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Tue 17th Mar 2020 - Coronavirus: footfall, Shepherd Neame, Sky, landlord talks, cinemas, Joule’s, McDonald’s
UK high-street footfall down 45%: UK high-street footfall was down 45% on average on Monday (16 March) compared with the previous year as people stayed at home during the coronavirus crisis, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. The analysis, which took an aggregated look at footfall in more than 800 venues nationally and focused mainly on major cities, showed footfall in London was down 47% year-on-year. Of the other cities analysed, Liverpool saw the next biggest drop, down 44%, compared with the previous year. Birmingham was down 38% followed by Manchester (37%), Edinburgh (36%), Cardiff (33%), Bristol (30%) and Newcastle (27%). Wireless Social said during the past seven days there had been a 33% drop in footfall compared with the same period last year.

Shepherd Neame initiates safety procedures at pubs and brewery, closes head office: Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has announced a series of measures to ensure the safety of its staff and customers. From Thursday (19 March), all office staff will be home-based and the office at 17 Court Street in Faversham will close, along with visitor facilities. Brewery tours have been suspended, as have events in The Old Brewery Store. Shepherd Neame’s Brewery Shop in Faversham remains open with the move to be reviewed daily. Brewing production will continue but with strict new controls including deep cleaning of production areas before and after each shift and temperature monitors for staff, with only critical supplies allowed on-site. All visitors will have to undergo temperature checks and access the site through a single point. A Shepherd Neame spokesman said: “The government has put the hospitality industry in a difficult position and we’re seeking urgent clarification. For the time being as many of our pubs are open as possible but we’re monitoring the situation daily and on an individual basis. Pubs and clubs need an immediate cash injection to provide reassurance for licensees and their communities. We are lobbying government hard and hope for an announcement later today. We’re considering a range of measures and will review them in light of any government announcements. In the meantime, extensive precautionary measures are being put in place in our managed pubs to protect our staff and customers. These include moving furniture to ensure adequate social distancing between customers and requesting contactless card payments where possible. Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame added: “As we face the enormous challenge of responding to the coronavirus situation, the safety of our team members and customers is our overriding priority. We are monitoring the situation around the clock and recognise the situation is evolving rapidly. I would like to thank all our customers and team members for their continued support and loyalty and hope they stay safe.”

Sky suspends sports service fees for venues until live schedule returns: Sky has suspended fees for venues that show Sky Sports until the normal live sport schedule resumes. Currently live sporting events have been suspended across the country including Premier League, Scottish and EFL football, Formula One and the Six Nations rugby tournament, which all attract customers to pubs and clubs that screen sports. Sky Business managing director Simon Raggett said: “We understand these are challenging times for many of our Sky Business venues that rely on showing live sport in a social environment to attract customers and revenue. Supporting these businesses and doing what we can to help them in uncertain times is very important to us. We would like to reassure our Sky Business venues that since 14 March we aren’t charging them for their Sky Sports service until a live sport schedule returns.”

UKHospitality liaises with landlord trade bodies: Chief executive Kate Nicholls said UKHospitality has been talking to trade bodies representing landlords in a bid to help sector businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Nicholls said: “We have been liaising with landlords for the major London property owners and institutional landlords across the country to agree a principle of non-forfeiture during this period and also an agreement for flexibility on requests for rent delays or changed payment terms. This will be dealt with on a case by case basis but there’s general agreement to this.”

Cinemas close over coronavirus concerns: Cinema companies, including Odeon, Cineworld and Everyman, are shutting their sites until further notice. The move follows prime minister Boris Johnson advising people to avoid mass gatherings, crowded places and venues such as theatres, pubs and restaurants. The government hasn’t formally called for venues such as cinemas to close. Odeon, which operates about 110 sites in the UK, stated: “Following government guidelines, Odeon cinemas are closed until further notice. If you have pre-booked tickets online, these will be refunded automatically. We look forward to welcoming you back soon.” Cineworld, which operates about 90 sites, said its UK sites would close on Wednesday (18 March), while those in Ireland have closed already. Everyman, which has also shut its sites with immediate effect, stated: “All appropriate measures have been put in place to reduce the impact on the group, including cost reduction and the postponement of new sites, refurbishments and other capital expenditure projects. The group has significant headroom in its loan facility and is in dialogue with its lenders on covenants to maintain liquidity through this period of uncertainty. While site closures will clearly have an impact on the group’s ability to operate while restrictions are in place, this doesn’t change the board’s confidence in Everyman and its proposition over the long term.” Everyman also announced independent non-executive director Streisan Bevan would step down from the board with effect from 18 April.

Joule’s ramps up franchisee help by suspending rent for ‘foreseeable future’: Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s, which is headed by Steve Nuttall, has moved to support its taphouse franchisees further by suspending all rent for the “foreseeable future”. The move is an escalation after the company announced on Monday (16 March) it would halve franchisees’ rent for three months amid the coronavirus crisis. Joule’s estate stretches across Shropshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Wales and the rent suspension will cover all 42 taphouses. The company said it would also stand by its franchisees by honouring all beer returns if stock went out of date because of unpredictable trade. Operations director John Auld said: “We recognise trade is tough but following the announcement last night we now believe it’s time to step up. Our main aim is to ensure their stability and protect the businesses so we can continue to trade across our heartland.” Brand manager Vicky Colclough added: “We want our taphouses to be on the front foot, ready to serve the community. Beer quality is paramount – our taphouses won’t be afraid to stock cellars. We are passionate about supporting our taphouses so we’re removing the risks where possible and stepping up to support them as best we can.”

McDonald’s considers rent deferrals for franchisees: McDonald’s has said it may allow some franchisees to defer rent as restaurants close or customer numbers plunge during the coronavirus outbreak. The company also warned the “negative financial impact” on its results couldn’t be reasonably estimated because it couldn’t predict how long or wide-ranging the disruption might be. McDonald’s is working with franchisees around the globe to support financial liquidity, according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday (16 March). Franchisees operate about 90% of McDonald’s restaurants globally. In the US, “substantially all” locations are operating with only drive-thru, takeout or delivery options, the filing stated. Some locations may have limited hours. In its international operated markets segment, most markets, such as France and Canada, have limited operations while some, including Italy and Spain, have closed all restaurants. Operating hours for locations in the company’s international developmental licensed markets are driven by government regulations. The majority of McDonald’s restaurants in Japan are open, while 95% of its locations in China are also operating. McDonald’s long-term forecast for earnings per share growth is in the high-single digits and system-wide sales growth is in the range of 3% to 5%. In late January, the company said it would add about 1,000 net new restaurants globally in 2020 and forecast global capital expenditure of about $2.4bn. The Wall Street Journal also reported McDonald’s was delaying construction projects across the US. McDonald’s shares were relatively flat in pre-market trading. The stock, which has a market value of almost $115bn, has fallen almost 25% since the start of the year.

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