing loss charity will be unveiled when the name change comes into effect on 2 November, the hearing loss charity has announced.
 
The charity was founded in 1911 as the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, but changed its name in 2011 to reflect the idea that the charity deals with all levels of hearing loss, not just deafness.
 
Research involving more than 6,000 people found that almost a decade after the rebrand to Action on Hearing Loss, the name RNID was still more popular than Action on Hearing Loss, which many respondents said it did not “reflect the charity’s history or communicate the amazing work it did”, the charity said in a statement.
 
Mark Atkinson, the charity’s chief executive, told Third Sector he was glad the charity had had the confidence to return to its original name.
 
“To be honest I think we have to accept that the name change to Action on Hearing Loss hasn’t worked in the way that we hoped it would,” he said.
 
“RNID continues to be an iconic legacy brand, it continues to have far greater awareness today even 10 years after we’ve stopped using it, so I just think there’s such a lot of equity and such a lot of support for RNID that in some ways whatever name we chose in 2011 was never going to compete.
 
“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to be open and honest about that with our staff and our supporters, and actually go back to what continues to be a really strong, much-loved brand.”
 
But, he said, he believed that “strategy trumped brand” and that the charity would still be able to ensure it engaged with people who had other forms of hearing loss, not just those who were profoundly deaf.
 
The new strategy and brand purpose, summarised as “Together, we will make life fully inclusive for deaf people and those with hearing loss or tinnitus”, was created through the same research.
 
In a statement, the charity said the focus on the daily issues deaf people have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as the barriers to communication caused by face coverings, had highlighted the need to be a strong brand.
 
The charity has also experienced a difficult few years,with its spending outstripping income in six of the last seven financial years - a note from auditors in the accounts for the year to March 2018 warned of "material uncertainty" over the charity’s ability to continue “as a going concern".
 
In the year to March 2019, its spending of £43.9m outstripped its income by £4.3m - auditors Crowe UK said it considered the charity a going concern after Atkinson and the board put in place a financial recovery plan that included reducing costs and selling its head office in Highbury and Islington, north London.
 
The charity has also overhauled its fundraising strategy and is due to complete the process of selling off its care services in a bid to pay off its debts and focus more on its campaigning and advisory roles in 2021.
 
“The charity is in a much stronger position having come very very close to running out of cash - we’re just completing our audit now, our financial position is much stronger,” Atkinson said.
 
He said his ambition for the charity going forward was to “create an organisation that is genuinely co-productive, not just an one that uses a 19th century paternalistic model of charity”.
 
He said: “I think we’ve got a lot of work to do in that respect but that is right at the heart of our strategy.”
 
Part of that, he said, was to ensure that more people with experience of deafness, hearing loss or tinnitus were employed by the charity.
 
“I think that is going to be the litmus test for our success and for many other charities,” he said.
 
“The deeper we get into the 21st century, quite rightly there is an expectation that charities both reflect society generally and the cause they stand for and that’s my big priority to make sure that we’re an organisation that commands the confidence of our community.”
Aunt Bessie’s has this week launched a new marketing campaign, which will initially run through to Christmas and see the introduction of the brand platform ‘Caring is the hardest thing we do’.
 
Kicking off with a new TV advert (see below) – and supported by video on demand, digital and shopper activity, as well as an influencer campaign – the new platform aims to show what it means to care for loved ones.
 
“Caring has always been inherent with the roast dinner, whether it’s the personal effort that goes into the preparation, or the interactions people have around the table. Aunt Bessie’s has always been synonymous with the Sunday roast, so we are perfectly placed to celebrate that link and remind people of the genuine moments of care that are part of the Sunday Roast occasion,” said Sam Dolan, head of marketing at Aunt Bessie’s.
 
“This campaign was in development long before the challenges we have all faced in recent months, but the focus on what it means to care has perhaps never been more appropriate. We have also seen the importance of the roast dinner come to the forefront again. This is a time which is tied to many different warm memories and traditions which can bring warmth and unity to families.”
 
In line with the campaign launching, Aunt Bessie’s is starting a partnership with the charity Guide Dogs. Echoing the caring ethos of the brand activity, the partnership will begin with Aunt Bessie’s sponsoring a guide dog and will ramp up through 2021 with additional support.
 
The digital and print amplification of the campaign will capture other recognisable household scenes, featuring quotes from shoppers that show how the difficulties of family life go hand in hand with the biggest rewards. Core products from the Aunt Bessie’s range – notably Yorkshire Puddings and Roasties – will be visible in all materials.

Topps Tiles has announced the appointment of Stephen Hopson as Chief Financial Officer with effect from 2 November 2020.
 
Hopson joins the business from Molson Coors Beverage Company where he is Director of Central Finance, Western Europe. Previously he was Director of Finance at BSS and held a number of other senior finance roles within Travis Perkins Plc and with Mitchells & Butlers Plc.
 
The appointment comes almost a year after the previous CFO, Rob Parker, took over the helm of the company.
 
Parker said: “Stephen is an experienced financial professional, with a strong track record across both consumer and trade markets, including investor relations. We are looking forward to welcoming him to the business in the autumn”.
In the legal sector, it appears that we are firmly in the middle of acquisition season.
 
Press releases announcing such tie-ups usually proclaim that the parties have found themselves indelibly drawn together through a common ethos and ‘synergies’. In reality, many are the product of one firm needing a quick exit after the insurance renewal bill tipped them over the edge.
 
This year the driving forces may be different, however. While PII premiums are certainly rising, many firms are seeking mergers for positive reasons. Lockdown has focused minds, refined business plans and perhaps most importantly, left firms leaner than before. There may be no better time to attract a new bedfellow. Market experts reckon merger activity is higher than for many years, but this time it is not as a last resort.
 
‘I am only dealing with one forced closure where a firm has been offered insurance terms but cannot afford it,’ said Andrew Roberts, director of law firm merger specialist Ampersand Legal. ‘People have used Covid to get rid of staff that were not performing, and married with people working from home all of a sudden, you don’t need all these support staff and offices.’
 
While turnover is generally down by 10%, costs have been cut by 15-25%, Roberts said. ‘Firms with strong balance sheets are thinking “let’s get into another profit centre or another team that we want”. Far from being negative [Covid] has been enormously positive from a merger perspective.’
 
Paul Bennett, a partner with Bennett Briegal and adviser to lawyers and their clients, said merger activity is likely to be high for the next three years.
 
‘There will be two trends,’ he explained. ‘A strong firm financially acquiring an uplift in profitability by merging with a profitable small firm; and junior partners seeking control of the partnership through acquisition to do things differently, using more technology, working flexibly and building the firms they want to work in.
 
‘For some senior partners the only way to secure some capital on retirement is to do a discounted deal.’
 
Merger talk is always higher at this time of year. According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, 174 firms closed in September and October last year, with 198 closing in the same period in 2018. These numbers are far higher than in the rest of year. For the 12 months from June 2019 to May 2020, around 23% of all closures were as a result of firms merging.
 
The biggest driver for this annual autumnal flurry is traditionally the 1 October renewal date for professional indemnity insurance. Around two-thirds of firms still renew their cover on this date, and such a big cost often steers managing partners towards an exit. This year the pressure will be no different, with Roberts saying that insurance costs are up between 10% and 20%.
 
In addition, firms will also be seeking financial respite this year because of the closure of the furlough scheme, which contributes to staff salaries, at the end of this month. The chancellor’s offer to pay up to a third of salaries for ‘viable’ jobs, on the basis that these staff work up to a third of their hours, is little use for firms where staff have no immediate purpose while the office is closed.
 
Bennett said that PII renewal has crystallised for some firms the fact that they have a long-term issue with finances, which, combined with the increase in salary costs, has made their decision for them. The aging demographic of partners, an underlying trend since the 2008 financial crisis, has also led to plans being brought forward to retire, merge or sell to junior partners.
 
The Covid pandemic might have made some firms less profitable but no less attractive to potential buyers. Those potential buyers are now fortified by reduced costs and overheads. The combination of the two means we will surely see many more firms declaring their ‘synergies’ in the coming weeks and months.
 
Confirmed mergers in the last fortnight
  • Carlisle firms Malcolm Dodds Solicitors and Wragg Mark-Bell
  •  North-west firm WHN Solicitors and Accrington firm Rosthorns Solicitors
  • Liverpool firm Astraea Legal and criminal firm Linskills
  • Coventry firm Brindley Twist Tafft & James and Warwickshire firm MacNamara King
  • Southern firm Biscoes Solicitors and Isle of Wight-based Wheelers Solicitors
  • Lincolnshire firm Chattertons and Boston firm Morley Brown Howden
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