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Mon 9th Mar 2020 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Dunstone to take full control of MOD Pizza UK: Sir Charles Dunstone, the backer of Five Guys UK, is to take full control of MOD Pizza in the UK, Propel has learned. The brand launched in the UK in Leeds in 2016 as a joint venture between Dunstone’s Freston Ventures vehicle and MOD’s founders Scott and Ally Svenson. It has since grown to ten sites in the UK. The Svensons are leaving the John Nelson-led UK business to concentrate on the continued growth of the brand in the US and Canada. A MOD Pizza spokesman told Propel: “As the fastest-growing restaurant chain in America for the past four years, MOD has expanded significantly to 473 locations system-wide across the US, UK and Canada. For our next stage of growth, we plan to concentrate our efforts in North America to focus our resources on the most significant opportunities. Therefore, effective immediately, we will be transitioning full operational control of the ten MOD locations in the UK to our local partner, Freston Ventures. As we continue to write the story of MOD as a pioneer in fast casual pizza and a leader in using business as a force for good, we are excited for the road ahead and to impact the communities we serve by spreading ‘MODness’.” Propel understands the move could see MOD sites in the UK evolve their offer by introducing fresh pasta alongside pizza. MOD has been trialling pasta in its site in The Pinnacle in Leeds under a new concept with the working title of Pazza, which is believed to have been favourably received, leading to a net 25% increase in sales. The concept specialises in fresh pasta and sauces delivered in about five minutes after ordering. It is thought Freston Ventures will look at gradually introducing pasta to the other MOD UK sites, with its site in Romford set to be next. In May last year MOD Pizza secured a $160m equity financing that would aid ambitions to reach 1,000 locations in the next five years.

Industry News:

New speaker announced for The Experiential Leisure Conference, open for bookings: A new speaker has been announced for The Experiential Leisure Conference, which will provide new insights and expertise on a trend that continues to have a seismic influence on the sector. Chris Adams, chief executive at The Dream Corporation, will introduce the growing world of virtual reality experiences and talk about its proposition of virtual reality bars, immersion rooms and pop-up attractions as well as its investment journey. The event takes place on Tuesday, 28 April at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. UK and international companies will share insights into their strategies while industry experts will look at some of the key trends shaping the sector. Think Hospitality chief executive James Hacon will take inspiration from around the world to provide an update on the experiential leisure sector. Puttshack chief operating officer Roberto Moretti will share his leadership journey from traditional hospitality formats to experiential, discussing the nuances of the format with James Hacon. Heleri Rande, partner at Think Hospitality, will talk to Rachel Scott, head of leasing at Peel Outlets, about how it is increasingly turning to experiential leisure when developing its lifestyle outlets to create differentiation, talk-ability and drive footfall. Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling, founders of Inception Group, which owns and operates concepts including Cahoots and Mr Foggs, will reveal how they centre concepts around a strong story and leverage experiences as part of their proposition. Seb Lyall, founder of Lollipop, will talk about his journey developing some of the most talked about immersive experiences in the world including ABQ, The Bletchley and Bunyadi. Bread Ahead founder Matt Jones will reveal the recipe behind the successful format of retail, education and hospitality that has put Bread Ahead on the map. Boxpark head of operations Ben McLaughlin will talk about its success in driving footfall and brand buzz by hosting experiential events around live television and sporting events, including a partnership with ITV for Love Island. Red Engine marketing director Juliette Keyte will present the growth journey and brand positioning of Flight Club and Electric Shuffle, giving her top tips of launching locations on a high. The day will also feature insights from two international speakers. Adele Chen, head of the overseas business division at Shanghai Wanyoo Information Technology Co, will talk about the rise of e-sports and the global expansion of its Wanyoo E-sports Studio. Los Angeles-based writer Chris Nichols, author of Walt Disney’s Disneyland, will share what he has learned after studying the history behind the creation of Disneyland for more than four years. He will reveal how Walt Disney hand-picked a team of visionaries, the idea and inspirations that drove the development, and how it has evolved during the past six decades. Tickets are £295 for Propel Premium members, £345 for non-Propel Premium operators and £395 for non-Propel Premium suppliers. To book, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com
 
Chipotle tests unlimited paid time off for senior staff, enhances parental leave benefits: Chipotle is expanding its employee benefits once more, including testing a programme that offers unlimited paid time off for senior-level employees. The company said the idea behind the pilot programme was to “reward the leaders who are ultimately accountable for innovating and supporting the brand’s mission”. It applies to about 130 senior staff such as executive directors, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Paid time off must be approved by an employee’s manager and is limited to three weeks at a time, Chipotle said. The company added it would evaluate the unlimited paid leave under its “stage gate” process to make an “informed decision on whether to roll this out to additional restaurant support levels once feedback has been assessed”. The company is also expanding maternity leave to 12 weeks, while new fathers and employees who adopt children will get four weeks’ paid leave. Chipotle previously offered 12 days of paid leave, which equated to six weeks when used in conjunction with short-term disability coverage, the company said. The programme also includes covering the cost of shipping breast milk for nursing mothers who are travelling on company business. Last year Chipotle added a quarterly cash bonus programme for workers who help restaurants meet sales and cash flow targets. That programme has led to Chipotle paying more than $2.75m in bonuses, the company said.
 
McDonald's cancels franchisee event in Florida: McDonald's has cancelled its in-person biennial convention for its worldwide franchisees due to the coronavirus outbreak. The four-day event, scheduled for April, was supposed to take place in Orlando, Florida. It will now occur virtually. Chief finance officer Kevin Ozan told analysts on the earnings call in January the convention typically costs between $25m to $30m. It is unclear how much McDonald’s might save by cancelling the in-person convention. In 2019, the company’s sales surpassed $100bn. Chief executive Chris Kempczinski asked managing directors and franchisee leadership for their opinions on the matter last week. “Based on their feedback, extensive global travel restrictions, input from the World Health Organisation and other local and global health ministries, and our assessment of the situation, I’ve made the difficult but I think right decision to cancel our in-person Worldwide Convention in Orlando in favour of a digital Worldwide Convention,” Kempczinski wrote in a memo to employees.
 
US restaurants see like-for-likes up 0.3% in February, true coronavirus impact unlikely to be known until late spring or summer: US restaurants saw like-for-like sales rise 0.3% in February as the coronavirus outbreak began to have an effect on the industry, according to Black Box Intelligence’s Restaurant Industry Snapshot, which is based on weekly sales from more than 47,000 restaurants that represent $75bn in annual revenue. However, the company warned the true impact of coronavirus was unlikely to become clear until later this spring or even the summer. It said unusually warm weather in the US played a key part in February’s modest growth – the second month in a row sales have increased. However visits continued to fall, down 2.0% in February compared with the previous year. The best-performing segments based on sales growth were fine dining, casual dining and upscale casual. “When it comes to the economy it’s all about the coronavirus so the past may not be prologue,” said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors and a Black Box Intelligence economist. “That is especially true since growth remained decent through February. The data has yet to show any real ill-effects of the virus. That’s not a surprise as the numbers weren’t expected to reflect the impact until spring and summer. Given a vaccine could be a year away, it has to be assumed the coronavirus will spread across the US. The key issue will be the fear factor it triggers. Not only would people shy away from any activity where there are groups but frightened populations would demand drastic action. That would exacerbate the economic slowdown.”
 
Job of the week: COREcruitment’s executive search team is supporting an international business looking to appoint a food and beverage director with a fine dining or luxury retail background. As the business continues to grow, it is keen to evaluate the brand and establish new food and beverage concepts to reposition the business for the future. The food and beverage director will be based in London with national responsibility and will ideally have a creative, concept-focused background. The salary is circa £150,000 plus package. For more details, email Hollie@corecruitment.com with your CV or profile.
 

Company News:

Goodman owner appoints managing director: Global Craftsman Group, owner of steak restaurants Goodman, Beast and Zelman Meats, has appointed Alex D’Aguiar as managing director. D’Aguiar joined Global Craftsmen Group in April 2019 as operations director. He and the owner have agreed a strategic plan that includes investment in the current trading estate as well as looking at an expansion pipeline of new opportunities in London and internationally. Openings have already been secured, including Beast launching in Miami in 2021. Chief executive Misha Zelman said: “We are looking forward to the next chapter of our journey and have some exciting plans ahead. I’m delighted to appoint Alex in his new role. He has been a great addition to the team and we look forward to the future.”

SA Brain’s package includes 28-strong pub portfolio valued at circa £8m: Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain hopes to sell 28 of the 40 pubs it has brought to market in one package valued at circa £8m, Propel has learned. The company announced last week it was to put the pubs on the market – one-quarter of its estate – as part of a three-year plan to “significantly grow the profitability” of the business and “secure its future”. The company described the pubs, mainly in Cardiff, as not “core” to its business. The Cardiff office of agent Avison Young has been tasked with selling the sites. The 28-strong package, which is being marketed under the name Project Zhukov, is understood to include more than 50% of sites that are currently operated under tenancy-at-will agreements. It is believed to have a combined turnover for full-year 2018/19 of just under £3.5m and Ebitda of circa £610,000. Announcing the disposal plan last week, a SA Brain spokeswoman said: “We have a three-year plan to significantly grow the profitability of our business and future-proof it for the benefit of generations to come. We are executing this plan and momentum is building with encouraging progress being made against our key priorities. However, we still face uncertain economic times as our withdrawal from the EU is negotiated and costs, especially the National Living Wage, are set to increase well ahead of inflation. As a result, after a thorough review, we have identified around 40 pubs – both managed and partnership – which are not core to our business. We have engaged the team at Avison Young in Cardiff to sell these over the coming months. We have briefed all the teams in the selected pubs. The proceeds of these sales will enable us to improve the quality of the rest of our estate and repay some of the facilities provided to us by our bank partners, HSBC and Lloyds.”

Allan replaces Lynch as Nando’s Group chairman: Graham Allan, the former Dairy Farm Group chief executive and president of Yum! Restaurants International, has replaced Andrew Lynch, the former chief executive of travel concessions operator SSP, as chairman of Nando’s Group. Allan, who was also previously a director of InterContinental Hotels Group, has been a strategic advisor at Nando’s since the end of 2018. Lynch initially joined Nando’s as group chief executive in 2014, after nine years leading SSP. Lynch was formerly finance director at Compass Group. He became chief executive of SSP in 2004 and led the buyout from Compass two years later. Lynch most recently moved up to the group chairman role at Nando’s, but it was always thought he would do a five to six-year stint at the peri-peri chicken brand. Last year, Rob Papps, who had led Nando’s UK and Ireland for eight years and been with the peri-peri chicken operator for 20 years in total, took over as Nando’s group chief executive from Lynch. A Nando’s spokesman said: “Nando’s can confirm Graham Allan has been appointed non-executive chairman of Nando’s Group with effect from 1 March. The appointment follows Graham’s appointment as strategic advisor to Nando’s in December 2018. Graham will replace Andrew Lynch, who is retiring from Nando’s after six years with the business, first as group chief executive and latterly as non-executive chairman.” At the same time, Propel understands Nando’s debut Nino format site in Twickenham has been changed to operate under the full Nando’s format. Launched at the start of 2018, Nando’s launched Nino to appeal to consumers looking for “delivery, takeaway, a quick bite with friends or simply a faster, on-the-go experience of the brand”. A second site followed in Fulham Road, with a third recently opening in Clapham. It is thought Nando’s was looking to roll out the new smaller format to areas where its estate of more than 400 restaurants currently doesn’t reach but the demand for eat-in and delivery is still strong.
 
Other Side Fried launches voice-only ordering on Amazon Alexa: Other Side Fried, the Brixton-based concept, has partnered with voice technology company Natta to launch what is claimed to be the first end-to-end takeaway delivery service via Amazon Alexa smart speaker. Alexa currently hosts some limited food ordering apps that mainly allow consumers to reorder food items previously purchased via smartphone. Natta allows users to enjoy the full takeaway experience on Alexa – regardless of whether the customer has ordered from the restaurant before or knows the menu. Through the new partnership with Other Side Fried, consumers can order via Alexa and get it delivered via its courier – with all voice orders getting a 25% discount. Natta founder Jon Sprank said: “At the moment the app is exclusively operational within 1.5 miles of Other Side Fried Brixton Central but this is just the start. We are working on a voice-first food delivery market place that we will be rolling out across London and the UK in the next few months. Consumers will finally be able to use voice assistants to research, select and order from their favourite restaurants, just as if they were having a conversation with a friend.”

Temple steps down as Turtle Bay COO: Jon Temple, chief operating officer of Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant brand backed by Piper, has decided to step down from the business to pursue other interests, Propel has learned. Temple joined Turtle Bay at the start of 2016 as finance director, became its chief operating officer the following year. Prior to Turtle Bay, he spent five years at Pret A Manger, latterly as its UK finance director. Propel understands the 44-strong Turtle Bay is currently in the process of recruiting a chief executive. Turtle Bay founder Ajith Jayawickrema told Propel: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jon for his excellent contribution to the business over the past four years. He is a hard-working team player with high intellect, integrity and loyalty and I’ve no doubt his skills will be a real asset to any organisation. I wish Jon the very best of luck in all of his future endeavours.” During Temple’s time at Turtle Bay, the business has continued expanding nationwide with turnover rising from £47m to £67m, according to its most recently published accounts. In December the company reported turnover and profit dropped in the year to 2 March 2019 as the company battled with “significant headwinds”. Sales decreased 2.5% to £66.9m while pre-tax profit was £2.2m, compared with £5.9m the year before. The company said it had avoided discounting to focus on “great-value Caribbean food and drinks” and “significantly enhancing its in-site experience”. The company added its feedback metrics were currently the “highest they have been in years”.

Farmer J to double up in Canary Wharf: All-day market concept Farmer J, which is backed by Imbiba, is set to open its second Canary Wharf site, after the success of its first site in Canada Place. The Jonathan Recanati-led, four-strong, group is understood to have secured a site in Jubilee Place for an opening later this spring. Speaking at Propel’s Leadership Conference last month, Recanati said the business had four sites in the pipeline for openings in the capital. However, he ruled out an opening outside London for “at least another 18 months” as the company needed to “get the concept working the best it can in the capital”. In December Propel revealed Farmer J would open a site at London Bridge station. The company won a tender to take the last unit in the arches under the station to become a neighbour to Pizza Pilgrims and Honest Burgers. At the end of last summer Imbiba, the specialist investor in the UK leisure and hospitality sector, invested a further £2.5m into Farmer J. The new funds followed the £1.9m Imbiba invested in the business in early 2019.
 
What The Pitta! plans Manchester opening: Vegan doner kebab concept What The Pitta! is set to open its first site in the north, in Manchester. The concept, which was named London’s best takeaway at the British Kebab Awards last week, is understood to have lined up an opening in the city’s Northern Quarter for May. The business, which is the brainchild of British-Turkish friends Cem Yildiz and Rojdan Gul, currently operates four sites in the south east. It opened its debut bricks and mortar site in Bayham Street, Camden Town, in March 2018. At the end of the same year, it opened a site in Brighton’s East Street. It also operates at Boxpark’s Croydon and Shoreditch sites. Kebabs at What The Pitta! feature non-genetically modified soya chunks marinated in a blend of Middle Eastern spices and grilled. The contents are then stuffed into hand-made pitta bread and loaded with homemade hummus, tzatziki and salad. Yildiz and Gul were inspired to launch What The Pitta! when Gul’s uncle in Freiburg, Germany, taught them the secret of his vegan doner kebabs.
 
Heavenly Desserts looks to ramp up expansion in south of England: Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts has appointed agents to find it prospective new stores in London and the south of England in a bid to accelerate its expansion plans. The business, which operates 25 stores in the UK, is looking to ramp up its presence in the south and has sites in Brighton, Cambridge, Luton and Watford in the pipeline. Last month the company opened its debut store in the capital, at International Quarter London – Lendlease and London & Continental Railways’ £2.4bn development in Stratford. HRH Retail has been instructed to find 1,500 to 2,000 square foot ground-floor retail units in shopping centres, city centres, leisure-led retail parks and travel hubs. Heavenly Desserts is understood to be prepared to pay up to £70,000 per annum for the “ideal location”.
 
Thwaites adds another Yorkshire Dales pub to estate: Brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has acquired the Harts Head Hotel in Giggleswick to further expand its reach into the Yorkshire Dales. The pub is the third acquisition for the company in as many months having bought The Pendle Inn in Barley and the Hare & Hounds in Foulridge. The Harts Head Hotel features a bar and restaurant and seven en-suite bedrooms. Executive chairman Rick Bailey said: “The Harts Head Hotel is a great pub – similar to other properties we have bought recently – with a great bar, homemade food and some lovely bedrooms. We already have a number of properties in the area. They are all well-run, lovely pubs and we look forward to the Harts Head joining in their success.”
 
Red Dog Saloon to reopen fire-hit Soho site this month featuring refined concept: Red Dog Saloon will reopen its Soho site this month with a refined concept that celebrates Austin barbecue, American craft beer and whiskey. The site closed at the end of last year following a fire but will relaunch on Thursday, 19 March. The 40-cover restaurant will feature relaxed seating with saloon-inspired interiors and a new menu designed by owner Tom Brooke. It will include refined versions of Texan barbecue classics such as smoked USDA beef brisket with mustard barbecue and pickled chilli, and St Louis pork ribs with Carolina barbecue and ten-spice dry rub. A more indulgent version of the Red Dog burger is being created – the ten-year burger – which incorporates marrow butter glaze and pancetta into the 30-day dry-aged beef patty mix. As well as Red Dog Lager on tap, there will be craft stout, IPA and lager from the States and a variety of whiskey. Brooke said: “We wanted to do something that was true to the inspiration of the restaurant and would appeal to the barbecue purist. I’ve always been a massive fan of the classic, dry-rub, smoked barbecue style of cooking. There’s nothing like this in the area and it felt like the right place to launch this new style of menu we are so excited about.” The brand also operates restaurants in Hoxton Square in London as well as Liverpool, Nottingham and Southampton.
 
Stonegate to debut Slug and Lettuce in Cornwall, scoops well-being award: Stonegate Pub Company is to open the debut Slug and Lettuce in Cornwall this week, occupying a former JD Wetherspoon site. The Cribbar in Gover Lane, Newquay, was one of 45 Wetherspoon pubs being disposed of nationally by the operator for “commercial” reasons. The Newquay sale was one of ten sites that Stonegate acquired from Wetherspoon, along with pubs in High Wycombe, North Finchley, Torquay, Berwick, Walton-on-Thames, Banbury, Cheadle Hulme, Hull and Reading. Stonegate chief executive Simon Longbottom said previously: “We have a strong track record in picking sites that when we invest, and add a touch of Stonegate magic, we see positive customer reaction and strong returns. The acquisition of a further ten sites from Wetherspoon enables us to extend our diverse range of formats in towns where we currently do not trade.” Stonegate has also scooped the best new well-being strategy category at the 2020 Reba Employee Wellbeing Awards. Head of HR Suzanne Haydon received the accolade during a ceremony at BAFTA, London. Stonegate’s staff schemes include Wagestream, which allows hourly paid employees to access to up to 30% of their earned wages at any point during the pay cycle, and an employee assistant programme in partnership with the Licensed Trade Charity to support staff on issues such as mental health, housing, relationships, education and training. Haydon said: “This year we have already enhanced our maternity and paternity leave policy and included adoption and IVF treatment under that umbrella, introduced a long-service recognition scheme, and from 1 April we will offer two weeks of bereavement leave at full pay for all employees who lose a close family member.” Stonegate has also submitted plans to transform its Squares bar in Nottingham city centre into two new venues – late-night brand Popworld upstairs and The Hideout, a sports bar with kitchen, on the ground floor. 

Subway franchisee triples portfolio with Scunthorpe sites: Subway franchisee Muhammad Ali has added two outlets to his portfolio supported by a £310,000 acquisition loan from HSBC UK. Ali, who operates SSK Food, has added outlets at Skippingdale and Glanford retail parks in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, to his estate, tripling his tally of Subway franchises. Ali said: “It is an exciting time to increase my portfolio, especially with both stores being within two of Scunthorpe’s major retail parks where the demand for quality on-the-go food is high.”
 
London-based vegan grab-and-go concept to open second site, in Covent Garden: London-based vegan grab-and-go concept Good To Go is to open a second site in the capital. Founder Tommy Mizen started the concept as a pop-up in Old Street station in 2017 before launching a permanent site in nearby The Bower. Now the brand is expanding with an outlet in Charing Cross Road in Covent Garden. As well as grab-and-go options, the site will have a counter space with high stools for customers who want to dine in, reports Hot Dinners. Good To Go’s menu includes mixed mushroom stroganoff with spinach, sundried tomatoes, roasted broccoli, brown rice and parsley; and mixed bean chilli with guacamole, tortilla chips, soya yogurt and brown rice.
 
Stevens plans two more Pizza Punks, set to open Mamasan: Brad Stevens is to open Mamasan, a new Thai restaurant, bar and music concept in Glasgow on Friday, 20 March after a £500,000 investment. The investment comes as Stevens oversees rapid growth at Pizza Punks, which he established in September 2016. Pizza Punks was initially run by Stevens alongside Bar Soba Group, an Asian street food, cocktail and music chain he had founded in 1999. He exited Bar Soba Group last year. Pizza Punks, which has outlets in Glasgow, Belfast and Newcastle, is on track to grow turnover to £5m in the year to the end of April, up from £4.2m. Stevens is at the “legals” stage over deals to open two more sites, in Manchester and Bristol. Mamasan has been developed by Stevens in Glasgow’s Ingram Street in the site formerly occupied by restaurant brand CAU. It closed after parent group Gaucho went into administration in 2018. Stevens said his company has been able to take advantage of the high standard of fixtures and fittings that had been put in place by the previous occupant, as well as a competitive rate for the lease.
 
Domino’s Pizza independent non-executive director to retire: Domino’s Pizza has announced independent non-executive director Helen Keays is to step down. Keays has advised the company that, having served on the board since September 2011, she intends to retire as a director with effect from the end of the annual general meeting and won’t be standing for re-election. Interim chairman Ian Bull said: “On behalf of the board I would like to extend my thanks to Helen for her unstinting contribution to the company and the board over many years. I should also like to thank Helen for her support and counsel since I joined the board and wish her success for the future.” Domino’s Pizza, which last week announced a “solid” full-year performance by its core UK business, is currently searching for a new chairman, chief executive and interim chief financial officer as part of an overhaul of its executive team. Bull told analysts the process would take time because it was recruiting “A-grade players”.
  
EasyHotel raises £11m to support company-owned roll-out strategy: EasyHotel, the owner, developer, operator and franchisor of “super budget” branded hotels has raised £11m for its brand growth and international roll-out. The company said it would issue more than 11 million subscription shares to Citrus Holdco at a price of 95p per share. The proceeds will go towards the company’s owned hotel roll-out strategy. Last month EasyHotel acquired a site in Madrid for its second Spanish company-owned hotel. Interim chief executive Scott Christie said: “Our recently announced investment in Spain marks the latest step in our strategy to expand our owned hotel network across centrally located, high-quality sites in major European cities. The group continues to make good progress towards securing sites in its target destinations and we look forward to announcing further developments.” Non-executive chairman Harm Meijer added: “Citrus Holdco confirmed at the time of its offer for EasyHotel’s shares last year it was committed to supporting EasyHotel to achieve the board’s strategic vision for the business more quickly and effectively. The proceeds from this subscription will provide the business with the capital it needs to pursue the next stage of its owned hotel roll-out strategy.”

Bristol-based operators to open second site for Korean street food concept: Bristol-based operators Alex Slatter and Quan Cui are to open a second site for their Korean street food concept Tuk Tuck. They launched Tuk Tuck in St Stephen’s Street in 2016 offering dishes such as the bibimbap – a Korean rice dish – and chicken katsu curry. Slatter and Cui, who met while working at the former Tampopo restaurant in Cabot Circus, expanded their business in 2018 with the launch of sister site Dangun, which replaced the former Bagel Boy in St Nicholas Street. Now they are adding a second Tuk Tuck – at the former home of Ceres in Stokes Croft, which closed in July 2019. Opening on Monday, 16 March, it will be slightly larger than the original but will offer the same menu. Slatter told Bristol Live: “The response to Tuk Tuck’s first restaurant has been really positive and, now Dangun is settled, we wanted to expand the family. Stokes Croft is a really good fit for our casual offering.”

Cineworld preparing for ‘all eventualities’ amid coronavirus outbreak: Cineworld has said it is yet to observe any material impact on admissions because of the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak but the company is taking measures to prepare for “all possible eventualities”. It reported “good levels” of admission in all territories, with an increase across the first two months of 2020 against the same period in 2019. The company added: “Although the release of the new Bond movie has been postponed to November 2020, largely due to closure of cinemas in the Asian markets, the studios have advised us in the countries in which we operate they currently remain committed to their release schedule for the coming months and remainder of the year.” However, Cineworld also stressed it was “taking measures to ensure we prepare our business for all possible eventualities”. It added: “Should conditions relating to covid-19 continue or worsen, we have measures at our disposal to reduce the impact on our business including, but not limited to, capex postponement and cost reduction.” The company is due to report full-year results on Thursday (12 March) but said unaudited results showed revenue of $4,369m (£3,356m) with adjusted Ebitda of $1,032m. Net debt, excluding lease liabilities, stood at $3,479m. Coronavirus is continuing to spread across the UK, with 273 cases confirmed as of Sunday (8 March). 

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