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McDonald’s accelerates UK reopening plans, only releasing locations on the day to manage anticipated demand:

Mcdonalds logoMcDonald’s is to accelerate its reopening plans across the UK and Ireland. The company, which has so far reopened 44 of its restaurants for delivery or drive-thru, will have reopened 1,019 outlets by the end of next week. This will include every one of its 924 drive-thrus and the company will also start to expand the availability of delivery as well, starting with 75 sites.

To manage the anticipated demand, McDonald’s said it would only release the locations of the restaurants reopening on the day. It comes after the company was forced to shut some drive-thrus last week due to overwhelming demand with huge queues “impacting local communities or the safety of our people or customers”.

There is a £25 cap per vehicle on drive-thru orders as the business adjusts to smaller teams and social distancing in its kitchens. Perspex screens are fitted at drive-thru windows and all employees are wearing personal protective equipment. In car parks, dividers will be in place, while security teams will patrol zones to ensure visitors comply with safety laws. 


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Dominic Allport, NPD GroupAlmost two-thirds (63%) of British consumers have said they will return to restaurants, bars or cafes in the first month they reopen but trust will be an important issue, according to new analysis by insights firm The NPD Group. The results of its second Covid-19 British Foodservice Sentiment Study showed almost six out of ten (58%) said restaurants and bars are the riskiest places to be infected with coronavirus, and almost two-thirds (64%) said they would only select outlets they trust.
Three quarters (76%) stated good hygiene will be a more important factor in choosing a restaurant than before the lock-down. The same percentage said they want to see strict rules to ”prevent contagion” and 74% prefer restaurants that can ”guarantee social distancing”. The clear majority of consumers still approve of the UK’s lock-down of foodservice – with the number slightly increasing to 64% from 62% at the time of the first survey in March. The NPD Group said when lock-down has ended in full, foodservice operators can also encourage people in older age groups to enjoy food and drink prepared outside the home. Delivery is already popular among the 18 to 34 age group, with 59% using this channel, but usage dips to 32% for those aged between 35 and 54, and tumbles to just 13% for over-55s.
Dominic Allport (pictured), insights director, foodservice at The NPD Group, said: “Our data shows consumers were already acutely aware of cleanliness in eating-out establishments before coronavirus. As the industry moves towards reopening, operators will need to make this a top priority in order to encourage people back into their operations.”
The NPD Group is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

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BBPAThe British Beer & Pub Association, British Institute of Innkeeping and UKHospitality have called on the government to maintain the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at 80% of wages for hospitality workers until October and increase its flexibility. In a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, the trade bodies said it would allow the sector, which is two months behind reopening compared with the rest of the economy, to fully get back up and running while the furlough scheme remains in place to stop thousands of redundancies. They have also asked the chancellor to introduce flexibility into the furlough scheme earlier than the current scheduled date of the start of August, to help fit with the sector reopening from 4 July. The call comes as the trade bodies revealed thousands of furloughed jobs could be lost, unless venues can safely reopen and be operationally and commercially viable businesses by July, so they can afford to pay their staff. The trade bodies are therefore also calling on the government to adopt the advice and guidance of the World Health Organisation from July, which suggests using one metre for social distancing as opposed to two metres. Many venues are already looking at operating plans and preparing additional safety protocols to reassure staff and customers they can create a safe socialising environment. The trade bodies stated: “Hospitality was one of the first sectors to be closed by the government in March, and will be one of the last to reopen after lock-down. For those jobs that cannot yet return, due to being unable to open or having severely limited capacity, full support should remain in place.” Sunak is due to reveal details this week of how the scheme will operate from August.


Bewiched CoffeeNorthampton-based cafe operator Bewiched Coffee is looking to set up drive-thru coffee “pods” as it looks to pivot the business, Propel has learned. Bewiched said in particular it saw a potential opportunity for the “pods” in pubs that had good road frontage and large parking areas. “With a relatively small investment we think there could be a real opportunity for the right partners,” said Bewiched managing director Matt Fountain. The company has reopened one of its 11 sites for takeaway only, which it said has been well received, and given it the confidence to reopen further outlets. Bewiched plans to have a further three sites reopened by Friday (29 May) and have all outlets trading by the middle of June. It has also introduced a click-and-collect option with integrated payment, which is again being tested before being rolled out to all sites by the end of June. While it is early days, Bewiched said it has seen enough traction to suggest it will complement current revenue streams.


Franco MancaDavid Page, chairman of Fulham Shore, has said the business will take a site-by-site approach on whether restaurants operating under reopening restrictions will do so purely for dine-in or delivery only. Page told Propel: “At two metres, it doesn’t make financial sense to reopen those that currently have 100-covers or under for dine-in. However, if you take our site in Richmond, which can hold 150 covers, it may be viable to just have dine in there.” Fulham Shore will open a further 19 Franco Manca sites across the UK over the course of the week. Before this week, the company had reopened 12 Franco Manca sites in London for delivery and takeaway, with a further eight reopening in the capital on Tuesday (26 May). On Wednesday (27 May), the company opened regional Franco Manca sites in Manchester, Bristol and Brighton, plus further sites in London in Russell Square, Kilburn and Brixton. On Thursday (28 May), it will reopen its sites in Battersea, Tooting, South Kensington, Richmond and Kings Cross. Page said it may not reopen all of its sites under the 52-strong brand before July, especially those in central London based near office blocks, which would have “little or no trade”. Fulham Shore is to reopen a further two sites under its Real Greek brand on 6 June, in Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, for delivery and takeaway, to add to the ones it has already reopened in Dulwich, Muswell Hill and Marylebone.


London-based Japanese ramen bar concept Bone Daddies has opened its debut delivery-only kitchens, Propel has learned. Bone Daddies has opened the “dark kitchens” out of the Foodstars facilities in Kentish Town and Wandsworth, with delivery exclusively through Deliveroo. The sites are offering the same “Bone At Home” delivery menu that is available at its reopened Bermondsey, Bond Street, High Street Kensington and Old Street outlets, which also offer click-and-collect. Propel understands Bone Daddies has now decided to go down the dark kitchen route to help keep the business going through the lock-down. It is thought the company is exploring further delivery-only opportunities as well as reopening its other sites for click-and-collect.


Neapolitan pizza concept Santa Maria has opened its fourth site – in a car showroom in Brentford, west London. The outlet has opened within Duke of London, which champion both luxurious and quirky automotive design from its venue in Catherine Wheel Road. Santa Maria is catering for pizza delivery via Deliveroo and collection orders. After lock-down restrictions are lifted, customers will be able to use the 30-cover dining room. Santa Maria, which has run restaurants in west London since 2010, will also be serving its pizza at The Brewery Tap, the live music pub next door to the showroom that is run and owned by the same family as Duke of London. The menu includes an array of Neapolitan-style pizzas named after saints, bites such as bruschetta and burrata, as well as a selection of vegan pizzas. Santa Maria’s Duke of London location is also offering 20% off all food and drink orders for collection to NHS staff who present their ID on arrival.


Gail's BakeryGail’s Bakery, which is backed by sector investor Luke Johnson, is to open sites in Windsor and Southwark, Propel has learned. The company has transformed the former Jung’s bakery in Peascod Street and will open the site on Monday (1 June) for takeaway only. This will be followed by an opening in Southwark in mid-June. The site in Stamford Street forms part of the Bankside Hotel. Both sites will adhere to social distancing guidelines with extensive safety measures in place to protect staff and customers. Chief executive Tom Molnar told Propel the company was continuing to negotiate on a site in Guildford. He said of the openings: “While we will have a scaled back menu, we are trying to our bit to keep the economy moving.” Johnson tweeted: “We advance! Onwards!” Gail’s was founded in Hampstead in 2005 and is run by Molnar and managing director Marta Pogroszewska. It operates circa 60 sites.


wireless social logoLondon is showing “signs of awakening”, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. The analysis, which took an aggregated look at footfall in more than 800 venues nationally and focused mainly on major cities, showed footfall in the capital has picked up in the past two weeks. It is now down about 60% compared with the average in February having been down by about 80% beforehand. Footfall in Bristol has slightly increased, but is still down about 75% compared with the average in February. Of the other cities analysed, footfall in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester has again crept up, but remains down by more than 80% compared with the average in February. Meanwhile, Edinburgh, Newcastle and York are down by about 85% compared with the February average, while Glasgow is still down by circa 90%.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member


Douglas Jack, Peel Hunt leisure analystPeel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack (pictured) has said JD Wetherspoon could experience “substantial excess demand in a favourable cost environment”. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 1,200p, Jack said: “In contrast to Wetherspoon, only 36% of pub, bar and restaurant operators believe they will eventually reopen all their sites for trading, according to CGA. All venues that reopen are likely to do so under social distancing restrictions. We expect supply to fall more than demand, supporting higher retail pricing, with the biggest supply reduction under social distancing occurring in lower price, historically high footfall segments with limited outdoor space. In our view, this must be an environment, with constrained operating economics and restricted supply, in which Wetherspoon tests higher pricing, at least on some products. Wetherspoon has many competitive advantages. It has plentiful liquidity and an estate with an average of circa 4,000 square foot of customer area, in addition to almost 700 (80%) of its pubs having either a beer garden, roof garden/terrace or outside patio area. In comparison, the British Beer & Pub Association claims 27,000 (56%) of 48,556 pubs have beer gardens. Wetherspoon also has a successful order and pay app in operation. There should be many opportunities for the pub operators that can reopen successfully – the CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index is in deflation; the previous acute labour shortage is over; scope to negotiate with landlords and other suppliers has never been greater; working capital should start to rewind; and this should be the biggest staycation year ever. Wetherspoon could experience substantial excess demand in a favourable cost environment.”


Michael GoveOpening up pubs, restaurants and bars after the coronavirus lock-down is “difficult” and so there will be no standing at the bar in pubs “for a long time”, cabinet office minister Michael Gove (pictured) has said. He told LBC Radio: “What I hope we may be able to see is people being able to have outdoor hospitality, so you can enjoy a drink in the garden of a pub or eat outdoors in a cafe. I think it’s going to be very difficult to return to any of us standing at the bar or any of us mingling in a cafe indoors in a way that we have in the past.”


Mario C BauerA group of investors led by Mario C Bauer (pictured) has agreed to take over the Vapiano brand’s operations in France and Luxembourg. The group led by Bauer, who was Vapiano’s former head of international franchising, will take on the operation of 29 sites under the brand, working with Vapiano France chief executive Salvatore Perri. A statement from the investment group said: “Salvatore and his organisation have made Vapiano a strong brand in France and Luxembourg in recent years and see great potential for the future. We look forward to working with him and his team.” Last month Propel revealed advisors had been appointed to find a buyer or new investor for Vapiano UK. PwC was understood to have started actively marketing the seven-strong UK arm of the brand. It is believed the advisor has been appointed to manage the sales process for parent company Vapiano SE, Vapiano Franchising, and a number of the brand’s international markets, including the UK. The brand operates seven company-owned sites in the UK, comprising five in London, plus restaurants in Edinburgh and Manchester. Its site in Great Portland Street, near Oxford Circus, was one of the brand’s best performing sites across its entire international estate. At the start of April, the board of Vapiano filed for insolvency due to liquidity problems as a result of declining sales. The company could not reach an agreement with its financing partners on an envisaged funding solution, which left it unable to apply for aid under government relief programmes. The brand operates 55 sites in Germany and circa 240 restaurants across 33 countries in total. Vanessa Hall, the former YO! chief executive, was appointed chief executive of Vapiano SE in September. She had been a member of its advisory board since September 2018.


Revolution Bars Group chief executive Rob PitcherRevolution Bars Group, the operator of 74 premium bars, trading under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, has extended its debt facilities, to provide ‘sufficient liquidity for the foreseeable future’. The company stated: “As announced on 14 April 2020, the group’s lenders, NatWest, agreed to increase the group’s Revolving Credit Facility from £21.0m to £30.0m until 31 August 2020, following which it would step down to £24.0m. NatWest also agreed to waive all financial covenant tests at March 2020 and June 2020. The board is pleased to announce that, subject to final documentation, NatWest has agreed to further increase the group’s overall debt facilities, utilising the UK government’s CLBILS. NatWest will provide the group with a £16.5m term loan and the facility will remain at £21.0m. The term loan will mature on 30 June 2023, following which it will need to be repaid or refinanced. It will be amortised by £1m per annum with the first repayment occurring in June 2021. The facility has been extended by six months to June 2022, following which it will also need to be refinanced or repaid. The facility will also be reduced by £1m per annum, with the first reduction occurring in June 2021. With the revised facilities in place, the group will have total debt facilities of £37.5m until June 2021 then reducing to £35.5m until at least June 2022. The revised facilities are being provided on normal commercial terms. The group’s net debt position is currently £22m. With the Revised Facilities in place, the board is confident that the group will have sufficient liquidity for the foreseeable future, even taking into account the board’s downside covid-19 trading scenario. As part of the revised facilities, NatWest have also agreed to amend the group’s financial covenants to be based solely on cash headroom, set at a level based on the group’s downside covid-19 trading scenario. In accordance with the terms and conditions of CLBILS, the payment of dividends by the group is prohibited whilst the term loan remains outstanding. The board continues to monitor and assess the group’s current and future financial position and all financing options available to it and will update further when appropriate.” Chief executive Rob Pitcher (pictured) said: “Again, we welcome and are delighted with the additional support from NatWest. They continue to act as a true partner to our business and this decisive action will enable us to emerge from this crisis in a financially stable position. When restrictions are lifted, we will re-open with much caution – prioritising the health and safety of our employees and guests above all else. However, with the security of a stable financial position and underpinned by our young guest base, we believe that the group is well placed to return to good levels of trading reasonably quickly.”


Gourmet Burger Kitchen has opened at Meadowhall in SheffieldSouth Africa-based Famous Brands has published a review of its two UK brands, Wimpy and Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), in the year to 29 February 2020. It stated: “In the uncertain political environment, consumer confidence and spend remained subdued. The shift to online retail and the sustained pressure on traditional brick-and-mortar retailers continued to escalate. Management’s ongoing focus in (Wimpy UK) is to ensure the portfolio is optimally structured and appealing to capitalise on growth opportunities in the constrained economic environment. The network comprises 67 restaurants (2019: 67). The business reported solid results in the year under review, boosted by an increased contribution from the delivery offering, a re-engineered menu and improved sales in revamped restaurants. Revenue in Rand terms increased to R122 million (2019: R113 million). Revenue in Sterling was 4% higher. Operating profit grew by 31% to R23 million (2019: R18 million); while the operating margin rose to 19.0% (2019: 15.7%). The subdued trading environment will continue to weigh heavily on performance; however, following rationalisation of 12 under-performing stores in the prior year and an ongoing revamp programme, the portfolio is more optimally structured for growth. Expanding the delivery offering across the network continues to offer opportunity for growth.” Of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, it stated: “Remedial measures implemented to stabilise the business and return it to profitability gained momentum during the period; however, year-on-year sales continued to decline, aligned with the general trend across the industry. The strategy to leverage opportunities to expand the multi-party delivery platform progressed well, but while online delivery revenue grew, this solid performance was offset by weaker in-store sales in malls and on the high street. GBK UK reported an operating loss before non-operational items of GBP-0.6 million (2019: operating loss of GBP-4.6 million). The operating margin improved to -0.9% (2019: -5.7%). System-wide sales (Sterling) were GBP68.9 million (2019: GBP80.2 million) largely due to the closure of 24 stores as part of the Company Voluntary Arrangement process, eight of which were closed in the review period. GBK UK and Ireland’s combined like-for-like sales increased by 2.7% (2019: decrease of -4.2%). GBK’s network comprises 72 restaurants (2019: 80). Due to the covid-19 global pandemic, on 2 April, the board announced that regretfully, the GBK UK business would henceforth no longer receive financial assistance from the group. This decision followed the deterioration in GBK’s store sales in the UK after year-end due to the covid-19 global pandemic, and the subsequent directive by the governments of the UK and Republic of Ireland to indefinitely close all restaurants in those countries. While various measures of support were offered by the respective governments to the industry to mitigate the economic impact of this decision, the uncertainty regarding resumption of trading was significant cause for concern in both markets.”


London-based casual dining group Balans Soho Society has placed all seven of its sites on the market, Propel has learned. The company, which opened its first venue in Old Compton Street, Soho, in 1987, is understood to be marketing the seven sites through CDG Leisure. Offers are being invited on the Balans sites in Ealing, Victoria, Kensington, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford, plus the group’s two venues in Soho’s Old Compton Street. It is thought the sites are available individually. Earlier this year, the business, which is led by founder David Taylor, sold its site in Clapham Common to the team behind the Little Yellow Door concept. The house parties-style bar and restaurant concept, backed by Edition Capital, reopened the site as The Little Orange Door.


Honest Burgers founders Tom Barton and Philip EelesActive Partners-backed Honest Burgers has launched new concept, Honest Chicken out of its King’s Cross site, Propel has learned. Honest Chicken is currently a takeover of the group’s King’s Cross, delivering to King’s Cross, Camden, Clerkenwell, Highbury, Islington, Kentish Town, Holborn and Bloomsbury, with contactless delivery available from Deliveroo and UberEats. The company said there was plans in progress to open further sites in the future under the new concept. A new standalone menu features four free-range chicken burgers, all served with signature rosemary salted chips, ranging from £10 to £14. Tom Barton (pictured), co-founder of Honest Burgers and Honest Chicken, said “Honest Chicken has been in the making for years now, pretty much since we launched our first fried chicken burger! The food is a mash-up of all the free-range chicken greats from Honest Burgers and some new dishes just for Honest Chicken. It’s powered by all the same things as Honest Burgers – great British produce, homemade food, a simple menu, no fuss and great value.” The company has so far reopened 22 of its sites for delivery, with its sites in Oxford Circus and Portobello set to reopen on Wednesday (27 May).


Busaba St AlbansBusaba, the Thai chain founded by Alan Yau, has received interest from 16 parties, with bids to invest in or acquire the 13-strong, London-based business due this week, Propel has learned. Last month, Propel revealed the Terry Harrison-led group had appointed KPMG to help it assess options, which if new investment doesn’t come forward could include a restructuring of the business and a possible company voluntary arrangement. It was thought the business had small reserves of cash to keep it going for the short-term, but needed a cash injection for the mid to long-term. It is believed to have looked at the government schemes available, but does not qualify under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. A request to extending its business loan facility was also thought to have been declined. Propel understands management has received interest in all or parts of the business from 16 parties over the past few weeks, with many encouraged by how the business was trading post-lock-down. Bids are understood to be due on Tuesday (26 May). At the same time, Propel understands the company will this week reopen its Westfield Stratford site for delivery. It will join reopened Busaba sites in Soho, Kingston, Chelsea and Hoxton, plus its Deliveroo Editions site in Blackwall.


BBoparan Restaurant GroupBoparan Restaurant Group (BRG) has completed the acquisition of the Carluccio’s brand and 30 trading sites saving over 800 jobs. The company already operates Cinnamon, Fishworks, Slim Chickens, Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner. BRG will also take on Carluccio’s franchise partnership in the UAE and Qatar. Satnam Leihal, managing director of BRG, said: “We welcome Carluccio’s colleagues to BRG. This acquisition is in line with our strategy to grow our restaurant group with quality brands. Whilst it is an extremely challenging time for the sector, we believe quality hospitality businesses will recover in the long term as people return to eating out.” The Carluccio’s sites which now form part of the BRG estate are as follows: Beverley, Bluewater, Bristol, Cribbs Causeway, Cambridge, Cheshire Oaks, Chester, Chichester, Colchester, Derby, Kingston Bentalls, Leamington Spa, Leeds, Trinity, London-Islington Development Kitchen, Marriott Heathrow, Marriott Regents Park, Richmond, South Kensington, St Christopher’s Place, St Pancras Station, Waterloo Station, Wimbledon, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Trafford Centre, Portsmouth, Reading, Sheffield, Solihull, Southampton, Stratford on Avon, Walton on Thames, Dublin- Dawson Street. The Times leisure reporter Dominic Walsh tweeted: “Just over £3m cash deal for brand plus 30 of 71 sites. Plan is to rebrand ten plus sites as Slim Chickens over time. Amazing price for business that Landmark invested circa £100m in over years.”


Pub BarOperators have been warned against making “long-term and costly changes” to their sites while government guidelines continue to be developed. In an open letter the British Institute of Innkeeping, the British Beer & Pub Association and UKHospitality said the exact mandatory requirements and guidance from government was expected to be produced within the next couple of weeks and would be subject to a period of consultation. They stated: “We understand many of you are already planning changes to your businesses, based upon specific distancing expectations in line with current government guidelines. We believe these are still under review and would caution against longer term and costly changes to environments at this time that may be unnecessary if areas such as distancing measures changed within the consultation period.” The trade bodies said they were working closely with the government and were “fully committed to sharing the requirements at the earliest opportunity”. They said: ”Last Friday we delivered our first joint draft protocols to the government, whose taskforce will be developing the formal requirements for reopening. This document has been welcomed and we are confident will form the basis of the final government requirements. That said, as you are all aware, there continues to be an active debate around the specific measures that will be required. We expect this debate to continue at pace taking into account the measures adopted by other countries and sectors – and factors will change. We have all directly fed back our members’ concerns, questions and suggestions on how to ensure the safety of their customers and teams are also balanced alongside the essential business support that will be required.” The trade bodies reiterated they were pushing for continued and enhanced support for closed businesses through furlough, rents and financing and tapered support for companies able to partially open that are initially loss making. In the meantime, they advised operators to look at measures that could help in terms of reopening. around managing and protecting teams, developing plans for key areas and protecting customers.
TGI Friday's NewcastleElectra, which is looking to sell its assets and return cash to shareholders, has reported Ebitda in its TGI Friday’s business increased to £27.7m in the past 12 months prior to the lock-down, with like-for-like sales up 3% in January and February. The private equity firm said the value of the business stood at £119m as of 31 March 2020, down from £141m in September last year. Electra said it considered the significantly reduced valuation to be “reasonable” given all the circumstances in effect, and anticipated it would recover “as we emerge from covid-19 disruptions adapted to future market conditions and opportunities”. Electra paid £142m for its 99% ownership in TGI Friday’s, having made its initial investment in 2014. TGI Friday’s will open another 12 sites next Wednesday (27 May) for click-and-collect and delivery having been “very encouraged” by the performance of the 24 sites that reopened at the start of May. Selected outlets will also offer alcohol. TGI Friday’s closed all 87 sites in March as the country went into lock-down. In its half-year update, Electra said it was putting plans in place for a phased “sit in” at TGI Friday’s sites from July – as permitted – but said its large restaurant footprint meant it would be “well positioned to operate successfully with social distancing in effect”. Electra stated: “TGI Friday’s entered March 2020 with £36m of cash, and with ‘in lock-down’ cash utilisation of £4mi per month after government support and property rental deferrals of £2m per month has significant resilience as long as government support through furlough arrangements continues to match trading restrictions. With its physical store footprint, averaging more than 6,860 square foot, significantly larger than most restaurants/bars, TGI Friday’s is well positioned to operate successfully with social distancing in effect. Peak capacity will be reduced by about 45%, however historical utilisation at close to capacity is limited to about 15% of the trading week and existing plans to extend periods of optimal utilisation will support the evolution and adaption of TGI Friday’s operating model for as long as is necessary. TGI will maintain its sustainable site development plan and we will ensure it is well positioned to optimise future performance and grow long-term value in what may be a very different market.”


Andy Wood, chief executive of AdnamsAndy Wood (pictured), chief executive of Suffolk brewer and retailer Adnams, has said pubs face bankruptcy if forced to follow strict social distancing measures upon reopening later this year. It comes after draft guidance from UKHospitality suggested customers could be stopped from sitting at the bar drinking among other restrictions. But Wood said the rule would make it “very difficult” for pubs to operate and suggested a reduction to one metre in terms of social distancing – as long as it does not come at the expense of people’s safety. He told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme: “Well I think there’s quite a bit of evidence from the pub industry that operating with two metres in terms of social distancing is going to be very difficult and could lead to many bankruptcies in the pub industry.” He added: “Clearly there’s one part of us that would like to see the two-metre distance rule reduced but that cannot be at the expense of the safety of customers, of communities and staff. So at the end of the day we’ve got to go with the health advice.”


Phil Tate, European CEO at CGA StrategyThe number of licensed premises in Britain at the end of March was down 2.4% compared with the previous year, standing at 115,108, but the rate of decline is set to accelerate once the hospitality sector begins to reopen, according to new research. The latest CGA AlixPartners Market Recovery Monitor showed the independent sector remains the largest segment of the market, with 74,271 sites – almost two-thirds of the total – alongside almost 41,000 group-owned sites. But with only a third (36%) of industry leaders believing they will eventually reopen all their sites for trading and another third (32%) anticipating the need to permanently close sites, those numbers are set to fall further. Industry estimates of the scale of closures vary widely, from below 10% to as high as 30% of total sites, said CGA group chief executive Phil Tate (pictured).


Alison Brittain, chief executive of WhitbreadWhitbread has launched a rights issue to raise £1bn. The company said its UK hotels are ready to open when the government advises – internal scenarios include the assumption that hotels are closed, or at low levels of occupancy, until September 2020. Its German hotels re-opened 11 May 2020. The company said it has revised operational protocols that have been tested and working in 39 open hotels. The company stated: “Our operating model ensures strict social distancing, significantly enhanced hygiene standards and specific staff training can be rigorously and consistently enforced across the estate.” It said that 27,000 furloughed staff remain on full pay. Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain (pictured) said: “Whitbread delivered a resilient financial performance in FY20 in line with expectations, against a backdrop of low UK business and consumer confidence which particularly impacted the regional hotel market. The commercial initiatives we implemented during H1 helped drive a particularly strong end to the year, when we were trading ahead of the market and achieving very strong guest scores. In Germany, we completed the acquisition of the Foremost Hotels on 28 February 2020, growing the number of open and pipeline hotels to 52. However, the period after the year-end has been dominated by the impact of the rapidly evolving covid-19 pandemic. In response, the business took rapid and decisive action to protect our teams and our guests, and to secure our business to ensure that we will be in the best possible position to rebound strongly. We are pleased to have been able to help in the national effort, by keeping 39 hotels open that are located near hospitals for use by NHS staff and other front-line key workers. We transferred our vehicle delivery capacity to supermarkets to help their supply chains, and also donated over 158 tonnes of food to charities, producing over 335,000 meals for those in need. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our employees for their hard work over the last year, and the resilience they have shown in the face of the current very challenging situation. I am extremely proud of, and grateful to, all our teams and in particular those colleagues who have volunteered to work in our open hotels. Having taken every step we could to ensure that we have the financial capability to withstand the initial period of lockdown, our focus has turned to re-opening and positioning ourselves for a successful recovery. The hotels that we have re-opened in Germany and the UK have given us a head start in implementing new and comprehensive safety, health and hygiene protocols that will give our teams and guests the re-assurance that we can continue to deliver the very high quality standards that they expect from Premier Inn. Despite the challenges the industry faces, Whitbread’s strategy to drive long-term value has not changed and remains compelling. We have a significant opportunity to continue to build out our pipeline in the UK, along with optimising our large network of hotels by investing in upgraded formats such as our Premier Plus rooms, which are proving very popular with both our business and leisure guests. Germany offers an enormous opportunity for structural growth, with a large domestic market and a fragmented and declining independent sector. As a result of the current crisis, we expect there to be an impact on the competitive landscape and to see a material slowdown in the supply of rooms in both our key markets, and potentially an acceleration in the decline of the large independent sector. Our ownership and operating model underpins a winning customer proposition, that we believe will thrive as customers return to travelling domestically and continue to seek value and to rely on their most trusted brands. Our strong balance sheet has for many years been a source of competitive advantage and has underpinned our long-term success. To enable us to continue to invest with confidence in the compelling structural growth opportunities that we see in the UK and Germany, we are raising £1bn through a fully underwritten rights issue. Optimising the balance sheet in this way will enable the business to be in the best possible position to continue investing and taking market share in our fragmented sector when the current situation normalises. Whitbread is a strong and much-loved business that has successfully navigated numerous turbulent periods during its proud 278-year history. The combination of the strengths of our people, business model and our brands, alongside a strong balance sheet and the decisive action that we have taken, means that when the covid-19 situation passes, we will be in a position of strength to continue to increase market share, support our colleagues and guests and create further significant value for shareholders.”


Lost In Brixton, the new "hidden" rooftop bar in Brixton Village from Incipio GroupIncipio Group has positioned itself for its next stage of growth with the appointment of co-owner Ed Devenport as chief executive. Devenport, who joined the company in January 2016, will become the company’s first chief executive since it was founded by Charlie Gardiner in 2015. The appointment follows significant growth plans for the six-strong London-based business, which in 2019 announced a £5m investment by Edition Capital as well as building its executive leadership team with the recent hires of Tom Brand as finance director and Anthony Knight as sales and marketing director. In the newly created role, Devenport will be responsible for steering Incipio Group through the next phase of its ambitious growth plans and will continue to work closely with Gardner and Incipio Group’s executive leadership team to further strengthen the company’s presence in London and across the UK. Taking a step back from day-to-day running of the business to focus on the sourcing and development of future openings, Gardiner will remain active in the company’s strategic leadership through his position on its board, alongside Edition Capital. Gardiner said: “Ed’s contribution to the success of the business over the past four years has been substantial and he has proven to be a visionary leader with an outstanding strategic and commercial awareness. I am confident his background and experience is well suited to lead the company’s next phase of growth and success.” Devenport added: “Over the past four years it has been an absolute pleasure working with Charlie. His creative instincts and vision have been integral in Incipio’s success and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him. On a personal note, It is a great honour for me to lead such an amazing company and I feel particularly fortunate to be doing so when surrounded by such a talented team as the one that is at Incipio.”


Kevin Charity, founder, Coaching Inns GroupCoaching inn and hotel operator The Coaching Inn Group has secured £2.5m in funding from NatWest, through the government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), as well as restarting its pre-crisis refurbishment plans for the Rutland Arms in Bakewell, its latest acquisition. Finance director Edward Walsh said “This latest round of support from NatWest provides us with sufficient liquidity to see out the next stage of the pandemic and allows us now to focus on reopening the business as and when the easing of government restrictions allow. The furlough scheme has been a major boost for the sector and has allowed us to protect the jobs of all our employees, while CBILS now provides us the headroom to extend that support right through our supplier base, which has been fantastically supportive throughout.” As part of its “covid-19 secure” reopening proposals, the company has also confirmed it will be going cashless as it looks to minimise the risk of transmission in sites as well as launching an order and pay app to aid further contactless transactions. Chief executive Kevin Charity (pictured) added: “We will continue to keep hospitality at the centre of our approach and hope the social distancing measures can be kept to a minimum, but in whatever form they come we are confident our venues will be among the best placed to continue to operate.” Charity also confirmed the company was restarting its £1m refurbishment project at The Rutland Arms with a view to reopening at the end of July. The 33-bedroom hotel will see a full refurbishment of its bed stock as well as all food and beverage trading areas including the introduction of a new standalone coffee shop. The Coaching Inn Group operates 17 market town located coaching inn hotels, across 14 different counties throughout England and Wales.


Thwaites new brewery headquarters planBrewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has said it is committed to taking the difficult and necessary decisions to preserve the long-term future of the business. The company, which closed all its pubs, inns and hotels on 20 March, said preservation of cash was an “absolute priority” and as a result it had taken the decision not to pay a final dividend for the year ending 31 March 2020. Future dividends will be reviewed when normal trading levels resume. The group said it benefits from owning the freeholds of all its properties and is therefore not under pressure to pay third-party landlords rent, as “others in the industry are having to do”. However, it does have financing obligations in the form of interest payments to its funders. The company renewed its banking facilities in the first quarter of 2020 and at 31 March 2020 had net debt of £65.4m with total facilities of £82m, giving headroom of more than £16m. It said it was monitoring cash flow very closely and was also giving consideration to whether it was necessary to take advantage of one of the government-backed loan schemes as a “prudent measure to ensure it has sufficient facilities to get through the recovery period and return to normal trading levels”. Thwaites said: “The company was trading very strongly prior to this crisis and we hope to return to that level of trading in the future once our properties are allowed to open by the government. The company has been through troubled times before and has a strong asset base and an experienced management team to assist in finding a pathway through the challenging times ahead.” More than 90% of the group’s workforce are on furlough while the board and executive team have taken pay cuts of up to 30%. The company is also taking advantage of business rate exemptions across its retail properties, assisting pub tenants to claim grants and claiming grants for its managed pubs where appropriate. It is also negotiating either suspension of contracts or reduced payments with suppliers; agreeing payment deferrals with HM Revenue & Customs for VAT and PAYE; temporarily pausing deficit contributions to its defined benefit pension funds; and putting all non-essential capital expenditure on hold for the foreseeable future.


North west brewer and retailer Hydes has announced managing director Chris Hopkins is to retire after 22 years. He will be succeeded by finance director Adam Mayers, who “emerged as the strongest candidate from a selection process that attracted significant external interest”. Hopkins, who advised the business of his intention to retire last year, will leave on 1 June with Mayers taking over immediately. Hopkins said: “It feels very odd to be leaving what has always been a bustling and vibrant business at a time when it is not trading at all. However, I am pleased the company was in a robust financial position prior to the closure in March and is well set to deal with the extraordinary challenges that it currently faces. I’m confident it will reopen and thrive once again in the future.” Mayers joined Hydes in February 2009 as finance director and has been actively involved in all aspects of the business throughout his time, including the acquisition of Woodward and Falconer and the move to the new brewery site in 2012. Prior to his time with Hydes he held various financial posts in other businesses including Citi Group, Interfloor and Arthur Andersen. Mayers said: “I am delighted to be given this opportunity to lead Hydes. These are very challenging times for us all, but I feel Hydes is well placed to look forward with confidence when the pubs and brewery reopens.”


Thom Elliot, co-founder of Pizza PilgrimsThom Elliot (pictured), co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims, has said the worst-case scenario for the 12-strong business during lock-down would be to “rip up the rule book, change loads of stuff” and in the process change something that was “fundamental, or special, or great”. Speaking as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Elliot said: “The most positive spin you can put on this is you have been given the gift of time. Something like Facebook Workplace, which we are using, would have taken us months to implement but has taken a few days, as we have had the time to focus on it. It is so easy to look at this opportunity and think ‘great what are we going to change’. Actually, I have been very clear we mustn’t look at it that way but start with what do we want to protect? What’s the bits we love about the business and mustn’t change? Once we have got that nailed, then we can talk about change. The worst-case scenario is you go and rip up the rule book, change loads of stuff and change something that was fundamental, or special, or great. We are looking to make stuff better, but it’s starting on what’s great and working down.” On the brand’s popular Frying Pan Pizza Kit offer, Elliot said the initial aim was to do a 100 a week. He said: “Three weeks ago we put 50 up for sale, and sold them in 27 seconds. We did another 50 the next day and sold them faster, with about 500 people trying to buy them in the first minute of going on sale. We then put up 1,100 the next day, thinking that will see us out for a few weeks, and they sold out in 50 minutes. We are now doing 600 a day out of Victoria. It is very much a sticking plaster and keeping the business afloat during this. We are yearning to have our pizzerias open and it is not a solution to everything but it is income we didn’t expect to have and it is making a small profit. We have also been able to take more people off furlough to support it, which is a great thing. However, more than the commercial aspect, is the positivity it is generating, which is great, including getting 200 to 300 messages a day on Instagram about them. We have put on tens of thousands of Instagram followers during lock-down through it.”


BeerCondiments would be removed from tables and drinkers stopped from jostling at the bar under plans aimed at allowing hospitality firms to in July. The hotel buffet could also be stopped, while tips will become digital to minimise the handling of notes which could harbour covid-19. The measures are revealed in a draft working 75-page document set to be submitted to ministers by UKHospitality and offer a first glimpse into a new socially distanced world of eating and drinking when Britain reopens. The trade body warned the industry should not be restricted by a one-size-fits-all approach and urged governments in Westminster, Holyrood and Cardiff to be flexible. Hospitality businesses have been told they could reopen as early as 4 July if able to do so safely. The submission includes tailored guidelines for individual businesses such as pubs, restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, nightclubs and holiday parks. People visiting restaurants and pubs for food should expect reduced menus as businesses are encouraged to keep kitchen staff away from each other. In hotels, self-service buffets should be prevented “as far as possible”, according to the advice, while individually wrapped condiments and sauces should be given on request. Guests using hotel facilities such as gyms, spas and pools could be encouraged to change in their hotel room to avoid overcrowding of changing rooms. Gyms should remove treadmills and other equipment to ensure a safe distance between visitors, the draft guidelines stated. Pubs could see an end to customers jostling to get their order in at the bar, with advice encouraging table service where possible. Pub staff should bring cutlery, condiments and salt and pepper shakers to customers when food is served rather than laying tables in advance. Staff may also need to patrol pub gardens to prevent large groups from gathering , the advice said. Meanwhile, tipping restaurant waiters and hotel porters with cash could end as businesses have been encouraged to go contactless wherever possible. Amusement parks and other family entertainment sites may be forced to cancel character shows, concerts and end of day parades to ensure compliance with potential social distancing rules. UKHospitality is urging the government to endorse the guidelines to ensure businesses could prepare for reopening from 4 July as part of its #FAIR4Hospitality campaign launched today (Wednesday, 20 May).
James Nye AC InnsAnglian Country Inns, the pub and restaurant operator led by James Nye (pictured), has begun reopening sites for takeout as it begins scenario planning for life after lock-down, Propel has learned. The company has reopened The Jolly Sailors in Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk, and The Cricketers in Weston, Hertfordshire, serving pizza and ribs. Meanwhile, it will reopen its coffee shop at the Hermitage Rd Bar & Restaurant in Hitchin on Wednesday (20 May), offering takeaway coffee and chicken burgers. Nye said: “We are starting to look at how we can reopen our sites safely and how things might look in the future. We are starting our covid-19 training for our staff, which we think is really important because we think if they feel safe then it will rub off on the customers. It’s also an opportunity for us to begin restarting our supply chain and also to try reducing our cash burn rate. It’s all about scenario planning at the moment.” Nye said given the location of many of its sites and large beer gardens, he hopes the company will benefit “to a degree” from the expected staycation boom this summer with many Brits expected to holiday at home given travel restrictions. With technology set to play a big role in the “new normal”, Nye said the company was working on various projects, including a gift card and loyalty promotion that would be used to help raise money for local charities “that are really in need of funds to deal with the covid-19 crisis”. He added the business was getting as much feedback from customers as possible about its takeout service through its partnership with Wireless Social as it looks at the possibility of using the information to encourage guests to return via incentives through the digital platform. Nye, who said its handful of private landlords had been “understanding”, added: “There’s only so much we know at the moment so we are doing what we can in terms of planning so we can be prepared as best as possible for reopening when that time comes.”

Propel has launched a campaign called BeatTheVirus to help operators through the coronavirus crisis.

We have teamed up with Propel Multi Club conference series partners to offer the sector their expertise. Partners will offer more general advice and highlight some of the initiatives they are doing.

Companies supporting the BeatTheVirus campaign include Airship, Bums on Seats, CACI, Christie & Co, COREcruitment, CPL Learning, Cynergy Bank, Elliotts, Hastee, haysmacintyre, John Gaunt & Partners, KAM Media, Prestige Purchasing, S4labour, Startle, Ten Kites, The NPD Group, Toggle, Trail, Venners, Wireless Social, Yapster and sector trade body UKHospitality.

Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “It is amazing to see how the industry has come together during this crisis and here at Propel we want to do our bit. This is why we are working with Multi Club partners to offer expert support and advice to our readers and to answer their questions at what is a tough time for everyone.”

Readers can email questions for our experts to paul.charity@propelinfo.com. Please use BeatTheVirus in the subject line.

Richard Hartley, chief product officer of S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, has offered readers advice on the issue of furlough pay.

He said: “We are awaiting further information from the government but for those of you that need to pay your teams now, this is how we are treating furlough pay. In the absence of any advice we’re treating this as a normal pay element. It therefore attracts National Insurance payments, pension payments and is subject to holiday accrual.

“If the government changes any element regarding this, we plan to make adjustments in the next pay run to reflect those changes. The government is creating a portal for employers to claim back the furlough pay and aims to have this up and running by the end of April – presumably in time for April’s pay run.

“This will mean organisations need to fund any payments up to this point out of current cash reserves, which will undoubtedly take its toll on some operators. The intention is that organisations use the additional support available to bridge these payments. We will update this advice as we receive more information.”

Hartley said S4labour had also drafted a key worker letter. He added: “Our payroll team has moved to remote working and is working tirelessly to ensure we accurately process the pay for so many of our customers in these difficult times and with the additional pressure of furlough adjustments.

“We are, therefore, grateful the government has afforded them key worker status. As such, we have drafted a key worker letter they can pass on to relevant parties. For a copy of this letter, email Sam@s4labour.co.uk
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Readers can email questions for our experts to paul.charity@propelinfo.com. Please use BeatTheVirus in the subject line.

Propel has launched The Delivery Conference, which is open for bookings. The ground-breaking event, which takes place at One Moorgate Place, London, on Wednesday, 30 September, will cover all aspects of this fast-growing sector, offering expertise, ideas and insights.

NPD Group foodservice director Dominic Allport will talk about the delivery market’s growth, key developing trends and where the sector goes from here. KAM Media managing director Katy Moses will reveal consumer perceptions of the market and how they use and interact with delivery operators.

Robin Himmels, of Eatclever, will explain how the company has become one of the leading virtual delivery brand operators in Europe and how he sees this part of the market developing. Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK, will talk to Mark Wingett about early adoption of delivery during his time at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, challenges and opportunities, and how delivery is working for Burger King.

Just Eat UK head of strategic accounts Amy Heather, who leads the company’s relationships with QSR, casual dining and mid-market operators, will discuss major trends Just Eat is seeing, key things it has learned, and how it is using data and insights to help operators improve the delivery experience.

AlixPartners US director Eric Dzwonczyk and UK counterpart Steve Braude will talk about the US delivery market and how it differs with our own. Susan Martindale, group HR director at Mitchells & Butlers, will look at building a delivery strategy for pubs, the company’s use of virtual brands and a possible move into dark kitchens.

Richard Morris, chief executive of Tortilla, will reveal how delivery has forced an evolution of his business for the better. Wagamama’s Andre Johnstone will reveal how the brand has incorporated delivery and click and collect into its model and how it strikes a balance between in-store and digital sales. Deliveroo director of national accounts Matt Ring will talk to Mark Wingett about how the business continues to innovate, its use of data to create virtual brands and the challenges it faces to stay ahead.

Meanwhile, a panel featuring Macro Foods founder Kirsty-Lee Griffiths, Crosstown Doughnuts’ JP Then, Yard Sale Pizza founder Johnnie Tate, and Bababoom founder Eve Bugler will discuss launching, operating and growing in a delivery-focused world.

Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “Given delivery is one of the fastest-growing channels in the sector – and as its importance continues to rise – we are delighted to present this ground-breaking conference, which will allow operators to make the most of the opportunity delivery offers.”

Tickets to the event cost £295 for Propel Premium members, £345 for operators and £395 for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

More than 300 readers have now signed up to Propel Premium – while those joining the new-look Propel Premium Club can save money by receiving a pair of free tickets to one of four conferences in 2020.

Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular columns from insights editor Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,500 businesses.

Meanwhile, subscribers to the new-look Propel Premium Club will be able to choose to use a pair of free tickets to one of the following conferences – The Delivery Conference (Tuesday, 21 April), The Finance and Investment Conference (Thursday, 14 May), The Casual Dining Summit (Monday, 12 October) or The New Concept Conference (Monday, 19 October). The normal cost of two tickets to these events is £490 plus VAT for operators and £690 plus VAT for suppliers.

An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Mark McCullochOperators can map their marketing strategy for 2020 through a video collection that features all sessions from the Social Media for Profit Masterclass. The videos reveal how to build sales and brands using social media and are taken from the social media boot camp hosted by Mark McCulloch (pictured), who has more than 20 years’ brand, marketing, digital and social media experience that includes senior positions at Pret A Manger and YO!

McCulloch reveals the hot trends and tips for 2020 and what social media strategists should focus on including channels, content and untapped areas you may be neglecting. He also reveals how businesses can grow their reach by creating a personal brand and using their most senior people to make that brand more human, relevant and accessible.

McCulloch is joined in the video series by Alison Battisby, founder and director of social media consultancy Avocado Social, who has ten years of social media experience and is a Facebook-accredited trainer. She reveals the best way to use Instagram to drive bookings and the do’s and don’ts of working with influencers. She also reveals how to ensure your social media adverts are working successfully.

Meanwhile, Move Digital founder and managing director Geraint John reveals why voice activation is so important, what it can do for your business, where to start and how to build your voice strategy before you launch a new way to reach your customers that will leave your competitors behind. The full video collection is £295 plus VAT.

To order, call Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

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Propel Premium Club

Propel Premium Club annual subscription operator subscription costs £395 plus VAT and a supplier subscription costs £495 plus VAT
Benefits include:
  • A pair of free tickets to an event of your choice
  • Regular exclusive videos
  • Access to the Propel database of 1,600 multi-site companies, updated twice a year
  • Read Propel insight editor Mark Wingett’s weekly analysis column and City
  • Diary Discounts to attend other events
  • Plus insight from leading sector commentators from the UK and internationally

CONTACT: Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Prask Sutton, founder and chief executive of Wi5

The Supplier Perspective

Prask Sutton, founder and chief executive of Wi5, interviewed by Mark Wingett

CLICK HERE to view

Emma Reynolds, co-founder of Tonkotsu

Propel coronavirus crisis interviews

Emma Reynolds, co-founder of Tonkotsu, interviewed by Ann Elliott

CLICK HERE to view

Propel Quarterly Spring 2020

Propel Quarterly

The must read sector business analysis and intelligence magazine

To read our latest magazine CLICK HERE