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Thu 7th May 2020 - Update: Corbin & King, BrewDog, Pret, Marston's, BBLs et al
Corbin & King launches advanced dining voucher scheme to support staff and ‘keep redundancies to a minimum’: London restaurant operator Corbin & King is launching an initiative to support its staff and “keep redundancies to a minimum” by asking customers to buy dining vouchers in advance. The company plans to give 50% directly to staff to help “alleviate the desperate situation many are finding themselves in”. Co-founder Jeremy King previously said the fact the tronc could not be included in the payment calculation for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was an “extraordinarily discriminatory ruling” especially with professions such as hairdressers and taxi drivers being able to count tips as part of their earnings. King said this meant the reality was instead of its staff getting 80% of earnings – or less if over £2,500 per month – it meant they will be getting more like 40%, which was “just not enough to pay rent and provide – especially if supporting a family”. Launching the initiative in a video to customers, King said: “Extraordinary times can sometimes necessitate unusual actions – particularly when the situation becomes serious and unprecedented such as the situation we find ourselves in currently. We have done all we can and topped up staff wages in March and April but our money is running out quickly and with the restaurant lock-down threatening to be much longer we can’t continue to do so otherwise we will jeopardise the company’s future. Therefore I’m asking for your help with our own staff retention scheme to not only support the staff but hopefully keep redundancies to a minimum. What I am asking is you buy dining vouchers in advance – for any amount you wish – that can be redeemed in all restaurants across the group without any time limit. For every voucher we will give 50% directly to the staff as income replacement. Through your help we might be able to keep the majority of our staff together and be better prepared for reopening the restaurants with all those familiar faces serving whenever that might be. It could make all the difference. We would appreciate any help you can give.”

BrewDog reveals future plans for bars: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has unveiled some initial measures it plans to introduce when it is able to reopen its bars. The approach will be subject to official guidance from the government, but BrewDog said it was a marker of what it would undertake “in order to ensure we can offer an environment that will allow customers to feel relaxed and safe”. The measures include contactless ordering via its order to table app; staff wearing face masks and gloves at all times; and easily accessible sanitiser stations for all. BrewDog said clearly visible social distancing signage and guidelines will be in place with amended furniture layouts to create appropriate space and staff monitoring capacity continually. It will accept cashless payment only, via the app or card payment, and have single-use menus. Physical table screens would be available on request and surface cleaning would take place every 15 minutes. Chief operating officer David McDowall said: “Here at BrewDog, we are all longing for the day when our team is back in our bars. Although the future for hospitality businesses is incredibly uncertain, we remain optimistic. With that in mind while we eagerly await official guidance from the government, our bar teams have been working on various proposals. When we finally get our bars back open again, and our customers visit us to enjoy a well-deserved pint, we will ensure they do so with a very warm welcome, and in a clean and safe environment.”

Pret to reopen further 71 shops from Monday: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-owned business, is to reopen a further 71 shops from Monday (11 May) and is adding more of its menu alongside a “heat me at home” range. The company will also begin reopening sites outside London taking the total to more than 100. Another 55 shops are opening in central London along with outlets in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Croydon, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Oxford, Reading, St Albans and Tunbridge Wells. As per government guidelines, these shops will be open for takeaway and delivery only with extensive social distancing and safety procedures in place. Pret said it was aware of the government’s upcoming review of lock-down restrictions, and it would be looking to align with any new guidance once published. Chief executive Panou Christou said: “We’ve learned a huge amount in the past few weeks while getting used to the new safety and social distancing measures we’ve put in place to protect our teams and customers. It’s been fantastic to see so many of you respecting the changes we’ve made, and we’re extremely grateful for your ongoing support. We’ve also had a great response from those ordering through our delivery partners, enjoying their Pret favourites again from home. This has given us the confidence to reopen a further 71 shops from Monday. Gradually reopening our shops also means we can work with more of our homeless charity partners across the UK, getting our unsold food to those who really need it. Our opening times and menu will still be limited, however we’re adding more of our most popular products, including the avo, olives and toms baguette, and our Swedish meatball hot wrap. We will also launch a ‘heat me at home’ macaroni cheese range, so you can easily cook a well-loved Pret recipe at home. Once again, I’d like to say thank you to all our team members who have returned or are returning to work. This has been a trying time for us all and your continued commitment to Pret means a lot.”

Marston’s reports 93% of staff on furlough and cuts salaries as it requests covenant waivers: Marston’s has reported it has furloughed 93% of its 14,000 employees with the board and the remaining workforce having taken a salary cut as part of measures to mitigate its pubs being closed. The company, which owns about 1,350 pubs, said it has sufficient liquidity to maintain operations at a materially reduced level of business and asked the holders of its secured class A notes for a limited number of technical waivers and amendments. Noteholders have been asked to respond by Wednesday, 27 May with a meeting scheduled for two days later and Marston’s said a group representing 50% of holders was willing to discuss the proposals and indicated those noteholders would vote in favour. The temporary waivers requested include a limited amendment of the debt service coverage ratio test throughout 2020 and the necessity for an amendment to the 30-day suspension of business clause arising because of the lock-down. Management said the proposals were in everyone’s interest given the securitised assets have performed within covenant levels every quarter since 2005. Marston’s said it was not seeking any change to scheduled interest or quarterly repayments, which would be paid by cash within the securitisation and the £120m revolving credit facility. The company has also proposed no distributions are made from the securitised pool until after October 2021. A total of 950 pubs are held within the security scheme. Other measures taken by Marston’s to cut costs include cancelling the interim dividend; accessing the various government schemes, suspending most capital spending; engaging with tenants so rent can be paid once restrictions are lifted; and agreeing payment terms with larger suppliers.

More than 70,000 BBL applications worth £2bn approved on first day: The Bounce Back Loans scheme has approved more than 70,000 applications worth about £2bn during its first 24 hours. Set up to help thousands of small business and sole traders, the initiative allows small businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. The government will provide lenders with a 100% guarantee and cover the cost of any fees and interest for the borrower for the first 12 months. On the day of launch on Monday (4 May), the seven largest lenders – Barclays, Danske, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS, Santander and Virgin Money – received more than 130,000 applications. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Small businesses will be the driving force of our recovery from the pandemic, creating jobs and securing economic growth. These loans will help them bounce back from this crisis – getting money fast – so it's great to see more than 70,000 business benefiting in just the first day. It's vital this speedy progress continues in the days and weeks ahead.”

Hall & Woodhouse extends business partners’ rent cancellation period: Dorset-based brewer and retailer Hall & Woodhouse has announced a further extension to the cancellation period of all rent and service charges for its business partners. Publicans will be exempt from paying rent and service charges until Saturday, 27 June and it is also suspending loan repayments for the same period. Chris Chapman, head of business partnerships, said: “We are committed to providing our business partners with the financial support required to help them. This rent-free extension will bring the total rent we have cancelled for our business partners to more than £1.6m. We hope together with the support provided by the government, we can continue to help our partners to immediately fund their businesses. The situation remains under constant review and we have reassured our business partners our support will continue beyond the reopening phase.” Hall & Woodhouse originally cancelled rent and service charges and suspended loan repayments for eight weeks in response to Boris Johnson’s announcement in mid-March for people to avoid pubs and restaurants in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Tim Hortons to open seven UK sites next week: Canadian cafe and bake shop Tim Hortons is to reopen seven of its 25 UK restaurants next week. The company has announced it will reopen on Friday, 15 May, through its seven drive-thru sites. The sites reopening are Bury New Road, Manchester; Connswater Retail Park, Belfast; Glengormley, Northern Ireland; Cumbernauld, Scotland; Paisley, Scotland; Linwood, Scotland; and Stenhousemuir, Scotland. The opening times will be 7am to 10pm daily, with a full menu available where possible. It is working with Deliveroo and Just Eat where available. The company will also be donating coffee and donuts to staff at nearby hospitals and continue its 50% discount for NHS workers for the foreseeable future. Kevin Hydes, chief commercial officer at Tim Hortons UK & Ireland, said: “At Tim Hortons, our priority is the safety and well-being of our teams and our guests. Therefore, we have taken our time to ensure as we begin to reopen our restaurants we are able to so with confidence and an eagerness to provide our customers with the great tasting products they have come to expect.”

Shake Shack to open debut delivery kitchen: Shake Shack is to open its first delivery kitchen as it expands its reach further across London. The company is opening a Deliveroo Editions kitchen in Battersea on Saturday (9 May) delivering its menu to areas such as Balham, Brixton and Clapham for the first time. The kitchen will be open daily from 11am to 10.45pm. Shake Shack plans to open a second kitchen in Swiss Cottage, north London, later in the year. Last month Shake Shack reopened its Tottenham Court Road and Canary Wharf outlets for takeaway and delivery. 

Hubbox reopens sites for delivery and takeaway: Hubbox, the south west-based burger and barbecue concept led by Richard Boon, has reopened its sites in Bristol and Truro, Propel has learned. The eight-strong company has reopened its site in Bristol for delivery through Deliveroo and collection, and the one in Truro for just collection. Boon said the business had seen a “great response” to the move. He told Propel: “The sales were really encouraging, nice to hear the tills ringing again. We will review over the weekend and Exeter will open next Wednesday if the sales are looking good.”

Budweiser Brewing Group grows UK market share in first quarter: Budweiser Brewing Group has reported it grew market share in the first quarter of 2020. The company, the UK and Ireland arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev, said its Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois and Bud Light brands all performed “strongly”. Its Save Pub Life initiative that aims to support pubs, bars and restaurants has raised more than £735,000, with more than 12,000 gift cards that can be redeemed at outlets when restrictions are lifted being bought. President Paula Lindenberg said: “Our number one priority has been the safety of our employees and communities where we operate. Throughout this time, we have been implementing the highest safety standards at our sites, adapting as a business to meet our customers’ changing needs, and launching initiatives to support our customers and front line workers. In our breweries, we have been adapting our production to create hand sanitiser and disinfectant to be distributed to key workers. This quarter has shown Budweiser Brewing Group is resilient and well-positioned as a business to continue to grow. We’re proud of our teams across our business and in our breweries who have adapted quickly and effectively to the circumstances. Looking forward, we will continue to work together and take steps to plan for a post-covid-19 world.”

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