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Mon 22nd Jun 2020 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Industry survey reveals protracted recovery and need for confirmation of 4 July reopening: Hospitality businesses are predicting a lengthy and painful recovery with levels of trade expected to be significantly supressed for many months to come, according to a new survey of its members by UKHospitality. The findings paint a gloomy picture of low expectations with responses received from a range of different operators. The trade body is calling on the government to urgently confirm 4 July as the date the hospitality sector reopens and for it to make renewed commitments on extended support for the sector, in order to prevent widespread business failure and further job losses. Respondents were asked to give their expectations on trade in the three months following reopening and in December, a vital revenue-generating month for the sector. They were also asked about the difference in trade between having a one-metre social distancing rule versus two metres. Overall, hospitality businesses overwhelmingly expect a very slow recovery in the second half of 2020, with a “worst-case scenario” in December of trade at about a third of the previous year’s level if the two-metre rule remained in place. Even at one metre, trade is only expected to be at just over half the level compared with the year before. For restaurants, the figure was 45% of last year’s trade at one metre and just 26% of 2019 levels at two-metre social distancing. For pubs, the figures were 52% and 29% respectively. The shorter-term outlook is yet more downbeat, with expectations for August at between a 78% and 65% decline depending on the level of social distancing required in venues. Restaurants expect to achieve 39% of last year’s trade at one metre and just 23% of 2019 levels at two-metre social distancing. For pubs, the figures were 44% and 26% respectively. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls again called for the government to confirm a reopening date of 4 July for the sector “without further delay” and to adopt the internationally-recognised standard of one metre “if the current review on social distancing recommends it is safe to do so”. She added: “With trade forecast to be materially down for many months to come, the government must consider targeted support to help assist the sector’s recovery, such as a cut in tourism VAT and air passenger duty, support for missed rent payments during closure and the creation of an autumn bank holiday.”
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Industry News:

Propel and Bums on Seats to host free pre-booked sales panel webinar: Propel and Bums on Seats are to host a free 45-minute pre-booked sales panel webinar. Experts in their individual areas of speciality will discuss pre-sent key questions to support operators with their pre-booked sales strategy as well as provide answers to some of the pressing questions and concerns surrounding reopening in the “new world”. Led by Amber Staynings, founder of Bums on Seats, the panel will feature Bums on Seats casual dining sales consultant Jamie Brooker; Bums on Seats private hire and events consultant Jennie Roe; Bums on Seats marketing and sales consultant Abby Caulfield; and Rosie Marsh, sales consultant, thespian and small business owner. To register, email jo.charity@propelinfo.com and a link to view the webinar will be sent at noon on Friday (26 June).
Bums on Seats is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Hancock – people might have to register before going to pub or restaurant: People might have to register before going to a pub or restaurant under new plans for easing the coronavirus lock-down, health secretary. Matt Hancock has suggested. Hancock said the measures were being considered in order to make it “safe” for the hospitality sector to reopen as ministers look towards further easing of restrictions. His comments come ahead of an expected announcement from prime minister Boris Johnson on halving the two-metre social distancing rule, provided people take extra steps to protect themselves, such as wearing face coverings. Many pubs and restaurants have been calling for the change, warning they would not be able to resume trading if the current two-metre restrictions remained in place. Asked by Sky's Sophy Ridge whether people could be asked to “register” before going to a pub and to order drinks via an app, Hancock said he “wouldn't rule it out”. He added “That is the sort of thing we are looking at for how do you make it safe to open things.” Defending the plans, Hancock said the precautions would also make it easier to track the close contacts of anyone who later tested positive for the virus. He later told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: “There are all sorts of mitigations you can put in place to be physically closer than two metres, but not have the transmission of the virus or the risk of the transmission that you would otherwise have.”

Chancellor plans emergency cut in VAT as part of plans to boost economy: Chancellor Rishi Sunak is ready to slash VAT and pump billions into the economy as the government prepares to ease social distancing rules. The chancellor has ordered officials in the Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs to prepare options to reduce the sales tax, including a cut in the headline rate, and zero rating more products for a fixed period, reports The Sunday Times. In private briefings last week, Treasury officials pointed out Sunak could lower VAT and business rates at the stroke of a pen when he makes a planned speech on the economy in early July. There is a precedent for cutting VAT in a crisis. Alistair Darling, the then Labour chancellor, reduced it from 17.5% to 15% for 13 months after the 2008 crash. It has been at 20% since January 2011. Proposals also being worked up inside the Treasury include extending for three months a scheme under which businesses can defer VAT payments until 2021; cutting employer’s National Insurance to encourage bosses to hold on to staff; introducing an employer’s National Insurance holiday for new staff to encourage recruitment; and extending business rates relief. Details emerged as prime minister Boris Johnson prepares to unveil plans on Tuesday (22 June) to replace the two-metre distancing rule with a one-metre limit from 4 July, now dubbed “independence day”. Ministers will follow the social distancing changes with up to ten “travel corridor” deals with short-haul holiday hotspots. Sunak is also pressing Johnson to give the green light for pubs and restaurants to reopen on 4 July. Treasury sources stress no decisions have been taken but a senior Whitehall official confirmed several options for cutting VAT were “on the table” along with moves to cut employer’s National Insurance.

NTIA – government should adapt Western Australia’s code of conduct for landlords and tenants: The government should adapt Western Australia’s code of conduct for landlords and tenants, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has argued. The Western Australian state government has introduced the Commercial Tenancies (covid-19 response) Regulations 2020 (Regulations), which implement the national cabinet’s mandatory code of conduct. The NTIA said these regulations follow the enactment of the commercial tenancies (covid-19 response) Act 2020, which sets out rent relief principles that apply to small commercial leases during the coronavirus pandemic. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “The government has supported a model that is only voluntary. The moratorium extension is welcomed but will only compound the situation with further rent arrears building up over time, placing many businesses in further debt. The government needs to consider the lasting effects of uncertainty on the sector as a whole.” Meanwhile, the NTIA has joined the growing number of voices calling for clarity from the government the sector can reopen from 4 July. Kill said: “At what point is the government going to realise it is playing with people's livelihoods here and businesses and jobs are being lost with every passing day?”

Jowsey – lock-down has further demonstrated the value of pubs to communities: Chris Jowsey, chief executive of Admiral Taverns, has said the lock-down has further demonstrated the value of pubs to their communities. Speaking to Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Jowsey said: “I’ve taken a lot of motivation from the responses to the crisis from our tenants. People who have redesigned their whole pubs and trading models. There have been so many inspirational stories of what tenants have been doing for their communities. I think the positive press around these steps has probably meant people have appreciated even more their local pub or restaurant. They have not just realised have much they have missed them but how much they have done for the community. It has demonstrated the value of those pubs to their community and I hope that gets repaid in spades when we get to open again.” Jowsey said he was working towards opening both inside and outside spaces on 4 July. He said: “Hopeful we are down to one metre social distancing by then. I feel for those that can’t open unless it goes down to one metre.” Jowsey also said the company had a desire to improve its communication with licensees when “we can’t see them face to face”. He added: “At the moment we are doing webinars around the theme ‘how do you rise up from lock-down’, which includes an interactive guide we have put together.” Jowsey will share more of his thoughts in the video, which will be released on Monday (22 June). 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 anne.steele@propelinfo.com to sign up.

McVeigh – industry needs to grasp opportunity to aid economy: Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh has backed the sector to grasp the opportunity to help revolutionise the economy as he predicted how events will unfold over the next few months. Writing in the latest Propel Premium column, Project Pint founder McVeigh said: “On or just before 4 July the announcement is made to reopen pubs and restaurants at one-metre distancing, accompanied by a loose regulatory regime that leaves implementation up to the licensee, as per the floated government guidance of a fortnight ago. Despite the fact it leaves hospitality in an utterly invidious position in terms of the inability to plan, we'd still grasp it with both hands. Tragically, along the way, many businesses and millions of jobs will have disappeared, especially in hospitality. It makes me angry the crucial role we have to play in rebuilding communities, society and the economy seems to be taken for granted. But, as Michael Corleone said in Godfather II: ‘This is the life we have chosen.’ And, I will add, it’s a glorious life when we are allowed to live it.”

Cask Marque produces guidelines on stocking policy to help operators make most of cask opportunity: Pubs should not ignore the crucial issue of stocking policies as they prepare to reopen, industry expert Paul Nunny has said. To help managers and licensees, Cask Marque has produced guidelines on stocking policy for cask to ensure pubs maximise the opportunity cask presents to them. The 2019 Cask Report showed 40% of drinkers would not return to the same pub after being served a bad pint and 37% would tell their friends about it. Nunny said: “You don’t know what footfall will look like and you don’t know what beer throughput will be. But you do know if you don’t serve your cask ale in good condition, you will lose custom – custom that is now more needed than ever. Remember, the golden rule is once placed on sale, a cask must be sold within three days. That is, for every firkin, you need to sell 23 or 24 pints a day. It is a live, natural, fresh product – and needs to be treated as such. With pub turnover predicted to be low in the months following reopening, monitoring and adjusting stock is vital to success. In your decision-making process, never forget that cask ale is unique to the pub – and a great draw for beer drinkers. You owe it to them – and to yourself – to serve it at its best.”

UK hotel pipeline remains robust despite coronavirus pandemic: The UK hotel pipeline remains robust despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest data from STR. Director Thomas Emanuel said if all projects come to fruition, supply will increase by 23% – the equivalent of 160,000 new hotel rooms, and it is the largest pipeline of any European country. The category set to see the largest increase is upper midscale, with more than 65,000 new rooms, followed by economy with 34,000 and upscale with 33,000. London leads the UK development pipeline with 44,000 bedrooms set to be added, followed by Manchester with 10,000 and Liverpool with 7,000. If all these hotels were to open, Liverpool would see its hotel supply increase by 72%, followed by Plymouth with 63% and Glasgow, which would be up 50%. In the year to date until May, 216 projects have been deferred – a rise of 500% compared with last year – and 160 have been abandoned, an increase of 365%. London saw the largest number of deferred and abandoned projects during the same time period, at 47 and 18 respectively. Many of the deferred UK projects have been delayed until 2022 for opening. Across the UK, occupancy remained static in the week ending 7 June, at about 30% on weekdays and 20% at weekends, with demand coming from long-stay guests and key workers. Average daily rate was down 46% compared with the previous year, while revpar during the period was down between 81% and 89% over the seven-day period.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury travel and hospitality business that is looking to add a senior client manager to its team. This business provides an unparalleled level of expertise and personal consultancy for all its clients – advising, planning and managing hospitality and all travels needs within a luxury setting. The business is ideally looking for a private client manager who has established experience in the luxury travel sector, working with a ultra-high net-worth client base in a sales and relationships lead environment. The salary is circa £40,000. Anyone interested with previously experience in this field can email tyronschreuder@corecruitment.com for a confidential conversation. 
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

YO! to launch new fast-casual, covid-safe format: YO!, the Richard Hodgson-led business, is to launch a fast-casual, covid-safe format, next month, which brings a more personalised take to its iconic conveyor belt technology that it hopes to roll out across the majority of its 70-strong estate, Propel has learned. The new format, which is being tested at its Guildford site, see the conveyor belt speeded up, but also allows it to be stopped and started. Unlike previously when consumers just took the food off the belt, they now take a picture of a QR code on their table, order through their phone and the food is freshly prepared. Lights on individual tables are set to red, then when the order is on its way the light goes amber and when it arrives the belt stops and the light goes green. Diners have seven seconds to take their order before the belt starts again, and if it isn’t the order goes around again and they get a second chance. If it isn’t taken this time it goes back to the host who brings it to the table. The new format make interaction minimal. Guildford and another 11 of YO!’s UK sites will be converted to the new model and opened next month. The company will then look to reopen sites with the new format at a rate of three sites a week. Hodgson told Propel: “23 years ago, the belt was unique and there was nothing quite like it. Now we feel it is getting a little tired and there is an opportunity to modernise it, to make it truly fast casual, but in a way that doesn’t drive excess food wastage, and also look at how we can provide a covid-friendly environment, somewhere where people feel safe.” Like many of his peers, Hodgson feels consumers will not want to go out and dine in a restaurant surrounded by visors and Perspex screens. He said: “So first and foremost, we wanted to focus on a great experience but do it in a safe way. The added benefit for us is it also means we can keep costs down, which at the moment is clearly key. We believe it will be profitable with reduced volumes, and once we get the volumes back to pre-covid levels that should obviously increase. I then get excited about opportunities where we don’t operate, and whether we can pick up this model and take it into lots of new locations.”

PizzaExpress to launch virtual delivery brand Mac & Wings: PizzaExpress, the Hony Capital-backed chain, will launch its first virtual delivery brand called Mac & Wings early next month, Propel has learned. Having been in the pipeline since the beginning of 2020, the initial test and learn phase of the launch will see the virtual brand made available through the 13 PizzaExpress sites that have already reopened for delivery and click-and-collect, from 2 July, with plans for further roll out, post this initial test phase. The company said Mac & Wings is aimed at a young, urban-based audience and its menu has been developed following extensive customer research. It will include six variations of chicken wings – ranging in heat from the mild lemon and herb to the hot jalapeño – and seven variations of mac ‘n’ cheese including the cajun chicken, spicy Mac ‘Nduja and The Original Mac, with prices beginning from £6.25. PizzaExpress said the concept “has been created in partnership with Deliveroo to cater for the ever-increasing demand for online delivery”. Tom Hatcher, head of delivery and franchise at PizzaExpress, told Propel, which revealed in April the business was working on a virtual delivery brand: “We’re constantly reviewing market trends and consumer insights to ensure we can stay connected with customers in new and innovative ways. The launch of Mac & Wings, our first virtual delivery brand, has been months in the making and comes at a time when consumer demand for restaurant quality food at home is higher than ever. Mac & Wings uses the best quality ingredients to deliver a diverse and eclectic menu that is full of flavour and competitively priced. We will continue to work with our valued partners such as Deliveroo, to ensure we can cater for the ever-changing tastes and needs of consumers.” Mac & Wings will be available out of the PizzaExpress sites in Abbeville Road, Balham, Belsize Park, Camden, Chiswick, Croydon George Street, Dulwich, Ealing, Fulham Road, Greenwich, Notting Hill Gate, Shepherd’s Bush and Wandsworth Trinity Road.

McDonald’s to offer takeaway from another 200 restaurants, reveals more details about breakfast trial: McDonald’s is to offer takeaway from another 200 restaurants from Wednesday (24 June) and has revealed further details about its breakfast trial. The additional openings for takeaway come following a pilot that saw 11 of its restaurants at Roadchef sites reopen offering the service. The company has already reopened more than 1,000 of its outlets for drive-thru and delivery as it scales up its operations. UK and Ireland chief executive Paul Pomroy said: “A month ago, we reopened 15 restaurants for delivery only as we began our return to business. We are putting the safety and well-being of our teams, customers and delivery partner couriers first in all our restaurants. In our takeaway restaurants that includes introducing floor markings, additional Perspex screens and hand sanitising stations for customers. We will restrict numbers inside our restaurants, and additional staff will control the flow of people in and out of the restaurant as we do our best to keep you safe. I am also delighted to confirm we will pilot the return of the McMuffin from Wednesday in 42 restaurants. As with our main menu, we will have a limited menu at breakfast but we’ve kept the classics – hash browns, McMuffins and pancakes all return – but unfortunately, while adhering to social distancing guidelines, we are unable to serve porridge, bagels and our breakfast wrap.” The company said it would share more information about the breakfast pilot and takeaway restaurant locations on Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, group chief executive Chris Kempczinski has said the company sees a “big opportunity” in chicken. The company is looking at restarting remodels, reversing declining breakfast sales and rethinking the menu – including a possible launch of a premium chicken product. “We put those plans on the shelf until we had more visibility,” Kempczinski said of the brand’s chicken test. In December and January, the brand tested two new premium sandwiches – the crispy chicken sandwich and the deluxe crispy chicken sandwich, in Houston, Texas and Knoxville, Tennessee. Meanwhile, the company said outside the US it plans to get back to a “normal rhythm” of growth in 2021.

Soho House secures $100m equity injection: Soho House has secured a $100m (£81m) equity injection to shore up its finances after the coronavirus pandemic hampered spending across its global network of upmarket venues. Ron Burkle, the American billionaire who is Soho House's biggest investor, led a group comprising new and existing shareholders in providing the new money in recent weeks, reports Sky News. Sources said the investment was made at the same $2bn valuation at which the company raised $100m late last year, underlining its backers' confidence in the future of the business. Many of the group's sites have reopened as overseas governments have eased lock-down restrictions, with its UK clubs and hotels hoping to resume trading early next month, in line with government guidance. One insider said member retention had improved during the pandemic, with the group offering credits against membership fees to spend on other Soho House products. Last October, it announced a further $100m fund-raising led by Raycliff Capital, an investment firm, with participation from Simon Property Group. An insider said its reopened sites in cities such as Hong Kong and Malibu had performed strongly in recent days, providing evidence of "demand and bounce-back" from coronavirus. 

Inn Collection Group braces for 50% drop in trade but hopes staycation demand will provide opportunity: The Inn Collection Group is bracing itself for a 50% drop in trade upon reopening, but hopes the demand for staycations will provide opportunity for the business. The company plans to reopen its sites across the north east and Lake District from 4 July if the government eases lock-down restrictions. Managing director Sean Donkin told the Northumberland Gazette: “Being closed for more than three months will of course have a huge impact on profits and thus we have adapted our business model to reflect this. We are modelling trade running at circa 50% of last year’s performance for the medium term. We must also acknowledge the public are still very cautious about booking. Also, the changes we have made in relation to food and beverage means there is a reduced capacity in our inns, which in turn will affect profits. However, I do believe the effects may also provide opportunity and need not be negative. I would imagine the domestic travel market will be very strong for 18 months or so, but also, as restrictions on foreign visitor are gently eased, then the international market will see positive growth for a number of years.” Changes made include Perspex screens at reception, contactless payments wherever possible and full sanitisation of any areas and equipment after every single use. Food and drink will be order at table. Tables will be set once guests sit down. New, disposable menus will be introduced too. The Alchemy-backed group bolstered its portfolio in March to 14 sites by acquiring Cumbrian coaching inn The Swan in Grasmere. The Inn Collection Group said it continued to seek out new-build and acquisition opportunities to grow across the north of England.

Company behind Sweet Chick’s UK debut site in liquidation: Liquidators at BDO have been appointed to Sweet Chick Market Place, the company set up to launch the US fried chicken and waffle concept’s debut UK site. The move adds to growing speculation Sweet Chick will not be reopening the site, which opened last year in Fitzrovia. Launched into the UK by Sunset Hospitality Group (SHG), the Dubai-based boutique investment and hospitality management company, a second site for the US fried chicken and waffle concept was understood to have also been secured in Birmingham. However, Propel understands the ex-EAT unit in the city’s Bullring scheme, which had been lined up for Sweet Chick, is back on the market. SHG had hired Christine Chung, formerly of Bill’s and Cote brands Jackson & Rye and Limeyard, as operations director for its UK arm. Propel understands Chung left the business in April.

Three Joes begins reopening programme, including new acquisition The Stable: Sourdough pizza concept Three Joes, co-founded by Tim Hall, has begun its reopening programme, starting with two of its eponymous sites and one from its recent acquired The Stable portfolio, Propel has learned. Propel revealed at the start of this month Three Joes had acquired the 13-strong, pizza and cider concept The Stable from Fuller’s, for an undisclosed sum. The transformational deal for the three-strong Three Joes, which Hall owns with ex-Pod food director Emma Blackmore and former Byron operations director Peter Bruton, will see it expand its geographical spread into the south west, Wales and the Midlands. It has now reopened its Three Joes sites in Winchester and Fareham, and The Stable site in Fistral Beach, Newquay, for-click-and-collect. Hall said: “Three Joes Winchester is proving to be quite a hit for takeaway pizzas and drinks with like-for-like revenue growth a looming possibility. We have a Stable site just 75 yards away from Three Joes and are planning to open that soon to drive momentum and relieve queues at Three Joes as more and more people venture out over the coming weeks.” Blackmore said: “We are in the middle of a complex integration process between the two businesses with the acquisition of The Stable having completed just two weeks ago but we opened The Stable at Fistral beach last week with new integrated systems already in place.” Bruton said: “Our focus is to generate revenue where we think the opportunity exists for the group to do so profitably and to plan a staggered reopening process for sites that are likely to present a greater challenge. In parallel we are merging these two companies and teams and it’s the busiest that Tim, Emma and I have been.”

Travelodge landlords approve CVA: Travelodge’s landlords have voted to approve the hotel operator’s proposals to restructure its leases, drawing a line under acrimonious negotiations between the company and its creditors. Travelodge’s company voluntary arrangement (CVA) was approved on Friday (18 June), which will involve it temporarily reducing rents and moving from quarterly to monthly payments on certain leases. The deal will see Travelodge, which runs 584 hotels, pay £230m in rent until the end of 2021, 62% of its usual levels. Travelodge stated: “The successful vote will enable Travelodge to navigate the short-term challenges facing the business as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.” The CVA was voted through after Travelodge made significant concessions. Some landlords will now be able to break lease contracts with the hotel operator when they choose, in effect giving them the upper hand in future negotiations. Travelodge shareholders have also agreed not to take any money out of the company before it returns to paying full rents in 2021. An earlier proposal from Travelodge, which is backed by two New York hedge funds, Golden Tree Asset Management and Avenue Capital, and the investment bank Goldman Sachs, had angered landlords, who claimed it was capitalising on the pandemic to extract concessions. Under the original set of proposals, Travelodge’s shareholders offered to inject £40m cash into the business and to make a further £100m available in additional reserves. In return, the company asked to waive almost £150m in rents. But landlords balked at what they saw as a profitable company shifting a disproportionate amount of the financial burden on to them.

JKS Restaurants transforms Brigadiers into retro Indian off-licence: JKS Restaurants, led by Karam, Jyotin and Sunaina Sethi, has transformed its Brigadiers site in the City into a retro Indian off-licence. The site in Bloomberg Arcade has been converted into the Daru Shop, with everything served through a hatch. It has introduced the Naanza – a pizza/ naan bread hybrid with a tandoor-baked naan base and a weekly rotating selection of toppings – that is available by the slice or whole. Other takeaway dishes include papad and chutneys, Brigadiers’ signature kathi rolls, a Madras mess mix and masala pork scratchings. There is also bottled beer, wine and vending machines of canned cocktails and craft beer. The Daru Shop is open Wednesday to Friday from 1pm to 7pm. Brigadiers has already been offering a delivery and click-and-collect service. 

Camile Thai to open Barnes site, like-for-likes up 35% in London this year: Dublin-based healthy food delivery company Camile Thai is to open a site in Barnes, south west London. The company has secured the former Annie’s Restaurant premises in White Hart Lane as it adds to its footprint in the capital. Camile Thai has outlets in Battersea, Bermondsey, Clapham and Tooting with further expansion set to follow later this year. The company said it has seen its like-for-like sales in London grow by more than 35% in 2020. Camile Thai, which has more than 30 locations in London and Ireland. Is seeking new locations for its franchisees in London and surrounding areas. In Ireland, it has launched a cloud kitchen franchise for hotels, bars and restaurants to reopen and is currently assessing strategic partners in the UK for the model.

YouTube star chooses Brighton for first plant-based delivery kitchen, plans expansion across major UK cities: YouTube star Mikey Pearce is to open his first plant-based delivery kitchen, in Brighton. Clean Kitchen Club will open on Thursday (25 June) offering a plant-based burger menu. Pearce plans to grow the business with childhood friend Abe Garman and open delivery-kitchens across major UK cities, including Edinburgh, London and Manchester. Dishes include the Clean Burger – homemade patty, lettuce, tomato, gherkin, vegan cheese, vegan mayo and ketchup; and the Cheat ‘N’ Clean – double homemade patty, homemade mushroom bacon, double vegan cheese, lettuce, tomato, vegan mayo and ketchup. Pearce said: “Our aim is to become the fastest growing plant-based delivery-kitchen brand in the UK. We’ve got our eyes on every major city in the country with Manchester, London and Edinburgh firmly locked in our sight for the first few openings. We also want to have a positive impact on the communities around us. Abe and I are already looking at ways to ensure we make positive changes around us, including a Brighton beach clean day and supporting local charities.” 

Berenberg analysts downgrade Domino’s Pizza shares: Analysts at Berenberg have downgraded Domino's Pizza shares from ‘Hold’ to ‘Sell’, stating the stock was now “too rich”. They expect pressure from competitors more focused on growth and less on returns to continue to mount in the wake of the covid-19 related lock-downs as more restaurants consider providing delivery services as a way to supplement their income while in-store capacity is constrained by social distancing measures. Berenberg also highlighted Domino's has argued trade since lock-down had been affected by the removal of collection, which typically makes up about 20% of store revenues but when collection reopens, the analysts pointed out restaurants will too. “Come that point, we expect many customers will swap back their Domino’s ‘date nights’ for restaurant meals,” said the analysts. “With earnings growth likely to be negative in 2020 and lacklustre (at best) thereafter, we struggle to justify the size of the stock’s current valuation gap versus most leisure peers.”

Rassam’s Creamery to open fourth site, in Wakefield: Yorkshire-based ice cream parlour Rassam’s Creamery is to open its fourth site, in Wakefield. The company, which operates three outlets in Sheffield, is launching its latest venue at the mixed-use development Merchant Gate. Owner Rassam Alyafai has taken the former Anytime Fitness unit, which spans 5,468 square foot, on a 20-year lease. The parlour is due to be fitted out shortly and is planning to open before the end of the year, depending on the lifting of lock-down restrictions. Rassam’s Creamery was launched in Sheffield in 2012. Merchant Gate has been delivered by The English Cities Fund, a strategic joint venture between urban regeneration innovators, Muse Developments, Legal & General and Homes England, working collaboratively with Wakefield Council and Network Rail.

Frenchie reopens for takeaway and launches at-home service: Parisian restaurant concept Frenchie in London’s Covent Garden has reopened for takeaway and launched an at-home service. The takeaway menu includes classic sandwich baguettes and brioche buns “given the Frenchie treatment” as well as salads and cookies alongside beer, wine and prosecco. Takeaway is available from the Henrietta Street restaurant from Wednesday to Sunday between noon and 7pm. Meanwhile, after its success at its sister sites in Paris, owner Gregory Marchand has brought an at-home service to London. The three-course meal is available for delivery or for collection from the restaurant from Wednesday to Sunday between 5.30pm and 8.30pm. Orders need to be made before 6pm the previous day. Dishes can be eaten as they come, except for the main course and gougères, which are to be reheated in the oven. Frenchie opened in 2016 and is the sister restaurant to Paris' Michelin-starred Frenchie Rue du Nil and Frenchie To Go.

Westbourne Leisure reports profit boost as turnover passes £20m: West Midlands-based pub, restaurant and hotel operator Westbourne Leisure has reported turnover increased to £20.4m for the year ending 30 September 2019 compared with £18.7m the year before. Pre-tax profit was up to £4.2m, compared with £3.7m the previous year, according to newly filed documents with Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “During the year the company continued its successful expansion into the hotel sector and is looking to expand its presence in this market still further over the coming years. The directors consider the company's properties are valued in excess of their book value, but have chosen not to adopt a policy of regular formal revaluations.” The business was established in the 1970s when Pat and Mary Owens bought their first pub.

Whitbread lodges plans for new Premier Inn in York city centre: Whitbread has lodged plans for a new Premier Inn hotel in York city centre. The company has applied to the city council to bulldoze the former Carpetright store in Layerthorpe and build a 188-bedroom hotel with a bar and restaurant in its place, reports The Business Desk. The plans are for a four-storey building, which would also have parking for 43 vehicles as well as electric car charging points and cycle spaces. 

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