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Thu 25th Jun 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Christou – Pret in eye of the storm, to pay 30% of June quarter’s rent: Pano Christou, chief executive of Pret A Manger, has written to the group’s landlords stating the brand is “currently in the eye of the storm”, with UK sales currently running at less than 20% of normal levels, and it intends to make a partial payment for the June rent quarter. In the letter seen by Propel, Christou writes: “We feel strongly the Pret brand has every reason to believe it will thrive again, but we are currently in the eye of the storm. Our first focus has been and remains to fight to protect as many jobs within our teams and limit further human impact for our people as far as possible. Despite ongoing efforts to reduce our costs wherever we can, including a reduction in salary throughout all our teams and most sizeably within the leadership, we simply cannot offset the current losses. We have now reopened 320 of our 434 UK shops over several phases during the past six weeks, but despite that our total UK sales are currently running at less than 20% of normal levels. As a business that relies heavily on the cash generated by our shops, we now find ourselves losing tens of millions of pounds each month and in a position where we do not have sufficient funds to pay the June quarter rent in full. In the immediate term, with regards to property costs, we have prioritised the cash we do have available towards the payment of service charges and insurance. It is our intention to make a partial payment for the June rent quarter, commensurate with our trading performance, and as such we plan to pay 30% of the June quarter’s rent. In light of our cash position, this payment will be made in three instalments of 10% each on a monthly basis through the quarter. Should the trading performance improve ahead of forecast, I will write to you again and adjust the payment schedule accordingly for the second and third payments.” Last month, it was revealed the company was working with professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal and property agent CWM to advise on aspects of a “comprehensive transformation plan” and to examine the best options to “adjust its business model in a new retail environment”. Pret could be set to cut its workforce after a leaked video this week revealed an 85% plunge in sales during the coronavirus lock-down. Christou told staff of the JAB Holdings-backed business on an online video call seen by the BBC an announcement regarding its current “job situation” would be made on 8 July. 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Breezefree launches versatile selection of social screens to enable hospitality sector to reopen with confidence: Breezefree, the al fresco design and installation specialist, has been working closely with hospitality sector clients and designers to develop a selection of social screens designed to facilitate the imminent reopening of cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels. These screens are versatile and affordable, designed and manufactured in the UK and help operators to maximise table density. They also minimise close contact between teams and customers, and indeed between customers. The broad range of internal and external screens will meet many operators needs across the hospitality market. Will Lisle, managing director of Breezefree, said: “These new screens will undoubtedly help rebuild customer confidence to regularly and frequently revisit cafes, bars and restaurants. They will demonstrate owners and managers are taking the necessary precautions in line with the government advice, which along with other practices will help minimise the risk of covid-19 transmissions in their premises.” Please visit www.breezefree.com to see the full range. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com

Major Scotty Mills and Ollie Humphries to feature in Propel Webinar on ‘commandos and crisis communications’: In the latest of Propel's video series, a lesson in crisis communication techniques will be given by the Royal Marines. Major Scotty Mills, who in addition to a 30-year military career has also served as a performance coach to Gareth Southgate and the England football team among others, is joined by ex-Frankie & Benny's managing director Ollie Humphries to apply the Royal Marine's operational communications principles directly to hospitality leadership and current challenges presented by coronavirus such as labour changes; reopening logistics; and expected falling sales. This on-demand webinar, sponsored by Yapster, will be released on Thursday (25 June).
Yapster is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Sam Harrison to feature in latest ‘navigating the coronavirus’ video: In the latest in Propel's video interviews with leading operators about “navigating the coronavirus” pandemic, Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott talks to Sam Harrison, founder of Sam's Riverside, about being a young business impacted by the coronavirus; concerns over reopening; and keeping the dining experience as fun and as personable as possible. The video will be released on Thursday (25 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.

Sector responds to pub and restaurant reopening guidance: Sector trade bodies and operators have reacted to the guidance being issued to pubs and restaurants in England ahead of reopening. The government released the 43-page document on Wednesday (24 June) – a day after confirming sector businesses can begin reopening from 4 July. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “It is reassuring the government has understood the need for flexibility, demonstrating it has listened to businesses. The guidance is pragmatic and should provide venues with enough versatility to suit their own circumstances. This is exactly what was needed to avoid restricting venues and making the job of reopening even harder. The emphasis is now going to be on businesses and customers to exercise some responsibility and ensuring the guidance works optimally. Looking after our guests is the hospitality sector’s modus operandi, so we have plenty of experience in taking care of customers and I am confident we can rise to this challenge.” London Union founder Jonathan Downey told Propel: “There will be some reading the guidance that will be desperate for more clarity. Resist this – we like grey areas. We can work within and around anything that isn’t clear.” Downey said he did not think its 1,000-capacity Dinerama site would open “just yet”. He added: “Even with 400 seats, that’s still 600 standing and, although not strictly prohibited, if busy, would be against the spirit of the relaxation measures. I think we’ll wait a week or three and see how things work out.” But the Night Time Industries Association took a different view. Chief executive Michael Kill said: “For our sector, 4 July might end up being more ‘doomsday’ rather than the ‘independence day’ the prime minister is envisioning. The detail on the guidance will plunge many businesses and venues involved in the sector into more chaos and confusion. We are now grappling with operational guidance that places unworkable conditions on customer behaviour. This will make it highly challenging for the businesses to re-engage, meaning many venues will simply be unable to open and trade profitably.”

Beer gardens to reopen from 6 July in Scotland as pubs and restaurants get 15 July green light, but two-metre rule remains: Beer gardens in Scotland can reopen from 6 July with pubs and restaurants allowed to serve customers indoors from 15 July. First minister Nicola Sturgeon, who previously said hospitality business could open from 15 July if the virus remained under control, has now confirmed the date – but the two-metre rule remained in place, at least for now. Sturgeon made the announcement as she further relaxed lock-down measures in the country. People will be allowed to meet up with two other households indoors from 10 July and the five-mile travel limit will be lifted from 3 July. Hotels, cinemas and other holiday accommodation can also reopen from 15 July but nightclubs and bingo halls “will not reopen until a later date”. Sturgeon said the move was possible thanks to the "real sustained progress" in suppressing the virus. But she said the changes depended on keeping the virus under control, and could be reversed if it was felt necessary to do so. Advisors are still reviewing whether the two-metre physical distancing rule should be eased and this should be completed by next week.

Long Live The Local campaign relaunches with new focus to encourage people to visit pubs: The Long Live The Local campaign, backed by Britain`s Beer Alliance, has relaunched, with a new focus to encourage people to visit their local pub to help it get back on its feet, following months of closure. It will remind pub-goers of the “great beer, food, atmosphere and community spirit they have missed during lock-down” and highlight what pubs are doing to ensure the safety of customers. The campaign was launched in 2018 to celebrate the vital role pubs play in local communities, culture and the economy and to highlight the jeopardy they face from a range of tax pressures, specifically calling for a cut in beer duty. Organisers said while pubs still face these pressures, right now “the biggest challenge they face is reopening and starting their recovery following the nationwide lock-down”. The campaign's range of supporters and backers – including brewers, pub groups and small independent pubs – will help drive the messaging out to their customers through their social channels and websites.

Yumpingo launches digital engagement network: Yumpingo has announced the launch of a digital engagement partnership network, which expands the restaurant intelligence company’s one-minute review to include integration with major order and pay-at-table platforms in the UK to generate critical insights into guest happiness for restaurant operators. Restaurants serviced by these partners will receive free insights upon integration to help their teams action real-time feedback “to optimise guest experiences in the new normal”. The impact of covid-19 required Yumpingo to accelerate its product development roadmap “to meet the changing needs of the industry in time for its early-July reopening”. In a recent study, 92% of consumers told Yumpingo they’d consider using their own device to view menus, order and pay to ease concerns over traditional restaurant contact-points such as cash (49% would be reluctant to pay with cash) and menus (40% would be concerned about touching menus).“Contactless engagement of guests on their own devices is now a primary need as restaurants look to open again,” said Gary Goodman, chief executive and founder of Yumpingo. “Our newly expanded network of digital touchpoints with guests means it has never been easier for operators to respond to how their guests feel in real time as the industry gets back to work.” 
Yumpingo is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

PCA updates timetable for how tied tenants can access their Pubs Code rights: The Pubs Code adjudicator Fiona Dickie has published a table that sets out how tied tenants can access their Pubs Code rights when the period covered by the coronavirus emergency declaration ends this month. Pubs Code rights have been paused and protected during the coronavirus emergency period by stopping the clock on many of them. The ending of the declaration period means tenants now need to know when they must act to activate their code rights, for example to request and receive a Market Rent Only (MRO) option or to obtain a rent assessment proposal due under the code. Dickie said: “It is now more important than ever tied tenants are free to exercise these rights as parliament intended, and pub-owning businesses demonstrate the Pubs Code principles of fairness and transparency in all dealings with their tied tenants. I will ensure that this happens.” The declaration was established on 16 March to protect Pubs Code rights for the duration of the coronavirus-related closure. While the declaration has not prevented tied tenants who wished to do so from continuing to exercise their code rights as normal, it has meant individual tenants did not have to do so at a time when their focus was likely to be on more immediate pressures impacting their business and their employees. The new timetable can be found here.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a north west-based leisure business as it looks to onboard a new finance director. This is an fully accountable position with full business finance responsibility as well as management responsibility. Along with leading all financial management they with support the managing director in business planning and development, as well as in additional areas such as IT and health and safety. This is a varied position that would suit a confident and ambitious finance director. Full qualification required. Experienced financial directors in the north west of England interested in finding out more can email Oliwia at Oliwia@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Property agent tells landlords Casual Dining Group needs three-month rent-free period to allow sale: Property agents working on behalf of the proposed administrators of Casual Dining Group (CDG), the Las Iguanas and Café Rouge operator, have written to landlords saying the business would require a three-month rent-free period from the date of their appointment in order to complete the sale of the business and its assets. A letter from property advisor Lambert Smith Hampton, seen by Propel, sent to landlords last week also stated all interested parties in the Bella Italia operator have made it clear they will only take sites if “lease terms are varied to help CDG navigate through the current covid-19 related challenges”. It is also thought the company is seeking turnover deals with open-market rent reviews in 18 months. The letter states: “There is the potential for an administration appointment in the coming weeks and in the event of an appointment the administrators will engage us to continue to assist in managing the property estate on their behalf. CDG has been working with AlixPartners to progress a sale process that was announced in mid-May and is aimed at finding a new investor for the group. This has resulted in a number of potential buyers making offers. All interested parties have however made it clear they will only take sites if lease terms are varied to help CDG navigate through the current covid-19 related challenges. As such the proposed administrators will have to close sites when appointed unless there is a prospect of delivering ongoing lease terms that would be of interest to potential buyers. We expect the sale to take time to complete following any administrators’ appointment and a period of time will be needed to bridge this transaction. The proposed administrators therefore require a three-month rent-free period from the date of their appointment in order to complete the sale of the business and assets. Service charge and insurance will be paid in full during this period. Where the proposed administrators are not able to secure a rent-free period, sites are likely to be closed immediately and swift responses are welcomed.” At the end of last month, CDG launched an accelerated sales process after receiving multiple expressions of interest. One name linked to the process has been Aurelius Group, the German investment group, which came close to rescuing Jamie’s Italian. The initial interest in the James Spragg-led business came just over a week after it filed a notice of intention to appoint an administrator ahead of a restructuring process, with all options being considered including company voluntary arrangements for individual brands and a possible administration for one. It is thought such a restructuring process would still have to be part of any deal going forward, which would see CDG close a number of sites across its three brands. Propel understands administrators could be appointed for all or parts of the business before the end of this month.

Young's embarks on fund-raise: London pub retailer Young’s is to undertake a capital raise of up to 19.9% of its share capital through a placing to provide it with the “financial flexibility to drive its continued success and faster growth”. An offer is being made by Young’s on the PrimaryBid platform to allow retail investors to participate in the fund-raising alongside institutional investors. The money will allow Young's to invest in the existing business but also pursue opportunistic acquisitions. On acquisitions, it stated: “Selective opportunistic acquisitions are part of Young’s achieving its growth strategy. Acquisitions are focused on the locations of the pubs as well as attractive economics, with investment criteria targeting at least a 10% return on acquisitions. In the past five years, Young’s has invested approximately £140m through disciplined bolt-on acquisitions. Most recently, these include the acquisition of 15 Redcomb pubs in 2019 and five managed pubs in and around Surrey in 2020. These acquisitions complement the existing Young’s managed house estate, both in and around London, as well as build on a growing presence in the south west.”

James Watt – ‘I bought airbed for the office so I could go down with the ship’: James Watt, co-founder of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, has revealed he was so convinced the business was going under he bought an airbed for the office as he “prepared to go down with the ship”. In a blog post, Watt also spoke how he broke down in tears as he addressed staff during a socially distanced “All Hands” meeting at its headquarters in March. He wrote: “At that ‘All Hands’ I broke down. With a heavy heart and tears in my eyes I could not finish my address to the team. I am not a very emotional person, but the severity of the challenge we were facing led me to completely fall to pieces. At that moment in time, despite trying and failing miserably to put a brave face on it, I simply did not think we were going to make it through. I bought an airbed on Amazon and put it in my office. If the ship was going down, I was going down with it.” Having lost almost 70% of its revenue overnight, Watt praised the “incredible” effort of the team and it “looks like BrewDog is going to live to fight another day”. But he noted the business was not going to make it through completely unscathed and this week had to say goodbye to just over 4% of staff via a voluntary redundancy process. All those taking voluntary redundancy with 12 months service or more will be paid the equivalent of six months net salary, retain their full medical care for 12 months, be sent a package of beer every month for a year and retain a BrewDog discount for life. Watt, who along with fellow co-founder Martin Dickie has forgone all salary for 2020, added: “Regarding our survival; we needed a miracle and against all the odds our brilliant teams delivered one. We owe each other, and especially those leaving, a debt of gratitude. Their selfless act has allowed us to better safeguard the livelihoods of more than 1,800 team members. Furthermore they all played a pivotal role in the development of a business that we, and millions of people all over the planet, know and love. Your contributions made a huge difference and you will forever be part of our story.”

Shepherd Neame plans to reopen about two-thirds of pubs by end of July: Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has said it plans to reopen about two-thirds of its pub estate – circa 190 pubs – by the end of next month. Chief executive Jonathan Neame said the business planned to open 40 managed pubs and at least 150 tenanted sites. Neame said: “In order to protect our customers and team members, we propose to reopen our managed estate on a phased basis and expect to reopen at least two thirds of our pubs by the end of July. This will allow us to evaluate our approach and collect feedback and learnings throughout the process, to identify best practice. Our mission is clear – to protect our team members and reassure customers they are safe in our pubs, while still ensuring they enjoy an authentic and engaging experience in our distinctive and individual pub environments. We still need to review the detail of the government guidance for our industry, but we have already begun our preparations for reopening. This has involved significant investment in extensive protective measures for our pubs.” Measures include infrared thermometers to allow temperature checks for team members ahead of every shift; new safety signage and floor stickers to indicate social distancing requirements; till screens installed across the managed estate; and hand sanitiser dispense stations. Neame said its managed pubs would offer a reduced menu as the supply chain takes time to normalise.

Bill’s to begin reopening with six sites from 4 July, temperature checks on arrival: Bill’s, the Richard Caring-backed group, will begin the reopening of its 78-strong estate, with the opening of six restaurants on 4 July, Propel understands. The group will reopen its sites in Lewes, Nottingham, Reigate, Rushden Lakes, the Bullring in Birmingham and Wimbledon. The company said: “With service still very much a priority, the restaurants will be implementing the highest standards of health and safety. Measures will include temperature checks on arrival, the use of tracking software for all employees logging daily temperature readings over a seven-day rolling period as well as deep cleaning and disinfecting on a daily basis. Dedicated members of staff have been appointed to ensure health and safety is at its highest standard on an ongoing basis.” Bill Collison, founder of Bill’s, said: “We have worked tirelessly to ensure we can create a fantastic experience for all, while being safe in the knowledge we have taken every precaution for the safety of our diners and employees.”

Crussh appoints Simon Foster as new CEO: London-based healthy food and juice brand Crussh has appointed Simon Foster, formerly group managing director of Yorica, as its new chief executive. The circa 30-strong business said Foster would lead the restart of the brand and navigate its next stage of development. He replaces Shane Kavanagh, who left Crussh earlier this year to rejoin Benugo. Foster has previously had stints at Thorntons and Hovis, and most recently Yorica, the “all 14 major allergen free” ice cream alternative that under his leadership tripled in volume with the addition of more than 800 listings across Ocado, Waitrose and Holland & Barrett. Crussh said Foster brought with him “significant experience in driving turnaround and change within branded, wholesale, and wholesale/retail blended businesses, primarily within the food sector”. Crussh chairman Jonathan Hart said: “Having previously worked with Simon at Thorntons, I know he is an excellent choice to lead Crussh through these turbulent and challenging times. The current crisis will make restarting Crussh a challenge but also present a big opportunity to accelerate our growth in product supply and to develop Crussh as an FMCG brand – sectors where Simon has an excellent track record.” Foster said: “The brand has great value that it can deliver across multiple channels. Now more than ever, people demand the ability to eat more healthily and sustainably on the move and Crussh has been on the leading edge of this since its creation in 1998. I look forward to helping the team continue their progress in optimising its retail execution for the post-covid era, and supplementing this with accelerated execution of a pivot into other channels where the brand has already started making strong headway.” The news coincides with further site reopenings for the brand, with its Canary Wharf site set to open its doors again next week.

Corbin & King to reopen five sites from 4 July: London restaurant operator Corbin & King is to reopen five of its sites from 4 July. The company will reopen The Wolseley, Colbert, Brasserie Zédel and Fischer’s for dinner with Café Wolseley in Bicester serving customers from the morning. A survey by the group revealed 83% of customers said they would likely return as soon as they are able and co-founder Jeremy Corbin said: “If people are willing to go to restaurants then we should be open for them to be able to.” He said one reason for not initially reopening The Delaunay was, as with The Wolseley, “a monster of a restaurant to crank up and operate”. He added: “While it has a loyal following from quite a wide area it certainly depends on offices, both locally and in the City, as well as theatre and Covent Garden visitors. It would be so, so costly to close again if the demand is not there yet to support the operation. As soon as we see the area regenerate then we will be reopening – as with Soutine. That was also a tricky decision as it had to be either Soutine or Fischer’s that remained closed. The debate was long but ultimately won on longevity and the accessibility to a wider constituency at Fischer’s.” Corbin also revealed its new seafood restaurant Manzi’s in Soho would “hopefully” open in October “barring the unforeseen”. He added: “My big issue now is the difficulty so many of us are experiencing with landlords. Some have been exemplary in their collaboration but I have one in particular who was hell bent on getting every last penny and threatening court action, insolvency and eviction! Luckily the protection from such monsters has been extended but while we can deal with this I feel for the young restaurateurs in the face of such avarice. This virus really has revealed the true nature of people – for better or worse.”

Incipio reports more than 2,500 bookings in 24 hours: Incipio Group, which is backed by Edition Capital, has reported more than 2,500 bookings in 24 hours after announcing it will reopen three of its sites. The company, which is reopening Pergola Paddington, The Prince and Lost In Brixton from 4 July, said it has also seen a huge spike in traffic to its websites and more than 23,000 enquiries. Changes to the venues are taking place to accommodate social distancing measures and the safety of customers and staff. As part of reopening guidelines, all guests have to give their details beforehand. Sales and market director Anthony Knight said: “Following the government issued guidelines we are now able to start booking in the 23,450 guests that have made enquiries to join us in July. Being able to quickly identify if a guest is able to enter while securely collecting their information in line with the government requirements gives both our teams and employees the reassurance needed we are taking all measures to ensure we are able to open safely while being able to provide information to the NHS test and trace service if need be.” Incipio Group operates six sites across the capital.

McManus Pub Group secures £1.25m funding deal: McManus Pub Group has secured a £1.25m finance facility from HSBC UK to support the Northampton-based business during the coronavirus pandemic. McManus Pub Group, which was forced to close its 15 pubs and restaurants in Northampton and two sites in Leigh-on-Sea in line with government guidelines, has used the funding to pay any costs incurred during lock-down, cover projected trading losses for the next quarter and support the purchase of protective equipment to ensure employees and customers are safe when its sites reopen. The funding from HSBC UK, which forms part of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), is in addition to a revolving credit loan and repayment holiday. McManus Pub Group finance director Chris Wright said: “At the start of the lock-down we drew down on our existing working capital facility to ensure we could support our colleagues and pay suppliers during this period. The additional facilities from HSBC UK not only supported our cash flow, but also gave us increased flexibility and the ability to start planning for the future.”

The Chestnut Group plans phased reopening as customer survey formulates plans: East Anglian-based pub and restaurant company The Chestnut Group has formulated its reopening plans after surveying its customers. The results highlighted the measures guests would like to see in place and the group is taking a phased approach to reopening sites. Almost 70% said they wanted to return within the first two weeks of reopening, with an overwhelming 95% wanting to return within a few months. Other key insights included 90% of guests wanting to see more outdoor seating and 74% favouring a limited number of guests in the properties. As a result The Chestnut Group has adopted “six measures of safety” – an operational standard that will be rolled out across the portfolio. This includes pre-booking measures, sanitising stations, revised seating plans and clear signage at all touch points. The phased reopening will see four sites reopen on 4 July – The Crown Inn, in Stoke by Nayland, Norfolk; and Suffolk coastal properties The Globe Inn, Wells-next-the-Sea; The Ship Inn in Dunwich; and The Weeping Willow in Barrow. These will then be followed on 11 July by The Packhorse Inn, a rebuilt The Three Blackbirds; and The Eight Bells in Saffron Walden. The Westleton Crown will reopen on 17 July, followed by The Northgate and The Rupert Brooke on 18 July. The Black Lion in Long Melford will reopen on 25 July.

Caravan beings reopening for delivery and collection: London-based restaurant and coffee-roasting concept Caravan has reopened two of its sites for delivery and click-and-collect. The Active Partners-backed group, which closed its five eponymous sites in the capital, and latest opening Vardo in Duke of York Square, in March, has launched a delivery and collection service out of the latter site and out of its eponymous site in King’s Cross. Delivery is available through Deliveroo. Propel understands the company is also set to launch a brunch box offer from this weekend.

Eat 17 eyes franchise expansion plan with pubs and restaurants: Eat 17, which operates sites that are part artisan food store, part convenience store and part restaurant, is looking to expand its offer through franchising and is targeting work with pubs and restaurants. The four-strong, award-winning group said it believed social distancing restrictions would mean many business owners will be interested in exploring how they can grow revenue by introducing retailing into their existing location. The chain said it was planning to open new stores around the capital and is on the hunt for retailers, as well as pubs and restaurants who are looking to diversify and utilise space opened up by social distancing. Started in 2006, the group operates sites in Walthamstow, Hackney, Hammersmith and Bishops Stortford, and generates annual turnover of about £10m. Eat 17 co-founder James Brundle said, “Our offering isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Instead it’s about us working closely with publicans, restaurant owners and retailers to give them another stream of revenue as they adapt their businesses for social distancing. Our concept has been working well in our four stores for 14 years and it’s a model that can easily be applied to businesses that have struggled over the past three months. It’s a combination of a food retail outlet and in normal times, restaurants and places customers can buy quality street food. That model could work well with those businesses that have found things tough during lock-down. Most will already be set up with a proper catering kitchen meaning restaurant quality food is going to be a possibility. We can also offer a large selection of foods we create ourselves from scratch.”

German Doner Kebab seeks head of project management as it pushes on with UK expansion plans: German Doner Kebab, the flagship brand of Hero Brands, is pushing on with its expansion plans and is looking to appoint an experienced head of project management to support its ambitious growth strategy. The brand is looking to bring in the senior figure to manage its restaurant expansion plans throughout the UK and has a development pipeline of 350 franchise sites over the next seven years. Chief executive Imran Sayeed said: “Our idea of bringing a nutritionally-balanced gourmet kebab has been a massive hit with UK consumers, and this has been reflected in the huge growth we have already achieved in the past two years. We have developed a strong growth pipeline with some of the UK’s most established franchise entrepreneurs and we are now working closely with them to identify new sites and respond to the growing consumer demand across the UK. From this perspective we are looking for an experienced head of project management to join us and oversee the growth of our restaurant footprint while strengthening the relationships with our multi-unit franchise partners.” As well as the UK where it operates 35 sites, German Doner Kebab operates franchised stores in Sweden, Dubai, Abu-Dhabi, Oman and Bahrain. The UK growth comes as the brand is embarking on expansion into Saudi Arabia. The Ajlan and Brothers Group has been signed-up as the master franchisee, with a development agreement of 100 stores over the next ten years. Further growth has also been announced in North America, as franchises have been signed in Canada’s Ontario and British Columbia provinces, while negotiations are underway to open outlets in New York’s Manhattan and New Jersey.

Island Poké begins phased reopening, launching first virtual kitchen: Island Poké, the White Rabbit Fund-backed concept, has set out its reopening plans, which will include the launch of its first Deliveroo Editions site at the start of next month. The company, which recently began its expansion into Europe, with the opening of its first site in Paris, will accept online delivery orders through its sites in Soho, Shoreditch, Canary Wharf and Broadgate Circle from 1 July, with all four sites set to reopen fully from 13 July. At the start of next month, it will also launch its first virtual kitchen, in Battersea through Jacuna. Island Poké will reopen its sites in Victoria, Fitzrovia, Bow Lane and Southbank on 27 July. It has also expanded its delivery partners to Deliveroo, UberEats and Just Eat. 

Merlin Entertainments to reopen all attractions in England from 4 July: Merlin Entertainments has confirmed it will be reopening all its major theme parks, attractions and accommodation across England from 4 July for day visits and short breaks in line with government guidelines. The company’s theme parks including Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Legoland Windsor will welcome customers along with indoor attractions such as its Sea Life centres and Madame Tussaud’s. Alton Towers and Warwick Castle have already been welcoming visitors to their grounds and gardens since 6 June while Chessington reopened its zoo area to the public last week. The attractions will be offering a reduced number of tickets to ensure limited visitor numbers. The daily allocations will allow for social distancing, with all visitors required to pre-book tickets online. Safety measures in place will include new routes around attractions and queuing formats, staff wearing personal protective equipment and enhanced cleaning. Merlin Entertainments chief executive Nick Varney said: “Of the 25 countries Merlin operates in across four continents, the UK is the final country where attractions are still waiting to reopen fully. In each location we have reopened, we have seen our guests embrace the ‘new normal’ and actively adhere to the new safety measures we have put in place. After the extended lock-down, we recognise people need leisure and escapism and to make new happy memories with those they love. We look forward to helping them do just that.”

Hot chocolate shop Knoops to open second London site, in Kensington: Hot chocolate shop Knoops is to open a second London site, in Kensington. The company is opening the venue in Kensington High Street in August. Knoops offers a range of chocolate drinks – the chocolate used ranges from 28% to 100% cocoa and there are a mix of single origins and blends. Owner Jens Knoop opened the original site in Rye, East Sussex, in 2013 before adding a site in Clapham Junction in March this year just prior to the lock-down. Both sites have reopened for takeaway.

Quintain receives approval to more than double al fresco dining space at Wembley Park: Plans to significantly extend outdoor seating across Wembley Park this summer – more than doubling the al fresco dining space – have been approved by Brent Council. Developer Quintain’ has announced it plans to reopen the Wembley Park dining offer from 4 July in keeping with new government guidelines. Working with the council and its food and beverage tenants, the developer has agreed a strategy to create an al fresco dining destination across the largely pedestrianised 85-acre estate. Additionally, bench seating will be installed to allow visitors to enjoy socially distanced takeaways from many of the food and beverage operators. Tenants have adapted their offer to enable visitors to maintain social distancing including London-based casual dining concept Pasta Remoli, which will operate a click-and-collect model, encouraging visitors to order via a scannable QR code, to limit queuing. The restaurant has also installed retractable glass screens throughout. Meanwhile, having already opened for takeaway services, Boxpark, independent bakery and baking school Bread Ahead and London-based speciality coffee shop operator Black Sheep Coffee will expand their outdoor seating provision. Quintain’s ongoing £3bn transformation of Wembley Park features more than 500,000 square foot of retail and leisure space, including some 240,000 square foot of new build. The agent for the retail and leisure at Wembley Park is Nash Bond.

28°-50° owners reopen Marylebone site for takeaway and delivery: Privately owned group Riviera Restaurants and Luxury has reopened its 28°-50° Marylebone Wine Workshop & Kitchen for takeaway and delivery. The site in Marylebone Lane is open daily offering coffee, croissants and cupcakes and its brasserie-inspired à la carte menu combined with a curated wine and champagne list. This is all available via click-and-collect and delivery within W1, W2 and SW1. The à la carte menu includes seared tuna nicoise with peppers, new potatoes, cherry tomatoes and olives; and artichoke tempura with aioli mayonnaise. Riviera Restaurants and Luxury also operates a site for the 28°-50° concept in Covent Garden.

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