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Wed 25th Mar 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Consumers likely to continue with delivery once crisis has cleared: More than half (53%) of respondents to the latest CGA consumer poll are using or plan to use delivery during the coronavirus crisis, with 13% getting delivery from a restaurant or takeaway for the first time or more often than usual in the past two weeks. Of those, almost three-quarters (72%) said they were likely to continue this behaviour once the crisis cleared. The survey of 700 adults showed a clear opportunity for delivered drinks too, with almost one-third (32%) of respondents looking for opportunities to have both food and drink delivered. Almost one-third (32%) said offering drinks from pubs, bars and restaurants for delivery was appealing, rising to 48% of those who regularly go out for a drink. In contrast, less than two-fifths (36%) of respondents have used or are looking to use click and collect from restaurants and takeaways. “With major fast food and sandwich chains closing, local operators able to keep their kitchens open for delivery could play a vital role in taking the strain off supermarkets,” said CGA vice-president Peter Martin. Of those who have already increased their use of delivery, 60% are under-35, 50% are parents and 38% live in cities. Almost half (48%) of all those who plan to increase delivery in the next few weeks live in suburbs. There is also a predicted surge in demand in rural areas, where the same proportion of consumers (22%) plan to increase the frequency of delivery as in city centres. The main reasons why people won’t use delivery are cost (39%), minimising contact with others (21%) and not trusting food preparation (16%). Another 12% don’t want to interact with delivery drivers. Jamie Campbell, chief operating officer at CPL Learning, said: “For many operators, takeaway and delivery services will be new. They are having to adapt their operations quickly to meet this demand so considerations and processes need to be put in place so they don’t risk damaging their business reputation or, more importantly, people’s health.” CPL Learning and other industry experts are set to release a free delivery e-learning course on Wednesday (25 March) to support operators through this process.
CPL Learning is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member  

Industry News:

Propel launches BeatTheVirus campaign, Bibendum and Startle join: Propel has launched a campaign called BeatTheVirus to help operators through the coronavirus crisis. We have teamed up with Propel Multi Club conference series partners to offer the sector their expertise. Partners will offer more general advice and highlight some of the initiatives they are doing. Bibendum and Startle are the latest companies to come on board and join Airship, Bums on Seats, CACI, Christie & Co, COREcruitment, CPL Learning, Cynergy Bank, Elliotts, Hastee, haysmacintyre, John Gaunt & Partners, KAM Media, Prestige Purchasing, S4labour, Ten Kites, The NPD Group, Toggle, Trail, Venners, Wireless Social, Yapster and sector trade body UKHospitality. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “It is amazing to see how the industry has come together during this crisis and here at Propel we want to do our bit. This is why we are working with Multi Club partners to offer expert support and advice to our readers and to answer their questions at what is a tough time for everyone.” Readers can email questions for our experts to paul.charity@propelinfo.com. Please use BeatTheVirus in the subject line.

BeatTheVirus – S4labour offers advice on furlough pay: Richard Hartley, chief product officer of S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, has offered readers advice on the issue of furlough pay. He said: “We are awaiting further information from the government but for those of you that need to pay your teams now, this is how we are treating furlough pay. In the absence of any advice we’re treating this as a normal pay element. It therefore attracts National Insurance payments, pension payments and is subject to holiday accrual. If the government changes any element regarding this, we plan to make adjustments in the next pay run to reflect those changes. The government is creating a portal for employers to claim back the furlough pay and aims to have this up and running by the end of April – presumably in time for April’s pay run. This will mean organisations need to fund any payments up to this point out of current cash reserves, which will undoubtedly take its toll on some operators. The intention is that organisations use the additional support available to bridge these payments. We will update this advice as we receive more information.” Hartley said S4labour had also drafted a key worker letter. He added: “Our payroll team has moved to remote working and is working tirelessly to ensure we accurately process the pay for so many of our customers in these difficult times and with the additional pressure of furlough adjustments. We are, therefore, grateful the government has afforded them key worker status. As such, we have drafted a key worker letter they can pass on to relevant parties. For a copy of this letter, email Sam@s4labour.co.uk 
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

More than four-fifths of London F&B operators eyeing insolvency due to ‘unsustainable rent’: More than four-fifths (85%) of food and beverage operators in London believe they will be forced to look into insolvency because of “unsustainable rent”, according to new research. With the latest rent quarter bills due on Wednesday (25 March) and the impact of the coronavirus crisis, the survey by Cedar Dean showed more than one-quarter (29.4%) of operators expect their turnover to be less than 25% of last year, with only 9% believing it will be 75% or more of 2019’s level. In terms of the current rent operators thought they could pay over the next 12 months, almost one-third (32.5%) said less than 25% of the current level, with only 8.3% believing 75% or more of the current rent was feasible. Cedar Dean chief executive David Abramson told Propel that with many businesses having a rent level of 20% of turnover, they could ill afford such a dip in sales and could be forced into insolvency. Although some landlords are granting rent holidays, Abramson said once they were able to reopen it would take months for businesses to get back to anywhere near the level they were in terms of sales and, for some, they might not be able to. He added: “Rent levels have been a problem for a while but coronavirus has exacerbated the situation. We have tried to look beyond the short-term impact by asking operators what they think life is going to be like in 12 months’ time – and that’s if they are able to reopen in the next couple of months. However, one thing that isn’t going away is the level of rent they can afford to pay. The forfeiture is great because it gives everyone time to think and take stock but people need to think about having conversations with their landlords because it’s clear there’s going to be a long-term impact. For some businesses, insolvency might be the only way. Some landlords are realising that and doing their bit to help because they don’t want to lose operators. Rent in some cases is 20% of turnover so no-one can afford to lose the level of sales some of these operators are expecting. Everyone is going to have to adjust to a new world after this.” Cedar Dean is in active discussions on more than 600 properties supporting operators with rent holidays and renegotiations.

Goodbody outlines impact of government lock-down on sector and says duration is the big question: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has outlined the impact of the government’s lock-down on the sector and said the big question was how long would it last? Ruddy said the added restrictions imposed on Monday night (23 March) were now having an impact on collection and delivery. He said: “Domino’s has announced it is halting collections and moving to delivery only and is offering a contact-free delivery service. Wagamama, on the other hand, has closed all sites in the UK including delivery and takeout until further notice. For Domino’s, collection accounted for circa 20% of system sales and 30% of orders last year. Although this is a negative for Domino’s, it is still significantly better placed than peers. The Restaurant Group issued guidance predicated on the assumption of a ten-week shutdown across its leisure estate last week. This assumed a 92% decline in its concessions business in the second quarter and a ten-week lock-down in the second quarter for the leisure, pubs and Wagamama businesses. This closure is in line with that guidance. Hotels will also close unless they are in use as primary abodes or for essential staff. This is a negative for Whitbread and Dalata but occupancy had already plummeted and we would expect announcements from both firms shortly confirming the percentage of hotels they intend to close. It was also largely expected at some point. One important update is the UK government has extended its moratorium on lease forfeiture and debt enforcement to commercial tenants. Essentially, it delays the right of forfeiture by three months but the landlord will still have a right of claim at the end of the period. With rent deadlines at the end of this month and revenue essentially halted, we had concerns about working capital outflows for the sector. This provides some respite. The news over the weekend that the government would underwrite 80% of the wages of hospitality workers up to £2,500 a month is also a big help. We believe large amounts of zero-hours contract workers have been, and will be, sent home but it allows the operators to keep a higher proportion of their fixed staff base that will potentially help to keep sites ticking over and, importantly, facilitate quicker re-ramp of the sites when we return to some normality. The rates holiday also helps, with rates typically accounting for 3% of sales. Although an almost full lock-down of the UK is a cataclysmic shock to the sector, wage underwriting, rates relief, rent pauses and debt forbearance will help with cash flows. This provides a vital lifeline to the sector. All cost lines excluding interest and fixed rents will now have to be variable. The key question now for the sector, and indeed the economy, becomes duration.”

NTIA chief calls on government to freeze the economy: Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, has written to prime minister Boris Johnson calling on him to freeze the economy. He wrote: “Our membership and the wider industry are calling for solutions that are easier to understand and access. We all stand together and, as such, implore the government to take a further exceptional measure and freeze the economy. The ‘Big Freeze’ would resolve a myriad of issues so many of our businesses and workers face and enable us to pull together as a nation and, through our communities, get through this crisis with minimum impact on people’s lives. Prime minister, you have taken significant and unprecedented measures with this new declaration. We are now further limited as citizens. By freezing the economy now you will ensure temporary relief for British workers and business. Freezing payments in this next period will allow people to focus on health and well-being rather than their personal financial burden. Now, more than ever, we need a level of calm to manage this next period pragmatically and for the greater good of all.”

Barclaycard to extend contactless limit to £45: Barclaycard is to extend its contactless limit to £45 from 1 April. It said increasing the contactless limit from £30 would allow more customers to make payments without touching card terminals or handling cash. The roll-out will be prioritised for retailers in key sectors, including grocery and supermarket stores, bakeries, pharmacies and petrol stations. Rob Cameron, chief executive of Barclaycard Payments, said: “It is more important than ever for merchants and their customers to be mindful of their collective health and safety. We are proud to take a leadership position in the UK by commencing the deployment of a higher contactless threshold. By supporting the ability of customers to spend up to £45 via contactless, we are playing a part in helping UK consumers to pay safely and securely.”

BBPA – decision not to cancel beer duty ‘extremely disappointing’: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has called chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision not to cancel March’s beer duty “extremely disappointing”. Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “We urged the chancellor to cancel the imminent Beer Duty bill to allow businesses to use funds to invest in their survival. The decision not to act is extremely disappointing. Make no mistake, this is a huge blow to Britain’s world-class brewing industry that has been devastated in the past week. Cancelling the duty payment due on 25 March would have freed up cash for many hard-squeezed pub and brewing businesses, helping them get through this difficult period while saving jobs. Brewers are being encouraged to phone the HMRC helpline if they have concerns over paying their duty bill but, with answer rates on the helpline so low, it’s a lottery as to those who get through and receive the additional support they need at this time.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting an international investment group as it focuses its efforts on the global roll-out of a heath-focused restaurant brand. The group is keen to appoint a chair with a wealth of experience in creating concepts and launching and expanding hospitality businesses. Ideally this individual will be an established founder or chief executive of a hospitality business with extensive international experience. The role will involve guiding, advising and mentoring this fledging business. The company would like to make an appointment within the next four months but would wait for the right person to become available. Email Hollie@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member  

Company News:

Leon – keeping business open for NHS workers is right thing to do, no matter the cost: Natural fast food brand Leon has said it is costing the company more to keep the business open but it would continue to serve NHS workers as it was the “right thing to do”. The company also said if it “accidentally” made any profit during the coronavirus outbreak, the money would be spent on feeding hospital teams. Leon stated: “In line with government advice and support, Leon remains open to customers where NHS teams and essential workers need us. In the past week we have served 13,843 takeaway and delivery meals to NHS workers alone. All meals served to the NHS were at 50% discount. We have to do the right thing and continue to serve them. We have once again explained to our team members that no Leon person should work if they don’t wish to. Whatever each team member decides, we support them. If they choose to remain at home, we are helping them to access the government furlough scheme. The decision isn’t financial. In fact, it’s costing our business more to stay open. We have been inundated with requests from NHS hospitals and messages of thanks for what we have done so far. Meals for the NHS and homeless are set to be the vast majority of our work.” Meanwhile, Imbiba-backed Farmer J is to launch a grocery and prepared meal delivery service. The initiative – The Farmer’s Market – will see menu items, recipes, groceries and sauces delivered to those unable to leave their house. The business tweeted: “When we said we’ve got you, we meant it. Launching soon, The Farmer’s Market will see groceries, farm boxes, recipes and our Forkin’ sauces and marinades delivered straight to your door. So no excuses – stay home.”

Wasabi looks to leverage CPU and distribution to provide food for the needy: Wasabi, the sushi and bento chain led by Henry Birts, is looking to work with more operators to provide food for those that need it most as it looks to leverage its central production unit (CPU) and distribution capabilities. The move comes after the business temporarily closed the seven sites it had continued to operate for delivery and takeaway only. Birts told Propel: “We tried to keep as many stores open for as long as possible while it was safe for staff and customers to provide food for key workers and NHS staff. Now we want to be part of the solution of getting food to people who need it most. Through our CPU at Park Royal and our vans, we’re able to provide meals through our Home Bento range that can be distributed across the capital. We can leverage the CPU to produce more of these or support distribution of food where required. We are already working with great initiatives such as the Felix Project and City Harvest to make sure our surplus stock doesn’t go to waste. We are also working with other operators and UKHospitality to make sure we can distribute more food to those that need it – but it would be great to see others join us.” Wasabi, which is backed by Capdesia, launched its ready-made meals range in Sainsbury’s stores in early 2019.

Whitbread likely to breach covenants, halts investment programme as it closes hotels: Whitbread said it is likely to be in technical default of its covenants as a result of the interruption to cash flow caused by the coronavirus outbreak and is in talks with its banks about a waiver. The company is closing its Premier Inns in the UK and Germany and halting expenditure on refurbishment and expansion. It is in discussions with the UK government regarding using hotels near hospitals to support key workers. Whitbread said it entered the year with a strong balance sheet and access to significant liquidity. It has “material headroom” on its funding facilities and will pay all rent this quarter. However, it has taken a number of “decisive actions” to reduce cash outflow during this period, including room refurbishment plans, marketing, non-essential training and staff recruitment. All employees remain on full pay and should be eligible for government support. Repairs and maintenance capital expenditure has been reduced to a minimum, with the business now only incurring costs where there is a legal or health and safety requirement to do so. The board has decided not to declare a dividend for the full year. The company said the 12-month business rates relief was expected to save the business circa £120m in FY21, together with the contribution to salary costs of furloughed employees. It added: “The decisive action being taken means Whitbread is well placed as we face this uncertain period.”

Giggling Squid, Turtle Bay and Frankie & Benny’s among latest brands to shutter: Giggling Squid, Turtle Bay, Oakman Inns and Restaurants, Paul UK and The Restaurant Group brands Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito have become the latest companies to temporarily close their estates. All had previously offered delivery and takeaway options. A Frankie & Benny’s spokesman said: “A few days ago we made the announcement to convert some of our locations to delivery only. Today we have made the decision to temporarily cease the delivery operations too.” Oakman Inns and Restaurants closed all its pubs and restaurants on Tuesday (24 March) after offering takeaway and delivery from a number of sites, as did French bakery and cafe brand Paul UK. However, the company’s central bakery in Acton, west London, will continue to operate as The Bread Market to supply fresh loaves. Unsold items will continue to be donated to London-based charity The Felix Project for distribution to the needy. Chief executive Mark Hilton said: “While The Bread Market remains open, we have taken steps to ensure queues don’t congregate, marking out lines to denote the acceptable two-metre social distancing.” Deep Blue Restaurants has closed all 14 of its Harry Ramsden and 35 Deep Blue sites, including delivery services. Founder and chief executive James Low said: “We hope such actions, as harsh as they seem, will bring forward an end to coronavirus and a time we will only think of as a bad memory.”

Grind – no job losses thanks to government support: Coffee and cocktail brand Grind has said the government’s support package will ensure there are no job losses at the company. Grind has now closed its last three sites that were offering takeaway only – in Exmouth Market, Greenwich and Shoreditch. In an email to customers, Grind founder David Abrahamovitch wrote: “The past week has been the hardest we’ve faced at Grind, throwing the life and livelihoods of the entire Grind family into question. We promised to stand behind our teams and, thanks to the support from the government, we couldn’t be more relieved to say we will financially support our entire team through the next few months. No-one at Grind will lose their job as a result of this virus. For almost ten years we’ve brought you together across London but now it’s more important than ever we remain apart for the safety of our teams and customers. When this is over, we’ll see you at the Grind.” Meanwhile KFC, which will have closed all its sites by Wednesday (25 March), told the Evening Standard jobs would be “waiting for staff when we reopen”. A spokesman said: “All our franchise partners are committed to doing all they can – with support from the UK and Irish governments – to protect their teams’ typical earnings as much as possible.” Greek street food restaurant group The Athenian, meanwhile, is looking to open several delivery-only kitchens with Deliveroo Editions, inside and outside London. Until then, all Athenian staff are being given a weekly parcel with items such as lentils, tomatoes, pasta, olive oil, lettuce and toilet roll in addition to the free meals they receive during their shifts. The company said it would try to retain every member of staff during the crisis.

Shaftesbury defers rent payments for tenants, expects earnings to be ‘significantly’ below expectations: Shaftesbury, which is landlord to 315 pubs, restaurants and cafes in London’s West End, has said it will defer rent payments for commercial tenants until they resume trading. The company added it expected EPRA earnings for its financial year to the end of September to be “significantly” below expectations amid uncertainty arising from the covid-19 outbreak and restrictions on movement imposed by the UK government. There will be no half-year dividend and the full-year dividend will be kept under review. Shaftesbury has temporarily halted all non-essential expenditure, new schemes and acquisitions and is drawing down £150m against its revolving credit facility. It said liquidity currently stood at about £254m. Chief executive Brian Bickell said: “We are committed to supporting our occupiers and residents through this period of unprecedented upheaval in normal patterns of life and business activity. The ability of our commercial tenants to resume trading when current restrictions start to relax is our priority.”

Starbucks implements pay rise for all working employees during crisis: Starbucks is offering all employees who continue to work during the coronavirus crisis a temporary $3 an hour pay rise. Shortly after Starbucks implemented “catastrophe pay” for employees who felt sick or chose to quarantine, the company is now enticing employees to keep coming to work at its drive-thrus and delivery services in the US and Canada. Starbucks Service Pay will be in effect for all store-level employees until 19 April, the same period as catastrophe sick pay for those unable to work. Chief executive Kevin Johnson told Nation’s Restaurant News: “It is the responsibility of every business to care for its employees during this time of uncertainty, shared sacrifice and common cause.” Starbucks has continued to allow employees to access health benefits during the crisis and expanded its mental healthcare and childcare programmes. It is part of Starbucks’ aggressive strategy towards the pandemic. In China, the company closed more than half its stores for a month to diminish spread of the virus. Johnson said: “Though the situation remains fluid, Starbucks stores in China are on a solid path to recovery. The key takeaway is we’ll continue to exceed public health requirements when it comes to increased cleaning and sanitising protocols and social-distancing operating models to create the safest possible environment in our stores.”

Qoot Restaurant brands to give London’s most vulnerable children free lunchboxes: Qoot Restaurant Group, which operates a number of fast-growing brands in London, has made moves to help the capital’s most vulnerable children during the pandemic. Qoot is using its venues to offer complimentary meals to all schoolchildren eligible for free meals but unable to attend school. Eligible children will receive a free lunchbox compromising a sandwich, drink and snack. Qoot Restaurant Group chief operations officer Simon Wright said: “Covid-19 is an existential threat to the UK’s most vulnerable families. If Qoot can go some way to relieve that threat, then at least something positive will rise from this tragic time for the hospitality industry and our nation as a whole.” Qoot venues taking part in the initiative are By Chloe stores in Covent Garden, Tower Bridge and Oxford Circus; The Lebanese Bakery in Covent Garden; Dominique Ansel Bakery stores in Belgravia and Covent Garden; and Gentleman Baristas sites in Borough, London Bridge, East India Dock, Hammersmith, Holborn and Vinegar Yard.

Cake Box will provide ‘all possible’ support as it tells franchisees to shut stores: Cake Box, the specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, has said it will provide “all possible” support to its franchisees as it told them to close their stores. The company stated: “Trading to date has been in line with expectations for the financial year to 31 March 2020. Given it isn’t possible to know how long the group’s franchise stores will remain closed for, the group is unable to quantify the full impact of covid-19 on its business at this stage. As well as lost revenue from the group’s franchise stores, there may also be an impact on the timing of new franchise store openings, although the current pipeline remains strong. Cake Box has a strong balance sheet with a current cash balance of circa £4m. The group’s only debt is mortgage debt of £1.6m secured by its freehold properties in Enfield and Coventry. The group operates a franchise model and therefore has relatively low levels of fixed costs and will take all appropriate measures to conserve its cash during this period. The group notes and appreciates the various actions taken by the UK government to support businesses and employees during these challenging times and will assess how best to utilise these while the group’s stores remain closed.”

Revolution Bars Group live-streams DJ sets: Revolution Bars Group has been live-streaming dance, Latin and Ibiza DJ sets to maintain the party spirit while its sites are closed. The company has worked with social media agency Social Chain to bring live music to consumers via its Facebook pages. The Revolution and Revolucion de Cuba pages got 233,400 views and reached 194,000 people – 24% of average monthly reach across both brands. Further sets are planned during the next few weeks.

Papa John’s starts hiring 20,000 employees in the US to keep up with takeaway and delivery demand: Papa John’s has joined Domino’s as the latest chain in the US to start hiring staff instead of laying them off during the coronavirus crisis. Papa John’s is looking to hire 20,000 restaurant team members, including customer service representatives, cashiers, pizza chefs, drivers, assistant managers and manager-level positions to keep up with delivery and takeaway demand. Marvin Boakye, Papa John’s chief people and diversity officer, told Nation’s Restaurant News: “We want to add talented team members to our Papa John’s family to deliver food safely to our customers’ doorsteps. We are in the unique position – as a restaurant that specialises in delivery and carryout – to help our communities through this crisis.” To get as many team members on board as quickly as possible, Papa John’s is mainly hiring online and via text. If possible, applicants will be interviewed on the same day and could even start work immediately. During the past week there has been a nationwide push in the US for customers to consider delivery. DoorDash has introduced an #OpenforDelivery social media and marketing campaign in partnership with other third-party delivery services that offers health and safety information about food delivery. Another social media push – #TheGreatAmericanTakeout – encouraged US customers to order takeaway or delivery on Tuesday (24 March) to support local businesses. As of 29 December, Papa John’s had 5,395 locations worldwide.

Burger King closes entire UK estate: Burger King, which had pivoted to a delivery and takeout-only model across part of its estate, has become the latest business to temporarily close all its sites. Until Monday night (23 March), the 500-strong company had still been operating the majority of its circa 150 drive-thrus. Burger King UK chief executive Alasdair Murdoch told Propel the business had taken an “hour by hour approach” on whether it kept them open. Tortilla was one of a number of companies that announced the temporary closure of all its sites on Monday after several had remained open to offer delivery and takeaway. Tortilla founder Brandon Stephens told Propel: “I think it took the whole industry a few days to realise if you shut ten or 20 stores you still have the head office to pay for. If you shut all your stores you can furlough the head office as well. That allows you to shutter and hibernate the company, which brings cash flow as low as possible. This also allows us to protect the health and safety of all employees. You can keep a small senior management team in the head office and everyone else goes into a safe furloughed status, with the government guaranteeing their livelihood. For all those reasons we’ve made that decision – and I think that’s consistent across most of the sector.”

Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan produces free ready meals for Cartmel community: Two Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan and his team in Cartmel, Cumbria, are creating free ready meals for vulnerable members of the village and surrounding community. Using ingredients from his Lake District farm, Rogan is working with the local church to identify those who are most isolated or at risk. Other residents can purchase the take-home meals for £5, which covers the cost of ingredients and will fund the production of more meals. Meals can be collected or delivered. The menu includes confit chicken with creamed spinach and leeks; beef and Anvil Beer stew; and cauliflower and chickpea curry. Sam Ward, managing director of Simon Rogan Restaurants, told Propel: “Hospitality doesn’t stop because the restaurants do. Right now we have the resources so we’ll use what we have to help our community. We are complying with regulations and taking all the necessary precautions. We only have one chef in the kitchen at a time. By the end of the week, we will be able to deliver salad boxes to the residents of Cartmel using produce from Simon’s farm. While we are able to, we’ll continue to do as much as we can.” Rogan is chef proprietor of eight restaurants and is also Bocuse d’Or UK president.

Applegreen – ‘we remain open’: Roadside retailer Applegreen has said all its stores remain open. It added: “We have implemented an extensive range of measures to safeguard our people and communities across our three regions. The group’s supply chain has remained fully operational and its strong customer service levels have been maintained. Given the ongoing uncertainty, we are unable to quantify the impact of covid-19 on our financial and trading performance at this stage. However, we expect a material reduction to profitability for the current financial year. The scale depends on how the situation develops, what time-frame and the impact of further measures taken by the governments in the markets in which we operate. The group is taking a number of actions to protect profitability and conserve cash – deferring development capital expenditure; reducing operating cost base; tight management of working capital including stock levels; implementation of a recruitment freeze; deferring executive director bonuses; availing of newly introduced government relief measures; and opening negotiations with landlords on rental holidays. In addition, to preserve liquidity the board has decided not to recommend a final dividend in relation to 2019 at its forthcoming annual general meeting. Our banks remain supportive and we will update the market more fully in the preliminary results statement.”

Fuller’s appoints Robin Rowland to board: Robin Rowland has joined Fuller’s as an independent non-executive director with immediate effect. The company stated: “Robin Rowland is one of the hospitality sector’s most respected characters and an experienced PLC director. He continues to be an active investor in hospitality companies and has previously held non-executive director positions with Caffe Nero, Tortilla and Marston’s. In 2016, he was awarded an OBE for outstanding services to hospitality. Robin started his career in 1984 with Whitbread and went on to develop and lead a number of pub and restaurant brands with listed companies including Diageo, Scottish & Newcastle, and The Restaurant Group. In 1999, he was appointed chief executive of YO!, which he took from three restaurants to more than 100 across the UK and US. He led several management buyouts for the company and spearheaded the acquisition of Bento Sushi in North America.” Rowland said: “I have a deep passion for the hospitality industry and the opportunity to play a role in the development of an industry icon such as Fuller’s is wonderful. The coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented set of challenges for the sector but, when this time is over, it will be time for companies to come back stronger. I know Fuller’s will be one of those.”

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