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Meat prices continue to climb

Meat prices are continuing to climb, analysis by catering butcher Birtwistles has shown. In its latest market report, Birtwistles said poultry prices “continue to tick upwards”, particularly around wings and thighs, with demand still outstripping supply. The report stated: “Contributing to this, we have seen shortages on whole birds, with farmers reluctant to put birds on the ground without guaranteeing the correct return as the continued high cost of production including feed, energy, labour continue to be the biggest challenges faced.
It is anticipated whole birds could increase from anywhere between £0.10-£0.50 per kilogramme in the coming month.” The demand for UK beef trims is still high, with prices predicted to increase further during the peak months for demand in July/August, the report said. It added: “We do not expect to see any softening until at least September, which will affect and keep firm all associated products such as mince and burgers.” In the week ending 18 June, the average deadweight prime cattle price was 442.3p per kilogramme, up 1.6p on the previous week. Turkey prices are now at the same level they were in November/December last year, when they are typically at their highest level due to Christmas demand.
The report stated: “What is driving this price is a shortage of birds being placed on the ground and farms switching to chicken to satisfy demand across Europe the UK and further afield. In the UK alone, seven sites usually used for turkey farming have closed and switched to chicken.” Pork prices have risen again, up 1.88p to 184.98p per kilogramme in the week ending 18 June.
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Greene King calls on the government to work closely with sector to unlock full potential of pubs: Greene King has called on the government to work closely with the sector to unlock the full potential of pubs. Launching a new report titled Untapping Potential: the role of pubs in levelling up skills, jobs and communities, the brewer and pub operator sets out three calls to action – promoting hospitality as a career; positioning businesses at the heart of further education and apprenticeship policy; and committing to cross-government collaboration to allow pubs to serve all.

The report urges the government and businesses to continue to work together to enable the sector to provide skilled and fulfilling careers, and feed into the Levelling Up agenda. This includes calls to ensure the government and the National Careers Service do more to promote hospitality as a skilled profession and empower businesses through reform of the Apprenticeship Levy. This includes ensuring consistency in apprenticeship programmes and enabling businesses to use any unspent levy funds more flexibly, as well as remove barriers to employers recruiting prison leavers by introducing more standardised recruitment processes.

At the same time, Greene King announced a series of commitments to create even more career opportunities, including adding 5,000 new apprentices across the 32 different types currently available by 2025, building on the 15,000 individuals that have already completed the programme since 2011.

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Stonegate has accused its insurers of adopting an approach that “effectively obliterates cover” in the final day of a £1.1bn ($1.35bn) business interruption insurance trial that saw both parties set out closing arguments. Stonegate is suing MS Amlin, Zurich and Liberty Mutual over covid-19 losses, claiming it is entitled to a pay-out for its 760 premises, while insurers maintain the policy only covers Stonegate as a singular corporate entity. Stonegate had previously set out how it regards all cases of covid-19 as an “equal, concurrent, proximate cause of loss”, and in his closing statement, the company’s counsel Ben Lynch QC, of Fountain Court Chambers, compared the pandemic to a spreading fire. “It’s an explosion outwards,” he said. “You have super-spreader events – work, school public transport – all of which results in exponential growth.” The insurers maintain the original occurrence of covid-19 in China cannot be conflated with a covered event resulting in an insurance loss, an approach that Lynch said, “effectively obliterates cover”. Gavin Kealey QC, of 7KBW, representing the insurers, told the court there was “no support for Stonegate’s position in the policy”. “The subsidiaries were not insured, ever,” he told the court, claiming Stonegate was acting like the owner of a £1m house who had chosen to insure it for only £1,000. Also at issue is the treatment of furlough payments, which Stonegate maintains should not be used to limit the indemnity of insurers. “The purpose of furlough payments was not to reduce the loss but to protect jobs,” Lynch told the court. It is not yet clear when a ruling will be given in the case. There remain two other business interruption cases progressing through the courts, and at their conclusion, Mr Justice Butcher will consider his verdict.

Côte, the French brasserie chain backed by the Partners Group, has further strengthened its management team with the appointment of a new chief marketing officer and chief information officer, Propel has learned. The Jane Holbrook-led restaurant brand has appointed David Murdin, formerly of BA, Whitbread and Costa, as its new chief marketing officer. He most recently held an interim role as chief marketing officer at Wagamama. Jo Fawcett, the former Azzurri Group marketing director who has been working with Cote over the past ten months, will stay to support the business on a part-time basis. Richard Tallboy, the current chief information officer at The Restaurant Group (TRG), will also join Côte later this summer in the same role. Tallboy spent 15 years working at TRG and Wagamama, where he revolutionised the digital experience for the teams and guests. At the same time, Adelle Taylor returns to the business as operations managing director after a year off. Taylor started as a general manager in 2010 and has worked in several roles across the business including area manager, operations director and director of change. Keith Lloyd, who joined last summer as managing director, has stepped down from the business. Holbrook said: “Over the last few months, we have been making great progress on our Evolution Process with new menus, crockery and uniforms. Our estate-wide refurb programme has now started with some great early results, and Côte continues to have brilliant food, service and people. I’m delighted that we are able to keep investing in top talent, and we are all really excited about the arrival of David, Richard and Adelle.” In March, Cote marked the start of its brand evolution with a reinvigorated menu. The changes, which will see the gradual roll-out of a new restaurant design across the 80-strong business, began with a menu created by Steve Allen, previously head chef at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s. The new menu launch went live alongside a longer-term refurbishment of the entire Côte estate, which followed on from two new openings in the last year in Solihull and Henley-on-Thames.

Café bar brand Loungers, which was founded in 2002 by Alex Reilley, Jake Bishop and Dave Reid, will open its 200th site next month, in Chester (pictured). The listed company, which today (29 June) opened its 199th site, and 168th Lounge, the Liberto Lounge in Egham, Surrey, will open a Cosy Club in Chester on 11 July. The company has a further Lounge opening lined up in Fleet next month (13 July), and has also submitted plans for sites in Southport, Plymouth and Llandudno. Loungers is also opening a Cosy Club in Milton Keynes and is believed to be lining up sites for the brand in Canterbury and Harrogate. At the end of last year, Alex Chatterton, sector analyst at Panmure Gordon, argued that there is scope for Loungers to eventually operate 600 Lounge sites and 100 Cosy Clubs across the UK.

Blank Street Coffee, the fast-growing, New York chain that is looking to quickly build a presence in London, will make its debut in the capital next month with openings in Fitzrovia and Shoreditch. The business, which earlier this year said it plans to make London its “second-biggest city”, will open on the former EAT/Cubitts site on the corner of Goodge Street and Charlotte Street (pictured), and 3 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, on 5 July. The company said it has “two-dozen shops slated to open this year” and Propel understands it is already in talks on seven further sites in the capital. The small-format specialty coffee brand will offer a selection of takeaway sweet and savoury pastries, with prices starting at £3 or under for a small coffee – from an americano to an oat flat white. Blank Street Coffee was started in Williamsburg in summer 2020 by Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha and has already grown to 40 locations across Brooklyn and Manhattan. “Having grown up in London, this is an extra special moment for me,” said co-founder Freiha. “We’re thrilled to be joining London’s coffee culture and committed to providing an incredibly reliable experience to our neighbours – expect consistent quality, speed, great prices and baristas you will absolutely adore.” Last month, Propel revealed Blank Street Coffee had hired Ignacio Llado, formerly of the Singapore-based Flash Coffee, as managing director to oversee its UK expansion. Simon Carson, of Harper Dennis Hobbs, represents Blank Street Coffee.

Nightcap, the owner of The Cocktail Club, the Adventure Bar Group and the Barrio Familia group of bars, has announced the deferred consideration payable for its acquisition of the Adventure Bar Group has been valued at £1.5m. The company announced in April that on the basis of its trading since its acquisition, the Adventure Bar Group has achieved the milestones required for the payment of the all-equity earn out component of the consideration for this acquisition significantly earlier than originally anticipated. Last May, Nightcap announced the acquisition of the entire issued share capital of +Venture Battersea, Adventure Bars Mid and Adventure Bars Luna Digbeth, being the companies that operate the Adventure Bar Group’s Tonight Josephine, Blame Gloria (pictured), Bar Elba, Luna Springs, Escapologist and Nikki’s Bar brands. Nightcap stated: “Further to the announcement made on 26 April 2022, the company has issued 7,142,856 new ordinary shares (the ‘earn out consideration shares’) of 1p each (‘ordinary shares’) in respect of the deferred consideration payable for its acquisition of the Adventure Bar Group. The earn out consideration shares were issued at a price of 21p per share, valuing the deferred consideration paid at £1.5m. The earn out consideration shares have been issued as follows: 2,321,428 to Bryan Lloyd; 2,267,857 to Thomas Kidd; 2,267,857 to Tobias Jackson; and 285,714 to Kieran Botting.” Sarah Willingham, chief executive of Nightcap, said: “Realising the full earn-out early is a phenomenal achievement for the founders of the Adventure Bar Group and with the recent successful opening of Tonight Josephine in Cardiff along with the upcoming openings of Blame Gloria, Bristol and Tonight Josephine, Liverpool, the business continues to go from strength to strength. The business is setup for further expansion this year with a strong pipeline of attractive sites under negotiation or in legal negotiations.”

Friday Wrap with Yishay MalkovYishay Malkov, chief executive of Coppa Club operator Various Eateries, has said it’s important the sector reminds itself that “this industry is not going anywhere, going out is not going anywhere”. Malkov told Propel: “What crises like this do is they sift, they shake up the industry and they say, look what’s going to be left at the end of it? We as a business are not going to go anywhere. This industry is not going anywhere, going out is not going anywhere. It’s been on an upward trajectory since the 1970s. It’s like property prices, it’s still going to go up and people are going to go out and spend their money on eating out. I think the essence of that can’t change and it’s important to remind ourselves every time something like this happens. What’s important is in the end it’s about hospitality. It’s about nice people serving nice food, in nice environments to nice guests. And you know, making people happy and making them forget about the day to day for a little bit.” He also believes messaging to teams was easier at the beginning of the pandemic “than it is now”. He said: “It was easier because then it was about rallying the troops and everybody was focused. Everybody’s energy at home was about, let’s get over it, and then it’s almost done. And then it was not done at all. Then there was a third wave and the fourth wave, Ukraine and cost of living. And the problem with that is that saps people’s energy, me included, and you ask what’s going to be next? And so you can’t keep banging on the war drum. You can’t because there’s only so much energy that people have for this. There is a lack of visibility that you simply can’t ignore. People simply don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. They don’t know how much they’re going to pay in the supermarket, they don’t know how they’re going to fill their fuel tank or when this whole thing in Ukraine is going to finish and so the focus has to be a lot more about the here and now. We need to make our people feel included, making sure they’re in the know, telling them what’s going on – be honest with them about the stuff that you’re doing right and doing wrong.”

UKHospitality Scotland has said there are “still no answers to fundamental questions” about the country’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) due to be introduced next year. The trade body said the publication of a report into the impact of the scheme by the cross-party group on beer and pubs “should serve as a wake-up call”. UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson, said: “The complexity of the scheme brings with it inherent financial risks to hospitality businesses. Scotland members continue to be concerned about secure storage, the theft of containers and the breakage of glass, all of which will result in the loss of deposits – a situation that would hit businesses hard. There is also no resolution to the issue of VAT paid on deposits. Unless HM Revenue & Customs makes changes, then businesses and consumers will be paying 24p per container, but will only receive 20p back. DRS will become another form of taxation on businesses and customers, adding to the cost-of-living crisis. Given that eventually there will be three separate schemes running across the four nations of the UK, we are working with members to arrive at shared solutions and approaches. However, it is clear all businesses will need to make significant changes to their financial and operating systems in order to comply with the complexity and variance in the regulations. As well as challenges over deposits, it is an important point that DRS is already proving a costly policy for hospitality at a time when operators can least afford it and when businesses already achieve impressive rates of recycling.”

Las Iguanas has become the first national restaurant to launch bespoke "Experiences" on AirbnbThe Big Table Group, the operator of Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, is adding two new Las Iguanas restaurants to its Center Parcs estate, Propel has learned. The two new additions will take its total number of restaurants at Center Parcs’ five UK holiday villages to 14. The company is adding Las Iguanas sites into Center Parcs Elveden Forest and Sherwood Forest, doubling the number of sites under the brand at Center Parcs to four. The 284-cover restaurant and bar in Elveden Forest will open in August, creating 40 jobs. The 269-cover restaurant and bar in Sherwood Forest will open in November, creating 40 jobs. Big Table Group and Center Parcs extended their partnership in 2021 with a new six-year deal. The group operates four brands at Center Parcs, with Bella Italia, Café Rouge and new premium Italian casual dining concept, Amalfi, in addition to Las Iguanas. Center Parcs’ five luxury family holiday villages – at Whinfell Forest, Sherwood Forest, Woburn Forest, Elveden Forest and Longleat Forest – welcome 2.1 million visitors each year. Alan Morgan, chief executive at The Big Table Group, said: “Our long-term partnership with Center Parcs demonstrates a strong relationship and acknowledges the continued demand for our brands at its villages. Las Iguanas has consistently proven to be an extremely popular choice with guests of all ages, so it’s fantastic to add two more locations to our portfolio, and for Las Iguanas to become part of the Center Parcs experience for holidaymakers at Elveden Forest and Sherwood Forest.” Damaein Houghton, group food, beverage and retail operations manager at Center Parcs, added: “Las Iguanas is a household name and has been a real hit with guests at Woburn Forest and Longleat Forest, so we’re delighted to be bringing it to two more of our villages.” Last year, Big Table Group revealed plans to open 50 new restaurants and refurbish 70 sites over the next three years, investing £35m in new openings, which would take the estate to 200 restaurants across the UK, and a further £19m in the refurbishments.

Red Oak Taverns, the national pub operator founded by Aaron Brown and Mark Grunnell in 2011, has completed the acquisition of three tied tenanted pubs from Liberation Group for an undisclosed sum. The pubs are based in the south west of England and are operated by tenants under substantive agreements. They are the Old Station Inn in Hallatrow, Bristol; the Podymore Inn in Podimore, Yeovilton, Yeovil; and the Wiltshire Yeoman in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. It is the first portfolio acquisition for Red Oak since the major refinancing of the business in March, which included a debt refinancing with Hayfin Capital Management. Grunnell said: “We are pleased to be adding these pubs to our estate and look forward to welcoming the tenant partners to the Red Oak family. They fit very nicely into our south west estate, which already has our largest concentration of Red Oak pubs in the UK.” Red Oak Taverns’ estate comprises of 208 free of tie and tied pubs. It completed five portfolio acquisitions in 2021, comprising 34 pubs, and also made its first acquisition of 2022 in March, adding The Vine in Worthing, Sussex.

GiraffeGiraffe, the Boparan Restaurant Group-owned brand, is to make its debut in India, in Bangalore. The brand will open at the newly developed Terminal 1 at Bangalore International airport in partnership with HMSHost International. It will be joined by openings from PF Chang’s and Jones the Grocer’s newest Express format. HMSHost is strengthening its presence in India with the addition of 14 new stores at the newly developed Terminal in a Garden, Terminal 2, and ten new stores in Terminal 1, at Bangalore International Airport’s (BIA’s) Kempegowda International airport (BLR airport), Bengaluru. Jagvir Rana, HMSHost international regional managing director India and Middle East, said: “As the leading hospitality operator at BLR Airport, we are passionate about bringing BIA’s vision to life, bringing some remarkable new brands into the country and doing what we do best; creating places to be.”

James Watt, BrewDogJames Watt (pictured), chief executive of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, has received strong shareholder pushback from floating the idea of converting investors’ equity into blockchain assets. Watt tweeted on Monday (27 June) that BrewDog is working with fundraising management company Globacap to explore giving its 210,000 “Equity for Punks” investors the opportunity to “tokenise” their equity – adding that it would be optional for shareholders, and such a move would only follow a period of consultation. He went on to say the company would only work with a blockchain with “great sustainability credentials” and insisted the move is “not about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) or crypto”. Instead, he said, it is about “a more efficient way to maintain a shareholder register” and “making it easier for Equity for Punks members to realise the value of their shares”. However, predominantly negative replies ranged from calling it a “terrible idea”, “laughable” and a “gimmick” to “a sell-out” and “the last straw”, with threats to sell shares if it went ahead. One investor tweeted: “Respectfully, James, I would advise not to touch anything crypto or NFT with a 12-foot pole…as an investor, I do not want BrewDog to sink with it, and to ideally have zero touchpoints.” Another tweeted: “Been a Punk investor for nearly a decade, and do not want anything to do with crypto/NFTs. If you do go down this route, I would hope there is an easy way for those of us who would (sadly) want to cash in our chips.” Another added: “Even considering doing this before securing an initial public offering, or providing a more consistent, reliable way for those invested to sell shares than a trading day whenever you feel like it, is unconscionable.”

Friday Wrap with Yishay MalkovYishay Malkov, chief executive of Coppa Club operator Various Eateries, has said the business has seen an “uncorking of opportunities” for expansion over the past few weeks and is well positioned to take advantage. Speaking as part of the Propel Friday Wrap series, Malkov said: “In the last couple of months without a doubt there’s been an uncorking of what our chairman Andy Bassadone has called the constipation in the property market. It’s been quite closed up because everybody has been thinking, well where are all those retail opportunities, where are the 10,000 licensed premises that are closed now? I think just now it’s starting to come up. We’ve definitely seen a change in that perspective, and there is a lot more to choose from today. And we have different concepts – Coppa, Tavolino, Nico, and because we have different size needs for them, we can have a lot of options to choose from.” Malkov said the last 12 months had shown the importance of having room stock, with the company’s like-for-like hotel room revenue particularly strong, up 19% on 2019. He said: “We’ve definitely seen a massive improvement, both in our room rate and our occupancy. At the moment we’ve got two 50-bedroom hotels plus the site in Haslemere that has 13 rooms above it. We are definitely now more comfortable at operating that rooms and food and beverage concept. In terms of the hotel market, this August is looking still a bit murky, and rooms are not full, and you may find some are struggling because maybe their offer isn’t quite right, and the peak that was just post-lockdown is now starting to come down again. I think if we can give places like that a new lease of life. That’s either by coming in to offer our clubhouse environment alongside the hotel, or do the events and the food and beverage only, but we can bring back to life places that maybe are losing some of that. We can utilise real estate in a better way because we’re all dancing, all singing, rooms, events, weddings, and all that kind of stuff. We are talking to a few people about those types of opportunities.”

CreamsDessert parlour operator Creams is set for further growth with an opening at the Manchester Arndale while it has “multiple” other sites in legals. The brand – which recently opened in Putney, south west London, and has more than 100 UK sites – has agreed a 15-year lease for a 2,325 square-foot space at Manchester Arndale. Othman Shoukat, managing director for Creams, said: “We’re thrilled to be opening in the iconic Manchester Arndale and confident Creams will be a very welcomed addition to the shopping mall’s already impressive line-up of food and beverage outlets. With one successful restaurant already operating in Cheetham Hill, we look forward to bringing our desserts to even more of the Manchester community.” Propel understands Creams has also been able to secure rent concessions at its sites in Bluewater and Exchange Ilford along with a re-gear for its outlet in Broad Street, Birmingham. Meanwhile, Pizza Hut and Caffe Nero have both signed for new five-year terms at Manchester Arndale. Recent lettings and lease renewals mean Manchester Arndale has now reached 95% retail occupancy. A spokesman for Manchester Arndale said: “Having a strong food and beverage offering helps to encourage shoppers to visit in-store as opposed to shopping online. We hope to announce further new lettings and leasing activity across the centre as we seek to maintain Manchester Arndale’s position as a premier retail and leisure destination in the UK.” Metis Real Estate and Time Retail Partners are Manchester Arndale’s retained letting agents. Etch acts for Creams.

Brucan PubsFormer ETM operations director James Lyon-Shaw and ex-The Ivy Collection head chef Jamie Dobbin are aiming to more than double the size of their Brucan Pubs estate over the next five years. Propel revealed last week that Lyons-Shaw and Dobbin had taken on The Star, which is owned by Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars, in the village of Witley, near Guildford, for their fourth site, opening this summer. They are now looking for further leased and freehold sites to meet their ambition of building an estate of ten gastropubs by 2027. Lyon-Shaw said: “We search for sites that will sustain a high percentage of food sales, and where we can build a strong business by optimising or transforming the current offer. The Star ticks all the boxes and is in our core operating area south west of London. Good freeholds rarely come to market and are either very expensive or extremely run down when they do. The tied model is proving an affordable way for us to access great pubs.” The Star will join the existing Brucan estate of The Greene Oak (Windsor), The Drumming Snipe (Mayford) and The Greyhound (Finchampstead) when it opens following a £400,000 refurbishment. It will have a weekly-changing menu of pub classics and daily seasonal specials, focused on locally and sustainably sourced British game, meat and fish. These include cheddar cheese, spring onion and potato peel pie with creamed kale; and whole Cornish plaice with cockles and sorrel sauce. There will also be rotating cask ales and a carefully curated wine list.

Cake Box, the specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, has reported it continues to trade “robustly” as it reported full-year sales up by 50%. Revenue was up to £33m for the year ending 31 March 2022, compared with £21.9m the previous year. Pre-tax profit grew 83.3% to £7.7m. There was 41% growth in online sales for the financial year in which 31 new franchise stores opened. There were 185 sites operating at the end of the year with 15 supermarket kiosks and 20 kiosks in shopping centres. A new warehouse opened in Enfield in December to support ongoing expansion. Chief executive Sukh Chamdal said: “Despite a challenging economic and trading environment, we have delivered yet another strong set of results and continue to trade robustly post period end. I founded Cake Box at the height of the financial crisis in 2008. These are difficult times for everyone, but as we’ve seen before, the group’s unique customer and franchisee proposition remains both exciting and enticing. Our people have proven their resilience and commitment through tough times and now is the time for the Cake Box family of extraordinary entrepreneurs to shine, with support from a bigger, better and more experienced group function.”

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