The Ivy loses its crown as Pringle tries to do a Burberry

brandrepublic.com, Friday, 20 September 2002 04:00PM

BRAND WATCH - It was all about the luxury brands, as Nobu toppled The Ivy from its perch atop London's best restaurants list and fashion brand Pringle, beloved by the golfing brigade, sought to do a Burberry and become, well, fashionable, writes Jennifer Whitehead.

As 'Absolutely Fabulous's Eddie might say "Fabulous, dahhhhling!", but not any longer. According to the restaurant guide Zagat, The Ivy -- long-time host of celebrity diners from Noel Coward to Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, not to mentioned adland's own luvvies -- is no longer London's top restaurant. After four years in the top position, Zagat now says: "The good food is foiled by the starstruck staff." Its coveted position has been taken by the modern Japanese restaurant Nobu, for its "amazing atmosphere" and people-spotting opportunities.

Meanwhile, Sir Terence Conran is shaking off the damning words of another restaurant guide, Hardens, to open a new super-restaurant, this time in Canary Wharf. It is part of a new development in the Docklands, which also includes a Waitrose and a Reebok-branded gym. Harden's described Conran's chain of restaurants, which includes Mezzo and Quaglino's, as being fit only for "hen nights or suburban coach parties".

Taking a leaf out of Burberry's book, Pringle sought to broaden its appeal with a new collection on show during London Fashion Week. It was the first show that the label -- famous for producing sweaters sported by the notoriously unfashionable golfing brigade -- had held for fifty years. The show featured Pringle's trademark diamond patterns on new items including briefs and boob-tubes, and daringly low-cut twinsets and pearls. However, the show honoured one tradition, being hosted as a tea-party.

Silver Cross, the posh pram producer, has gone bust for the second time in two years. The pram maker, which produces what have been described as the Rolls-Royce of prams, has had celebrity parents including Madonna and Victoria and David Beckham pushing their offspring around in the carriages. However, financial "irregularities" to the tune of £3m have been discovered at the firm, and the auditors Deloitte & Touche have now been called in.

Harvey Nichols customers know all about the whims of fashion, so none could be surprised at this week's news that the company will be delisted. It seems the department store chain, which just opened a new branch in Edinburgh, has seen its shares fall out of fashion, and Dickson Poon, who owns 51% of shares in the company, has launched a bid to buy back the rest of the stock.

But it wasn't all about the luxury brand this week. McDonald's made its usual appearance in the media all over the world. In the UK, it was announced that police will be given discounted or free meals at the burger chain, as part of a programme of incentives to get bobbies back on the beat. In Canada, McDonald's faced a class action lawsuit over claims that it "knowingly withheld high-level prize contest pieces from McDonald's restaurants in Canada from 1995 to 2001". Promotions such as Monopoly and McDonald's NHL Muppet Mania were the subject of the claim.

The company was also forced to recall 100,000 "bobble head" NFL figurines in the US, after it was revealed that the paint used on the two models contained lead, which could poison children if ingested over a long period of time.

In the budget airline world, Ryanair stole the headlines from its bigger rival British Airways, when it announced it was giving away 1m seats over the next three months, on the same day as BA launched a massive advertising campaign bragging of its low prices.

More Irish brand news: Guinness may have spent millions of pounds on ads telling us "good things come to those who wait", but nonetheless it is going ahead with its FastPour pint.

FastPour is a new system that claims to be able to deliver the perfect pint of Guinness in 25 seconds, as opposed to the usual 119 seconds. It will go on trial in 35 pubs in London (where, presumably, drinkers have less time to stand about waiting for a pint to settle). It has already been criticised by the Campaign for Real Ale, which said that Guinness was giving in to the "rush rush rush society".

People power proved too much for big corporations this week, as the Hershey Trust Company abandoned its bid to sell Hershey Foods, the US chocolate company. Hershey, based in the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania and founded by Milton Hershey, is now safe from being swallowed up by other confectionery companies, such as Wrigley's, Cadbury and Nestle -- but for how long that remains the case is anyone's guess.

Vodafone may have a carefully honed public relations strategy but this week, it chose to take a leaf from the "that'll learn 'em" school by threatening to quit the country if the press continues to criticise the company.

Sir Christopher Gent has taken some considerable stick in the press about the size of his pay package and bonuses, and is now threatening to quit and move to the US. In an interview, Lord MacLaurin, chairman of Vodafone, said: "If this sort of thing goes on he might think, 'well, I've had enough of it. I'm going to work in America'. He could go and work in America tomorrow and earn 10 times what he's earning here."

All the nasty journalists who have said bad things about Vodafone have been warned.

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This article was first published on brandrepublic.com

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