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Tue 5th May 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

O’Riordan – businesses need to get ‘match fit’: Jane O’Riordan, chair of Caravan, Flight Club and Turtle Bay, has said businesses need to think about what happens when they come off government support and how they can be “match fit” for the future. Speaking as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, O’Riordan said: “The government’s support has been fantastic to date but we are all looking at a potential cliff edge, and now thinking about what happens when we come off the support. How do we get our teams off furlough and back into a working mode – it is not like we can just turn on the tap. We have got a slow build ahead, potentially phasing people in, so how do you manage taking people off furlough into suddenly working part-time, when actually it may be better for them to be on furlough? You have to plan how you are going to open and the phasing of that. At the moment we are still waiting to see what level of government support will be around at the end of June, going into July, and how that will work. I don’t think anyone has any answers and we are just running constant scenarios at the moment.” She said companies must look at how best they can position themselves for a “successful entrance into this new world that we will all reopen into”. O’Riordan added: “It is all about looking to the future and getting businesses match fit. There is a lot of shared learnings between, not only the three businesses I chair, but others I am involved with or advise, so we are all learning about what we can and can’t do – whether we trial delivery, how we are going to open, what will menus look like, and also the phasing and the timing. What happens when you open site by site, or with restrictive hours? Who do you give hours to? How do you manage that trade off of coming off furlough and suddenly working on reduced hours? It is not straight forward and getting the incentive right for them and for us to open is important.” She also said this was a time when operators need to re-evaluate what their business models will look like when they open. She said: “What does the customer journey look like? Are we going to have hosts at the door? Are we going to have pre-ordered drinks? Will there be more technology? How do you minimise interactions but create a feeling of hospitality?” O’Riordan will share more of her thoughts in the video, which will be released on Tuesday (5 May). 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. 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Harrison launches free guide to help with social distancing rules: Harrison, the hospitality design consultancy, has been researching, reviewing and formulating a number of practical ideas and solutions geared towards the numerous challenges new social distancing rules may create across the hospitality sector. The first visual guide, titled “Adapting to the New Normal”, was created to provide guidance and support to operators includes thinking and ideas about possible strategic approaches, reopening restaurants, dealing with customer anxiety, communication, adapting operational processes, affordable and flexible design solutions, managing high contact areas, external dining areas, regulations and advice, and the potential role of technology. Founder Philip Harrison said: “This has forced us to think differently to how we have traditionally developed floor plans, interiors and back of house areas for clients. Nothing concrete has yet been outlined by the government on specific guidelines and we are still on a daily basis building a better understanding of the impact on social distancing and the long-lasting effects of this virus. We will continue to review the impact and provide ongoing solutions to help the industry as we all look to rebuild consumer confidence and footfall.” The guide is free, so if you would like a copy please contact us through If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email

Guidance documents drawn up for restaurants and hotels to reopen but pubs not on list: Guidance documents have been drawn up to allow restaurants and hotels to reopen – but seated areas will remain closed. Documents covering workers in seven different settings – hotel and restaurant staff; those who work in other people’s homes; factory workers; people working outdoors; people working in vehicles; shop workers; and office workers – have been put together by cabinet office minister Michael Gove and business secretary Alok Sharma, which will form the basis for the government’s proposals to get people back to work in the coming weeks. But there does not appear to be a document for pubs, suggesting they will remain closed. The guidelines show businesses with more than five employees must produce a written risk assessment of working conditions for their staff if they wish to reopen during the pandemic, reports Buzzfeed. But even after the first relaxation of some lock-down measures, expected to be announced by prime minister Boris Johnson on Sunday (10 May), it will remain the case those who can work from home must continue to do so. The guidelines for restaurants and hotels include keeping bar areas and seating areas closed with all food and drink outlets serving takeaway only. Other measures include putting teams into shifts to restrict the number of employees interacting; minimising access to walk-in pantries, fridges and freezers, with likely only one person being able to access these areas at one point in time; minimising contact at “handover” points with other staff, such as when presenting food to serving staff and delivery drivers; hand sanitiser for visitors; and creating a physical barrier between front of house workers and customers. Hotels would be asked to stagger check-in and check-out times to help avoid crowded reception areas and consider room occupancy levels to maintain social distancing. General guidance for all workplaces includes reducing congestion, including having separate entrance and exit points where possible; washing uniforms on site rather than at home; introducing more one-way flow routes through buildings; using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help staff maintain two metres; staggered break times; and providing packaged meals or similar to avoid opening staff canteens.

Government urged to increase grant access or face high-street collapse: UK high streets are on the brink of collapse as the eight-week countdown to the next quarterly rent installment begins, according to the #RaiseTheBar campaign. Figures released by the group showed 54,638 businesses – including pubs, restaurants and bars – are currently unable to access the £25,000 retail, hospitality and leisure grant due to their business rates valuation falling between £51,000 and £150,000. Plans for a £617m discretionary fund announced by government on Saturday (2 May) “do not go far enough”, according to industry bodies, associations and business owners across the UK, with “no guarantees” local authorities will issue relief. The government has made clear this fund is for specific purposes, none of which support businesses with a rateable value between £51,000 to £150,000. The #RaiseTheBar campaign is therefore calling for the arbitrary £51,000 threshold cap to be raised to £150,000, which it estimates would cost a maximum of £1.365bn. The #RaiseTheBar campaign believes access to the £25,000 is the difference between survival and bankruptcy for businesses on high streets across England and Wales. The grant would enable businesses to mitigate significant stock losses and cash flow challenges, including rent, which wage subsidies do not address. Matthew Sims, Croydon BID chief executive and co-founder of the #RaiseTheBar campaign, said: “Access to the grant is a ticking time bomb for tens of thousands of businesses on our high streets and in our local communities. There are just eight weeks until rent is due and the prospect of going under is an uncomfortable truth the government needs to hear and act upon now.” Those backing the campaign include trade bodies, operators, MPs and London night czar Amy Lamé.

More than 90% of consumers in favour of food still being served at tables but with increased safety measures: More than 90% of customers are in favour of their food continuing to be served at their table with fewer than 5% wanting contactless or self-service, according to new research by creative agency Spritz Studio. The findings showed 70% expect to see increased distances between tables, with almost 50% preferring stricter booking times with staggered arrivals to alleviate overcrowding. A total of 35% said hand sanitiser on each table would make them feel more comfortable with the same percentage still expecting a printed menu. A quarter (25%) said they would prefer a laminated menu sanitised after each use while 15% said they would like to see staff wearing visible personal protective equipment. More than 75% said they would expect their average restaurant spend to stay about the same after the lock-down. Meanwhile, 58% said the recent economic plight of restaurants was likely or very likely to affect how they choose where they visit in future, suggesting people will be more conscious of where they spend their cash, Spritz Studio said. The majority (40.7%) of people felt the government had not given restaurants enough support, 39.7% said it had been adequate and 19.4% said there had been enough. 

Three quarters of pubs and breweries still waiting on government loan aid: Three quarters of pubs and brewery businesses are still waiting on a decision whether they will receive the much-needed government backed loan they have applied for, with more than half also yet to receive grants to help them through the coronavirus crisis. The findings, from a survey by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) of its members, shows thousands of the UK’s pubs are being left without the financial support they have been promised to get them through the lock-down, leaving many “under intense strain and in real jeopardy of closing”. On grants, 58% of leased and tenanted pubs were yet to receive a £10,000 grant they were eligible for and 61% of pubs hadn’t yet received a £25,000 grant they were eligible for. Further BBPA analysis on grants conducted already also found there was a “postcode lottery” on the delivery of grants, with the pay-out rate wildly varying between different local authorities. On access to the range of government-backed loans, although no companies reported being declined support from one of the available loan schemes, only 25% have so far been told their application has been successful. However, of the applications made by individual pub lessees and tenants for one of the government back loan schemes, only 11% have been successful. The BBPA said it is urgently pressing the government to not only speed up the delivery of finance and grants, but also to increase the number of loans and grants offered to pubs. It welcomed the recent introduction of the 100% government underwritten Bounce Back Loans scheme, providing further support for small businesses. However, the association said applications from pubs for the scheme must be prioritised. It said without support being delivered wider and faster, many pubs “simply won’t survive the current lock-down, let alone any extension to it”. 

NTIA throws weight behind sector business interruption insurance crowdfunding campaign: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has thrown its weight behind a campaign aiming to force the insurance sector to honour business interruption policies taken out by restaurants, pubs and hotels. Launched by Rob Atkinson, an in-house lawyer for Black and White Hospitality, which operates the Marco Pierre White group of franchised restaurants and manages a portfolio of hotels across the UK, the crowdfunding campaign has been launched to take legal action against insurers failing to pay out. It aims to raise enough money to initiate a three-phase plan to support hospitality businesses that have had claims rejected. The first is a review of policies and insurers’ reasons for declining claims, followed by the preparation of advice on coverage under each category of policy. The second phase focuses on pre-action representation with formal letters being sent to insurers setting out the position on coverage. Responses will be reviewed and reported with settlement, in principle, being attempted. If this fails to bring results, phase three will be implemented in the form of litigation. Atkinson said: “To have the NTIA on board is great news. This is a campaign by the hospitality sector for the hospitality sector and by sticking together, we will be able to fight, as one, the insurers refusing to pay out.” NTIA chief executive Michael Kill added: “The crowdfund campaign fits with how we have been helping our members to date, by coming together, showing solidarity and by managing the advice we receive from legal specialists.”

Significant shift in alcohol channels to change pub and bar industry ‘for years to come’: The significant shift in alcohol channels will change the pub and bar industry “for years to come”, according to data and analytics firm GlobalData. It has cut its projections for growth of the UK alcoholic drinks market with the baseline value of the beer and cider market now expected to fall 6.7% instead of growing 1.7%. Similarly, wine is expected to fall 8.5% from its expected 2.7% increase while spirits has gone from growth of 5.1% to a fall of 6.9%. GlobalData consumer analyst Fred Diamond said the reduction was a result of the price of a pint being “significantly more” than a can from a shop. Its consumer survey showed 28% of 35 to 44-year-olds are buying more beer than before, while 24% are buying less, with similar trends occurring for wine and spirits. Diamond said: “The Generation X age group is particularly interesting, as these people are likely to visit pubs and bars as frequently as younger people, but typically have more money and are willing to spend it on more premium products in the form of craft-ale and upmarket wine and spirits. Those who are buying less are likely social drinkers. After the lock-down, it is not certain if these people will return to the pubs and bars they once frequented as they may have adjusted to a lower-alcohol lifestyle. As for those buying more, there is a chance the value for money and personalised choice they get from online shops and premium subscription services will result in less frequent alcohol-based outings. The end result may see consumers prefer the easily accessible subscriptions they’ve become accustomed to over a bar – the difference will be how operators market the ‘experience’ over the product.”

New PCA says she will be ‘clear and frank’ with pub companies about expectations to deliver on statutory obligations: Fiona Dickie, the new Pubs Code adjudicator (PCA), has told the six pub companies regulated by the Pubs Code she will be “clear and frank” with them about her expectations that they deliver on their statutory obligations Dickie, who has stepped up from deputy PCA and replaces Paul Newby following the end of his four-year term, said in light of the coronavirus crisis it was “more important than ever” tenants have the benefit of their statutory rights and code principles of fairness and transparency. She said: “We all want to see a strong tenanted pub sector at the other end, and this means taking an intelligent approach to regulation. However, I am acutely aware of the stress and uncertainty tied pub tenants are facing at this time, and of the potential for a long-term impact on their businesses and their relationships with their pub-owning businesses of large rental debts from the period of lock-down. My involvement in promoting code rights as the industry pulls itself out of the impact of the outbreak will be sustained for as long as it takes. I am expecting pub-owning businesses to make themselves accountable for how they are supporting, and can support, their tenants to ensure they survive the outbreak, by being transparent and fair about their approaches. I intend to be clear and frank with the pub-owning businesses about my expectations that they deliver on their statutory obligations.” Dickie said she would also be increasing communication, with more information published on the PCA website and launching social media channels to provide more regular updates.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a dynamic and diverse business that is going through a period of change and transformation. To support this project it is looking to appoint a hands-on, dedicated and adaptable operations manager to lead change and growth. Ideally the individual will have previous experience in a high revenue hospitality business, with a large team of reports and be looking to join a business long-term. Ideally they would be located near the M1 corridor. The salary is circa £60,000, plus benefits and bonus. Anyone interested can email with their CV or profile.
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Turtle Bay to reopen four sites for delivery and collection: Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant brand backed by Piper, is to reopen four sites for delivery and collection later this week, Propel has learned. The 44-strong company will reopen its outlets in Bristol’s Cheltenham Road, Crawley, Colchester and Nottingham on Thursday (4 May). It shuttered all sites across the country in March. At the start of March, Jon Temple stepped down as the company’s chief operating officer to pursue other interests. Temple, who joined Turtle Bay at the start of 2016 as finance director, has since joined nursery operator N Family Club as its chief financial officer.

Deep Blue to reopen one site in ‘controlled experiment’: Deep Blue Restaurants, owner of the Deep Blue and Harry Ramsden brands, is working on plans to reopen its sites with social distancing measures in place and will begin with just one of its 50 locations. The Bedhampton store in Havant, Hampshire, will open for online orders for delivery and collection on Wednesday (6 May) and will be used to shape the gradual reopening of the remaining locations over the coming weeks. Social distancing measures will be in place along with sanitising stations for customers and enhanced hand washing and cleaning procedures. There will also be temperature tests for staff at the beginning of every shift. Chief executive and founder James Low said: “The decision to close all locations was obviously a difficult one as we could have continued to operate for delivery and collection, but the safety of our teams and customers was, and remains, our top priority. We are also very mindful of the dangers of a second wave of covid-19. There are complexities of opening with social distancing rules in place, which is why we have decided to take a more cautious and gradual approach than many others. We will learn from the experience of opening Bedhampton and use this knowledge when implementing our reopening programme.” Deep Blue operates 36 sites under its eponymous brand and 14 under Harry Ramsden’s, which it acquired from Boparan Restaurant Group in August.

Patty & Bun reopens four sites for delivery: Patty & Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossman, has reopened four sites for delivery. The company has reopened three in the capital – Hackney, London Bridge and Notting Hill' – along with its outlet in Brighton. The restaurants in London are open for delivery via Deliveroo daily from noon to 9.30pm. The service is available from the Brighton site between 4.30pm and 9pm from Monday to Thursday and noon to 9pm between Friday and Sunday. Patty & Bun said it hoped to reopen more sites soon and also introduce click-and-collect and pick-up. As well as social distancing and enhanced safety measures, the company is covering taxi costs for staff so they do not need to use public transport. Last month Patty & Bun joined forces with its meat supplier, butcher HG Walter, to produce “The Lockdown DIY Patty Kit”. The kit, which is available anywhere within the M25, features Patty & Bun’s HG Walter beef patties, brioche buns, a mini squeezy bottle of smokey Patty & Bun mayo, cheese slices, and the home-made pickled and smokey onions.

Hotel Chocolat showing ‘agility and resilience’ as it pivots business, secures £35m RCF: Hotel Chocolat has said it is “encouraged” by its “agility and resilience”, particularly when exploring online sales avenues while it has completed a hike in its banking facilities with a new £35m revolving credit package. Since shutting stores on 23 March, the business said it has been “able to rapidly leverage its direct-to-consumer multi-channel model to redirect demand to online, and to modify the working methods of its distribution warehouse to operate safely, with a temporarily reduced product range”. Hotel Chocolat's new revolving credit facility with Lloyds replaces a £10m overdraft. The facility is comprised of two separate tranches; £25m expires in December 2021 and is provided by Lloyds under the terms of the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the remainder is provided on normal commercial terms expiring at the end of December 2020. Co-founder and chief executive Angus Thirlwell said: “Hotel Chocolat is a strong brand with differentiated products, a loyal customer base, and a vertically integrated direct-to-consumer business model, built for agility. It is a reflection of these attributes that we have been able to add additional banking cover to the oversubscribed equity placement in March. The financial headroom gives us greater resilience against ongoing disruption and enables us to move onwards with longer-term growth opportunities.”

Adnams appoints new chief financial officer: Suffolk brewer and retailer Adnams has appointed Jenny Hanlon as its new chief financial officer. Hanlon joins from insurance company Global Risk Partners on 15 June and replaces Stephen Pugh who is retiring after 16 years with Adnams. Hanlon has extensive experience across multiple sectors having also spent time with companies such as Barclays, brewer and retailer Greene King and insurance broker Willis. Adnams chief executive Andy Wood said: “Jenny is a great addition to our team and I am sure will make a positive impact on the business now and in the future. We have more than 2,700 years of service in our business and people are at the heart of everything we do. I would like to thank Stephen for his years of service to Adnams – we wouldn't be the business we are without his significant contribution.”

Twisted London fast-tracks King’s Cross opening due to delivery demand: Twisted London, the virtual restaurant brand from social media group Jungle Creations, has fast-tracked the opening of its restaurant in King’s Cross. The site is currently offering delivery during the lock-down, but unlike its existing Shoreditch outlet will provide counter service when restrictions are lifted. It was due to open later this year but Twisted London said it had decided to speed up the launch given the current demand for delivery The restaurant is within the Tileyard development in Tileyard Road and builds on the brand’s existing site in Shoreditch. The menu includes its range of burgers, Korean fried chicken and sides such as high steak fries.

Moto appoints new chief financial officer: Moto, the UK’s largest motorway service area operator, has appointed Claire Catlin as its new chief financial officer. Catlin, who will report directly to chief executive Ken McMeikan, joins Moto from Sainsbury’s where she headed the finance function for the Argos business. Prior to Sainsbury’s, she worked for Inchcape, Home Retail Group and Daimler-Chrysler. Catlin has taken over from Robert Prynn, with a smooth transition planned through to the end of May. McMeikan said: “Claire has a proven track record of identifying opportunities for innovation and business growth. I believe her experience will be invaluable as we set out to deliver our vision ’To Transform the UK’s Rest Stop Experience’, as well as successfully navigate our way through the challenges presented by coronavirus. I would also like to thank Robert on behalf of the board for his invaluable contribution throughout his 28 years’ tenure, during which time the business has grown successfully. We wish Robert well for the future.” Catlin said: “Moto is a great business with an excellent track record of growth and a strong financial position. I look forward to working with the board and the team to accelerate further from this great foundation.”

Shoryu Ramen reopens Shoreditch site for delivery: Shoryu Ramen Restaurant Group, which specialises in Kyushu cuisine from the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, has reopened its site in Shoreditch, east London, for delivery. The service is available via Deliveroo daily between 11:30am and 9pm. The menu includes its signature Ganso and kotteri ramen along with street food sides of buns, gyoza, and takoyaki. Japan Centre groceries and food kits are also being made available. Shoryu Ramen is following strict government guidelines and social distancing measures at the Great Eastern Street premises, including pick-up spaces being a minimum of two metres apart, use of personal protective equipment and contactless delivery. 

Ex-KFC MD joins Gousto board: Misty Reich, former global chief people officer at KFC/Yum! Brands and managing director at KFC Central & Eastern Europe, has joined the board of food recipe box company Gousto. The appointment comes three weeks after Gousto raised an additional £33m investment to boost further job creation and business expansion. It also follows the appointments earlier this year of chief financial officer Jim Buckle (ex-LoveFilm), and the company’s first chief people officer Lisa Hillier (ex-Just Eat and The Restaurant Group). The company said Reich will be advising on all people-related matters. Reich said: “I’ve been impressed by the sheer growth of the business over previous years and reassured by the responsible response Gousto has taken to the coronavirus outbreak. There are exciting times ahead for Gousto and I look forward to being part of this.” Chief executive and founder Timo Boldt added: “Misty has incredible experience in all things people. Her experience in senior leadership roles with some of the world’s most famous food brands is highly relevant to Gousto given the importance of people and culture on our journey to more than 1,000 employees. Bringing Misty on to our board is part of a comprehensive review of our board structure, making sure we have the right support for the next five years of our journey. I am expecting further appointments over the next months.”

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