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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 15th Apr 2016 - Update: McDonald's, Domino's, Everards, BrewDog et al
McDonald’s to offer staff chance to move off zero-hours contracts: McDonald’s is offering UK staff on zero-hours contracts the option of moving to fixed hours in a major development in the debate about employee rights. The company is one of the biggest users of the contracts in the country, with an estimated 80,000 workers on zero hours, which critics claim exploit workers. McDonald’s UK chief executive Paul Pomroy said the company is revamping its employment policy after staff told him they are struggling to get loans, mortgages and mobile phone contracts because they are not guaranteed employment each week. As a result, the company has started offering staff the option of moving to contracts guaranteeing a minimum of four hours a week, 16 hours, or 30 hours. Pomroy said a trial in St Helens, Merseyside, had been “very successful” and McDonald’s is now looking to roll it out across the country. Roughly 80% of workers in the trial elected to stay on zero hours, but of those who took up the fixed-hours option, three of five went for the maximum of 30 hours. He defended zero-hours contracts saying they offer flexibility to workers. However, McDonald’s has been targeted by protesters over its treatment of workers. This week protesters from Fast Food Rights and Better Than Zero dressed up as clowns and demonstrated outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Glasgow over its use of zero-hours contracts. Pomroy told the Guardian: “In September the feedback was that there is an element of people within our restaurants that did want to look at a more permanent set of hours. It was driven by the difficulty they were facing getting car loans, mobile phone contracts, mortgages. It was not that they weren’t getting the hours they wanted at McDonald’s, but as financial lending tightened it was becoming a real challenge. So we listened. We have just completed a first pilot test of moving to fully flexible hours. Interestingly in the test we have done, over 80% have stayed on zero because they want the full flexibility. If you speak to them they want to be able to up their hours when they are in school holidays and they want to be able to reduce when they’re studying. The same with mums. It has definitely worked. It has worked for [the staff], it has worked for us. For that group that want to get car loans or want to get mobile phone contracts or want to get mortgages, it’s important they can access them. It’s less about the hours they are doing. They are not doing any different hours, so their job doesn’t suddenly change. But the perception externally is they have got fixed contracted hours, and that enables them to unlock things.” McDonald’s could evolve the proposals as they are rolled out, with a 40-hour contract potentially introduced. Pomroy said a 40-hour option was not in the trial because staff, including managers “still want that flexibility at the top”. He added: “It doesn’t mean there won’t be in the future, but we have worked with the managers and the staff to agree the hours. They have said ‘These are the patterns that we think work if you look across our restaurants’.” Under the trial, staff are offered contracts in line with the average hours per week they work. New starters have to wait three months to be offered a fixed-hours contract. “No one can choose their final hours until they have been with us three months, because that way they need to understand their pattern of work and how that works,” Pomroy said. “Then they sit down and agree – ‘OK since you have been with us for three months you have worked an average of 12 hours. Do you want to go to 16? Would you prefer 16? Or do you want to stay at four? Or do you want to go zero?” Trade unions and the Institute of Directors welcomed the move.

Everards £30m headquarters development moves step closer: Leicestershire-based brewer and retailer Everards, led by Stephen Gould, has received planning permission to build a brewery, restaurant and cafe in Enderby. The brewer wants to invest £30m to relocate its nearby headquarters and create a visitor attraction and parkland on a site to be named Everards Meadows. The brewer plans to spend £1.3m this summer preparing the land, while it has also just taken possession of a new £3.3m, 30,000 square foot brewery yard and warehouse at Glenfield. However, before the full investment can go ahead, Everards still needs permission to build a £150m extension to neighbouring Fosse Park – called Castle Acres Shopping Park – on the site of its existing head office and brewery. A planning decision on that is expected in June. The plan is to sell that site to Next and Fosse Park’s joint owners The Crown Estate and Ginko Tree Investment. Everards managing director Stephen Gould told the Leicester Mercury: “The new development and £700,000 cost of fitting out the new brewery yard will be dependent on permission for Castle Acres. But of the three parts to our plan, two are now successfully in place. If everything goes to plan, we can expect to be moving into Everards Meadows in late 2017.”

Savills & Rothschild bring regional UK hotel portfolio to market at more than £130m: The Hotel Collection, represented jointly by Savills and Rothschild, has brought to market a portfolio of 10 regional UK hotels known as Project Solstice for a guide price in excess of £130m. The properties, which feature 1,433 bedrooms and 111 meeting rooms plus numerous restaurants, gyms and health spas, produced a total revenue of £48m in 2015. In England, the portfolio includes: The Majestic Hotel, Harrogate; The Old Ship Hotel, Brighton; The Redworth Hall Hotel, County Durham; The Imperial Hotel, Torquay; The Billesley Manor Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon; The Imperial Hotel, Blackpool and The Shrigley Hall Hotel, Golf and Country Club, Macclesfield. In Scotland and Wales, it encompasses The Stirling Highland Hotel, Stirling; The Aberdeen Altens Hotel, Aberdeen and The Angel Hotel, Cardiff. Martin Rogers, head of UK hotel transactions at Savills, said: “We are pleased to be bringing this significant collection of hotels to market. The distinctive heritage and character of each property has been maintained while generating a robust collective income. The portfolio also offers numerous value-add and asset management opportunities to further enhance the long term revenue.”

Lussmanns to launch fourth Hertfordshire fish and grill site in Hitchin: Hertfordshire-based Lussmanns Fish & Grill is set to open its fourth site in the county in June, at a site in Sun Street, Hitchin. Andrei Lussmann, director of the restaurant group, said he targeted Hitchin because people there travelled to its existing eateries in Hertford, Harpenden and St Albans. He told the Hertfordshire Mercury: “We thought the demographic and audience in Hitchin would very much enjoy and like what we offer.” The Hitchin fish and grill restaurant will be the only Lussmanns to feature a diners’ bar. Lussmann said he already had plans for a fifth “classy but classless” restaurant in Hertfordshire, 14 years after launching the brand in a now defunct site in North Kensington. Lussmann said: “We moved to Hertfordshire and ever since then, we have continued to grow. During the recession, we were at our best ever. People come back to what they appreciate. We have grown purposefully slowly.”

Domino’s ponders subscription service – and more robots: Domino’s Pizza is considering a subscription service and a wider roll out of delivery robots among 50 digital innovations it has in the pipeline. Currently, about 85% of Domino’s orders come through digital channels but it expects that figure to hit 95% in the next few years, The Drum reports. Speaking at digital and social marketing conference DMWF Amsterdam, Nicky Claeys, Domino’s marketing chief for the Netherlands and Belgium, revealed the company’s “big bets” on the future were in place. One product to emerge has been the Domino’s Robotic Unit (DRU), with the company saying a small-scale trial had been successful and would become a core part of its business in the next two years. Claeys said: “It won’t replace our couriers but one of our biggest challenges is having enough couriers and making sure we deliver well at all times. So for short distances or difficult locations we need to be able to rely on a fleet.” Claeys revealed a DRU trial in the Netherlands was expected in the coming months. He also said a subscription service was another idea set to become a reality. It would allow people to have an order delivered on repeat, for example a group of friends could arrange for a pizza to be dropped off just before the football started every Sunday.

BrewDog AGM – first US bar location secured, further European openings, land acquired for sour facility: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog made a number of announcements during its recent annual general meeting, including its Warsaw site opening this week, a site secured for its first US bar, and the acquisition of a plot for the company’s first sour facility in Ellon. During the AGM at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, the company said BrewDog Warsaw was slated to open this week, its tenth international region, with two other European cities primed for May – Malmö and Amsterdam. The company added BrewDog Berlin was nearing completion and would open in June. It was also revealed to 6,000 “equity punks” the company had secured a downtown location for its first BrewDog bar on US soil – BrewDog Columbus. The bar will be close to BrewDog’s 42 acre 100,000 square foot brewery which is on track for completion in June, with brewing to begin by September. The brewery will have an on-site DogTap bar and restaurant, BrewDog said, adding it would launch an Equity for Punks USA fund-raising platform in May or June. BrewDog co-founder Martin Dickie also announced the company had officially acquired a piece of land for its inaugural sour facility close to its Ellon brewery in Scotland. Dickie said: “The site sits to the left of DogTap as you enter, across the road, and will be suitably distant from our day-to-day brewhouse that we can unleash the true joys of wild fermentation, brettanomyces, lactobacillus and pediococcus, whilst harnessing the very best of what sour beer can mean.”

ALMR – publication of Pubs Code brings ‘clarity’: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has welcomed the publication of the government Code of practice for tenanted pub companies with 500 sites or more as providing clarity. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The uncertainty surrounding the details of the code has had a major impact on investment and planning across the sector. Businesses need stability and certainty in order to function effectively and this lack of security and concern over the particulars of the code has not made life easier for licensees. The publication of the code finally brings a much needed sense of clarity that should give licensees the stability they need to move forward.The ALMR’s primary focus now will be ensuring that operators understand the new requirements, know what to expect from their pub company and are aware of what is expected of them. We will be working to provide guidance to ensure that licensees are equipped to enter into commercial agreements and that problems are avoided before they have a chance to develop. We will be working closely with the BII to develop a detailed Q&A about the code and providing seminars for lessees to help them understand their obligations and plan accordingly. As a sector we need to work collectively on establishing and promoting appropriate entry training for lessees and facilitate access to existing methods of dispute resolution that are open to businesses. This needs to be done rapidly to ensure that lessees can hit the ground running on 26 May.”

Cask Ale sales on the rise, according to Nicholson’s research: Cask ale sales are rising especially among women, according to research by Nicholson’s. The Mitchells & Butlers-owned pub company said it was currently selling more than 1,000 pints of cask ale a week to customers across the UK and, by the end of 2015, had been offered beers by 114 brewers. The company said its research found a new, growing category of cask ale drinkers were female, with 17% of cask ale drinkers being women looking for a more interesting tipple. Nicholson’s said bitters and darker ales were on the rise, with traditional amber beers accounting for half of cask ale sales in it pubs, with Nicholson’s Pale Ale accounting for the majority of sales. Nicholson’s beer expert Richard Yarnell said: “Cask ale continues to grow in popularity in the UK as more breweries look to push the boundaries of beer traditionally produced in the UK and have launched a huge variety of ales.” Nicholson’s, which operates 80 pubs across the UK, is currently hosting its Spring Beer Festival, which will run until 2 May.

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