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Wed 8th Apr 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sector urges government to reconsider excluding tronc payments from CJRS: UKHospitality has urged the government to reconsider its decision to exclude tronc payments from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). The call came as London Union chief executive Jonathan Downey said “arbitrarily excluding tronc now, when the legislation and subsequent guidance clearly do not, is irresponsible and will be devastating to many in our industry”. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “HMRC will have evidence employees are paid tips through a tronc, so there seems no reason not to include it in the CJRS. This is taxable income that team members have earned. Excluding it from the scheme means furloughed employees will receive less money to see them through this crisis – money they should be entitled to. Hospitality employees put in a huge amount of hard work to earn their tips, often going above and beyond to give customers a fantastic experience. At such a difficult time for the country, people’s hard work should be acknowledged, and those people should be supported. Hospitality businesses are doing their best to support employees during extraordinarily difficult times. But with zero revenue and persistent demands on cash from landlords and others, there is only so much they can do. Including tronc payments in the CJRS would give more people some much-needed support, and we hope the government reconsiders.” Downey said: “The CJRS has clearly been too popular with lots of business sectors that don't need the same level of support hospitality does. The UK population has not been told to avoid law and accountancy firms, like they have pubs, clubs and restaurants, and this now seems like Treasury/HMRC is trying to limit the reach of the funding they had previously granted. By doing this, they are unfairly punishing chefs and lots of other dedicated front and back-of-house hospitality workers. Thousands will now be getting 80% of 50% if tronc is no longer included. Tronc payments are a significant part of salary and earnings for many in hospitality. Arbitrarily excluding tronc now, when the legislation and subsequent guidance clearly do not, is irresponsible and will be devastating to many in our industry.” 
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Industry News:

Mark Wingett talks to Simon Potts in latest 'navigating the coronavirus’ video interview: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will talk to Simon Potts, chief executive of The Alchemist, in the latest of Propel's video interviews with leading operators on how they are navigating the coronavirus crisis. Potts talks about using unexpected time at home wisely to reassess your business and what you can do better; and keeping your teams together and planning for an uncertain future. The video will be released on Wednesday (8 April). Meanwhile, readers can support independent sector journalism and get their news 12 hours early (at 7pm each night) with a Propel Premium subscription. It costs £395 plus VAT per annum for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to sign up.

BBPA demands £750m beer duty deferral: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) is demanding the government defers £750m of beer duty to support the industry with 70% of the market now cut off. It is calling for a deferment on payments of beer duty due on 25 April, which amounts to £300m and relates to beer produced in March when pubs were forced to close. In addition, it is calling for a deferment of beer duty for the whole of the next quarter (April to June) – worth another £350m – to support the brewing industry. The BBPA said increased sales by brewers to supermarkets was not compensating for the loss of revenue from pubs being shut. Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The UK government has rightly announced various measures to help our sector, which we warmly welcome. However, with pubs being forced to close overnight, 70% of the UK’s beer market by value has been shut off – devastating breweries across the UK. Sales of beer in off licences and supermarkets simply cannot make that gap up. The chancellor has said he will do ‘whatever it takes’ – for brewers this means an immediate deferment of the April beer duty payment for beer produced in March, and a deferment for the whole of the next quarter too.”

London’s night czar calls for licence fee and late-night levy holiday: London’s night czar Amy Lamé has called on councils in the capital to grant hospitality businesses a licence fee and late-night levy holiday to help them survive the impact of the coronavirus lock-down. Lamé has written a letter to all 33 London authorities requesting they mirror the business rates holiday granted by the chancellor by scrapping the charges for a 12-month period. She wrote: “The government’s support package has provided a vital lifeline. However, without customer income, businesses must reduce spending to a bare minimum to avoid permanent closure. We are working with government, local authorities, businesses, landlords and others to ensure that as many night-time businesses as possible can survive through this period. They will play a vital role in the recovery of our high streets after the crisis has passed. The mayor (Sadiq Khan) and I are asking all London local authorities to consider providing their licensed premises with a licence fee holiday for 12 months. This could include suspending collection of annual licence fees and late-night levy fees where applicable. It mirrors the business rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses.”

Company News:

John Vincent – online delivery service will provide a lifeline to industry suppliers as well as vulnerable people: John Vincent, founder and chief executive of natural fast food brand Leon, has said its new online delivery service will provide a lifeline to industry suppliers as well as vulnerable people. The Feed Britain service will offer a range of boxes containing “essential grocery items as well as restaurant quality meals” – initially within the M25, with plans to expand to other parts of the UK soon. Customers are able to choose between an initial offer of four different boxes, including a fruit and vegetable and an everyday essentials option from partners Premier Fruits and chef quality prepared meals from Mustard Foods. More boxes will be added to the range in the coming days. In addition, Feed Britain is launching a directory service, Feed Britain Directory, which is a “who’s who” of suppliers that connects local suppliers and customers in other parts of the UK, and the Feed Britain Charities Directory, which highlights organisations trying to help those in need during the coronavirus crisis and links them with local support. While Feed Britain is designed in the long run to be a commercial enterprise that makes it possible for suppliers to sustainably serve people at home, for the duration of the coronavirus crisis all profits made by the service will be donated to FeedNHS. This is the initiative launched by Matt Lucas, Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory and Leon and supported by other restaurant operators – to feed one hot, healthy meal a day to NHS critical care workers and has almost raised its £1m target. Vincent said: “There are many suppliers who no longer have restaurants to sell their produce to. And at the same time people stuck at home are finding long delays on their supermarket home deliveries. By working closely with British food producers, farmers and wholesalers who no longer have restaurants to sell to, we are able to help them avoid the threat of closure and give people at home access to quality produce.” Leon has already repurposed 11 of its restaurants into mini-supermarkets in the past couple of weeks, stocking essential groceries and ready meals, although its restaurant menus are still available for delivery and takeaway. A further five restaurants have been repurposed into dedicated kitchens serving NHS workers.

Cooplands begins delivering food packages and increases bread production: South Yorkshire-based bakery and cafe chain Cooplands has begun delivering food packages and increased bread production after securing funding from Lloyds Bank. Cooplands operates 172 bakery shops and cafes across the north, and more than two thirds remain open during the current lock-down. The business is now distributing food packages to customers within ten to 15 miles of its three main production sites in Durham, Hull and Scarborough. Chief executive Belinda Youngs said: “Our ambition is to quite literally put bread and other staples on the table during these challenging times and it's only possible for us to react to changing market conditions as quickly as we have with confidence in the support of our bank. In addition, while we have regrettably had to furlough some employees associated with our cafes, mobile food vans and city centre shops that don't serve residential communities, the new funding will ultimately preserve those jobs in the long-term.”

Itsu reopens two kitchens to serve meals for NHS staff in London: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, has reopened two of its kitchens to serve meals to NHS workers in London. Following on from its donation of £15,000 worth of food to 20 NHS hospitals, Itsu has served its first hot meals from its branches in King’s Road and Regents Place to UCLH and Chelsea & Westminster hospitals. These hospitals will now receive regular weekly deliveries from Itsu along with St Thomas’ and St Mary’s hospitals. Meals will be entirely paid for by Itsu and delivered by Deliveroo. Metcalfe said: “We’re so proud to say to hospital staff that dinner is on us. We’ve been working hard to source the best ingredients, have created a new recipe and have fantastic people who just want to help feed others. We are also grateful to Deliveroo for its fund-raising campaign to cover the cost of the delivery.” Itsu is also supporting where it can with deliveries of its healthy snacks across the country.

Costa appoints Jonathan Crookall as chief people officer: Costa Coffee, which is owned by Coca-Cola, has appointed Jonathan Crookall, formerly of Halfords and Specsavers, as its new chief people officer. Crookall joins the coffee brand after six months as interim people director at Unite Students. Previous to that, he spent more than seven years as group people director at Halfords and almost three years as HR director at Specsavers. He replaces Kate Seljeflot, who recently left Costa to become chief people officer at Kingfisher. Costa has more than 2,300 branches in the UK but all have been closed since 23 March when the country went into lock-down. Initially, Costa remained open during the coronavirus outbreak by offering a takeaway-only service.

Compass Group joins coronavirus business initiative to help nation through crisis: Contract caterer Compass Group UK & Ireland has joined businesses from across the country in an initiative to help the most vulnerable to pull through the coronavirus pandemic. Former cabinet minister Justine Greening has launched the C-19 Business Pledge with entrepreneur David Harrison. The national scheme encourages employers to join the coronavirus effort by pledging to help their employees, customers and communities during the crisis. It is targeting not just the immediate challenges, but also the challenges of recovery. Employers who sign up to the pledge give their backing to three main objectives built around employees, customers and communities – support own employees throughout and beyond this challenging time; publish clear and simple advice for customers; and help communities in Britain through the epidemic. Compass’ work includes seeing its procurement business, Foodbuy, provide 10,000 free food boxes to front line employees and donating £500,000 of food to Fareshare. The company is awarding a bonus in the range of 8% to 17% to 7,800 colleagues supporting the NHS as ward hosts, hospital porters or cleaners; and has launched an internal nurse helpline, designed to support medical queries and concerns of employees and reduce the burden on the NHS. Greening said: “With the future of many employers hanging in the balance and incredibly tough times unfolding in sectors across the UK, businesses face many incredibly difficult decisions. But those organisations who are able to, can have a huge role in battling the impact of coronavirus and make a real difference. The C-19 Business Pledge is all about encouraging as many businesses and universities as possible to get involved and then helping them do that faster and better by sharing all the great work that’s already been done.” In addition to signing the pledge, Compass Group UK & Ireland’s chief people officer Donna Catley also joins the C-19 Business steering group and will be on hand to share best practice, support and advise throughout the campaign. 

Bourne Leisure extends site closures until 14 May: Bourne Leisure, which operates the Butlin’s, Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels brands, has extended the closure of its sites until 14 May. The company first announced in March the venues would be closed until 17 April on the back of government advice. It stated: “We know how disappointing this will be for those guests who are booked to stay with us during this time but every decision we make, we do so ensuring the safety and security of our guests, owners and teams are our number one priority. We are conscious this will have an impact on a huge amount of families, and we are currently contacting all guests affected by the closure and the options that will be available to them. We have given staff the equipment and support to be able to work safely from home and we have brought in more people to help us get to your requests as quickly as possible. However, the scale of what we are dealing with is significant and it will mean it may take a little longer than usual.”

TGI Friday’s plans to take US business public collapse: Plans to take TGI Friday’s business in the US public have been called off. The merger agreement between the privately-held TGIF Holdings and Allegro Merger has been “terminated” because of “extraordinary market conditions and the failure to meet necessary closing conditions,” Allegro stated in a regulatory filing. The deal, first announced in November, was valued at $380m. It was set to close in late March – when restaurants across the US were ordered to temporarily halt dine-in operations to help stem the spread of coronavirus – but that deadline was extended until 30 April, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. According to insights firm The NPD Group, restaurant transactions dropped 42% for the week ending 29 March compared with the same week a year ago. It said many restaurants attempting to make the move to off-premise sales are doing so with limited menu offerings and without the benefit of drive-thru lanes. It is unclear how many of TGI Friday’s circa 385 restaurants in the US remain open for takeout and delivery. More than 30 restaurants shut in 2019, and it finished the final quarter of the year with like-for-like sales down 11.3% and visits down 9.1%, according to a regulatory filing released in February by Allegro. In 2019, delivery sales increased 140% compared with the previous year while off-premise sales accounted for 13% of total revenue.

Stonegate manager uses 3D-printers to make PPE for NHS staff: Stonegate general manager Cee-Jay Williams is using 3D-printers to help make personal protective equipment for front line healthcare workers. Williams, who is on furlough from his role at the Junction Tap in Woking, and his friend, Tim Charlesworth, are making clips used to attach the protective plastic visors for doctors and nurses working closely with coronavirus patients. The NHS is struggling with a deficit of 80,000 clips and the dup are part of a wider group whose first batch of more than 1,000 sterilised clips are being distributed to hospitals throughout the UK. Williams decided to join the fight against coronavirus after seeing the story of a group in Italy using their own printers to adapt diving masks into protective gear on Facebook. Williams said: “Now we’ve mastered the technique we should be able to make a lot more – and fast! I’ve bulk ordered more of the filament needed to create the clips and then it’s back to printing. I hope we can make a real difference to our amazing NHS and help it to continue to do the incredible job it is doing for the people of this country.” So far 659 members of the UK’s 3D-printing community have made almost 17,000 face mask clips for the NHS.

Monty’s Deli launches bagel delivery service: Jewish soul food trader Monty’s Deli is running a bagel delivery service. Customers can order its pastrami or salt beef online along with six part-baked bagels, which is sent by courier in temperature controlled packaging. The service is available across London with deliveries made Tuesday to Friday. Founded by Mark Ogus and Owen Barratt, Monty’s Deli started as a market stall in 2012. It has sites in Kerb’s Seven Dials Market, Market Halls Victoria and Old Spitalfields Market. 

Rustico Italiano operators acquire Lewes pub from Greene King for sixth site: East Sussex-based Neapolitan Street Food Eatery, which operates five sites under the Rustico Italiano concept, has secured an outlet in Lewes. The family-owned company has acquired the Lamb in Fisher Street from brewer and retailer Greene King in a deal brokered by agent Fleurets. The premises is due to open once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Co-owner Luca Venditto said: “In these difficult times we decided to exchange, but delay the completion, turning an easy transaction into a complicated one, with all parties taking a very common sense approach, for which I am very grateful.” Rustico Italiano specialises in authentic street food and has sites in Battle, Bexhill, Brighton, Hastings and Hove. Venditto added: “We have found it easier than most restaurants to switch to a contactless home delivery and collection service as large proportion of our business has always been off site and therefore excited to begin to serve the community of Lewes whatever this uncertain future brings.”

Creams launches campaign to thank and reward front line ‘heroes’: Dessert parlour operator Creams has launched a campaign to thank and reward the nation’s everyday heroes, including NHS staff, delivery drivers, supermarket employees and other key workers. The Creams Heroes campaign sees the business join forces with partners Deliveroo, Just Eat and UberEats, with chosen “heroes” receiving a bundle of goodies delivered to their door, including a freshly baked waffle, Creams’s own gelato, and a variety of toppings. Creams will choose up to, but not limited to, 275 heroes that can be nominated through its social channels. Chief executive Adam Mani said: “Through our ‘Creams Heroes’ campaign, we want to say thank you to those who are working so hard, day in day out, by sharing their stories and treating them to a moment of indulgence.” The launch of the Creams Heroes campaign comes as the brand unveils Creative Thursdays – a weekly online series designed to inspire creativity and help parents keep their children entertained. Available via Creams’ social media channels, each week families can benefit from a variety of games, quizzes, downloadable colouring books and dessert design creations Creams has more than 85 cafes across the UK and the majority remain open in line with government guidelines.

Kent-based distillery launches crowdfunding campaign to donate sanitiser: Kent-based distillery Greensand Ridge has launched a crowdfunding campaign to donate as much of its sanitiser production to care services as possible. The distillery, which has been making sanitiser for two weeks, has already been supplying a number of care businesses including hospices, residential homes, nurses and the police. It has been gifting one out of every ten sanitiser containers to those organisations, but claim it is not enough to satisfy the demand it has. Now it has launched the fund-raise on Crowdfunder in a bid to support further production. Founder Will Edge said: “We have chosen to supply through our regular retailers as a thank you for supporting us over the years, and we’ve been gifting as much as we can. But as a small business with our own struggles, we can only do so much.” Edge launched Greensand Ridge in 2015 in the village of Shipbourne and it is powered by 100% renewable energy. 

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