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Phil Urban – M&B discounting unnecessary to entice customers, reduced capacity a bigger issue

Mitchells & Butlers

Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) chief executive Phil Urban has said the company isn’t planning on widespread discounting to encourage customers back into sites and believes the bigger issue will be accommodating people because of reduced capacity.

Urban said despite the reduction in social distancing measures to “one metre-plus”, which would allow the majority of its sites to operate at 90% of capacity, the company would leave a greater distance between tables. He said this would help its teams operationally while trying to spread demand through the day.

He added as the furlough scheme continued to unravel there would inevitably be further casualties in the sector and therefore a reduction in supply. Speaking on a call to analysts from The Royal Saracens Head in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, Urban said he believed there was “pent-up demand” from consumers to return to pubs and restaurants.

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Other News:

Red Oak Taverns has reopened Bristol pub the Temple Inn following an £800,000 refurbishment that has added ten en-suite bedroomsRed Oak Taverns, the national pub operator founded by Aaron Brown and Mark Grunnell in 2011, has secured a £2.6m loan from OakNorth Bank.

Red Oak Taverns said it had taken the loan as a standby facility to ensure the business had available liquidity to support its gradual ramp-up of trade during the next few months. Red Oak Taverns will also use the funds to assist working capital and contractual obligations should the sector face another lock-down.

OakNorth was able to disperse the funds through the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). Red Oak Taverns has received a number of loans from OakNorth since 2016, including a £42m loan in 2018 to refinance its debt and support acquisitions.

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Bistrot Pierre in EastbourneBistrot Pierre, the Livingbridge-backed group, is to file a notice of intent to appoint administrators today (Friday, 3 July), Propel has learned.
 
The 25-strong company has been working with adviser KPMG on its options, with a sales process generating interest from serial sector investor Luke Johnson and London-based investment firm Inspirit Capital. Propel understands TriSpan and RCapital also ran the rule over the Nick White-led business but it is clear no deal could be agreed.
 
It’s thought an administration process could see current backer Livingbridge agree a deal on the group’s debt pile and continue to back the business through a pre-pack administration. It could also lead to the company trimming its estate. The business, which Livingbridge invested £9.8m into in 2015, posted turnover of circa £35m in the year to June 2019 and Ebitda of about £6.5m.
 
Propel understands none of the group’s sites, which are spread across England and Wales, are loss-making. There are thought to be no onerous leases or sites tied to corporate landlords. However, it’s understood the company has increasingly struggled with the size of debt built against it. A source close to the business told Propel: “The company is working with stakeholders to find a positive solution for the business to go forward.”
 
The company recently reopened its site in Mumbles, Swansea, for takeaway, with the business understood to be encouraged by the level of trade achieved. However, it has yet to announce details of a reopening strategy for dine-in. In November, the company opened its latest site at Eastbourne’s Wish Tower (pictured). It also has plans to open a beachside restaurant and bar in Worthing, West Sussex. School friends Robert Beacham and John Whitehead founded the business in 1994.
Market Halls is launching new concept The Hall, at Intu LakesideMarket Halls, which has three sites – in Victoria, Fulham, and on Oxford Street – has begun a redundancy process with staff after deciding to stay closed while social distancing remains.
 
Andy Lewis-Pratt, chief executive of Market Halls, said: “It is heart-breaking to see our business, like so many others, brought to its knees by covid-19 and the ongoing uncertainty around how we get back to normal.
 
“I am desperately sorry for my employees and the independent food traders that make our Market Halls family so special. We will support them as much as we can and continue to explore all possible opportunities to get us going again. One thing is for sure, Market Halls will reopen. And when it does, it is my ambition to re-employ as many of our staff as possible. Unfortunately our business is only viable when it is bustling with customers.
 
“This means for our venues to reopen, social distancing needs to have been withdrawn and workers and shoppers back in the city. Currently, it is simply not possible to provide the Market Halls experience that our customers know and love. While we welcome the moves to ease lock-down and wish everyone opening this weekend the best of luck, what will significantly help all of us is a firm indication of when social distancing will come to an end and, together with the London mayor, a joint determination to get London safely back to work and its streets busy again.
 
“Everyone at Market Halls is very grateful to our customers and supporters. We have been overwhelmed by your kind messages throughout this difficult period and we can’t wait to welcome you again when we reopen. Until then, please stay in touch online and we will bring you more updates when we have news to share.”
Facebook MessengerThe British Beer and Pub Association, British Institute of Innkeeping and UKHospitality have issued joint guidance on how sector businesses can support the government’s track and trace customer registration scheme.
 
The aim is to provide clarity to help businesses achieve public health objectives and business obligations. The guidance explains what information should be recorded, how to record it and relevant GDPR issues.
 
A spokesman said: “There has been a significant amount of interest from businesses and customers about the track-and-trace scheme and some confusion. It is a core component of the safe reopening of businesses and something all venues are going to have to get to grips with.
 
“This can help us to avoid a second spike and the disastrous consequences. This guidance provides clear instructions to businesses on their obligations and reminds them why it is important they make a success of the scheme. It’s in the interests of everyone we all understand our role in the scheme and its importance in the context of the pandemic.
 
“Businesses are urged to read the guidance thoroughly and ensure they have the proper procedures in place before they reopen. If they are unsure about any element they should contact their trade association immediately.”
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), has said the mass reopening of venues on Saturday (4 July) is shaping up to be “doomsday” rather than the “independence day” the government envisages.
 
He blamed the government for a lack of clarity surrounding its new guidelines and said if it failed to alter the guidance the night-time industry faced being “wiped out altogether”.
 
Kill said: “This week has seen businesses battle to get to grips with these new guidelines, which are unfit for purpose. The lack of clarity has also meant some businesses are falling victim to the lack of flexibility between what the government is asking them to do and what licensing and planning regulators say they can do. Our members feel stuck in a bizarre tug-of-war between government, licensing and planning regulators, and the police. But no-one knows which rope to pull and in which direction, leaving businesses stranded in the middle with no way to move forward and out of this mess.
 
“No-one wants to see a rise in illegal raves and gatherings like we have seen in recent weeks but the threat of these events becoming a mainstay is real unless night-time economy businesses are given a clear roadmap for them to safely re-engage the market place, with further financial support to recover from the impacts of covid-19. Our businesses form a rich part of the UK’s cultural tapestry and are being crippled. If guidance is not urgently altered the industry faces being wiped out altogether.”
 
Meanwhile, the NTIA has revealed the results of its survey regarding opening on 4 July. Out of 938 respondents, more than half (51.6%) said they won’t reopen yet, with that figure rising to 65% for late-night venues. Almost two-thirds (65%) of pubs, bars and restaurants, however, are set to reopen. Out of the respondents who said they wouldn’t reopen on 4 July, more than half (52.6%) said it wasn’t “financially viable”, while 30.8% said they couldn’t “meet covid guidance requirements”. When asked whether they would require further support from the government during this period of re-engagement, 94.3% said “yes”.
JD Wetherspoon has forged deals with landlords to pay zero rent now and defer payments until next year or switch to monthly payments.
 
The company, which operates 875 pubs in the UK, has unveiled plans to reopen 750 branches in England on Saturday (4 July) after the lock-down forced them to close on 20 March.
 
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We have contacted all our landlords and agreed individual deals. In some cases we’ve agreed zero rents while pubs are closed. In other cases, especially involving smaller landlords, we’ve asked for rent deferrals to be paid back in 2021, sometimes with interest. We’ve usually asked for monthly rents for the next 18 months or so. Landlords have generally been helpful and co-operative, for which we’re grateful.”
 
Wetherspoon will introduce a raft of social distancing measures when it reopens its pubs this weekend, including separate entrances and exits where possible.
Mcdonalds logoMcDonald’s is to reopen a further 800 restaurants for takeaway in the UK and Ireland next week as it also reintroduces more of its menu and an extension of sites offering breakfast.
 
The company said it would also extend opening times at many of its restaurants, including the return of 24-hour operations in some locations. Takeaway will be rolled out to additional locations from Friday (3 July) but the company said it wasn’t ready to welcome dine-in customers “just yet”.
 
McDonald’s said from next Wednesday (8 July) more menu items would be reintroduced as the company sought to return to its full offer. Milkshakes, bacon mayo chicken and bacon double cheeseburger will be among the menu items made available again.
 
Meanwhile, breakfast will return to more than 1,000 McDonald’s sites following a pilot in 42 restaurants last month. There will still be a limited menu with no bagels, wraps or porridge but, as with the main menu, McDonald’s said it was “working on returning popular missing items later in the year”.
 
The company said its Monopoly promotion for this year, which was due to launch just before the company closed its sites in March, has now been cancelled. The promotion had been running in the UK since 2005. Since beginning to reopen its estate at the end of May, the company now has 1,260 restaurants back in operation.
 

McDonald’s UK and Ireland chief executive Paul Pomroy said: “Of course we aren’t fully back to normal. We aren’t ready to enable dine-in just yet and we know there are a few favourites still missing from the menu. We’re working on it – but will only do so safely when the time is right.”

Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Shepherd NeameKent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has secured £25m through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS).
 
The company said its banking lenders, Lloyds Bank and Santander, had agreed to increase the group’s overall debt facilities utilising CLBILS. The banks will provide the group with a £25m revolving credit facility of which £15m is committed and the further £10m available on request that will mature on 1 July 2022. With the new facilities in place, the group will have total debt facilities of £132.5m.
 
As part of the arrangements the company’s loan note holder, BAE Systems Pension Funds Investment Management, and banking lenders have also agreed to waive any technical defaults arising from the coronavirus outbreak and to amend the group’s financial covenants through to September 2021, set at a level based on a minimum level of Ebitda and liquidity.
 
The group’s net debt position at the end of June is anticipated to be circa £84.5m, a small increase from the half-year end at 31 December 2019. Over and above this the group, in agreement with HM Revenue & Customs, has deferred the payment of tax liabilities in the final quarter of the financial year totalling circa £11m, which the board expects to be settled within the next 12 months. The company will not pay a dividend in October 2020 nor an interim dividend in March 2021 but said it would resume payments “as soon as is practicable”.
 
Shepherd Neame also updated on its reopening plans. It expects to have at least 45 managed pubs – up from the previous 40 – out of a total of 69 reopen by the end of July. Meanwhile, having initially estimated it would open at least 150 of its 239 tenanted pubs, the company has now said it will reopen 165 by the end of the month.
 
Chief executive Jonathan Neame (pictured) said: “We have a clear strategy, a well-balanced business and now a robust financing structure in place to see us on the path to recovery. We are optimistic we have a strong long-term future as and when this pandemic subsides.”
Roy Ellis, chief executive of Mission MarsMission Mars, the north west-based operator of fast-growing concepts such as Albert’s Schloss and Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza, is to open a site in Birmingham, Propel has learned.
 
The company will launch Zumhof Bierhalle & Garten in Digbeth on Saturday (4 July). It will occupy the former nightclub Air in Heath Mill Lane and 4,000 square feet of an adjacent car park. The 1,200-capacity venue will feature two live performance stages, a food shack, fire pits and a tepee. Zumhof, which translates as “come to the yard”, will be Digbeth’s first Tankovna, which will offer unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell delivered from Pilzen once a week.
 
The rotating taps will offer beer from Europe as well as offerings from local brewers. The food shack will offer speciality pretzels, bratwursts and burgers alongside Rudy’s Neapolitan pizza. When regulations allow, the stage will feature performances from touring bands, queer cabaret, DJs, drag artists and live art installations.
 
Chief executive Roy Ellis (pictured) said: “We have been looking for a perfect site in Birmingham for a long time so the decision was straightforward. It’s a pop-up to start with – it will allow us to feel our way. It’s a different-vibe Bavarian bar for us and we’ll do everything possible to add something new and complementary to the emerging scene in Digbeth. We are interested in collaborating with artists, creatives, brewers and artisans.”
Jonathan DowneyJonathan Downey, founder of Hospitality Union, has said operators need to be “realistic and do what’s reasonable” when it comes to following the government guidance as large parts of the sector reopen this week.
 
Downey said: “All of your thinking needs to start out with this – it is not your responsibility to ensure everyone in your premises complies with anything in the guidance. The guidance is not the law and you are not the police. We may want to encourage certain behaviours, from a business/brand reputation and customer reassurance point of view, but literally nobody is going to be going around checking whether someone is 90cm or 110cm from someone they’ve never met before.
 
“We must ensure no groups of 30-plus gather but nobody should be checking whether groups smaller than that are from the same household (plus support bubbles). How could anyone prove they are or aren’t? It’s impossible. We have to be realistic and do what’s reasonable. Even the ‘one-metre-plus’ advice is unenforceable (which the guidance itself recognises can only apply ‘wherever possible’).
 
“You’re all over this, but even if some of your guests ignore the new guidance and general advice from the government what can you do? You can ask them to leave if they’re being aggressive or upsetting others. But they’re much more likely to be aggressive if your team approaches them with irrelevant, intrusive questions about numbers of households and support bubbles. We’re hosts not jobsworths. We generally need to leave people be. You know your customers better than anyone and, in almost every case, you can just leave them to it.
 
“Most will comply and some others won’t. If the ones that won’t are upsetting the ones that will, then you might want to ask the recalcitrant to move or leave, but that’s a decision that should be driven by all of the reasons our managers and teams are already expert at – managing people and the time they spend with us. But we shouldn’t treat those guests that are possibly, technically breaching some soon-to-be-dropped-or-updated guidance in the same way we would a group of loud, aggressive, offensive idiots.
 
“It feels to me like there’s a growing tendency to treat every guest as a potential deadly threat. That’s airport security not hospitality. Everyone should do what they think is best for their people and their business but this is how I will be approaching the reopening of Dinerama.”

 

YO! at Croydon, BoxparkYO!, the Richard Hodgson-led business, is to launch its new fast-casual, covid-safe format through five sites from Saturday (4 July). The company will initially reopen its sites in Ashford, Cheshire Oaks, Guildford, Leeds and Newcastle Grainger Street.
 
As previously revealed by Propel, the sites will feature a new and improved “kaiten” conveyor belt providing guests with a personal, contactless dining experience. When visiting their local YO! restaurant, guests will be able to take a picture of a QR code and order and pay for their food through the digital menu on their phone, through a platform powered by Vita Mojo.
 
Their dishes, which are freshly prepared in each store’s kitchen, will then arrive straight to the guest on the kaiten belt. An interactive traffic light system turns amber to tell customers when their food is on its way and then green when the food arrives in front of them. Delivery through Deliveroo and click-and-collect options will also be available. The company is looking to reopen sites with the new format at a rate of three sites a week.
Nico Simeone (right) has gifted his debut restaurant to Modou Diagne, who was Simeone's first kitchen porterSix by Nico, the restaurant concept led by Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone (on right of picture), has revealed it will make its London debut on Monday, 20 July.
 
The 76-cover venue will open at the former Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi site in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia. There will be strict adherence to social distancing with all surfaces cleaned and disinfected between sittings every two hours.
 
The Six by Nico concept is based on a revolving culinary hub as Simeone and his team “reinvent the wheel” every six weeks by serving a new six-course tasting menu, each one with a different theme. As is traditional, the first menu at the Fitzrovia restaurant will be themed The Chippie.
 
Simeone said: “At a time when London is starting to emerge from this horrific crisis, we are determined to be among the first of the new places that make this city such a great place to visit and look forward to welcoming our customers safely very soon.”
 
The debut Six by Nico launched in Glasgow – now home to two restaurants – in 2017 followed by openings in Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester and Liverpool. Simeone launched his first restaurant, 111 by Nico, in Glasgow in 2011. He also operates a gastro-pub in the city’s Great Western Road.
Shake ShackShake Shack has revealed plans for expansion in China. The company is expanding its partnership with licensee Maxim’s Caterers, with plans to open a minimum of 15 Shake Shacks in South China by 2030.
 
Maxim’s, which operates Shake Shack locations in Shanghai and Hong Kong, with Beijing and Macau in development, plans to have 55 Shake Shacks in mainland China within ten years. Maxim’s also owns full-service and quick-service restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops.
 
Michael Kark, chief global licensing officer of Shake Shack, said: “We remain humbled by our fans in China and continue to be encouraged by the performance of our Chinese business through this recovery. It’s a great time to deepen our roots in this market.”
 
Since the original Shake Shack opened in 2004 in New York, the company has expanded to more than 280 locations in 30 US states and more than 95 international locations, including London, Dubai and Tokyo.
Stevie ParleChef Stevie Parle will reopen both sites for his fast casual pasta concept Pastaio on Saturday (4 July).
 
The sites in Soho and Westfield London will offer free meals for under-12s throughout the summer holidays; 50% off food for all NHS staff; and 25% off the entire bill for pensioners and students.
 
Both restaurants have implemented extensive health and safety measures to protect staff and customers. For the first time, Pastaio Soho will offer reservations.
 
The Westfield London site will trade daily, while Soho will start by opening on Saturday and Sunday (5 July) only, followed by all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday from the following week.
 
The Soho team hopes to scale trading up to daily “if and when the demand dictates it”.
Comptoir Libanais Birmingham ~ credit Philippa LangleyLebanese restaurant group Comptoir Group has stated reopenings depends on the result of discussions with landlords.
 
The company stated: “Comptoir Group will reopen its venues in phases (from 4 July) and in line with recommended safety guidelines. At this stage, the group has not completed its review as to which restaurants it may decide never to re-open. As reported at the full year results of the company, the group went into the covid-19 pandemic with 30 restaurants, including six franchised sites.
 
The directors are in discussions with all its restaurant landlords about future lease obligations.
 
 

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Kate NichollsAlmost one million sector staff members are expected to be back in work and more than six in ten outlets open again before the end of July, according to a new survey by UKHospitality. The survey showed more than 960,000 staff are expected to return to work from furlough over the course of July, with another 720,000 joining them by the end of September – taking the number beyond 1.6 million people. About 60% of the UK’s hospitality sector will reopen on or within a few days of 4 July, with about three-quarters of pubs and accommodation businesses open again by the end of the month. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls (pictured) said: “This is incredibly positive news and a fantastic demonstration of the very hard work that businesses have put in getting themselves ready to reopen. Everyone can see the devastating effect that this crisis has had on hospitality businesses. To see such large numbers of businesses ready to open again, welcoming back so many staff members so quickly is hugely encouraging. There is still a long way to go and businesses are by no means out of the woods yet. This is a very positive start, though. Getting venues open and customers through the doors means more jobs will be kept safe. Despite the positive news we need support for those businesses that are still not able to open, and for those whose jobs rely upon them.”
 
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Dominic Allport, NPD GroupSpend in British foodservice outlets was down 80% in April while price and deal-related visits reached record levels, according to new research by insights firm The NPD Group. It said weekly spend in British foodservice in April was just over £200m, compared with last year’s weekly spend level of about £1bn. In addition, the decline in British out-of-home (OOH) foodservice visits in April 2020 was almost three times as severe as the collapse seen during the financial crisis of 2008-2010. Lock-down officially started on 23 March this year, but many people were already avoiding eating out, meaning by the end of the first quarter of 2020 there was a 10% year-on-year deterioration in OOH visits. This decline accelerated dramatically in April and for the two-month period of March and April the fall was 54%. Price and deal-related visits reached record levels in April. More than 28% of visits were influenced by whether an outlet could offer a good price, the highest percentage ever seen in the month of April, including during the financial crisis. Visits made using a meal deal were also the highest seen for any April, at 32%, and the average bill on deal was 5% higher than average. Personal or online recommendations became increasingly important in April, accounting for almost 8% of visits in comparison with the 4% to 5% level seen in the past five years. At dinner time, personal or online recommendations accounted for almost 10% of all visits, compared with the usual figure of 4%. The importance of “quality” offered by a foodservice outlet rose by one third year-on-year, with consumers likely associating quality with hygiene. Dominic Allport (pictured), insights director (foodservice), The NPD Group, said: “The scale of the crash in out-of-home foodservice visits is unprecedented. As we start to come out of lock-down, consumers are likely to be sensitive to prices and value for money. Value-related visits should increase rapidly in the same way as the 2008-2010 financial crisis when price-driven or voucher-driven visits rose sharply. We also expect deal-based visits to increase as they did in the financial crisis – they grew by more than a quarter even though the overall market registered a 2% visit decline. The importance of meal deals is likely to grow as operators fight for market share.”
 
The NPD Group is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

James Nye AC InnsAnglian Country Inns, the pub and restaurant operator led by James Nye (pictured), has secured £3.3m through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) from Cynergy Bank. The loan will be used by Anglian Country Inns, which operates nine pubs throughout Hertfordshire and Norfolk, to refinance existing debt and provide emergency working capital funding caused by the impact of coronavirus. While the government guarantee is for six years, Cynergy Bank is amortising the loan over a 25-year period. Nye said: “We were delighted to have completed the CBILS funding of both Anglian Country Inns and our sister-company The Farmhouse, which together means we are able to protect the business and ensure we come out of the pandemic stronger than ever.” Steve Crosswell, relationship director, hospitality, Cynergy Bank, added: “The Nye family has built a robust and solid business with high-performing assets and it typifies all that is good in a family-led business.”

Charlie Gilkes, director and co-founder of Inception GroupInception Group, which owns and operates concepts including Cahoots and Mr Foggs, will begin the reopening of its estate with Mr Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair on Saturday (4 July), as it announced a £25,000 bar tab for NHS workers spread across its sites as part of its relaunch plans. The company will follow up the opening in Mayfair with the reopening of Mrs Fogg’s in the City on Monday, 6 July; Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals (Fitzrovia – ground floor only) and Cahoots Ticket Hall (Soho) on 9 July; Mr Fogg’s Tavern (Covent Garden) on 16 July; Barts (Chelsea) on 23 July; Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour (Covent Garden), Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals (Fitzrovia – in full), Mrs Fogg’s (The City – in full), Cahoots Underground (Soho) and Cahoots Control Room (Soho) on 3 September; and Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration (Covent Garden) on 1 October. From October onwards the company will also look to reopen Bunga Bunga (Battersea) Bunga Bunga (Covent Garden) and Maggie’s (Chelsea). The company said NHS workers can expect the “warmest of welcomes”, with a £25,000 bar tab spread across its reopened sites as a thank you for their “phenomenal response to the pandemic”. NHS workers will simply show their identification badges at any of the company’s establishments to take part and the tab will be open for them to claim a free drink every day until the sum is reached. Charlie Gilkes (pictured), co-founder of Inception Group, said: “These have been the most challenging times that we, as a business, and the hospitality sector in general, have ever faced. However, no industry has been more critical, or worked harder under immense pressure during this period than our NHS, so we would like to reward their extraordinary efforts.” The company said its reopening plans also include adapting working practices and spaces to create “covid-secure” socialising environments, which will involve the introduction of temperature checks for staff, hand sanitation dispensers at key points throughout the venues, as well as rigorous cleaning routines and a one-way system for entry and exit where possible.

Hawksmoor, Borough MarketHawksmoor, the Graphite Capital-backed, steak house concept, has said it plans to have all of its eight eponymous sites reopened by the start of September. The company intends to reopen its site at Borough first on 9 July for weekday dinners and all day at the weekend. The group said its intention was to “learn as much as possible about how to run restaurants brilliantly under the new guidelines and then apply those lessons to the rest of the restaurants, giving each reopening the attention it deserves”. The company plans to reopen its Manchester site on 16 July; Seven Dials on 21 July; Spitalfields on 24 July; Air Street on 28 July; Knightsbridge 31 July; Edinburgh on 6 August; and finally its Guildhall site on 1 September. Since the announcement of its reopening plan, the company subsequently said it was completely booked on day one, 96% booked for week one, and 50% for month one. The company has also expanded its Hawksmoor at Home offer nationwide, giving consumers the opportunity to order a delivery box containing fresh ingredients and a cookbook to “recreate the Hawksmoor experience at home”. The boxes will be limited to 500 per week over the next six weeks via the Hawksmoor website, and the business has said there was scope to expand the range if it proves successful. Co-founder Will Beckett said: “The past few months have been intensely busy working out how to survive this crisis, support our staff and organisations doing incredible work feeding front line workers and people in need in the communities we work in, and thinking about how to reopen all of our restaurants. We could have perhaps done it quicker, but our very clear preference is to focus on doing it as well as possible. We are lucky to have restaurants where social distancing is relatively easy, to have been able to consult with government on the guidance over the past months, and to have the resources to ensure we go above and beyond to ensure we are ‘covid-secure’. We believe customers are likely to want Hawksmoor to do what it has always done and offer people a haven from the outside world, where you can be comfortable with the people you’re eating and drinking with. If we learn differently, we will adapt.”

Revolution de CubaRevolution Bars Group, the operator of 74 bars trading under the Revolution and ‘Revolución de Cuba brands, has updated on its reopening plans. It comes as more than 99% of shareholders backed the company’s plan to delist from the main stock market and move to AIM as well as place new shares. The company stated it plans to reopen six of its bars on Monday, 6 July and trade these for a minimum period of two weeks “to fully test customer demand and sentiment” and to refine the group’s “covid-secure” operating standards, minimising risk to both staff and customers. The sites are understood to be its Revolución de Cuba outlets in Manchester and Derby and its eponymous venues in Bristol, Brighton, Huddersfield and Liverpool. After that period the group plans to continue reopening in weekly tranches of up to nine bars and hopes by the end of August 62 bars will have reopened. The company stated: “The group’s remaining bars may not reopen until the UK government permits late-night venues to recommence trading.” In a return to work survey, 84% of responders said they intend to come back and are happy to do so subject to the group providing appropriate safety measures; only 0.5% are currently shielding. The company added: “The group expects its net bank debt at 27 June 2020 – the end of its current financial year – to be £22.0m. With £37.5m bank debt facilities now in place (stepping down by £7.5m on 31 March 2021) and £15.0m gross proceeds (£13.8m net of costs) from the successful fund-raising set to be received on 27 July contingent on the group’s admission to AIM, the group has a significant amount of cash liquidity and a strengthened balance sheet to overcome the anticipated challenging trading conditions in the foreseeable future.” Chief executive Rob Pitcher said: “Given the all-day nature of our business, we will proceed cautiously, initially reopening only six of our bars to ensure we can operate safely and viably. We hope the learnings from this first tranche of bar reopenings will enable us to quickly progress the reopening of the remainder of our estate, which we expect to have substantially completed by the end of August.”

PrezzoPrezzo, the Karen Jones-led chain, will start a phased reopening of its circa 180-strong estate on Saturday (4 July), with a select number of its sites. Propel understands the business, which in April appointed advisors FRP Advisory to consider its post-coronavirus funding options, will reopen eight sites for dine-in initially, including those in Bath, New Brighton, Lincoln and Kings Lynn. A further 12 restaurants, including those in Milton Keynes, Chelmsford and Crawley, will reopen in the following week, as the brand steadily reopens parts of its estate as July progresses. The company has recently reopened a handful of sites for delivery and click-and-collect under a dine@home banner, including restaurants in Bristol and Bournemouth. The appointment of advisors to explore the implications of the covid-19 crisis for its balance sheet, came less than two years after Prezzo underwent a company voluntary arrangement that saw a third of its circa 300 sites close, and a subsequent debt-for-equity swap. It has been suggested the business may have to undergo a further restructuring and it is currently taking to landlords in regards to a possible switch to turnover-based rents.

The Ivy Collection, the Richard Caring-backed group, is to reopen the majority of its regional sites on Saturday (4 July), Propel understands. The company, which has already announced the planned reopening of three of its London-based sites on Saturday, is also planning to open 14 of its regional sites, including those in Bath, Brighton, Guildford, Dublin, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Tunbridge Wells. The 35-strong group will keep shuttered the majority of its London-based sites fort the time being. As previously announced The Ivy Asia, St. Paul’s; and Brasserie of Light, in Oxford Street, will open alongside The Ivy Chelsea Garden, on Saturday. As with the latter sites, the company said while service will still remain a priority, all its restaurants will be implementing the “highest standards of health and safety, ensuring both guests and employees will be dining and working in confidence and in a safe environment”. Measures will include thermal cameras for temperature checks, the use of tracking software for all employees logging daily temperature readings over a seven-day rolling period, and professional deep cleaning and disinfecting on a daily basis. Air filtration units have also been fitted (99% effective in killing the MRSA and H1N1 viruses, which are part of the same RNA coronavirus family) and dedicated members of staff have been appointed to ensure health and safety is at its highest standard on an ongoing basis. Meanwhile, Caprice Holdings has announced it will reopen three restaurants in London on Saturday. Seafood venue Scott’s in Mount Street; Asian-inspired Sexy Fish in Berkeley Square; and Italian-focused Daphne’s in South Kensington will all welcome customers.

Caffe NeroCaffe Nero will open 400 stores for eat-in on Saturday (4 July). The stores will open with protocols in place to ensure its employees and customers remain safe and in accordance with government advice and social distancing guidance. The stores will offer an initially reduced food menu. Gerry Ford, founder and group chief executive, said: “We’ve seen high demand since we’ve started opening for takeaway and our teams are excited to welcome customers back properly. We have prioritised protecting the health and well-being of our people and our customers in setting these stores, while also providing safe, friendly community spaces as the country starts to reopen. We have taken clear steps and followed government guidelines to ensure that is the case.” There will be 400 Caffe Nero stores open by Saturday and all of these will be converted to eat-in. The majority of these stores will also be offering delivery through UberEats.

wireless social logoSome of London’s shopping districts are showing strong footfall trends while other areas are climbing more modestly towards pre-coronavirus levels, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. Footfall in Oxford Street on Wednesday (24 June) was up almost 10% on the previous week, and is now down about 58% on February’s levels, while in Bayswater footfall was up some 15% and is down about 46% compared with February. In Wardour Street in Soho there were also signs people were returning, with footfall on Wednesday up 10% on the previous week, but still down some 80% on what the area saw in February. In Kensington High Street, footfall rose about 5% on the previous week, and is down about 66% compared with the February average. There was a similar rise in Leicester Square, but footfall is still down about 80% compared with what it was in February. Footfall in Covent Garden has remained down about 70% compared with the February average.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Nick Collins, chief executive of LoungersCafe bar operator Loungers plans to have all of its 167-strong estate reopen by mid-August, Propel has learned. The Nick Collins-led (pictured) group expects to have around 70 sites fully re-opened by 8 July, a further 40 sites by the 22 July, and the remainder open in early to mid-August. The company said some of this is dependent on the timing of restrictions being eased in Wales. It said the split between the reopening of its two concepts – Lounge and Cosy Club – will be “relatively consistent” throughout the re-opening phasing. Collins told Propel: “Now we have had the nod from the government we are very excited about getting back to doing what we do best and looking after our teams and customers. We are adopting a phased approach to re-opening the estate. We have taken this approach because we want to ensure we have sufficient time to thoroughly train our teams, prepare our sites and provide amazing hospitality for our customers in an environment we can demonstrate is safe. We have worked hard to introduce distancing and increased hygiene measures, and to reassure our customers and teams their safety is paramount, whilst at the same time ensuring our unique hospitality and atmosphere is not compromised. The knowledge we have gleaned from having operated a number of the sites for takeaway over the past few weeks has played an important part in preparing for re-opening. Whilst we don’t know exactly how our customers will behave in the early days post-lockdown, we remain positive with regard to our prospects in both brands. We have a flexible, all-day model with broad appeal across all the day parts and a good proportion of the estate benefits from external space. We believe we have an important role to play in the predominantly suburban and market-town communities where we operate, with no exposure to central London and transport hubs.”

London's West End shops and peopleThe majority of pub operators believe their trading performance over the next 12 months will be at 50% to 75% of the level generated before coronavirus, according to a new survey by property firm Fleurets. The research, which featured 100 operators taking in an estimated 750 sites, found almost 19% were expecting a spike in trade immediately following 4 July, against about 65% who didn’t expect one. Two-fifths expected to return to normal levels of trading only once all restrictions were lifted, with almost 28% saying 2021, about 24% saying 2022, and 3.3% stating never. Almost 48% expected to see an increase in retail price, with about 63% expecting to see an increase in the cost of goods. When it came to possible changes to operators’ trading mix, about 50% expected that to stay the same, almost 30% said it would be more wet-led, and 20% more dry-led. In terms of what government support operators would most like to see introduced/continued, a reduction in VAT came out top (45.5%), followed by business rates relief in 2021 (40%). When asked about views on new site acquisitions, 46.6% were focused on consolidating for 12 months against 44.4% that were keen to grow. Only about 9% were thinking about disposals. Ed Sandall, director at Fleurets, told Propel: “The smaller expanding multi-site operators are key to the pub market dynamic/function and while it is clear the next 12 months will be very challenging, we are delighted a good proportion of the market is keen to grow their estates at the appropriate time. This resonate with our experience, where we are still seeing transactions complete despite lock-down.”

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

Elton Mouna, managing director of Remarkable Pubs

Propel coronavirus crisis interviews

Elton Mouna, managing director of Remarkable Pubs, interviewed by Ann Elliott

CLICK HERE to view

The Propel Insights Series: Lease Restructuring Webinar – Mark Wingett hosts: Menashe Sadik, co-founder of Chopstix, Vernon Dennis, partner at Howard Kennedy David Abramson, chief executive of the Cedar Dean Group

The Propel Insights Series:
Lease Restructuring Webinar

Hosted by Mark Wingett

CLICK HERE to view

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