The croque-monsieur and the half-baked idea

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The Independent Online
BUNHILL Towers has one or two restaurants nestling at its base, for feeding my staff in the odd moment when they are not slaving. One of the most popular is Cafe Pelican, a sort of brasserie. Another is Cafe Rouge, a sort of brasserie. They both belong to the same company, Pelican Group.

Cafe Pelican used to serve a rather fine croque-monsieur, or cheese on toast with a bit of ham. Then it stopped, and an outcry went up from the entire Bunhill team. They demanded as one: "Why, why, why?" Because, they were told, Cafe Pelican was doing rather well, and Cafe Rouge was doing not well enough, so the croque-monsieurs had been moved from one to t'other.

I could ask, of course, why they don't both serve the same thing. But I won't because this would show up my fundamental ignorance of business strategy - I have no doubt that the decision was made by someone holding an MBA, and is therefore entirely correct.

THE advantage of travel is not that it broadens the mind, as the bloke said, but that it gives you lots of stories to tell your grandchildren / friends in the pub / dog. Andrew Gray, a marketing executive from Glasgow, has recently picked up a good one.

He decided to go to Sao Tome & Principe, consisting of two islands off the west coast of Africa, on the grounds that no-one else did. He got his visa (number 78) and was sent a personal letter by the country's equivalent of an ambassador, in London, wishing him a pleasant journey.

When he was waiting on an airstrip on one of the islands, he had a fright. The president's plane landed, officials descended and advanced towards him. He hardly had time to wonder what he had done wrong when they explained, politely, that the local paparazzi were off duty, and asked if he wouldn't mind taking the photographs. "So you see young Freddie," he will be able to say, "your grandad was the first Glaswegian to be the official photographer of Sao Tome & Principe."

Mould breaking

BET you don't know what Colgate's first advertisement was for: "Soap, mould and dipt candles." It appeared in a New York paper in 1817. Why doesn't it sell mould any more? - I'm sure the Body Shop would snap it up.

SORRY, I can't stop people telling me about Welsh entrepreneurs. Here are some more: Chris Bradshaw, who started Tillery Valley Foods in 1984. It delivers meals to hospitals, and he is worth pounds 10m. Christopher Brain of the Cardiff brewery (blond Guinness, we always call his beer). He didn't start the company but he is worth pounds 20m, so I'll be nice about him. Rhidian Davies, a miner who used his redundancy money to start a drift-mining company, Consolidated Coal, in 1987. As Mr Budge of RJB seems to be showing, there's money in them there shafts (and here we should also mention the miners of Tower Colliery in the Valleys, who did a buyout and are now doing very nicely, boyo).

Don't stop ... What about Donald "Curly" Humphries, who owned the Action petrol chain and was one of the kings of cut-price petrol. He sold out to Gulf Oil for pounds 20m. Or David McLean, a bricklayer who started a building firm and is now worth pounds 30m. And there are more, I am reliably informed.

OK, I recant. Despite what I may have written before, very few Welsh people are not entrepreneurs. It's just a shame I'm one of them.

Win some, lose some

THE competition is hotting up for the the title of ultimate poison chalice.

The Guardian's coveted Young Businessman of the Year Award was an early front-runner - past winners included John Ashcroft, who memorably went on steer Colloroll to disaster. Then came the Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year. Previous recipients included Debbie Moore of Pineapple and Sophie Mirman of Sock Shop. Their falls from grace were nearly as meteoric as their rise.

Now the Geneva-based International Air Transport Association is putting in a strong bid. IATA recently quizzed 45,000 seasoned airline travellers to name the world's best airport. Lo and behold, Manchester's Ringway Airport won hands-down, coming out on top in eight of the 19 categories.

Champagne corks popped. Backs were firmly slapped. But my Mancunian mole informs me that the celebrations were cut short when eight scheduled airlines unexpectedly landed at the same time. A mad scramble for trolleys ensued at Terminal One and police had to be called to pacify 1500 angry passengers.

Red faces all round. For among the IATA categories in which Manchester had triumphed was - you've guessed - trolley availability.