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Fri 20th Mar 2020 - Coronavirus: Vapiano, Wetherspoon, Fuller’s, Loungers, Pret et al
Vapiano declares insolvency: Vapiano has reported itself insolvent and will apply for government assistance to avoid formally filing for insolvency, blaming the coronavirus crisis for a drop in sales. “Due to the drastic decline in net sales and revenues, an insolvency reason in the form of cash flow insolvency for Vapiano SE has occurred as of today,” the company stated. Vapiano’s 55 German restaurants were closed last night, with almost all the chain’s more than 230 outlets now shut, the restaurant chain said in a regulatory statement. Under German insolvency law, management has three weeks to evaluate whether full insolvency proceedings can still be averted. “Vapiano will apply at short notice for support under the financial assistance programmes announced by various governments in Europe,” it said. Vapiano said it would pursue insolvency if such efforts to secure financial support fail since it generates almost no turnover, while salaries, rent and operating costs continue to accrue. It said it expects a decline in sales of more than 20% and a fall in operating and net profit in the first and second quarters of 2020.

Tim Martin – Wetherspoon will keep pubs open even if trade drops 50% unless forced to close, no industry left if government doesn’t offer more help: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has told Propel he will keep the company’s pubs open – unless the government directs otherwise – even if trade was to drop a further 50%. Martin argued the social distancing measures the company had brought in made the pubs safe to operate, especially given the way footfall had dropped off since prime minister Boris Johnson advised people to stop visiting such venues. He also warned if the government failed to offer more help there “wouldn’t be a hospitality industry left”, while the country was already in a “deep recession”. Speaking following the company’s half-year results on Friday (20 March), Martin said: “My view is pubs should remain open in the way parliament has – if it’s done on a sensible basis and we make sure we protect the most vulnerable members of our society. The policy is to flatten the curve of this outbreak and that seems sensible to me. If pubs shut it is difficult to get the teams together to reopen them again, especially if they are closed for an indefinite period. It’s a question of balance against common sense. I went for a meal in a Chinese restaurant in London last night and there were about half a dozen of us in there so I’d argue that was pretty safe.” He added: “Tens of thousands of jobs have already been lost in this industry. We are now in a deep recession. I think the government has done a good job up to now but it needs to give the industry more support otherwise there won’t be a hospitality industry left.” Martin said he wouldn’t comment on potential job losses at this stage but said in Ireland, where all pubs had shut, there had been no job losses. He said a total of 1,600 of its 43,000 staff were currently off because they were self-isolating. Reflecting on its “strong” first half results, Martin said: “We have seen average record weekly sales per pub of £49,500, which is twice that of our main competitors, but we’re now in a situation in which the hospitality industry has its back to the wall and everyone is considering their position.” 

Loungers to shutter at 3pm: Loungers, the operator of 167 cafe bar restaurants in England and Wales under the Lounge and Cosy Club brands, is to close all sites at 3pm today (20 March). The company stated: “We anticipated the prospect of closure and continue to take all appropriate steps to mitigate the cost of the interruption to trade. We remain confident in our ability to emerge from this period strongly.” Chief executive Nick Collins said: “The government has given clear guidance against the general public visiting cafes, bars and restaurants, yet has allowed us to remain open. This places Loungers and other leisure and wider hospitality sector operators in a difficult position. However, we feel we have a moral and social responsibility to play our part in helping defeat coronavirus. As much as we want to be a force for good in communities at this difficult time, we have a more pressing duty to protect our loyal teams and, in particular, the communities they serve. In these circumstances, as an employer of more than 4,000 people, I can’t stress how important it is for the chancellor to announce meaningful support for all hospitality workers this afternoon that doesn’t disadvantage their employers.”

Fuller’s to shutter managed pubs and hotels: Fuller’s is to temporarily close its London pubs. Chief executive Simon Emeny said: “The time has come to make the toughest of decisions and we’ve started the process of temporarily closing our entire managed pubs and hotels estate. By Monday, all sites will be closed until further notice. As we navigate these difficult times, we promise our teams we will be fair to our people while protecting our business for the long term. We don’t know how long these measures will last but when the time comes our pubs and their teams will be ready, waiting and delighted to serve our customers and communities.”

Pret to cut staff working hours and pay in bid to avoid redundancies: Pret A Manger is to cut staff working hours and pay by one-quarter across its 550 branches in a bid to avoid redundancies. The company has emailed staff, most of whom earn the minimum wage or slightly more, telling them the reduction in hours will be implemented from the end of next week until 1 April across its network on a case by case basis. At this time the focus is mostly on the UK, where Pret has 400 shops. Pret’s 8,000 staff were told the company was triggering contractual clauses relating to “unforeseen, exceptional circumstances”, and the measures would remain in place for at least three months. The company, which said it might cut hours further as the situation worsened, said the move was aimed at avoiding job cuts as customers stay at home. A Pret spokesman said: “These are temporary changes to protect every job across Pret. They have not yet come into effect, and as soon as the government announces further assistance, we will review and hopefully be able to reverse the changes. Importantly, despite the significant decline in trade, we’ve made a commitment to every Pret team member that it is our intention that no one will lose their job because of this crisis and our primary objective is to do all we can to keep everyone employed at Pret, despite the pressure on our business.” On Wednesday (18 March), Pret shut all its in-store eating areas and moved to takeaway-only operations for the foreseeable future. Reusable cups have been banned because of fears they could spread the virus, while NHS workers are being offered free hot drinks and 50% discount on all other purchases.

Itsu and KFC temporarily close seating areas: KFC and Itsu have become the latest brands to temporarily close their dine-in areas and switch to delivery and takeaway models. In a note to customers, KFC wrote: “We’ll temporarily close the seating areas of our restaurants in the coming days. We’re still available via drive-thru, takeaway or home delivery. We’ve upped the regularity with which we clean and sanitise the key areas of our restaurants. We’re recommending our guests use a contactless payment method if they can. We’re working with our delivery partners to find ways to further reduce contact with riders.” Itsu has also changed opening hours at some of its sites and is now available for delivery from Deliveroo, UberEats and Just Eat. Itsu founder Julian Metcalfe said: “We’re moving to takeaway only, all cutlery and sauces from tables will be kept behind tills and we’re asking you to use cards to pay where you can. We’ve also stopped refillable coffee cups for now (you can still get your 25p discount). All our teams are, of course, following government guidance to ensure they self-isolate if necessary and we trust our customers are doing the same. We are communicating with our teams daily. These are tough times but we’ll continue to pay our staff as much as we can afford for as long as we can afford to do so. We’ve also been working on how we can better support our brave NHS staff and are extending our discount to 50% off, offering free miso and hot drink all day. We are also committed to finding a way to support people who work in hospitals near an Itsu with free food and offering charities free food.”

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