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I am Doner introduces ‘micro-bonuses’, sees increased productivity and 90% drop in customer complaints

I am DonerI am Doner, the Think Hospitality-backed brand, has introduced “micro-bonuses” for its staff. The company said the move had been a “real turning point” for the business, which operates sites in Headingley, Harrogate and Leeds city centre, with an increase in productivity and customer complaints dropping by more than 90%.
Writing in this week’s Propel Friday Opinion, non-executive chairman James Hacon said: “We didn’t feel it was right to simply put more pressure on the team without rewarding them for this, so we made the tough – but right – call that, in the middle of the pandemic, we would increase our global pay rates significantly. We also wanted to start rewarding the team based on the right attitudes and behaviours that supported our business during this time.
We devised a plan to launch micro-bonuses. It was a real turning point for the business in terms of team happiness, as well as top-line growth and reducing negative feedback. The challenges we were trying to overcome were two-fold. Firstly, we had regular issues with order accuracy, resulting in regular refunds and ‘hangry’ customers.
The second was that when the going gets tough, it was too easy for the teams to increase the wait time for delivery orders or frustratingly turn the terminal off, which results in a poor service to customers. We felt with better incentivisation, the team might find that extra gear to push a little harder and keep those orders flowing. Our approach was quite simple.

We would pay a weekly bonus to all employees of 5% more per hour for every hour worked if they hit the realistic sales target for the site – and 5% if we have no controllable complaints, with both being directly linked back to overcoming our significant challenges. The result being that, in addition to their already enhanced pay package, the teams can earn 10% more directly linked to the performance of their store. The results have been fantastic, productivity is up, we’ve had far less turnover [of staff members], even with the current pressures of the market, and complaints dropped by more than 90%.”

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Delivery and takeaway sales in June tripled compared with pre-pandemic levels, showing they remain a core part of managed restaurant and pub groups’ sales despite the return of eating out, CGA’s latest Hospitality at Home Tracker revealed.

It showed sales in June were 225% higher than in June 2019 – a drop on growth figures of 345% in April and 273% in May, reflecting the return of the majority of restaurants and pubs for the first full month of indoor service of 2021 in June.

While some consumers have opted to start eating out again, deliveries and takeaways accounted for 35% of managed operators’ total sales in June, with eat-in contributing the remainder (65%). The tracker showed 2021-on-2019 growth in groups’ delivery sales was more than four times as high as takeaways. The emergence of third-party ordering platforms in recent years means the volume of deliveries now exceeds that of takeaways and click-and-collect orders.

Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “The restaurant and pub delivery market has flourished during the lockdowns of the past 16 months, and while growth has slowed from the period of forced closures, it is going to stay a very big part of managed groups’ sales.”


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Stonegate LogoStonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub company, has launched a senior secured notes offering as it looks to raise £165m, Propel has learned. The new notes will constitute a further issuance of the issuers – Stonegate Pub Company Financing 2019 – £1,070,000,000 8.25% senior secured notes due 2025. Upon completion, the proceeds from the offering of the new notes will be used to (i) finance capital expenditure in pubs owned by the Stonegate Group, (ii) for other general corporate purposes and (iii) pay certain transaction fees, expenses and costs. In July last year, Stonegate’s backer, private equity group TDR Capital, sold £1.2bn worth of bonds to finance its purchase of Ei Group. The main tranche of debt, a £950m sterling bond that matures in 2025, has a high coupon rate of 8.25%. The group also received £50m of direct funding from TDR Capital and, in November, issued a further £120m in bonds at the same rate and maturity. As of the end of September 2020, Stonegate said it had a cash balance of £294m. Rating agency Fitch said: “The November 2020 £120m bond tap enhanced group liquidity, whereas this planned issue targets conversion capex until the group re-establishes its potential capacity for £180m pre-capex cash from operations. The July 2021 bond tap offsets the weak cash-flow generation since the onset of the pandemic and Stonegate’s sponsor choosing not to provide expansionary capital. Similar to other pub groups, Stonegate’s identified capex targets a 2.5-year payback on incremental Ebitda. This is the main way Stonegate can reduce its high leverage.” Writing about Stonegate’s trading performance, Fitch said: “Since outdoor service reopening of pubs in mid-April and indoor services from mid-May, Stonegate’s volumes have quickly bounced back. Within the ex-Enterprise Inns leased and tenanted (L&T) portfolio, 95% of its pubs were open for the second period, beer orders averaged 81% (to mid-May) and 85% (thereafter to mid-June), with sales recently reaching 86% of the equivalent 2019 period. For the Stonegate managed portfolio, the equivalent figures are 85%, 74% and 87%, respectively, with sales recently at 81% of 2019. Management expects the fourth quarter of 2021 to revert to near-normal levels of profitability as normal trading conditions return from 19 July. Potential delays in this recovery could be another lockdown in autumn 2021, and the effect of post-furlough unemployment and weakened consumer purchasing power on pub volume and premiumisation of products (customers trading up). Management is confident it can return to its target run rate Ebitda of £414m (plus £56m of near-term synergies, thus around £460m net of pub disposals). Since March 2020, the pub industry has received significant government support (direct cash grants, furlough, business rates) during lockdowns. This has helped L&T publicans, meaning business failures are reportedly low. Some support has flowed to Stonegate’s managed portfolio but its town centre-biased units or night-activity venues have seen a slower recovery in profits than coastal or suburban locations. The lower-yielding L&T wet-led portfolio with contractual rent paid by publicans has been the backbone of subdued group profits during the pandemic.” Stonegate declined to comment. Earlier this week, it was reported Stonegate was suing a trio of insurers for losses it suffered during the pandemic. The company is seeking £845m in a claim filed at London’s High Court against MS Amlin, Liberty Mutual Insurance Europe and Zurich.

Island HouseRarebreed Dining founders Jonnie and Sarahjayne Matthew, are to begin the rollout of their fledgling Island House concept, with an opening in Woking, Surrey. Propel has learned that the Matthews, who launched Rarebreed with Jordan Hallows in 2014, have secured the former Café Rouge site in the town’s Jubilee Square. The Matthews launched their all-day restaurant and cocktail bar concept last year on the former ASK Italian site in Reigate, Surrey. Island House centres on a “vibrant neighbourhood environment with a passion for food, drink and personal service”. The concept’s menu is “fresh and changing, from healthy options to blow-out dishes”. Its drinks list takes “equal precedence with great coffee, home-grown cocktails and well-sourced wine and beer”. The owners said Island House would be a “magical place to hang out with enchanting spaces, brilliant music and charismatic people”. It’s thought the Matthews, who stepped down from Rarebreed in 2019, hope to open a number of sites in the south east under the new concept. The founders self-funded their first Rarebreed Dining site before Havisham Group, a privately owned investment fund founded by David Brownlow, invested £6m of committed equity capital and institutional leverage in August 2016 to fund expansion. AG&G acted on the Woking deal.

LeonNatural fast food brand Leon is set to get back on the expansion trail in London, with an opening in Camden. Propel understands the Nick Ayerst-led business has lined up an opening at 190 Camden High Street. Leon has more than70 restaurants throughout the UK – the majority of which are based in London – as well as in Amsterdam, Dublin, Rotterdam and Gran Canaria, with delivery kitchens in Manchester and Leeds. It recently unveiled plans for its first drive-thru restaurant in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. The new 2,000 square foot drive-thru restaurant will be the first of its kind for the Leon brand, and the fourth Leon restaurant to open in West Yorkshire. The 50-plus-cover restaurant, which is set to open in autumn 2021, is also the first new opening for the brand since its sale to EG Group in April 2021. In partnership with EG Group, this is the first of many planned drive-thru openings and the start of a focused and accelerated UK expansion with additional locations already identified.
Leon features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which has recently been updated for Premium subscribers. Leon has turned over an average of £53.3m in the past five years. The Blue Book provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks 280 companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.

Gordon RamsayChef Gordon Ramsay (pictured) is set to open his fourth Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, at Harrah’s Resort Southern California. The restaurant, which is set to launch in spring next year, will be the third Hell’s Kitchen in the US – and the largest to date. It will have capacity for 332 guests across the bar, full-service restaurant and lounge. The new restaurant is a partnership between Ramsay and Caesars Entertainment, in conjunction with ITV America. From its show kitchen, Ramsay’s chefs will serve a menu that features many of his most famous dishes, including beef wellington, lobster risotto and sticky toffee pudding. “Hell’s Kitchen at Harrah’s Resort represents one of our most exciting projects to date,” said resort chairman Bo Mazzetti. “It’s an exciting moment to be able to bring such a well-known, high-energy concept to the resort and it’s perfectly in line with our continued commitment to keeping our guests excited, energised and full of options.” Hell’s Kitchen also operates in Caesars Palace Las Vegas, Caesars Bluewaters Dubai and Harveys Lake Tahoe. Ramsay is continuing to grow his UK restaurant business having opened the largest site to date under his fledgling Street Burger brand at The O2 in London this month. Ramsay is also set to open a site under the name Bread Street Cafe on the former Limeyard unit in Ealing High Street.

Restaurant and deli concept Colette is lining up a third opening in London, in Battersea. Propel understands the business has applied to open on the former Cath Kidston site at 142 Northcote Road. It recently opened a second site in the capital, on the former Iris fashion store in Wimbledon High Street. Colette was founded by Dimitri and Mira Plaquet in 2019 and opened its debut site in Fulham Road, Chelsea, in January last year. The kitchen is led by former Ritz chef Chris Hill and has a seasonally changing menu. The deli offers more dishes to take away such as beef tartar and homemade Scotch eggs, alongside charcuterie, smoked salmon, caviar, fresh truffles, wine, cheese and chocolates. Propel understands Colette is seeking further sites, with South Kensington, Victoria and Mayfair among its targets.
Stephen Owens, managing director of pubs and restaurants at Christie & CoCautious optimism is keeping the pub and restaurant market buoyant, according to the mid-year review by agent Christie & Co. Throughout the first half, investors remained most attracted to freehold opportunities in rural and coastal tourist-led locations, which capture trade from staycations. However, the volume of opportunities coming to market was limited, likely due to operators being focused on reopening and hoping to capitalise on the anticipated summer boom, delaying plans to sell as a result. In addition, the wave of distress Christie & Co anticipated for the second quarter has not yet materialised due to ongoing government financial support measures. There was an uptick in corporate pub activity during the first quarter as some operators began to divest their portfolios and buyers were attracted back to the sector off the back of the government’s roadmap to ending restrictions and Budget announcements. For the UK restaurant market, the past six months was a very tough period for operators, particularly because the sector was already struggling prior to the onset of the pandemic in 2020. The decline in the value of the eating-out market was expected to reverse in 2021 but is now likely to be the end of 2022 before it experiences a full revival, Christie & Co said. Christie & Co’s latest sentiment survey indicated a sense of cautious optimism has begun to filter through the market since the last survey in January 2021, with one third of respondents noting they feel positive about seeing some recovery in the second half of 2021 and 49% stating there is potential opportunity due to the successful vaccination programme, easing of restrictions and the strength of the domestic staycation market. The survey suggests buyer demand for hospitality assets will continue to outstrip supply in the second half of 2021, with 17% of respondents noting they will be looking to sell, while 24% said they would be looking to buy. This is positive for sellers and may lead to more competitive bidding and dynamic pricing. Following a further boost over summer, Christie & Co said it anticipated more operators being confident to test the market from the third quarter onwards. Stephen Owens (pictured), managing director of pubs and restaurants, said: “We have seen strong buyer appetite from both established operators and new entrants with more buyers than sellers helping to keep prices strong, particularly for freehold properties in coastal, countryside and lifestyle locations, with competitive bidding for prized assets.”
Christie & Co is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

BrewDog's site at Edinburgh airportScottish brewer and retailer BrewDog swung into the red last year as booming sales of its craft beer online during covid-19 pandemic lockdowns failed to offset the impact of bar closures. The company reported a £13.1m pre-tax loss in 2020 despite reporting revenues of £238m for the year, 10% higher than in 2019. Co-founder James Watt called the revenue increase during the year “the most significant achievement in our short history”. After the pandemic closed hospitality venues around much of the globe, BrewDog switched to selling its beer through its online shop. Its e-commerce revenues were up 900% compared with 2019, as it shipped 750,000 orders in 12 months. BrewDog called its online shop one of the most important divisions of our entire global operation” during 2020, and has further rolled out its e-commerce platform to Europe, the US and Australia. Before the pandemic took hold, the brewer had expected to make 40% of its revenue from more than 100 bars, located around the world. BrewDog, which employs 1,600 people globally, reiterated the pandemic had not dented its plans to continue opening more venues. It is working on 30 new locations – including bars and hotels – in cities such as Manchester, Mumbai and Milan. Watt called 2020 “without a doubt the toughest year in our 13-year history”. He said the company’s team “galvanised in the fire and adversity of the past nine months, is also stronger than it has ever been”. That comes only weeks after BrewDog apologised to former employees who accused Watt and the company in an open letter of fostering a “culture of fear”. In the letter, since signed by more than 300 former employees, they alleged the company had created a “toxic” culture that left staff suffering from mental illness. Watt released an update earlier this month on the company’s response to the claims by the group calling themselves Punks with Purpose. He said the firm has launched an independent review of the culture within BrewDog, has sent out an anonymous staff survey and has committed to creating an employee representative group.

Artist impression of Harry's Bar, which Caprice Holdings is opening at St Christopher's PlaceCaprice Holdings, the Richard Caring-backed restaurant group, has promoted Richard Clark to managing director with immediate effect, Propel has learned. Clark was previously operations director for Caprice Holdings and The Ivy Collection, which he joined in January 2019. Before this, he held senior roles at Harbour Hotels and CAU Restaurants. Baton Berisha, chief executive of Birley Group, Caprice Holdings, The Ivy Collection and Bill’s Restaurant & Bar, told Propel: “I am delighted to announce Richard’s promotion to managing director. Richard has been an integral part of our team as operations director for Caprice Holdings and The Ivy Collection, and has been a driving force behind our continued evolution. Richard is best placed to deliver the unique experiences to our customers across our portfolio of restaurants. I look forward to continuing to work with Richard as we grow the business through 2021 and beyond.” Last week, Propel revealed Jonathan Peters had stepped down as chief financial officer of The Ivy Collection, Caprice Holdings, Birley Clubs and Bill’s Restaurant & Bar. Propel understands he stepped down to pursue another project and that his successor will be announced in due course.

Niche Katona founder of MowgliIndian street food concept Mowgli has lined up its first opening in the south east, in Brighton. Propel understands the Nisha Katona-led (pictured) company has applied to open on the Oasis unit in the city’s Dukes Lane. The 12-strong group recently opened in Cheshire Oaks, and has openings in Bristol and Cheltenham lined up for later this year. It has also secured sites in Edinburgh and Glasgow for 2022, while Katona, the founder of Mowgli, hinted last week an opening in London is a possibility for the Indian street food concept before the end of this year. In an Instagram update, Katona said “the dogs and family have approved a possible site in London for October”. She also said the business was looking at Newcastle and Cambridge for 2023-24 and the brand would “continue to build at the steady rate of four sites a year as long as you want us”.

Honest BurgersHonest Burgers, the Active Partners-backed business, is to further add to its presence in central London, with an opening in St Paul’s, Propel has learned. The circa 45-strong business, which is led by Frank Hayes, has secured the former YO! at 5-14 St Paul’s Churchyard. Pre-pandemic, it had previously been in talks to take the ex-Ernest Jones site in Paternoster Square. Earlier this year, Propel revealed the company had taken the former ASK Italian site in Watford’s Market Street, for an opening nearer the end of the summer. The business also secured a site at the City North development next to Finsbury Park Station. Earlier this month, the business revealed it was launching a concept incubator scheme in The Yard at Backyard Cinema, Wandsworth. The initiative seeks to help the company’s employees with their own food and beverage concept ideas.
Honest Burgers features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which has recently been updated for Premium subscribers. Honest Burgers has turned over an average of £23.9m in the past five years with an average pre-tax profit of £862,000. The Blue Book provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks 280 companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.
S4labourHospitality sales fell 9.6% last week compared with the same week in 2019, according to the latest data from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. Drink sales were down 17.7%, with food sales down 0.8% compared with the same week in 2019. Trading in London continues to lag with last week’s sales down 24.1%. This was largely attributed to drinks sales, which declined by 30.7%, while food sales dropped by 12.6%. Sites outside the capital traded below 2019 levels by 6.3%, with drinks sales falling 14%. However, food sales were slightly up by 1%. S4labour chief innovation officer Richard Hartley said: “Despite the excellent weather, there are a number of factors that are currently suppressing sales. With circa 5% of the adult population being forced into isolation last week, there are going to be fewer people able to get out. While the heat drove stronger performance for rural sites, London’s limited outside space made it difficult to capitalise on alfresco conditions. This coupled with the labour crisis, exacerbated by the covid app, made last week a particularly challenging environment for hospitality. While we wait in anticipation for what we hope will be a great week with restrictions being lifted, these figures show there is still a long way to go to fully restore consumer confidence.”
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Starbucks, Affogato FrappuccinoStarbucks franchisee Cobra Coffee, owned by Southern Co-op, has acquired the Starbucks business of Amsric Group. As a result, Cobra Coffee will operate 12 additional Starbucks stores across the south west and south of England. The deal takes the total number of Starbucks stores in the Cobra Coffee portfolio to 47. Cobra Coffee said: “We have expanded rapidly in recent years to bring the Starbucks experience to customers across the south of England, through both our physical stores and digital channels such as Starbucks Delivers. The acquisition will allow us to continue this expansion in the south west of the UK. We will also take forward existing Amsric plans to open two new Starbucks stores in Plymouth and Bognor Regis. We look forward to welcoming 120 partners into the Cobra Coffee family and we will be working closely with Amsric to ensure a smooth handover across every store, with terms and conditions for all partners remaining unchanged. Store product ranges and opening hours are also unaffected.” The 12 stores now operated by Cobra Coffee are Kingsley Village, Fraddon, Cornwall; Babylon Hill, Yeovil; Chiverton Cross, Truro; Victoria Square, Truro; Drake Circus, Plymouth; High Street, Exeter; Atlantic Village, Bideford; Alphington Road drive-thru, Exeter; Torquay; Whiteley Shopping Centre, Fareham; The Cascades Shopping Centre, Portsmouth; and Above Bar Street, Southampton. Operating since 2013, Cobra Coffee has Starbucks sites across the south and south west of England, with ambitious plans for growth over the next three years across Berkshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, East Sussex, south Gloucestershire, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent, Somerset, Surrey, West Sussex, Wiltshire and south London. Amsric Group is also an appointed franchisee for KFC and Anytime Fitness, and now operates a portfolio of about 60 sites across the two brands.
William Lees-Jones, Managing Director of JW LeesNorth west brewer and retailer JW Lees has reported sales were up 16% on “Freedom Day” compared with the same day in 2019, and increased 53% on the previous Monday (12 July 2021). Managing director William-Lees Jones (pictured) tweeted: “Was it our new-found freedoms or the heatwave? We’ve got a few pubs closed owing to the ‘pingdemic’ but the best news is our teams were not abused for implying daft rules – I hope we can start to move on.”
James ShaplandJames Shapland (pictured), the co-founder of Coffee#1, the Caffe Nero-owned brand, has begun building an openings pipeline for his new coffee concept, Coffi Lab. Propel understands Coffi Lab, which is led by former SA Brain finance director Hannah Gillard, has secured a further site in Wales, in Abergavenny. The fledgling concept, which opened its debut site in Monnow Street, Monmouth, last month, has secured the former Boots Opticians in the town’s Frogmore Street, for an opening later this year. As previously revealed by Propel, it will open its second site on the former HSBC site in Marlborough High Street later this summer. Propel understands the fledgling business has also applied to open a further site in the High Street of the Llandaff area of Cardiff. In line with the growth of Coffee#1, Shapland is seeking sites for the new concept in neighbourhood centres and high street market towns across south Wales and the south west.

Pizza Hut Gaming

Pizza Hut Delivery UK has announced the launch of a gaming arm of the brand – Pizza Hut Gaming. The brand, which has launched with a dedicated channel on Twitter, aims to deliver some “exciting influencer activations involving some top names in the scene”. Events will begin with regular community tournaments across a variety of key gaming titles, with the end goal of becoming the go-to pizza for gamers. At launch, Pizza Hut Gaming is running its first giveaway where new followers will have the chance to win meals. The campaign will reward a free pizza for every 100 followers gained. Pizza Hut Gaming’s first dedicated activation will take place this summer, with an additional four due to be delivered across 2021 and 2022. UK agency Kairos Media has been appointed to help launch the new gaming arm. Catriona Woodward, head of digital for Pizza Hut UK & Europe, said: “We are thrilled to announce, in partnership with Kairos Media, we are finally launching our dedicated Pizza Hut Gaming platform. We are working closely on some exciting initiatives throughout the year, which will be revealed in the near future. We are very excited to finally communicate directly with our gaming audience directly, putting them front of mind, and, at the end of the day, who doesn’t love pizza?”
Jane O’Riordan, chairman at Turtle Bay Restaurants, Turtle Bay and Flight ClubJane O’Riordan (pictured), chair of Caravan, Flight Club and Turtle Bay Restaurants, has said the sector is “definitely starting a period of investment activity” and to take advantage of this, leadership teams should be putting plans in place right now. Talking as part of AlixPartners’ Boardroom Minutes video series, O’Riordan said: “We are definitely starting a period of investment activity. There are some very strong brands with good growth runways in the UK and overseas, which are the right opportunities for the right partner to help come along and grow those businesses. You can definitely see there are good opportunities for those. You can see this strong rebound in consumer demand and how changes in consumer demographics and the change in competition has made the playing field, going forward, a different place to where it was five years ago. In addition, there are businesses that haven’t put the right strategies in place, which would benefit from more consolidation, and there are sectors out there where there are opportunities for this so you could put the right investment in, whether that be concept evolution or technologies that will come with bigger scale. There is going to be a period of strong investment activity, not necessarily all through acquisition, but certainly focusing on the growth play.” O’Riordan also said the sector has been supported by the government but it hasn’t “built resistance”. She said: “While we have all borrowed and been supported by the government during the period of recovery, we are now in a position where we are starting to open up again and are, at least, trying to repair our fragile balance sheets. However, there is no oxygen in that tank for growth out of that. We have been well supported and we can recover but we haven’t built resilience so, as a sector, many of the businesses, in order to grow, are going to look for growth capital or are going to look for opportunities for actually developing their businesses and to take advantage of future value creation. That, at the moment, is a challenge for leadership teams and everyone should be looking at what their options are. Whether that is extra investment for technology or concept evolution to adapt to consumer changes or for omni-channel approaches. It is going to require strategies that leadership teams should be putting in place right now. Across businesses that I am involved with, we are getting ready to take advantage of the period post-recovery when we need to grow our businesses from a position of having a very fragile balance sheet, and that requires growth capital but also strategies about what you are going to do with it. You can’t just say you are going to raise some money and carry on doing things you used to do before because the world is not going to be the same as it was before so you are going to have to look forward and say ‘what am I going to do to my businesses to make sure we are positioned to take advantage of this evolving consumer base?’.”
Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate NichollsThe findings by the Office for National Statistics on the impact of covid-19 on the hospitality sector shows investment is now needed in the sector to drive growth and help communities build back better, UKHospitality and the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) have said. According to the ONS study, consumer spending on hospitality remains at less than 70% of pre-pandemic levels. The trade bodies are urging the government to invest in the sector through the reform of VAT, beer duty and business rates, which “unfairly” penalise the sector. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls (pictured) said: “While ‘Freedom Day’ sees 12,000 venues finally open their doors and the sector operate viably for the first time in 16 months, hospitality is far from out of the woods. For the sector to enjoy a sustainable recovery, government will need to continue working closely with us in order to put in place the right trading environment including measures such as the extension of the business rates holiday until at least October, allowing firms to bounce back strongly, and to rebuild fragile consumer confidence.” BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “The numbers are clear – more investment is needed now for our sector so it can play a leading role in building society and the economy back better. Investment in our sector can help the country build back better with stronger communities, more jobs and a boost to villages, towns and cities across the country.”
AMT Coffee has launched a 100% bio-compostable coffee cups and lids made from sugar crop wasteAMT Coffee, which operates concessions at transport hubs, has appointed Paolo Peretti, formerly of Leon, Vital Ingredient and Patisserie Valerie, as its new interim managing director, Propel understands. At the same time, Propel understands property entrepreneur David Maxwell has joined the board of the circa 50-strong business, which was formed by the McCallum-Toppin family. Peretti previously held senior roles with Pret A Manger, Leon, BHS, SSP and Vital, where he was managing director. In 2019, he was appointed managing director of Patisserie Valerie’s retail business, stepping down from the role last spring. In its most recent accounts to 5 January 2020, AMT posted turnover of £20.8m, down from £22.9m in the previous year, with like-for-like sales down 3%. Pre-tax loss widened from £42,964 to £1.1m. It said the fall in sales could be attributed to difficult trading conditions and the closure of key locations due to station redevelopment works. Since its year end, the business obtained £350,000 under the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Last year, it was reported AMT Coffee owner Alistair McCallum-Toppin faced bankruptcy over a £1.5m debt to his sister-in-law. Alistair McCallum-Toppin, who was the company’s managing director, founded AMT Coffee in 1993 with his brothers Allan and Angus. The siblings began selling coffee from a single cart outside an Oxford shopping centre but have since expanded to more than 50 bars nationwide.
The Top Hat, Monopoly inspired bar, LondonA new immersive concept based on the popular board game Monopoly will open in central London. As revealed by Propel in March, the concept will launch in the ex-Paperchase site at 213-215 Tottenham Court Road. Monopoly Lifesized, which opens on Saturday, 14 August, will be an immersive experience that will open alongside the Top Hat restaurant and bar. It will comprise a 70-cover restaurant and 47-cover cocktail bar. It will be located at The Court – a new 22,000 square foot destination that spans three floors. Gameplay has been woven throughout the drinking and dining experience. Guests will have the opportunity to request a deck of “Monopoly Deal” with their drink order to engage in a quick-playing card version of the game or take a punt with the surprise “Take a Chance” cards on selected serves. The dining menu will be a “quintessentially British small plates concept”, where diners can choose a selection of miniature versions of classics such as The Top Hat Roast (rump steak, parsnip mash and mini Yorkshire pudding) and fish and chips. The bar will serve a selection of cocktails such as the Red Carpet Daiquiri, inspired by Leicester Square and its reputation for film premieres. There will also be soft drinks, craft beer, wine and spirits. It will sit alongside Monopoly Lifesized, which brings the game to life in a live 4D immersive experience across life-sized boards. The Court will be the first in a series of London venues dedicated to live gameplay. Hasbro announced last year, it had entered into a partnership with new company Gamepath to adapt the board game brand into a fully immersive event. Joseph Smith, director of food and beverage at The Top Hat, said: “This dining concept was conceived to encourage people to come together again, for what we hope will be a delicious nostalgic trip down memory lane. We’re excited to be part of the journey as London slowly comes back to life and to be opening a hospitality venture that celebrates the city and its wonderfully rich heritage.”
McMullen'sHertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen is to open a new pub near the Tower of London, Propel has learned. The company, which recently reopened the Kings Arms in Fitzrovia, will open the Traitors Gate on the former Brasserie Blanc site in Trinity Square, Tower Hill. The new site is behind the Liberty Bounds, which the company also owns, but there is a lease in place on the site to JD Wetherspoon. Scheduled to open this September, the Traitors Gate will be a “traditional London pub with a McMullen’s twist”, trading across two floors. Last month, McMullen said it was set to open six more sites over the next year, including an ex-JD Wetherspoon in Whitehall, in St Andrews Street in Cambridge, and in St Albans. It is also planning new-build sites at Campbell Wharf marina in Milton Keynes and in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire. The company said it continues to seek “good-quality” freehold and long leasehold property in London and the south east.
Four in ten (41%) Brits said they will visit the pub more often when restrictions are removed on “Freedom Day”, according to new research. The findings by KAM Media on behalf of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and Long Live The Local, also showed six in ten (59%) of pub-goers have said they are looking forward to meeting up with friends and family more easily. Half of Brits (47%) were looking forward to the atmosphere returning to normal when restrictions end. Almost a third of pub-goers (29%) said they missed chatting to pub staff like they used to before covid restrictions came into place. Half of the most regular pub-goers – 51% of those who visit a pub more than once a week – said that they were most looking forward to ordering at the bar once more. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Brits are looking forward to enjoying our pubs as they are meant to be. After almost 18 months of closure or heavy restrictions, this is a huge moment for our sector. Only now can the recovery of our pubs and breweries begin.” Patrick Dardis, chief executive of London pub retailer Young’s, added: “It’s great the pubs we love are back, but we cannot take them for granted, which is why we are backing the Long Live The Local campaign.” Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of brewer and retailer Greene King, added: “We support Long Live The Local and call for the government to invest in Britain’s pubs and breweries. In return we will help create stronger and more connected communities, investment, jobs and a thriving industry to be proud of.”
KAM Media is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Jon Lake, managing director of ChopstixJon Lake, managing director of Chopstix, the pan-Asian quick service restaurant concept, has said there is scope for several hundred sites under the circa 70-strong brand in the UK, as it also sets its sights on other territories. Speaking on Propel’s Friday Wrap series, Lake said: “We have three store types – high street, shopping centre and transport hubs. We are pretty low capex and high margin and on that basis we feel there is some real scope for several hundred Chopstixs in the UK. We have a pretty good supply chain, which means we can get across Europe as well. So we have built ourselves into a position where we have a lot to do in the UK but we also have our sights on other territories as well. We have ten new equity stores in the pipeline and pretty much the equivalent of that coming through on the franchise business as well. We are hoping to hit the 100-store mark in about 18 months’ time. We spent two years prior to the pandemic making a lot of changes to the business and had some real momentum, so we have taken some time to consolidate during the crisis, but coming out the other side we are in a position to put our foot back on the gas again relatively quickly. Now it’s about building the brand, because we have to a degree flown under the radar a little bit.” In terms of trading, Lake said it had been fascinating, with geographical splits, splits between shopping centres and motorways. He said: “Central London is still a challenge, so it will be interesting to see if life returns there this week, and also whether we see an uplift in communal dining areas in shopping centres. Out-of-town shopping schemes have been hugely over trading.” Lake touched on the challenges with staffing and property, but also the issues faced trying to get hold of building materials for new and existing sites. He said: “I was talking to our project manager the other day and she was saying she could barely get hold of a fridge. Then there is the issue with logistics firms with driver shortages and the impact on the food supply chain. The pandemic is obviously a global issue, and there are other factors at play, but it means being able to recover all that supply chain piece is going to be a very sluggish process and will be a huge hangover for businesses as we try to recover.”
House of GodsSector investor Imbiba has invested an additional £5m in boutique hotel brand House of Gods as part of a £9.8m package to expand its offering, including two new sites. House of Gods, which was founded by brothers Mike and Ross Baxter in September 2019 and opened its Edinburgh property that year, has also secured a £4.8m loan from OakNorth Bank. The funds are helping the Baxters create two, four-star, boutique hotels in Manchester and Glasgow, and launch Casablanca Cocktail Club at their Edinburgh site, with the intention of further expanding the brand to other UK cities. The team is looking for additional freehold and leasehold properties that could be converted to further House of Gods hotels. An Imbiba spokeswoman told Propel the UK staycation market has been booming in recent years, a trend which is expected to continue, with millennials increasingly seeking to spend more time holidaying in Britain. House of Gods Hotel in Edinburgh was partially funded via a £1.1m loan from OakNorth Bank. The brothers said at the time they wanted to have five House of Gods hotels by 2022 with 20 to 50 rooms each. Mohith Sondhi, senior debt finance director at OakNorth Bank, said: “Prior to covid-19, The House of Gods hotel in Edinburgh had been trading extremely well. When hotels were allowed to reopen in late April this year, it achieved 90% occupancy in May and 95% occupancy in June – a clear demonstration of the demand for this unique hotel concept. We want to ensure the business has the capital it needs to not only take advantage of the demand when all restrictions end next month, but to also maximise opportunities to continue growing the brand in the meantime.” Mike and Ross Baxter said: “The Edinburgh hotel has been incredibly well received and we feel both Glasgow and Manchester are the perfect locations for the two new hotels.”
7Bone7Bone Burger Co, which is backed by Kings Park Capital, is set to open two new restaurants in Kent and has four further sites in legals, Propel has learned. 7Bone, which recently opened its tenth site, in Coventry, has managed to remain profitable throughout the pandemic and maintained sales, on average, of more than 60% of pre-covid levels. The company is on site at the two Kent restaurants and is aiming to open them in August or September. The company will be opening in Canterbury after securing the former Byron site in Burgate and in Maidstone in the former Cafe Rouge premises in Earl Street. 7Bone is also in legals on sites in Surrey, the West Midlands, Kent and Spelthorne. Co-founder Matt Mollicone told Propel: “Where we’ve seen rental markets soften (and stayed militant around rent levels in our model, it’s enabled us to maintain a rent to revenue ratio of under 5%), we’ve been able to pick up sites in target towns where previously we wouldn’t have been able to afford to. Trade through the pandemic has been solid and given real confidence to the next phase of growth, as we’ve been able to maintain sales, on average, of more than 60% of pre-covid levels while solely operating as takeaway/delivery, which has meant the business has remained profitable throughout. This is largely thanks to being quick out the blocks with a very proactive team. The time also offered a great opportunity to review all aspects of the business and dedicate time to major website improvements (new site launching imminently) and a step change in quality and design of our takeaway packaging, resulting in a customer experience (at home) as close as it can be to what they receive in the restaurants.” 7Bone opened its first restaurant in Southampton in 2013 with Kings Park Capital taking an equity stake in the business in August 2016. Its other sites are in Bournemouth, Camberley, Eastbourne, Hove, Newbury, Northampton, Portsmouth and Reading.
Tim MartinJD Wetherspoon is set to place an eight-strong package of pubs on the market, Propel has learned. Propel understands Wetherspoon will place the package of pubs, which comprises six freehold and two long leasehold sites, on the market this week. The pubs are The St Georges Hall in Redfield, Bristol (freehold); Chapel an Gansblydhen in Bodmin, Cornwall (freehold); The Drum in Leyton (freehold); The Bell in Aylesbury (freehold); North & South Wales Bank in Wrexham (freehold); Sir Daniel Arms in Swindon (long leasehold); Postal Order in Worcester (freehold); and the Robert Peel in Bury (long leasehold). From Monday (19 July), the company will revert to the measures that were in place in its pubs in July 2020 after the first lockdown as they are a “sensible backstop for the industry and strike a fair balance between health, employment and the economy”. Chairman Tim Martin (pictured) said he hoped the “arbitrary and capricious” government rules, such as the requirement for substantial meals, curfews and table service, “which have no scientific provenance”, can be avoided in future.

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