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Pubs and restaurants to feel the brunt of new tier system

Prime Minister Boris JohnsonPubs and restaurants will bear the brunt of a new covid tier system so that shops, cinemas and gyms can reopen under plans announced by Boris Johnson on Monday, The Daily Telegraph has reported.

The newspaper added: “Hospitality businesses in tier three will only be allowed to offer takeaways, while those in tier two will only be able to serve alcohol with “substantial meals”. The measures – which are significantly tougher than under the previous tier system – were described as “catastrophic” by pub chiefs on Sunday night, with a warning that one million jobs are now on the line. The Prime Minister(pictured)  will announce a revised tier system that will replace the current lockdown on December 3. While there is bad news for pubs, other restrictions will be lighter than under the old tier system.

All shops will be allowed to open in all tiers, together with gyms and places of worship, while recreational sport, including golf, tennis and organised team sports can resume. Cinemas will be allowed to reopen in tiers  one and two, and the advice to “work from home if you can” will remain across the country. An announcement will also be made on social mixing, with the “rule of six” expected to return in lower tiers and a ban on household mixing likely to be brought back in tier three. Johnson faces a growing Tory rebellion over the new measures after 70 backbench MPs said they would oppose them in a Parliamentary vote next week unless the government could show they “save more lives than they cost”. The Treasury will also come under intense pressure to provide more help for the hospitality industry after ministers were accused of using pubs and restaurants as a “sacrificial lamb” to save other sectors.”


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Peter Marks, CEO, Deltic GroupLeading nightclub operators will meet the business secretary this week in a last-ditch attempt to thrash out a potential lifeline for the beleaguered sector.

According to The Telegraph, bosses from Deltic Group, Fabric, Revolution Bars and Slug & Lettuce owner Stonegate Pub Company will meet Alok Sharma on Tuesday in the hope that the industry can secure a bailout following eight months of closure.

Peter Marks (pictured), chief executive of Deltic, which is the UK’s largest nightclub operator, said the industry has not been treated as a priority. “Every day you hear these announcements coming out from the government supporting this and supporting that and there’s still nothing for us, we’ve got crumbs.” Marks said the talks with Sharma were “crucial” in securing a buyer for the company. “I will have no problem getting one of these investor groups to back the business in the future if they know there is a safety net. If there isn’t, then chances are that this becomes just a bet, a punt,” he said.


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Michael GoveOne of Britain’s leading restaurateurs has urged the government to abandon blanket covid-19 restrictions or face “an atomic bomb” of unemployment in January. Richard Caring, who owns chains including Bill’s and The Ivy Collection, told The Times rules that had been “put in place without a great deal of thought” had turned out to be “a killer” for the hospitality industry. “I think the government should take some time and look at things in detail rather than having blanket situations that make no distinction between different areas,” he added. Speaking before the chancellor confirmed yesterday that the 10pm curfew was likely to be scrapped, Caring questioned the government’s motives, saying: “When they say we’ll close pubs, we’ll close restaurants, we’ll put a curfew in, it’s done not from a position of knowledge but from a position of politics. A blanket curfew isn’t correct.” Caring was particularly critical of Michael Gove (pictured) minister for the Cabinet Office. “When it was announced we were going into lockdown until 2 December, the very next day we have the cabinet minister coming out and suggesting it may well be extended again. If anybody was thinking of investing or looking for hope down the road, they absolutely kiboshed it. A statement like that means more people become unemployed.” After visiting eight cities, including Glasgow, Liverpool and Leeds, he said it was obvious from the number of boarded up restaurants and pubs that the situation was critical and he predicted a “big explosion” in January. “They should take some time to consider it. They’re not aware of the permanent damage being done throughout the country.”
Tim MartinJD Wetherspoon chairman and founder Tim Martin (pictured) has said the government is so far detached from reality that its current lockdown and tier strategies “will only end in a bad financial crisis”. Talking exclusively to The Propel Friday Wrap, Martin claimed the decisions being made by the government are “as bad as I’ve seen in my nearly 50 years as an adult”. He said the problem was not from the first lockdown “because there were a lot of unknowns”. He said: “The big issue is we reopened on 4 July, broadly on Swedish rules for pubs, agreed between the government, local authorities, civil servants and so on, which were difficult at first but they were sensible enough and we were gradually adapting but what happened after that was the government started to rule by diktat and we now have rule by emergency powers and when people rule by emergency powers they make stupid mistakes, such as closing golf courses, wearing a mask to go to the loo, not being allowed to go to the bar in a pub but you can in a shop and there’s been no transmissions in shops aside from a tiny, tiny percentage.” On the subject of what the next few months holds, Martin said: “A lot of it depends on luck – where you happened to be when the lockdown happened? How much cash you had at the time and how friendly you were with your bank manager? You’ve got the random rules of nature that are very unfair on so many businesses. We are better placed than most I guess. The industry is in a hell of a state. How can you have 500,000 to 600,000 people out of work already? And it can only get worse because businesses haven’t been making a profit. Every time you have to lock down or go to tier three or two, you are stretching the elastic even further. When you get a government that’s so detached from reality, which has got quite a bit of money for the time being so it can do some silly things as long as it has the printing presses keep going, it will only end in a bad financial crisis. The financial crisis has hit us and it will roll up if we don’t get out of the lockdown and tier system quickly and it will engulf the rest of the economy.” Martin also labelled the idea of the government “saving Christmas” as egocentric. He said: “I hate the idea of ‘saving Christmas’. It is the most egocentric thing I’ve ever heard; that ‘the quad’ – the group of four top politicians – are going to save Christmas. Looking at the big picture, Christmas is very important, especially with the tremendous cash flow crisis in the industry, but I’d rather follow a concerted path like that in Sweden and revert to 4 July rules (opening UK-wide with safety measures but no 10pm curfew), which will not jeopardise health and get pubs, shops and restaurants open on a permanent basis. Focusing on saving Christmas opens scope for politicians to open up for two weeks then lock it down again. We need to get back to 4 July.”
London's West End shops and peopleExtending the VAT cut and the business rates holiday are top priorities for the hospitality sector if businesses are to survive beyond the winter, according to new research. Research for UKHospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping by CGA showed support on VAT and business rates top of hospitality’s essential business support needs, with removal of curfew restrictions and allowing household mixing in venues also vital to survival. In the survey of more than 400 different businesses that operate more than 20,000 venues across the UK, more than half said an extension of the government’s business rates holiday was crucial to their survival. Four in ten also stated the government needed to extend its VAT cut to beyond March to help businesses remain viable. One in four felt enhanced grants to enable them to meet at least some of their costs while closed was vital to their survival. The research also pointed to a cut in beer duty being crucial, with more than one third of brewers stating it should be a government priority upon reopening as did one in five pubs. The trade associations said the government must now deliver this urgent support that the sector requires to help ensure its very survival, as it revealed 72% of hospitality and pub businesses could become unviable and close in 2021. In a joint statement, the trade bodies said: “Slashing hospitality VAT and introducing a business rates holiday for the sector were critically important moves earlier in the crisis. Many businesses are only just clinging on, so the VAT cut and rates holiday must be extended as a priority. Beyond these, there is still much the government can, and should, do to give beleaguered businesses a fighting chance of survival. This includes getting as much of the sector open as possible at the start of December. Rethinking the arbitrary 10pm curfew, which hamstrings venues, is a must. We also need to review the ban on household mixing inside venues in tier two regions, which is keeping friends and families apart. The restrictions being imposed on businesses before we went into the second lockdown were strangling trade and putting people out of business. If we exit this lockdown into similar, or worse, tighter restrictions, it is going to be the end for thousands of businesses.”
Patisserie Valerie's new larger site at Centre:MKAdministrators for collapsed bakery chain Patisserie Valerie have slapped a lawsuit on auditors Grant Thornton at the High Court for “negligent audits” of its accounts. Patisserie Valerie collapsed last year after a £40m hole was found in its accounts, possibly as a result of fraud. Grant Thornton is also being investigated by the accounting watchdog over the collapse. FRP Advisory, the administrator, confirmed the liquidators have “issued a claim for damages against Grant Thornton in respect of their negligent audits of the group companies’ financial statements”. Grant Thornton said: “We are aware a claim has been filed but it has not been served. We will, however, be rigorously defending the claim once we receive it.” Patisserie Valerie began in 1926 as a bakery shop in Soho, before it was bought by entrepreneur Luke Johnson in 2006. David Dunckley, chief executive of Grant Thornton UK, stated last year at a hearing with MPs it was not the role of the auditor to uncover fraud. The audit watchdog, the Financial Reporting Council, revealed plans last month to increase the onus on accountants to spot fraud.
Simon Wilkinson, chief executive of ByronSimon Wilkinson (pictured) chief executive of Byron, which was acquired via pre-pack administration by investment vehicle Calveton UK under newly formed company Famously Proper for £4m in August, has told Propel the business has been stabilised under its new ownership, returned to a small profit and is on the lookout for sites and/or delivery hubs. Byron, which was one of the bidders for rival Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), currently has 19 sites and four delivery kitchen units. Wilkinson said: “For the period from the reopening of the estate at the beginning of September to the second lockdown (bearing in mind we opened after Eat Out To Help Out so didn’t have the benefit of inflated sales), we have made a small profit at company level, for the first time in a number of years. That’s against a backdrop of sales decline mirroring the industry average of circa minus 25%, we have some sites in growth but we are over-exposed in large city centres, which are still ghost towns and will be for the foreseeable future. The main contributing factors to positive figures have been the work done to reduce our central overheads from more than £6m at the end of last year to less than £1.7m per annum now, and the incredible work ethic and application of the leaner Byron team that has worked tirelessly. We have been helped by new landlord deals and the VAT reduction. An extended lockdown into December would be disastrous and undo all the hard work. It would be a body blow to the whole industry because most hospitality businesses make the large share of their profit during that six-week period until schools return in January.” Boparan Restaurant Group, which earlier this year acquired Carluccio’s out of administration, acquired the bulk of the GBK business through a pre-pack administration last month, in a deal Propel understands was valued at more than £5m. Wilkinson said: “We unfortunately missed out on a well-publicised opportunity to consolidate the market, but we have moved on quickly and are having many conversations with a number of landlords regarding ex-Byron sites, ex-GBK sites and many of the other empty units the length and breadth of the country. The whole industry are mere pawns in the government’s chess game so it is hard to make long-term commitments with confidence in such uncertain times, however, that won’t stop us from making what we believe to be the right decisions.”
Legal – Law CourtThe Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has said it is “cautiously optimistic” as the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) appeal case at the Supreme Court over non-payment on business interruption insurance policies due to coronavirus drew to a close. The four-day hearing was challenging a successful test case brought by the FCA in September on behalf of holders of “business interruption” insurance who were denied payouts because of strict policy definitions. The core argument brought by the FCA and its lead lawyer Colin Edelman QC at the time was insurers demanding proof of local disease cases and arguing that businesses would have lost money anyway because of wider disruption defied “common sense”. The NTIA and its insurance broker NDML said: “It was clear the judges engaged positively with our policy wording leading us to be guardedly confident the appeal has viewed the FCA’s arguments in a positive light. Highlighting how insurers shouldn’t ‘cherry-pick’ between policies and clauses, we were pleased to see how Mr Edelman QC interrogated the original judgment in order to highlight how wordings such as our own ‘QBE-2’ policy should mirror that of the wider result, creating a level playing field in favour of policyholders. With the case only just complete, and the ink not yet dry on the court transcripts, there is still a lot to play for. However, the receptive attitude of the judges and their acknowledgement of Mr Edelman’s interpretations means we were far from discouraged in our hope the Supreme Court will eventually rule in favour of the FCA and our clients.”
Adam Keary, managing director of Camden Town BreweryCamden Town Brewery, which was acquired by AB InBev in an £85m deal in 2015, is to be integrated into the global brewing company from January, in a move that will see the brewery’s current managing director Adam Keary (pictured) step down. Keary, who initially joined the business as its sales director in April 2017, before becoming managing director in August 2019, will step down in March next year, while founder Jasper Cuppaidge will move into a consultative role with AB InBev. On possible redundancies, AB InBev said it anticipates retaining “most of the talent from Camden, and we are aiming to reduce any potential total impact to a minimum by reviewing alternative opportunities for any employees within the company”. Keary said: “Camden is about to turn the next exciting chapter in our story, by integrating fully into the UK arm of our parent company AB InBev, Budweiser Brewing Group. We have achieved a huge amount over the past ten years, and by making the transition, our brand and our breweries will be well positioned to continue that into the next ten and beyond. We will be unifying the two businesses, bringing the best of both and, ultimately, creating one bigger and better partner for all of our customers. Our guiding principle has never changed: to brew great, fresh beer and bring it to our consumers in an engaging way that, ultimately, makes beer better. Along the way we’ve had many milestones, from winning World Beer Cups, to opening our brewery in Enfield, to signing our deal with Arsenal FC and partnering with AB InBev in 2016. We started this year on a trajectory of over 50% growth, which means we would be almost five times bigger than 2016. This integration will also bring great opportunities for the beer team at Camden as they join the biggest brewer in the world. For myself, I will be managing the business and supporting the team through the transition. It’s been an absolute pleasure working at Camden and I’m excited to watch it’s continued success from the sidelines.” Paula Lindenberg, president, Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I, said: “As Camden has continued to see phenomenal growth, with the start of 2020 showing an anticipated tenth year of plus-50% consecutive gains, now is the time to fully integrate to keep up with consumer demand and to grow further. We believe our teams complement each other and our ambition is the same. Camden Town Brewery will continue to be focused on getting more fresh, high-quality beer into the hands of more people in the UK.”
Birley’sBirley’s, the sandwich and deli chain founded by Robin Birley, has become the latest London-based food-to-go operator to be placed on the market, Propel has learned. The nine-strong company, which is led by Paul Salter, is understood to be working with advisers from Lambert Smith Hampton on an accelerated sales process, with a bid deadline believed to be next Wednesday (25 November). It is thought that a restructuring of the business would be part of any sales process. Birley’s, which was founded in 1990, currently operates sites across the City and the capital’s financial district, including stores in Cannon Street and New Street Square in the City, and Churchill Place and Bank Street in Canary Wharf.
The Real Eating CompanyThe Real Eating Company has opened its first site in London, in Chelsea, Propel has learned. The Helena Hudson-led business has opened on the ex-EAT site in Kings Road, its third conversion from EAT to Real Eating Company in total. Earlier this year, the company open its sixth site in the south east after securing the former EAT site in Canterbury, Kent. The unit in Whitefriars Street is due to open later this month. Last summer, the company converted the EAT site in Chichester’s North Street to its brand. The Real Eating Company also operates a second site in Chichester plus units in Horsham, Bournemouth and Portsmouth.
Starbucks LogoStarbucks will hike pay for baristas, shift supervisors and cafe attendants at its US outlets by at least 10%, effective from Monday, 14 December. The company will also boost starting pay by 5% in order to help attract and retain employees. The details were contained in an internal memo, reports Business Insider. The increase is “one of the most substantial investments in pay in our company’s history,” Rossann Williams, Starbucks’ president of US retail, wrote. Employees who have been with the company for three years or more will get at least an 11% pay hike, and the company will increase the premium it already pays above minimum wage in every market, it said.
As many as 4,000 restaurants in the UK face an investigation into fraudulent Eat Out To Help Out claims. The government is warning eateries across the country they face action. A probe could be launched if they do not ensure claims under the Eat Out To Help Out scheme are accurate, government officials have confirmed. The scheme was set up in the summer, in a bid to ensure the country would get back spending and revive the hospitality industry as the first lockdown began to lift. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said it was sending letters to businesses that might have made an incorrect claim. HMRC said: “Claimants have 60 days to respond to the letter or we may start a formal compliance check. This could include having to pay statutory interest and penalties.” Companies are being asked to check their records to ensure they met the conditions of the scheme, but also to check if they claimed for more than they were entitled to. The letter encourages transparency and added: “We understand mistakes happen, particularly in these challenging times. This means we will not look for innocent errors and small mistakes for compliance action.” Officials have warned several billion pounds could be lost to fraudsters and paid out in error under government schemes that were launched during lockdown earlier this year. More than 84,000 food and drink venues took part in the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, which saw Brits get up to 50% off meals and soft drinks, up to £10 per person, from Monday to Wednesday in August.
Coco Momo, Marylebone, High StreetThe Restaurant Group (TRG) paid £850,000 to buy back three sites from the 11-strong Food & Fuel business, which was placed into administration in March, Propel has learned. On 24 April this year, TRG exchanged on a deal for Coco Momo sites in Marylebone and Kensington, The Queens in Crouch End, The Roebuck in Chiswick and The Queens Arms in Pimlico, with completion due to have taken place by 12 June, for a sum of £1.6m. However, Propel has learned the company eventually paid £895,000 to acquire the Coco Momo site in Kensington, The Queens in Crouch End and The Queens Arms in Pimlico. It has since also agreed a deal to acquire the Roebuck in Chiswick. However, the company’s interest in the Coco Momo site in Marylebone failed to progress and its was subsequently acquired for £200,000 by Santi & Santi, the company behind Marylebone Leisure Group, and Marmalade Pubs, a joint venture with Ei Group’s Managed Investments segment. In June, Propel revealed London pub operator Market Taverns had acquired another four sites from the former Food & Fuel estate – The Sporting Page in Chelsea, The Queens Head in Holborn, The Lots Road Pub & Dining Room in Chelsea and The Prince Of Wales in Putney. In the administrator’s report, a consideration of £200,000 was received from Market Taverns and a deal for The Lots Road Pub & Dining Room, The Prince Of Wales and The Sporting Page was completed in May. The sale of The Queens Head was completed in June. Of the two remaining pubs placed into administration, The Duke in Richmond and The Grosvenor in Hanwell have been taken back by their respective landlords – Tavern Propco and Rose Six. The Steam Packet in Chiswick wasn’t included in the administration but transferred to TRG’s gastro-pub brand Brunning & Price. TRG acquired the then 11-strong Food & Fuel in September 2018 for £14.9m.
Jonathan Arana-Morton, founder of The Breakfast ClubAll-day concept The Breakfast Club has begun the search for a managing director as it looks to grow the Charlie McVeigh-chaired, 12-strong business. In a LinkedIn post, co-founder Jonathan Arana-Morton (pictured) said the business is looking for someone to take the group up to 30 sites. He said: “So, first things first, a bit of honesty. I need an MD because I’m not quite good enough for us right now. In fact, I haven’t been quite up to it for a few years. What 2020 showed me is the weight of responsibility that comes with having the livelihoods of 340 people and their families on your shoulders. You can never take that responsibility lightly. There comes a time when you realise they deserve better than you. You see this business, The Breakfast Club – it’s bloody wonderful. The potential for it is huge, I mean off-the-scale huge and we need somebody to help us realise that potential. Tell me a brand that occupies a space so magnificently and so unequivocally theirs. We are a ‘caf’. Not a cafe, not a shop, not a branch, not a unit, not a restaurant, just a caf. But what a caf! But it’s not only that, it’s a business with a huge heart, it’s community focus has not just been sector-leading but all-industry-leading and I can talk your ears off about this when we meet. And don’t get me wrong, we’ve continued to open cafs, 12 profitable, successful cafs, but it feels like we’ve been in a holding pattern. When this plane should be supercharged, I’ve flown it round in circles. The reason why now is so important is the year 2021. Because 2021 is an open goal for the right business, this business. The opportunity that will exist for businesses that survive will be incredible. So what about you? I need someone to help me fly this plane through 2021 and land it at ‘30 Caf Airport’. I need a leader with drive, determination and a fighting spirit so evident that you could be sat on a horse, wearing blue and white face paint, screaming ‘freedom!’ (not George Michael silly, William Wallace). I’m only interested in the right person – not your background and not whether you’ve been on the hospitality merry-go-round – the same old faces don’t interest me, just the right face. You will be given full support by me. I’ll help you keep this business special. But don’t worry about an ego, a protective ‘nothing must change’ founder, I’ve moved on, I’ve realised this is bigger than me now.”
Ralph Findlay, Chief Executive, Marston'sRalph Findlay (pictured), chief executive of Marston’s, has said that by the end of October, the company’s cash burn rate was running at about £4m a week, including “net of all government assistance”. Talking on Tuesday (17 November) to the BEIS Select Committee to discuss the impact of covid-19 on businesses and workers, Findlay said that of his 1,300 pubs in England, 800 were in tier one at the end of October, 250 in tier two, and 250 in tier three. In Wales, Marston’s had 100 pubs closed at the end of October, and in Scotland it had 21 shut. He said: “If I take the 21 in Scotland, each one is a £2m to £3m investment, each employing 50 to 60 people, so [they are] sizable and significant businesses. The figures I am quoting, bad though they are, may be at the upper end of what you may hear as we are, predominantly, a suburban business. Up to the end of September, our business, with the guidelines and restrictions that were in place, was running at minus 10% year-on-year, which was better than I had expected it to be. Then we went into further restrictions, including the rule of six, table service and 10pm curfew, which reduced sales again by a further, on average, 10%. As much as anything, it deflated consumer confidence. We then had the tier one, two and three restrictions. As we moved into tier two, there was a further 10% reduction in like-for-like sales, and as we moved into tier three, again another 10% reduction. In tier three, if you were shut, you were 100% down, if you were open at the better end, you were 40% down and if you were a city centre bar, you were somewhere between 50% to 90% down year-on-year. Our cash burn rate was running at about £4m a week, that includes net of all government assistance.”
Rick Bailey, executive chairman of brewer and retailer Daniel ThwaitesRick Bailey (pictured), executive chairman of brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites, has said the covid-19 crisis has “burdened the business with more strain and uncertainty than I can remember at any time in the past two decades”. Writing in the company’s annual report he said it was likely people’s habits have “changed for good” but remained positive there is a place for Thwaites in the “new environment we face”. He said: “The drive towards quality within our properties puts them in a good position to be the place of choice should customers choose to go out less frequently. We have good representation in rural locations and national parks, places that people will seek out. The geographic diversity of our properties also provides some resilience should there be localised lockdowns as we continue to respond to the threat of covid-19. It is, therefore, with optimism that we look to the next year and the future, even if the path for the moment is a bit uncertain. I am confident we will navigate this coming year with dynamism and agility to rebuild our teams, our sales and our profitability in order to allow the company to thrive once more.” Bailey said the company had been “having a good year” until the final month of its financial year ending 30 March 2020. In the first 11 months, turnover was up 5% with operating profit running 12% ahead of the year before. Turnover for the full year rose 1% to £98.1m, compared with £96.9m the year before. Underlying operating profit was down to £12.6m from £13m the previous year, reflecting the impact of the downturn in trade from the second week of March and full closure of the business from 20 March. The impact saw profit in that month reduce £2.5m compared with the prior year. Ebitda stood at £19.5m compared with £20.5m the previous year. Profit before tax fell to £3.6m from £4.5m the year before. The company reduced its capital investment programme to £10.8m from £19.5m the previous year and had property disposals of £6.3m. It acquired three sites for a total of £1.8m. Net debt decreased in the year to £65.4m from £69.7m the previous year. Bailey added: “We have suffered several months of losses and are prepared for a slow recovery. We have used the time while not trading profitably to think about how we continue to improve our customer experience as we relaunch the business and start to recover. We have also considered our structures and cost base across all areas of the business, stripping out unnecessary expenditure and streamlining processes to make the business leaner.”
Legal – Law CourtA legal challenge to the 10pm hospitality curfew is set for a second court hearing on Thursday, 3 December. Jeremy Joseph, owner of G-A-Y nightclub group, is continuing to push for a judicial review after a court refused permission for the case to go ahead last month. He claimed the government has not provided scientific evidence to support the controversial closing time, which has been enforced since 24 September. The curfew, which was in place across all of England’s three tiers of coronavirus restrictions is expected to be reintroduced when the national lockdown ends on Wednesday, 2 December. Government advisers said on Monday (16 November), the tiers might need “strengthening” to get the country through the winter months. Joseph said in a statement: “We would much rather not have to go to court. However, if the government decides to bring [the curfew] back, we are able to challenge them through our hearing immediately. The curfew doesn’t help control the virus and it destroys livelihoods. Hospitality businesses need the opportunity to recover, but they will be unable to while subject to a counter-productive curfew.” The legal action is being backed by the Night Time Industries Association.
Sacha LordSacha Lord (pictured), Greater Manchester’s night time economy adviser, has released a plan detailing how businesses can be supported to recover from the impacts of the pandemic – but warned it could take five years for the sector to recover. The Greater Manchester night-time economy blueprint, released with the combined authority and Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, includes a list of key priorities such as lobbying for fairer financial support for those hit hardest by the pandemic, including for freelancers and the self-employed. Lord said there should be schemes to encourage the public to shop local, greater support for businesses looking to diversify their offerings or retrain, and greater mental health support for night-time businesses and their employees. He said, for the past eight months, he has “watched in horror as the sector has been thrown to the wolves”. But he said: “I remain confident in the resilience of Greater Manchester’s nightlife scene and its ability to return bigger and brighter, albeit looking significantly different. I wholeheartedly believe the sector plays a critical part of the growth and leading status of our city-region. However, it’s with a heavy heart I estimate it will take at least five years to recover to pre-pandemic levels. I am, therefore, under no illusion of the hard work ahead, but I have always maintained that together we are stronger. It’s time to look forward to rebuilding on our previous strengths, build on what we’ve already achieved and learn from previous mistakes. Burnham said: “Although the sector has been forced to take many steps backwards in light of the global pandemic, Sacha and the team know we now need to focus on recovery with the same aim at the heart of the work we do; for Greater Manchester to be one of the best places in the world to go out, stay out, work and run a business between the hours of 6pm and 6am.”
Richard Hodgson has been appointed chief executive of YO! SushiYO!, the Richard Hodgson-led (pictured) global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group, is to launch a trial of a franchise model for its pan-Asian street food concept Panku, Propel has learned. YO! currently acts as the master franchisee for the concept, which was founded by Neil Nugent and Andy Upton. It now plans to trial the franchise model across a select number of sites, before assessing whether to roll it out further. It currently operates 35 Panku concessions in Asda stores across the UK, with another two set to open soon. David Hampton, managing director of Retail at YO!, said: “We’ve been really pleased with the reaction to our Panku kiosks. With 35 sites up and running, and more in the pipeline, we are now looking at what the next phase of development might look like. Drawing from our experience with Snowfox and Bento, our highly successful kiosk brands in the USA and Canada, we will be trialling a franchise model across a handful of Panku sites in the UK.” Last month, the company began trialling a new Indian street food concept called Kulaba Kitchen with retailer Asda. The company launched the trial in the Asda in Worksop under a dual site launch with a Panku unit, and is currently rolling it out to supermarkets in Clapham, Halifax, Rotherham and Aintree.
Competitive Socialising founders Matt Grech-Smith (left) and Jeremy SimmondsCompetitive Socialising, the parent company of street food and crazy golf concept Swingers, is to push on with its US expansion plans despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Co-founder Matt Grech-Smith (pictured left) told Propel the company, which operates two sites in central London, had a handful of leases signed and in progress in the US, and is on-site on one location currently. With a vaccine hopefully in place, he is targeting opening the first two US Swingers sites in 2021, with more to follow. “We’ve made really good use of this period to prepare our plans,” Grech-Smith said. “In the US, we’ve been having productive conversations with landlords. We are seeing more favourable rental terms and landlords are engaging – it definitely now seems like a partnership rather than them dictating terms. We’re going to go at it humbly because we have a lot to learn about the US market but if we are successful, we want to make sure we have enough sites in the pipeline to allow us to grow at speed. Meanwhile, in the UK, we’ve overhauled the courses of our London venues and developed a bespoke CRM system. We’d like to do more sites in the UK in time, but the US is our focus for now.” Grech-Smith said trade had been going “really well, all things considered” since reopening its London sites – located in Regent Street and underneath the Gherkin in the City – in September until the latest lockdown was introduced. However, he believes there will once again be pent-up demand when the sector is allowed to reopen – hopefully in time for the festive season. He said: “We sold 85% of our available tickets leading up to the second lockdown. People weren’t booking as far ahead as they were pre-covid, but we were sold out much of the time, so we’re confident demand will return when we reopen. It won’t be a Christmas that matches previous ones – we’ve got minimal corporate trade but we believe, if allowed, many people will still want to go out and celebrate.” Grech-Smith said its backer, private investment firm Cain International, has been “very supportive”, while the business has also secured a “multimillion-pound” sum through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. He added: “By this time next year, hopefully we’ll be putting coronavirus behind us starting to see again some of those revenue figures in the UK that we used to take for granted.”
Coco Di MamaAzzurri Group, the TowerBrook Capital-backed business, is to trial the delivery of its Coco di Mama concept through a number of its Zizzi sites, Propel has learned. The Italian food-to-go brand is to trial delivery in new locations prepared through its sister-brand’s kitchens, starting in London suburbs. Coco di Mama managing director Jim Attwood told Propel: “The initial trials in Bromley, Sutton and Kingston aim to bring Coco di Mama’s fast and fulfilling pasta closer to its core customer base of professional City workers as they continue to work from home during lockdown.” Azzurri began the reopening of its 30-strong, London-based Coco di Mama estate at the start of November. It relaunched five sites in Margaret Street, Holborn, More London, Cheapside and Fleet Street.
Busaba St AlbansTerry Harrison, managing director of Busaba, the Thai chain founded by Alan Yau, has told Propel that landlords “applying pre-covid agreements to a current (or post-covid) environment doesn’t make good business sense for either side of the equation”. Harrison was talking after the company surrendered the lease of its restaurant in Chelsea’s King’s Road, after failing to reach an agreement with the site’s landlord. The company secured approval for its company voluntary arrangement (CVA) proposal last month. Harrison said: “The majority of our landlords have been very supportive, but there is a minority where the penny just still hasn’t dropped yet that the world has changed – maybe not forever, but certainly for the foreseeable. We understand there are huge challenges for all of us, landlords and tenants alike, but applying pre-covid agreements to a current (or post-covid) environment just doesn’t make good business sense on either side of the equation. Unfortunately, we have decided to cease trading at Chelsea rather than gamble with a site that we barely made profit at before the pandemic. It’s a shame because we had a strong core following in the Chelsea area and we’d like to thank all our patrons for their support. We will, hopefully, be back in the area soon.” Harrison said the company had agreed deals with landlords on eight of its 12 sites and was close to agreeing most of the last remaining sites. Busaba, which earlier this summer was acquired by London-based private equity firm Tnui Capital, launched its CVA at the start of September. The CVA saw it exit its site in Eastcastle Street, Oxford Circus, which it placed on the market earlier this year; plus the lease of its former site in Manchester; the lease of its former site in St Albans; and the site it was set to take in Reading’s Jackson’s Corner development. Davis Coffer Lyons is marketing the ex-Busaba site in Chelsea.
NightclubNight Time Industry Association chief executive Michael Kill has said the integrity of insurance companies is at stake as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) appeal case over non-payment on business interruption insurance policies due to coronavirus reaches its final stage at the Supreme Court. Kill said: “The night-time economy and hospitality sector has been decimated by the impact of covid-19, not least by the behaviour of insurance companies in their management of business interruption claims since the closures of many businesses due to the pandemic. We are now at the final hurdle with the FCA Supreme Court appeal hearing this week, and can feel an immense amount of frustration and anger from businesses at the insurance companies that have utilised this process, although expedited, to elongate the potential outcome. It has to be said that you can only feel that this strategy by insurers will purposely see many businesses close without seeing their claims fulfilled, bringing into question the integrity of the insurance sector.” A test case brought by the FCA on behalf of thousands of businesses that claimed they should have been paid by insurers to cover closures during the pandemic was favoured by the High Court in September, which agreed business interruption insurance policies with pandemic or notifiable disease clauses should be read as to cover covid-19, and claims should be met “in most cases”. The FCA said its aim in bringing the case was to urgently clarify key issues of contractual uncertainty for as many policyholders and insurers as possible. The FCA did this by selecting a representative sample of policy wordings issued by eight insurers. The judgment said most, but not all, of the disease clauses in the sample provide cover. The test case has also clarified the covid-19 pandemic and the government and public response were a single cause of the covered loss, which is a key requirement for claims to be paid even if the policy provides cover. However, the judgment did not say the eight defendant insurers were liable across all of the 21 different types of policy wording in the representative sample considered by the court. Each policy needs to be considered against the detailed judgment to work out what it means for that policy.
Pret A Manger logoPret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-owned chain, has further diversified its offer with the launch of new Dinners by Pret delivery range and a new Order Ahead service. Available from 30 Pret sites from Thursday (19 November), the new Dinners by Pret range comprises focaccia pizzas; pigs in blankets; mac ’n’ cheese; hot rice bowls, including curry and chili; and milkshakes. The new dinners menu also includes three new vegan-friendly hot rice bowls. Briony Raven, UK food and coffee director at Pret, said: “We’re thrilled to be able to offer more customers new (and freshly made) Pret Dinners for their evening takeaways. With many of us having tried to take up cooking during the last lockdown, we decided it’s time to let our customers sit back and relax while Pret handles dinner – you’ve seen enough of your kitchen this year. We’ve worked hard to take some of the nation’s most beloved comfort foods and give them a Pret twist, including our new focaccia pizzas. Not only have we created new items to add to our dinners menu range but we have expanded the delivery services to be from 30 shops with our delivery partners. Not only that but we have also made sure to include something for everyone including more vegan dishes than ever before.” Customers looking to arrange a takeaway from their local Pret for breakfast or lunch can now visit the brand’s website and order directly through its new Order Ahead system to safely pick up their order at their designated shop at the specified time.
Michael Bruno, franchise recruitment director for North America for German Doner Kebab’sGerman Doner Kebab (GDK), the flagship concept of Hero Brands, has appointed a new franchise recruitment director for North America to spearhead its growth and development in the region. Michael Bruno (pictured) joins from Focus Brands and has more than 25 years’ experience in the sector. Bruno will be heading up the franchise recruitment arm for GDK and will be tasked with developing the franchisee growth pipeline across North America. Bruno’s appointment comes as German Doner Kebab opens its first two restaurants, in Ottawa and Vancouver, and forges ahead with its North American expansion and ambitious plans to engage and recruit quality franchisees across the region. GDK has five franchisees who have signed up for a development pipeline of 75 restaurants across North America, embarking on significant growth with key locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, New York, New Jersey, Houston, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver. GDK USA managing director Nigel Belton said: “I am looking forward to working closely with Michael as we seek to rapidly develop a robust development pipeline. With our first two stores now open in Canada, I am confident this will translate into much more interest and excitement, which will support our endeavours to ‘on board’ the right partners to build the GDK brand.” Bruno added: “This really is a fantastic opportunity to be joining a new disruptive brand and help the senior team drive and further strengthen GDK’s footprint as it prepares for an exciting growth period. I’m seeking to engage with experienced franchisees across North America that are keen to expand their restaurant portfolio and join the GDK family.” The GDK franchise business employs more than 1,000 people within the UK and also operates franchised stores in Sweden, Dubai, Abu-Dhabi, Oman and Bahrain.
The Pepper Collective led by managing director Handley Amos and creative director Neil RankinSalt’s restaurant division, The Pepper Collective, has appointed Paul Fleming as managing director. Fleming, who was commercial director at Salt, will be responsible for driving forward the day-to-day operations and bringing Pepper’s project pipeline to life, in line with the company’s ambitious strategy. Fleming’s commercial experience ranges from West End theatres and music festivals to global beverage brands, and he brings to the business “an unrivalled understanding of how to grow brands in challenging markets”, The Pepper Collective said. Group chief executive Andrew Fishwick said: “Paul’s ability to drive large-scale projects with all of the diplomacy and skill required is second to none. I am so excited to bring him into our team and go on this exciting journey with him.” Fleming added: “There has never been a more important time for hospitality businesses to build meaningful partnerships, to share knowledge, resource and skills to create joyful experiences.” In addition to Fleming, The Pepper Collective has also appointed Janelle Ladewig as general counsel. Ladewig, a qualified solicitor, brings extensive experience in commercial property, particularly the sale and acquisition of high-worth businesses.
Paul RuddyGoodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy (pictured) has said food-led operators have a chance of breaking even despite weak October figures across hospitality as England looked towards its second lockdown. CGA’s Coffer Peach tracker for October stated the number of open sites reduced to 83% from 88% in September. Like-for-like sales across all outlets were down 28.9% with total sales down 33.9% (like-for-likes were minus 14.7% and total sales were minus 20.3% in September). Pubs and pub restaurants like-for-likes dropped 31.9%, restaurants fell 19.5% and bars plummeted 52.6%. Commenting on these results, Ruddy said: “This is a weak month of data as increasing covid-19 cases and government restrictions hit the sector. However, for the food-led operators, the small positive is most should have been able to break even in the month. We have limited data from operators, but JD Wetherspoon noted like-for-like sales down 27.6% for the 15 weeks to 8 November, a marked slowdown from the minus 15% reported for the first 11 weeks. The 27.6% fall included a weekend of zero sales, but Wetherspoon appeared to underperform the overall market in October, likely due to its drink-led focus (60% of sales), but also owing to the fact it passed on the VAT cut to customers. Young’s noted trading in its managed house division had been encouraging since the end of September, at 73% of last year’s levels (end of September to 5 November). The sector faces more challenges in the short term given England is largely closed, and restrictions remain in place in Scotland. However, the furlough scheme being extended provides an offset and the operators in our coverage have sufficient liquidity to see them through this lockdown. A key question in the short term is what sort of restrictions will be in place for the busy Christmas period.”
NightclubNightclub bosses have written to prime minister Boris Johnson asking for a financial package to prevent a “devastating tsunami of job losses”. Nightclubs in the UK have now been closed for eight months due to the pandemic with no confirmed reopening date, while bars and pubs have been allowed to reopen since the first lockdown. The #SaveNightclubs campaign, which is a nationwide coalition that represents more than 100 nightclubs and thousands of staff, has written the open letter urging the government to “act now or permanently lose the country’s nightclub industry and the enormous economic contribution it makes to the UK”. The letter stated these venues are likely to be closed for an entire year, evidenced by the second lockdown and the extension of the furlough scheme until March. It read: “Unlike hospitality and gyms, which were able to trade over the summer months, we have not been able to open at all, resulting in zero revenue since March. Venues are facing mounting rent bills, ongoing running costs and the prospect of business rates in April 2021. We urge the government to prevent a devastating tsunami of job losses, a wipe-out of future economic contributions and further ruin to towns and cities across the UK, which are already on their knees.” The letter said more than 70% of people working in nightclubs are self-employed and, therefore, could not receive furlough pay due to their ineligibility. It also asked the government to introduce protection from eviction for nightclubs during and immediately after the crisis, and extend business rates relief to April 2022. The letter was supported by a number of nightclub operators including G1 Group and Tokyo industries and trade group the Night Time Industries Association. Last month, a survey by the campaign group found four in five nightclubs (81%) will be shut by Christmas unless the government urgently intervenes.
Christmas dinner in a pub general viewPubs and restaurants that offer a takeaway or delivery service can expect a surge in demand during the festive period, especially if they are forced to close, according to research by KAM Media. A snap poll by the research consultancy found 24% of respondents would consider purchasing a takeaway from their local pub or restaurant over the upcoming Christmas period. This figure rose to 36% if their local hospitality venues were forced to close. A quarter (25%) said they would consider a takeaway Christmas dinner on Christmas Day specifically, if venues were forced to close. One fifth (20%) said they would consider purchasing a “ready-to-cook Christmas meal kit” from their local pub/restaurant if they were closed on Christmas Day – this option was particularly popular with Generation Z and younger Millennials (26%). A quarter (25%) said they would consider purchasing a “New Year’s Eve ‘celebrate at home’ kit” from a local pub or restaurant. Meanwhile, 22% said they would consider visiting a pub or restaurant for breakfast or brunch on Christmas Day while a quarter (24%) said they would consider celebrating New Year’s Eve earlier in the day this year, by visiting a pub or restaurant for lunch instead of dinner. A quarter (26%) would consider buying a gift voucher for a pub or restaurant if venues aren’t open – and 22% would if they are. KAM Media managing director Katy Moses said: “Obviously, things can change and lockdown measures are unpredictable but the results are very positive, showing a significant proportion of consumers are very likely to support the hospitality industry this Christmas even if venues are forced to close.” The full poll results are available here.
KAM Media is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Caffe NeroCaffe Nero had been trading at 55% to 65% of pre-pandemic weeks before the second lockdown – and is forecasting a funding requirement of £26m. The company, which currently operates 800 sites across the UK, has also said it doesn’t consider 69 of its outlets, in its recently launched company voluntary arrangement (CVA) proposals, to be viable based on historical performance and expectation of future trading. These are thought to include central London-based sites in Piccadilly Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Central St Giles and Covent Garden (Maiden Lane). It is understood prior to the recent takeaway-only restrictions, overall sales in recent weeks were between 55% and 65% of levels prior to the pandemic, which the company said represented an “unsustainable drop”. Some stores are understood to be trading at as little as 25% to 40% of pre-covid levels. After taking advantage of support provided by the government, between March and September the business is thought to have lost £110m of sales and £36m of Ebitda versus the same period in the prior year. Propel understands even with the significant and ongoing actions taken by the management team to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, the business is currently loss-making and the directors are forecasting a funding requirement in excess of £26m, hence the CVA move. Propel understands if the CVA proposals, which look to move the majority of the group’s sites and concessions to a turnover-based rent, are approved when voted on, on Monday, 30 November, the group’s shareholders will make available a minimum of £5m of new funding to the company, to allow it to meet its obligations under the CVA. Propel understands landlords will receive a payment of approximately 30p in the pound in respect of landlord/non-critical creditor arrears, which is thought to be more favourable than is typical.

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 Please use BeatTheVirus in the subject line.

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

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

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People & Training Conference: Abi Dunn talks to Chantal Wilson, people director at Honest Burgers

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Abi Dunn talks to Chantal Wilson, people director at Honest Burgers

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Kris Gumbrell, chief executive of Brewhouse & Kitchen
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The Propel Friday Wrap:

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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
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