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Eight in ten people will take ‘one or two’ UK-based staycations this year

Brits on the beach as staycations continue to riseAlmost eight people out of ten (79%) will take “one or two” UK-based staycations this year, according to vacation rental site TravelNest’s Travel and Tourism Survey.
 
In the survey of more than 600 people across the UK, rural holidays (51%) are most popular with Brits, followed by beach holidays (43%), city breaks (36%), road trips (29%) and activity holidays (19%). The research also found more than half of respondents will not take a holiday abroad this year and while only a quarter of people are “very likely” to book a holiday before they have had their covid vaccine, this figure more than doubles post-vaccination.
 
Other findings included 44% plan to holiday in summer (June, July and August) with 23% planning a vacation in autumn (September, October and November). Average booking value has increased by about 40% in 2021 versus the last three months of 2020.
 
TravelNest chief operating officer Rebecca Moore said: “The findings, together with our own booking activity, reveal significant pent-up demand for holidays when restrictions allow, and the vaccine is affecting decision-making by significantly increasing traveller confidence.”

 

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The McDonald's restaurant at Maylands Gateway Retail Park in Hemel Hempstead – the fourth site for franchisee CompasscoDigital sales in the US restaurant market rose 124% in 2020, to $45bn, according to new analysis. According to eMarketer, in 2021, they are projected to increase by 22.3%, to $54.97bn, and in 2022, by 16.3%, to $63.93bn.
By 2025, digital sales will account for 54% of limited and quick-service restaurant business, according to a study by Incisiv. That would be an increase of 70% over pre-pandemic estimates. Companies launched a series of initiatives in 2020 as they looked to speed up the digital process.
 
For KFC, a new e-commerce ecosystem streamlined off-premises order handling. As a result, transaction times at the window reduced by 16 seconds in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared with the fourth quarter of 2019.
 
The Habit added kerbside pick-up, which accounted for 10% of all sales and 50% of mobile sales. Through its Go Mobile ecosystem, Taco Bell saw drive-thru transaction times drop below four minutes while Pizza Hut saw an 18% growth in like-for-like sales from off-premise channels. McDonald’s also benefited from a shift to digital, generating $10bn from online sales across its top six markets in 2020. They accounted for 20% of the company’s total annual sales.
 
 

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The new Fazenda in Birmingham being opened by City District GroupSouthern Wind Group, a newly formed company headed up by the management team of the parent company behind the Fazenda brand, has acquired the bulk of the restaurant business via a pre-pack administration. Julian Pitts and Bob Maxwell of Begbies Traynor in Leeds were appointed joint administrators of City District Limited, which trades as the Fazenda Rodizio Bar & Grill alongside sister brand Picanha by Fazenda, yesterday (1 March). Southern Wind Group Ltd, which is headed up by City District Limited’s former chief executive Terence Langley and managing director Tomás Maunier, will continue to trade as ‘Fazenda’ and will retain the Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and Liverpool Fazenda sites, saving 243 jobs. However, Fazenda Birmingham and Picanha Chester are not included in the deal and 69 staff will be made redundant. The business said it had suffered from the impact of prolonged lockdowns and restrictions caused by covid-19, which resulted in a significant build-up of landlord and HMRC arrears which could no longer be serviced without additional funding. After a period of marketing undertaken by Begbies Traynor Group, a pre-packaged sale was agreed. The acquisition also includes the recently launched e-commerce arm of the business ‘Fazenda at Home’. Chief executive of Southern Wind Group, Langley, said: “The pandemic has meant that we have had to regroup and review to navigate the current climate as best we can and put the business in good stead in order to come back strong. We have high hopes that Fazenda will find the right place in Birmingham to operate in the near future, and we can continue on the growth path planned pre-covid.” Maunier said: “Unfortunately rent negotiations and significantly reduced cash flow has led to this difficult decision to close two of the restaurants. The hardest part is that we were unable to retain the whole team, though we are extremely proud to have secured over 200 jobs in the process. Despite the closures, we believe that the long-term future is looking bright for both the industry and the brand, and we are looking forward to resuming operations across our other sites in May.” Southern Wind Group said it will honour any gift vouchers previously issued by the Fazenda and Picanha restaurants.
CoteCote, the circa 90-strong French brasserie chain backed by the Partners Group, has further strengthened its management team with a number of new appointments, including James Sherrington as its new chief financial officer, Propel has learned. Sherrington stepped down as chief financial officer at Drake & Morgan earlier this year after three years in the role and six years with the Bowmark Capital-backed, London-based bar operator. Sherrington, who joined Drake & Morgan from Caprice Holdings and the Birley Group where he was the finance director, takes over from Strahan Wilson, the former EAT chief financial officer, who is leaving Cote after more than four and a half years with the company. Propel has learned Simon Chester, ex-purchasing and supply chain director at Wagamama, has joined Cote as supply chain director. The company has also hired Amy Strawbridge, former brand director and head of people experience at Virgin Group, as its new people director. During her ten years at the Virgin Group, Strawbridge led the employee experience function as part of the company’s global brand team. Cote, which appointed Lisa Buckley, formerly managing director of Wagamama, as its new managing director at the end of last year, has also appointed ex-Wagamama regional operations director Dawid Kaminski as a new operations director, while Toby Cowan, formerly of Urban Pubs & Bars and Young’s, has also been appointed as an operations director. Former Wagamama chief executive Jane Holbrook took over as Cote’s executive chairman in September, replacing ex-The Restaurant Group chief executive Andrew Page. Holbrook’s appointment coincided with global private markets investment manager Partners Group acquiring Cote via a pre-pack administration. Alex Scrimgreour, who stepped down as Cote chief executive in October after 12 years of leading the business, took up the role of chief executive at cinema operator Everyman in January.
Tomahawk Steakhouse at the Flemingate centre in Beverley in East YorkshireTomahawk Steakhouse, the company led by north east-based multi-site operator Howard Eggleston, has refuted allegations staff would be sacked if they did not sign a loan agreement. The company asked furloughed employees to sign an agreement to lend 10% of their wages each month to cover their pension and national insurance contributions. The GMB union alleged workers would lose their jobs if they didn’t agree. However, Tomahawk Steakhouse refuted the claim, and said every single employee chose to sign up to the agreement. The company wrote to employees saying it has a “short-term cash flow issue and it requires your help and support”. It said as it must make the national insurance and pension payments itself the “only viable alternative is to ask for your agreement to a loan arrangement”. It added the interest-free loan would be repaid “once the lockdown is eased sufficiently for the company to trade”. A spokeswoman said: “At no point has Tomahawk Steakhouse suggested members of staff would be sacked if they did not sign a loan agreement. Like the rest of the hospitality industry, we have faced a challenging year, and our priority throughout has been to protect our people and our business. As part of this and in order to survive the coming months, we asked our staff to sign up to a voluntary agreement to help us cover the cost of employer national insurance contributions/pension amounts, in the form of a loan. Every single employee chose to sign up to this agreement.” Tomahawk Steakhouse operates ten sites and last month secured the former Bistrot Pierre unit in Stockton Heath, Cheshire. The property in London Road is undergoing refurbishment ahead of a proposed opening in May.
Numis leisure analyst Tim Barrett has argued the success of the £500m refinancing of The Restaurant Group (TRG) means it is “well placed to benefit from reduced industry supply”. Barrett added TRG’s Wagamama brand and its mainly freehold pub-restaurants account for 80% of the business and “will be a core driver” of value at TRG. Issuing an “Add” note to the shares with a target price of 130p, Barrett said: “TRG has successfully refinanced all of its debt facilities, earlier than expected and (at this stage) without recourse to new equity. Both the £225m Wagamama high yield bond and group revolving credit facility were due to mature in mid-2022. This takes away any uncertainty and also removes leverage covenants until June 2022. It has also been achieved without early redemption penalties.” He also said the combined average cost of debt will be about 7% versus 7.9% coupon on the bond and, separately, the group has quantified year end net debt (December 2020) at £340m, in line with its £336.3m forecast, which suggested cash burn remained very well controlled in the group. Barrett added: “The outlook message is also relatively upbeat, with 200 sites (half the estate) trading for delivery, producing average delivery/collection sales at 2.5 times and five times pre-pandemic levels. For Wagamama, we estimate this is close to £10,000 of delivery sales per unit per week.” He added the support of the company’s lenders vindicated its strategy of “shrinking the structurally challenged leisure estate”, which helped to reduce IFRS-16 rent liabilities from £933m to £660m last year. He said TRG may benefit from new equity at some point but has managed to avoid selling its “trophy assets” or raising equity at depressed valuations.
Franco MancaFulham Shore, which operates 53 Franco Manca sites and 19 The Real Greek venues, is continuing to build its new openings pipeline for both brands. The David Page-chaired business is understood to have lined up the former Giraffe site in Norwich’s Chapelfield Plain for a The Real Greek opening. Fulham Shore is understood to be in talks on further sites for the Mediterranean brand, in Manchester and at the Cribbs Causeway shopping centre near Bristol. It is also in talks on sites for pizza concept, Franco Manca, in Basingstoke, Horsham and Tunbridge Wells. Last month, the company highlighted the property opportunities being provided by the pandemic. In a trading update, it stated: “The well-publicised difficulties in the property and restaurant sectors are providing the group with opportunities to acquire new sites at much reduced rents and lower capital costs per site. We are negotiating for many sites throughout the UK to restart our expansion programme as soon as full restaurant trading resumes.”
Kate NichollsMPs have demanded additional government support for the hospitality and tourism sectors at the Budget. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Hospitality and Tourism sent a letter to the chancellor asking for the VAT cut to be extended by 12 months and include alcoholic drinks sold on-premises, the business rates holiday be extended for another year and extend the furlough scheme, reinstate the Job Retention Bonus and provide improved loan repayment terms and tax deferrals. The letter has been signed by 83 MPs and stated both sectors have been “devastated by the covid crisis”. It also cited industry figures that show hospitality sales plummeted 54% in 2020, equivalent to £72bn, while 40% of accommodation and foodservice businesses have no or low confidence of surviving the next three months. APPG co-vice chair Sally-Ann Hart MP said: “Ongoing government support to the end of the pandemic and through the recovery phase is critical.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls (pictured) added: “The support of so many MPs from all parties and from the four nations of the UK emphasises just how important the hospitality and tourism sectors are.”
WingstopLemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out US chicken brand Wingstop across the UK, has secured five further sites, including three in prominent shopping schemes across the country, Propel has learned. The company has agreed a “trilogy” deal with landlord Hammerson to open three new regional locations at its Bullring (Birmingham), the Oracle (Reading) and Cabot Circus (Bristol) schemes. Following the opening of its tenth UK location in Gloucester Road, South Kensington, late last year, Wingstop UK is now set to open sites in the former EAT at the Bullring, the former Chick-Fil-A at the Oracle, and the former Dorothy Perkins in Bristol’s Cabot Circus. With plans to reach 20 locations in the UK by the end of 2021, Wingstop is also set to open this year in Canary Wharf and Kingston-upon-Thames, where the brand will be occupying the former Pizza Hut located in Kingston town centre. The brand, which operates more than 1,500 locations worldwide, is expected to announce further regional openings in the coming month. Tom Grogan, director of Lemon Pepper Holdings, said: “We are delighted to have agreed this significant three site deal with an institutional partner such as Hammerson, this trilogy provides us with accelerated regional presence in high-profile locations over the next two quarters. Since covid-19 hit early last year, our business has evidently faced challenges yet our team and model has been able to quickly adapt for accelerated growth in off-premises transactions. We are now well capitalised to take advantage of an adjusted real estate market and we are on track to open ten locations this year.” In 2020, Wingstop’s system-wide sales increased to $2bn, marking its 17th consecutive year of same-store sales growth. Lemon Pepper Holdings opened Wingstop’s debut UK site in Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s West End in 2018. Sammy Weinbaum at CDG Leisure acted for Lemon Pepper Holdings.
Sixes, a cricket-based competitive socialising concept from the founders of Mac & Wild, has secured its second London site, in Fitzrovia, and is eyeing a regional launch, Propel has learned. The concept is the brainchild of Mac & Wild founders Andy Waugh and Calum Mackinnon, but run as a separate business from their restaurant operation. Launched briefly last December in Fulham, the business is backed by a number of former professional cricket players, including ex-England captain Sir Andrew Strauss. Propel understands the company has secured the former Villandry site in Great Portland Street for an opening in May, which is when it will also reopen its debut site in Farm Lane, Fulham. It is thought the company is in advanced talks for the concept, which features a cricket simulator, restaurant and bar, to make its regional debut later this year. Will Biggart, of Torridon, acted for Sixes.
Honi Poké's vegan bowlsHawaiian poké specialist Honi Poké has secured its eighth site in London by acquiring a unit in Fulham. The company, which is led by founder Vladimir Martynov and Richard De La Cruz, formerly of two Michelin-starred Sergi Arola and three Michelin-starred Quique Dacosta, has secured a site in Jerdan Place, with an opening scheduled for April. The acquisition complements Honi Poké’s sites in Soho (Dean Street), Fenchurch (New London Street), Marylebone (Margaret Street), Battersea Park Road, Chancery Lane, Hammersmith (Lillie Road) and in the Oxford Street Selfridges. Davis Coffer Lyons advised on the Fulham deal.
Mercato MetropolitanoLondon-community food market Mercato Metropolitano, which earlier this year unveiled plans for a £35m expansion into Europe and the US, with ten more markets creating 2,000 jobs, has secured its first site in Germany. The company, which is currently looking to raise about £5m towards its expansion push, is to become an anchor tenant in the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden in Berlin. The company plans to deliver ten more markets around the world, focused on some of the biggest cities, with three more London sites plus ones in Atlanta, Boston, Miami and New York in the US and Berlin, Lisbon and Milan in Europe, creating about 2,000 jobs by 2025. Longer term, further markets are planned for secondary cities in the UK and globally. The company will open a Canary Wharf site and a second market in Elephant and Castle this summer, followed by a new site in Ilford in the autumn. The business ratcheted up sales of almost £10m last year despite its two sites being closed for four months with limited opening for a further six months due to the pandemic – it puts its success down to its unique business model. Managing director Amedeo Claris said the secret lies in creating a business that is truly inclusive, sustainable in every aspect and firmly rooted in the communities it serves. The company is understood to have lined up institutional investors, landlords and high-net-worth individuals to take part in the funding round. P-Three acted on the Berlin deal.
YO!, the global, multi brand Japanese and Asian food group, has appointed John Walden, formerly of Naked Wines, Holland & Barratt and Argos, as its new chairman, as the company sees “significant opportunities” to further progress its multi-channel strategy. Eric Nicoli, who joined YO! as chairman in 2015 following the acquisition of the company by Mayfair Private Equity, is stepping down to pursue other interests. YO! said Walden has been at the “forefront of multi-channel, consumer-driven retailing for more than 20 years”. As well as advising consumer-facing businesses and private equity investors through Inversion LLC, the US based retail focused management and strategy consultancy he founded 13 years ago, he has extensive board experience of multi-channel consumer focused businesses in the UK and US. Previous roles include chairman at Naked Wines, where he oversaw the sale of Majestic Wines and its enhanced focus on the US market, and executive chairman at Holland & Barratt following the acquisition by LetterOne. From 2012 to 2016, he was managing director of Argos and then chief executive of its parent company Home Retail Group, where he led the digital transformation and sale of Argos to Sainsbury’s. During his time at YO!, Nicoli helped lead the transformation into a global multi brand, multi-channel food group, with 75% of revenues now coming from North America. Richard Hodgson, chief executive of YO!, said: “The past 12 months have demonstrated the value in our diversified multi-channel strategy. Against the backdrop of a very difficult year for hospitality businesses across the globe, we have been able to grow thanks to our retail business in North America, which has remained open throughout. As we now start to emerge from the pandemic, we see significant opportunities to further progress our multi-channel strategy and I am delighted John has agreed to join our board as chairman at this time. He brings with him extensive experience from both sides of the Atlantic which will be invaluable as the group moves to the next phase of growth. I want to thank Eric for his role in the transformation of the group over the past six years and wish him all the best with his future projects.” Walden said: “Richard and the team have created a food group like no other, and there is still a lot to play for. I am excited about bringing my experience to the board and supporting Richard and the management team as they look to capitalise on this opportunity.”
Costa Coffee is trialling delivery with DeliverooCosta Coffee has signed a new delivery partnership with Deliveroo, which will see it extend its delivery offer to across 500 of its sites from Monday (1 March). The partnership will allow those with the Deliveroo app in England, Scotland and Wales to order coffee and selected hot and cold food items from Costa’s menu. Becky Brock, commercial and customer director for Costa Coffee UK & Ireland, said: “Our customers are at the heart of what we do and over the past 12 months, they have continually fed back that they want to enjoy their favourite Costa Coffee, their way – whether through click and collect via our stores, at one of our Costa Express machines, collected through one of our drive-thrus, but also delivery is key as they juggle home-life. We’re pleased to offer an expanded service.” Costa initially began a delivery trial with Deliveroo through six of its London-based sites in 2019.
Domino'sDomino’s Pizza has reported global sales increased 21.7% in its fourth quarter ending 3 January 2021 and 12.5% for the full year. Like-for-like sales were up 11.2% in the US in the quarter and 11.5% in 2020. The international division saw like-for-like sales grow 7.3% during the quarter and 4.4% for the full year. The figures marked the 108th consecutive quarter of international like-for-like sales growth and the 39th consecutive quarter in the US. Total revenue in the quarter increased 17.9% to $1.36bn, with full-year revenue up to $4.12bn. The company added 388 net new stores during the fourth quarter – 272 internationally and 116 in the US. In the full year it opened net 624 stores – 395 internationally and 229 in the US. Diluted earnings per share in the quarter were up 23.4% to $3.85. Chief executive Ritch Allison said: “We celebrated our 60th year as a company in 2020, and while it was a challenging year in so many ways, it was also a year that saw the Domino’s brand rise to the occasion all over the world. This past year, a year like none other, reminded me once again Domino’s has the best group of global franchisees and team members in the restaurant business.”
Marco Pierre White’s franchised restaurant company Black and White Hospitality has introduced a new menu for its Bardolino Pizzeria Bellini & Espresso Bar brandBlack and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White, has started a recruitment drive as the sector gears up for reopening. The company is expecting a “feeding frenzy” following the enforced lockdown and believes “pent-up demand will mean restaurateurs will need to hit the ground running”. Black and White Hospitality, which owns and manages the franchise rights to eight Marco Pierre White-inspired brands, is searching for an experienced operations manager to oversee the day-to-day running of its franchised venues located across London, the south of England and south Wales. Nick Taplin, chairman and chief executive of the group, said: “There’s no denying the hospitality sector, like many others, has been hit hard over the past 12 months. However, with the vaccine programme well under way and cases of the virus dropping, we’re expecting restrictions will start to be lifted during the spring. Last summer, when restaurants were allowed to reopen, demonstrated guests were keen to dine out and those venues that did open enjoyed a very successful few months trading. Because of this, we now want to strengthen our team ready for when this happens. There’s no point waiting to see what happens. It will happen, so we need to be ready and operating at full tilt from day one and is why we’re recruiting now.”
BrewDog ChilledScottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has been given the go-ahead to open its first beer hotel in England, in Manchester. The company and Bruntwood Works have exchanged contracts, and have been granted planning approval by Manchester City Council to bring a bar, restaurant and hotel to Bruntwood Works’ new Bloc development in Fountain Street. Called Doghouse Manchester, the new bar, restaurant and hotel are set to open in mid-June, and will become BrewDog’s third site in the city. The 18-bedroom hotel will be set over three floors. At reception, guests will receive a welcome beer on arrival. Rooms will be furnished with shower beer fridges, draft beer taps while room service will offer food and drink from the restaurant and bar. A rooftop terrace will host another bespoke bar plus a taco food offering. The ground floor will comprise a 3,512 square foot bar and restaurant featuring a large outdoor terrace with 28 taps of draft beer. James Brown, head of bars at BrewDog, said: “We are excited to open our first UK hotel in Manchester, a city we have loved operating in for more than ten years. We’ve really upped the ante offering our guests an unforgettable experience – they’ll never want to leave.”
Steve Worrall has left his position as managing director of pubs, inns and hotels at Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery, Propel has learned. Worrall joined St Austell Brewery as retail director in 2017 and went on to become managing director of pubs, inns and hotels following the introduction of a new leadership structure at the start of last year. The company said chief executive Kevin Georgel would be “taking a more direct role in leading St Austell Brewery’s pubs, inns and hotels business going forward”. Georgel said: “I would like to personally thank Steve for his dedication and significant contribution over the past four years – we wish him and his family the very best for the future. Going forward, I will be taking a more hands-on approach in leading the direction of our pubs, inns and hotels business. We have iconic pubs, in some of the best locations in the south west, and fantastic teams to help steer us forward into our next exciting chapter. I’m looking forward to realising the full potential of our pubs when we’re able to reopen, as we continue on our road to recovery.” St Austell owns more than 180 pubs across the West Country.
Wolfgang’s SteakhouseWolfgang’s, the US steakhouse chain, is planning to launch in the UK, and is currently seeking a site in central London, Propel has learned. Founded in New York in 2004 by Wolfgang Zwiener, the business currently operates 19 restaurants in the US, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and China. Propel understands Wolfgang’s has retained David Rawlinson at Restaurant Property to seek 5,000 to 9,000 square foot sites in locations including Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Marylebone.
Neapolitan pizza concept Rudy'sRudy’s Neapolitan Pizza, which is owned by Mission Mars, is to open a flagship restaurant in central London, after securing a site in Soho, Propel has learned. The Roy Ellis-led company is understood to have secured the former Wahaca site in Wardour Street, with an opening planned for the end of lockdown and restrictions on the sector being lifted. In January, the north west-based concept lined up what will be its seventh site, in Stockton Heath, Cheshire. It plans to open in the former Barclays Bank premises in the Church Farm shopping precinct in the town’s Walton Road. Rudy’s makes its dough on-site each day, taking 24 hours to double ferment and 60 seconds to cook. It operates two sites in Manchester as well as one in each of Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds and Sale. Mission Mars, which is backed by BGF, also operates the Albert’s Schloss concept.
Byron LogoBetter burger brand Byron has outlined its reopening plans, with 16 sites in England set to offer outdoor dining from 12 April – as long as the government lifts restrictions. The company said it would team up with Brooklyn Brewery to offer outdoor drinking in conjunction with restaurant reopenings. Restaurants will be open until about 10pm and Byron said it had seen a “big pick up in bookings” since making the announcement on social media. The restaurants set to reopen are Bluewater, Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Ipswich, Leeds, Liverpool, London (Old Brompton Road), London (Waterloo), Manchester, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Oxford, Salisbury, Southampton and York. Last year, Byron was sold via pre-pack administration to investment vehicle Calveton UK under newly formed company Famously Proper for £4m.
Mowgli founder Nisha KatonaIndian street food concept Mowgli has lined up an opening in Cheltenham for later this summer. The 11-strong company, which is backed by Foresight and led by Nisha Katona (pictured), has secured the ex-Babel site in the town’s Brewery Quarter. Propel understands Mowgli hopes to open the 2,660 square foot site, which will house about 80 covers, by the end of August or start of September. Katona said: “Out of the ashes of a decimated 2020 we hope to raise this sweet fledgling Indian home kitchen in The Brewery Quarter. I have always been a fan of Cheltenham. To be able to take Mowgli there, to create 30 jobs, to find and support a local charity there makes me so proud. We exist to enrich the life in the places we go to – Cheltenham I hope we make you proud.” In December, Propel revealed Mowgli had lined up its second site in Scotland, in Glasgow. The company, which is confirmed to open in Edinburgh’s in Hanover Street, is understood to have secured the ex-Handmade Burger Co site in St Vincent Street in Glasgow. At the start of November, the group, which is chaired by Karen Jones, secured a site in the McArthurGlen Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet. Victoria Broadhead, of Bruce Gillingham Pollard, acted on the Cheltenham deal on behalf of the landlord.
Amber TavernsMPs have forgotten the “considerable work” that’s been invested in making pubs covid-safe, Michael George, chairman of community pub operator Amber Taverns, has said. Speaking to BBC’s Newsnight programme about the health of the pub sector, George said: “On the macro level, ten years ago there was 60,000 pubs, now we are below 40,000 and heading toward 30,000 very quickly, partly as a result of the pandemic. That is the macro picture and that of course affects many communities, who have lost hospitality units, which is a serious thing culturally and in social terms for those communities. On the micro level, one of the frustrations is when MPs think about pubs, they forget the considerable work done last year. If you go to a pub it has invested heavily in personal protective equipment, in screens, in ventilation, in table service. What you are seeing is socially distanced venues and disciplined operators, which in my view are covid-safe. That needs to be remembered because that is the reality that we are trying to get back into operation as quickly as possible.”
Fireaway Pizza founder Mario AleppoFast pizza brand Fireaway is set for further rapid expansion, and is also heading abroad. The company, launched in London in 2016, now has 55 outlets across the UK and that number will double by the end of 2021. A total of 25 new branches are opening in the next 27 weeks while a further 20 franchise agreements have been signed and locations for them are being sought. In addition, master franchisees have come on board in Canada, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. Founder and chief executive Mario Aleppo (pictured) said eventually he would like to see several Fireaways in every city in the UK. He also believed global growth for the concept was “unlimited”. Aleppo opened the first branch in Mitcham, and the company’s initial expansion was largely coincidental. He said: “Our pizzas went down very well with our customers right from the start. Within a few weeks one of my regulars asked if he could become a franchisee and within six months he’d opened a branch in Streatham. It started with a new franchise opening every six months. A year later it was every three months, then one a month and now it’s roughly one a week. During the second half of last year, despite all the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, we opened 20 new branches in 20 weeks.” Aleppo said he originally thought of opening a Subway franchise but “changed my mind and decided to do my own thing”. He added: “However, I was impressed by Subway’s methods and incorporated some of them into Fireaway.” The brand offers four different bases, four types of cheese and four types of meat as well as 20 toppings for diners to customise their pizza with the price remaining the same regardless of the combination. The pizzas are cooked in 180 seconds.
Center ParcsCenter Parcs, which offers 4,300 units of accommodation across five sites in the UK, is set to reopen its holiday villages on 12 April – subject to the government moving to the next stage of its roadmap. The sites will operate a restaurant delivery service while the majority of outdoor activities will be available. A spokesman said: “In line with the guidance issued, guests will be able to visit with their own household in our fully self-contained lodges, but will not be able to book accommodation in either our hotel or apartments. We are currently reviewing the guidance to understand exactly what restrictions will be in the place and will provide an update on this as soon as possible. Guests with existing bookings who no longer wish to visit will be given the option to move their dates with no amendment fee or cancel their break and receive a full refund, in line with our ‘Book With Confidence’ guarantee. Any guests with breaks booked up to 11 April will be offered the same options.”
Gordon Ramsay Group renews partnership with HeathrowChef Gordon Ramsay (pictured) has revealed he lost £55m during the coronavirus pandemic as his 35 restaurants nationwide leaked cash. Talking to The Sun, Ramsay said: “In December we had £10m worth of reservations wiped out overnight. As of 19 March to 3 February this year we’ve suffered £57.5m worth of turnover down. I’m in it.” Ramsay currently has 18 restaurants across London, with five more due to open once normality returns, as well as a further 17 worldwide. He said: “Lockdowns have caused utter devastation. When covid first hit, we all thought it would be over and done within a couple of weeks. But it’s been long-haul.” Ramsay said he was forced to take up the government’s furlough scheme in a bid to save hundreds of jobs nationwide. He said: “It’s been so hard to keep youngsters motivated, and I do feel under pressure to give my younger members of staff, especially, some hope, and the sense that we can get out of this. There have been so many tears, people at their wits’ end.” Despite using the furlough scheme, Ramsay said he had still taken a hit on his own bank balance after opening three new restaurants last year. He said: “Since 1998, when I started, I have always put my money back into the business. I’ve never been greedy, I’ve always been very, very generous. I get criticised for being wealthy, but the responsibility on my shoulders – the livelihoods at stake – is huge. I feel that pressure enormously, and the impact of all this has been devastating and incredibly costly.”

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.

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Brian Gillan, operations director at Honest Burger
A Focus on Operations

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