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Tue 12th May 2020 - Furlough scheme extended, Subway and Caffe Nero reopenings, Andre Johnstone joins Qoot as operating partner
Government extends furlough scheme until October: The government has extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for four months, until the end of October. The scheme, which sees the government pay 80% of furloughed workers’ wages – up to a maximum of £2,500 – will continue in its current guise until the end of July. From August to October the scheme “will continue for all sectors and regions of the UK, but with greater flexibility to support the transition back to work”, said chancellor Rishi Sunak. He added at this point employers currently using the scheme will be able to bring furloughed employees back part-time and the government would ask employers to start sharing, with the government, the costs of paying people’s salaries. The government has committed to publish details by the end of this month of the support that will be put in place from August. Sunak said: “We are doing everything we can to protect everyone currently unable to work. As we reopen the economy we will need to support people back to work.” Sunak promised workers would not be worse off during the second phase of the furlough scheme, and told the House of Commons “the level of support that people receive won’t change but that will be shared between the government and employers”. The furlough scheme that Sunak announced on 20 March is now costing more than £14bn a month with the government now absorbing the cost of paying 7.5 million people and helping almost one million businesses. The original scheme covered the smaller amount of 80% of an individual’s wages or £2,500 a month. It was originally for three months to May, and was then extended to the end of June. The government also said any business planning to make more than 100 people redundant needs to have a consultation period of at least 45 days, which means they need to have launched it before 18 May in order to complete the process before the existing furlough scheme runs out. It comes following an update from the Office for National Statistics which pushed the UK death toll from coronavirus above 40,000 people.

Subway to reopen a quarter of its circa 2,400 UK & Ireland estate: Subway is to open just over 600 stores, a quarter of its UK & Ireland estate, as part of a phased reopening plan. Starting today (Tuesday, 12 May), locally owned and operated stores will begin reopening with new operational and social distancing measures in place. Before rolling out the new plans, Subway tested them in the small number of sites it kept open to support key workers and hospital staff. The measures include new fixtures, directional signage to support social distancing, enhanced hygiene practices and the supply of personal protective equipment for staff. The sites will also operate delivery, offering free delivery on orders more than£10 through Just Eat, UberEats or Deliveroo, while all NHS workers will receive 25% off their order – delivery or in-store. Subway UK & Ireland director Colin Hughes said: “We have slowly and safely introduced a new store operating framework that will be rolling out across stores to protect guests, sandwich artists, delivery drivers and our suppliers. The weeks and months ahead will continue to be challenging for everyone and Subway will play its part in supporting the new normal whatever that may look and feel like.”

Qoot appoints Andre Johnstone as operating partner for delivery business: Qoot Restaurant Group, which operates a number of fast-growing brands in London, has appointed former Wagamama marketing director Andre Johnstone as operating partner for its newly established delivery kitchen business. Johnstone will assume full responsibility for Qoot Kitchen to pioneer the growth of the business unit through brands within its portfolio such as plant-based brand By Chloe and vegan pizza concept Vegan Dough Co. Most recently in his role as business development director, Johnstone oversaw the development of delivery at Wagamama into a channel that was achieving up to £1m of sales a week. As reported by Propel last month, Qoot has pivoted the business towards delivery during the coronavirus crisis to pioneer the expansion of new and existing brands within the Qoot portfolio. These include The Lebanese Bakery, which has launched in Wandsworth and Belgravia; By Chloe in Wandsworth and Islington with a soon to launch Crouch End kitchen; and Vegan Dough Co, which has recently launched in the capital at its Wandsworth kitchen location. The business has plans to continue this expansion through new kitchens as well as introducing brands to the capital from within its international portfolio, including Kuwait chef Ahmed Al Bader’s hot sandwich concept 77 Josper Bar. Johnstone said: “I see a lot of opportunity in the delivery space and it is great to work with the like-minded and forward thinking team at Qoot that shares my passion for this area.” Qoot vice-president of operations Scot Turner added: “We are excited to welcome Andre to the Qoot family as we start our journey in the delivery kitchen market, Andre's experience will be invaluable as we look to expand the footprint of our current brands across the capital as well as introducing others within our group portfolio from overseas.”

Caffe Nero to open further 33 stores for takeaway: Caffe Nero is reopening a further 33 stores by the end of next week as part of its takeaway only trial. The company will open 14 sites this week – Berkhamsted, Chesham, East Finchley, Epping, Fulham Broadway, Golders Green, Harpenden, Hertford, North Finchley High Road, Rickmansworth, Sheen, St Albans, Welwyn Garden City and Weybridge taking the total to 40. The additional openings follow the initial trial of seven stores last week, which included clear protocols to ensure employees and customers were kept safe as well as a limited menu. All teams working in these stores have requested to go back to work and stores will continue to offer free coffee and hot drinks to all NHS staff until the end of May. Gerry Ford, founder and group chief executive, said: “The success of our initial trial has given us confidence we can operate our stores for takeaway while prioritising the safety of our people and customers. Opening an additional 33 stores follows the guidance we have received from the government, and the people who have volunteered to work in our stores are doing so because they want to support their communities.”

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