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Mon 29th Jun 2020 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Findlay – government needs to be ‘big and bold’ on VAT cut: Ralph Findlay, chief executive of Marston’s, has said the government needs to be “big and bold” when it comes to a VAT cut to help stimulate the economy as the hospitality sector reopens. Talking to Propel after Marston’s reported sales were down by circa £43m to £510.5m in the 26 weeks to 28 March, Findlay said he was excited the company would be soon getting back to business and would have “some turnover to work with”. He reiterated he expected up to about 90% of the company’s pubs would reopen on Saturday (4 July), and a break-even level would be about 60%. He told Propel: “Over the past few months, the two main focuses for the business have been liquidity and planning. The level to which we expect to reopen and the joint venture with Carlsberg has helped and will help with the former, and I am excited we will soon be able to see how the latter has gone. The safety of our staff and customers is paramount and we will encourage our guests to be sensible within the guidelines that have been set out.” Findlay said the majority of its pubs would benefit from its location outside city centres, with circa 90% having notable outside space. He said the government guidelines for the industry gave it a “degree of grey area and flexibility guidance that is very helpful” and although the business has invested in personal protective equipment for its staff but would not force staff to wear it. Findlay said: “It’s important to me for pubs to look like pubs and not like hospitals because if they do, people won’t want to come.” In terms of stimulating demand, Findlay called for a VAT cut from the current 20% to 5%. He said: “The great uncertainty is what consumer behaviour and confidence will be like over the coming weeks and months. Therefore, we need the government to do its bit to stimulate that demand. We need something big and bold from it, and I believe a VAT cut to 5% would be the cudgel that works to get people back spending in the sector.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Twinings outlines post-covid offer: With hospitality to reopen in July, consumer expectations will be higher than ever, and operators will be looking to suppliers to help support the transition. Foodservice outlets can expect to see three trends influencing consumer choice over the coming months – demand for healthier products; expectation for quality ingredients; and expectation for a hygienic product delivery and serve. With 92% of adults saying they are taking precautions to protect long-term health, such as changing what they eat and drink, menus will have to contain healthy food and drink options to tempt customers back. Customers are also seeking reassurance from trusted brands to deliver quality and value for money, while also expecting food and drink service to be hygienic and safe. Twinings is able to support foodservice outlets with a range of superior tasting teas and infusions, all delivered in hygienically sealed envelopes. Available in loose-leaf mesh bags, as well as standard tea bag formats, Twinings offers the most comprehensive range of teas and cold-water infusions on the market. New healthier ranges also include Twinings Superblends, a range of deliciously tempting infusions with an added vitamin or minerals to support daily well-being, and Twinings Cold Infuse, cold water infusions that are added to cold water for a refreshing hint of flavour. And as the nation’s preferred tea brand out of home, no other brand can offer your consumers such strong brand credentials as Twinings. For more advise on range, format and POS, visit If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email
Parts of London showing strong footfall trends as shoppers return: Some of London’s shopping districts are showing strong footfall trends while other areas are climbing more modestly towards pre-coronavirus levels, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. Footfall in Oxford Street on Wednesday (24 June) was up almost 10% on the previous week, and is now down about 58% on February’s levels, while in Bayswater footfall was up some 15% and is down about 46% compared with February. In Wardour Street in Soho there were also signs people were returning, with footfall on Wednesday up 10% on the previous week, but still down some 80% on what the area saw in February. In Kensington High Street, footfall rose about 5% on the previous week, and is down about 66% compared with the February average. There was a similar rise in Leicester Square, but footfall is still down about 80% compared with what it was in February. Footfall in Covent Garden has remained down about 70% compared with the February average.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Retailers pay 22% of rents on time for second quarter running: Retailers paid 22% of rents to their landlords on the first day of the new quarter – the same as paid on the first day of the previous quarter, according to Colliers International. Data gathered from the portfolio the company manages found across the commercial property sector overall 36% of rents were paid on Wednesday (24 June). With many operators having renegotiated their rental agreements with landlords and switched to monthly payments, Colliers International said more rents and service charges are likely to be recouped over the next week. Normally, landlords can expect to receive 95% of their rents and charges on time. By the end of the last quarter retailers had paid a total of 62% of their rents. Colliers International head of property management Mark Jarrett said: “Now non-essential shops have been able to reopen and more businesses will be opening from 4 July we can expect a more favourable outcome this quarter.” A fortnight ago the government announced an extension to measures to protect high street tenants from eviction and taking legal action over non-payment of rents until the end of September.
HIGA granted right to intervene in FCA business interruption test case: HIGA – the hospitality sector-wide insurance action group – has been granted the right by London’s High Court to intervene in the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) test case, which concerns the extent of business interruption coverage afforded to policyholders affected by the UK government’s lock-down during the coronavirus pandemic. The group acts for a number of QBE and Aviva policyholders, represented by Sonia Campbell of Mishcon de Reya. Campbell said: “We’re grateful to the court for allowing our application to intervene, to make submissions in the FCA test case hearing in July, insofar as they are relevant to the QBE and Aviva policyholders for whom we act and represent. We are also grateful to the FCA for consenting to our application. While Aviva is not a defendant to the proceedings, it underwrites a materially similar wording to the material damage and business interruption resilience wording that is being tested. Our participation will enable us to ensure that points we wish to advance for our clients can be made in the way we wish to make them.”
Pub operators urged to act quickly over beer disposal applications to water companies: Pub operators are being urged to act quickly in order to ensure their applications to dispose of waste beer into the sewer can be processed efficiently. The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and water industry trade body Water UK have come together to issue the message and said water companies are standing by to help and have made it as easy as possible to dispose of beer by making disposal applications simpler, cutting bureaucracy and waiving fees. To protect the environment, pubs need to get the permission of their water company before disposing of beer into the sewer. Publicans are also being encouraged to consider other options for repurposing spoilt beer such as for animal feed. The BBPA previously estimated as many as 70 million pints of British beer from UK pubs will have to be destroyed after they were forced to shut due to coronavirus.
Texas closes bars again and orders restaurants to scale back capacity after surge in cases: Texas governor Greg Abbott has ordered bars to close again and restaurants to scale back capacity after an alarming surge of new infections. Texas, which had been at the forefront of states peeling away restrictions designed to control the deadly pandemic, has witnessed one of the biggest jumps in new cases in the US and a record number of hospitalisations. Abbott ordered bars to shut at noon on Friday (26 June), except for takeaway, and told restaurants to limit indoor capacity to 50%, from a previous 75%. “As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the state of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” Abbott said. Meanwhile, bars in Florida were ordered to stop serving alcohol on-site on Friday as cases continued to surge in the state.
Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a hotel business as it looks to appoint a management accountant. The individual will be responsible for financial analysis, all day-to-day financial management, compliance work, assisting with overall profitability and growth as well as providing sound management reporting to assist with key business decisions. The salary is circa £28,000, with the position based in Warrington. Anyone interested can send their CV or profile to
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Revolution Bars Group plans ‘cautious’ phased reopening programme, shareholders overwhelmingly back AIM move: Revolution Bars Group, the operator of 74 bars trading under the Revolution and ‘Revolución de Cuba brands, has updated on its reopening plans. It comes as more than 99% of shareholders backed the company’s plan to delist from the main stock market and move to AIM as well as place new shares. The company stated it plans to reopen six of its bars on Monday, 6 July and trade these for a minimum period of two weeks “to fully test customer demand and sentiment” and to refine the group's “covid-secure” operating standards, minimising risk to both staff and customers. The sites are understood to be its Revolución de Cuba outlets in Manchester and Derby and its eponymous venues in Bristol, Brighton, Huddersfield and Liverpool. After that period the group plans to continue reopening in weekly tranches of up to nine bars and hopes by the end of August 62 bars will have reopened. The company stated: “The group's remaining bars may not reopen until the UK government permits late-night venues to recommence trading.” In a return to work survey, 84% of responders said they intend to come back and are happy to do so subject to the group providing appropriate safety measures; only 0.5% are currently shielding. The company added: “The group expects its net bank debt at 27 June 2020 – the end of its current financial year – to be £22.0m. With £37.5m bank debt facilities now in place (stepping down by £7.5m on 31 March 2021) and £15.0m gross proceeds (£13.8m net of costs) from the successful fund-raising set to be received on 27 July contingent on the group's admission to AIM, the group has a significant amount of cash liquidity and a strengthened balance sheet to overcome the anticipated challenging trading conditions in the foreseeable future.” Chief executive Rob Pitcher said: “Given the all-day nature of our business, we will proceed cautiously, initially reopening only six of our bars to ensure we can operate safely and viably. We hope the learnings from this first tranche of bar reopenings will enable us to quickly progress the reopening of the remainder of our estate, which we expect to have substantially completed by the end of August.”
Prezzo to begin phased reopening through selected sites: Prezzo, the Karen Jones-led chain, will start a phased reopening of its circa 180-strong estate on Saturday (4 July), with a select number of its sites. Propel understands the business, which in April appointed advisors FRP Advisory to consider its post-coronavirus funding options, will reopen eight sites for dine-in initially, including those in Bath, New Brighton, Lincoln and Kings Lynn. A further 12 restaurants, including those in Milton Keynes, Chelmsford and Crawley, will reopen in the following week, as the brand steadily reopens parts of its estate as July progresses. The company has recently reopened a handful of sites for delivery and click-and-collect under a dine@home banner, including restaurants in Bristol and Bournemouth. The appointment of advisors to explore the implications of the covid-19 crisis for its balance sheet, came less than two years after Prezzo underwent a company voluntary arrangement that saw a third of its circa 300 sites close, and a subsequent debt-for-equity swap. It has been suggested the business may have to undergo a further restructuring and it is currently taking to landlords in regards to a possible switch to turnover-based rents.
Ivy Collection to reopen a host of regional sites on Saturday: The Ivy Collection, the Richard Caring-backed group, is to reopen the majority of its regional sites on Saturday (4 July), Propel understands. The company, which has already announced the planned reopening of three of its London-based sites on Saturday, is also planning to open 14 of its regional sites, including those in Bath, Brighton, Guildford, Dublin, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Tunbridge Wells. The 35-strong group will keep shuttered the majority of its London-based sites fort the time being. As previously announced The Ivy Asia, St. Paul’s; and Brasserie of Light, in Oxford Street, will open alongside The Ivy Chelsea Garden, on Saturday. As with the latter sites, the company said while service will still remain a priority, all its restaurants will be implementing the “highest standards of health and safety, ensuring both guests and employees will be dining and working in confidence and in a safe environment”. Measures will include thermal cameras for temperature checks, the use of tracking software for all employees logging daily temperature readings over a seven-day rolling period, and professional deep cleaning and disinfecting on a daily basis. Air filtration units have also been fitted (99% effective in killing the MRSA and H1N1 viruses, which are part of the same RNA coronavirus family) and dedicated members of staff have been appointed to ensure health and safety is at its highest standard on an ongoing basis. Meanwhile, Caprice Holdings has announced it will reopen three restaurants in London on Saturday. Seafood venue Scott’s in Mount Street; Asian-inspired Sexy Fish in Berkeley Square; and Italian-focused Daphne’s in South Kensington will all welcome customers.

Caffe Nero to open 400 sites for eat-in on Saturday: Caffe Nero will open 400 stores for eat-in on Saturday (4 July). The stores will open with protocols in place to ensure its employees and customers remain safe and in accordance with government advice and social distancing guidance. The stores will offer an initially reduced food menu. Gerry Ford, founder and group chief executive, said: “We’ve seen high demand since we’ve started opening for takeaway and our teams are excited to welcome customers back properly. We have prioritised protecting the health and well-being of our people and our customers in setting these stores, while also providing safe, friendly community spaces as the country starts to reopen. We have taken clear steps and followed government guidelines to ensure that is the case.” There will be 400 Caffe Nero stores open by Saturday and all of these will be converted to eat-in. The majority of these stores will also be offering delivery through UberEats. 

Wendy’s eyes Reading site for UK launch in 2021: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, is looking to make its UK return early next year, after submitting plans to open a site in Reading. Propel revealed last year the company, which operates more than 6,000 sites worldwide, has begun searching for sites in the UK, after the business said a launch here would “kick-start a broader expansion plan across Europe”. The group has been working with property agent Savills to seek possible sites in locations including – but not limited to – Brixton, Camden, Ealing, Hounslow, Lewisham, Wandsworth and Wimbledon. Propel understands the company is interested in opening drive-thrus, dine-in restaurants and units in food courts, the high street and shopping centre schemes, with sites holding between 40 and 125 covers. It was hoping to launch in the UK this year, but now due to coronavirus seems to have pushed that back until early next year. As part of those plans, the business has submitted plans to open a site in a currently empty unit in Station Road, Reading. A Wendy’s spokesman, who confirmed Reading was one of the locations the brand was looking at, told Berkshire Live: “We plan on entering the market with company-owned and operated restaurants in early 2021. The brand is very much looking forward to it and excited about the future as we enter this market.” The group attempted to break into the UK market before the end of the last millennium but surrendered ten leases in 2000.

Fox – the challenge is to communicate it’s safe for people to come in: Mark Fox, chief executive of motorway services operator Roadchef, has said the challenge for the business is to communicate “outside our four walls” it is safe for people to come in. Speaking as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Fox said: “What we have seen is traffic on the roads has come back quicker than custom to our sites. A lot of the polls we are seeing say a large part of the population still has concerns about going into places where they may encounter large groups of people. The challenge for us is to communicate outside our four walls it is safe for people to come in – we are big builds and we are practising physical distancing, and we just need to convince people it is safe, because it is an incredibly safe environment, as will be the bulk of hospitality if they follow the guidelines laid down for them.” The 30-strong company has been gradually reopening numerous food and beverage brands across its estate over the past few weeks, and Fox said demand was starting to grow. He added: “We are seeing 20% to 30% growth week-on-week, but when you consider at the lowest point we were 97% down on last year, clearly you need a lot of those 20% to 30% weeks of growth to get you back to where you used to be. We are encouraged though, and after each announcement of a relaxation we have seen a little bit more of a surge.” Fox will share more of his thoughts in the video, which will be released on Monday (29 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 to sign up.

TGI Friday’s to reopen 66 restaurants for dine-in from 6 July as it reveals fresh new brand: TGI Friday’s is set to reopen 66 restaurants for dine-in from Monday, 6 July and will reveal a fresh new brand. The changes will be showcased at six specially selected restaurants, dubbed “Famous at Friday’s”, with elements introduced across the rest of the estate. An investment and upgrade in “quality, fresh ingredients and a focus on provenance” are core to the new food offer, which has been simplified along with its cocktail menu. The Famous at Friday’s restaurants will be Covent Garden and Leicester Square in London; Birmingham Hagley Road, which was the first Friday’s in the UK, in 1986; Nottingham, Manchester Royal Exchange and Glasgow Buchanan Street. Chief executive Robert B Cook said: “Our new Famous at Friday’s restaurants take us back to what we are famous for. We have invested in the return of classic dishes made with quality ingredients, re-energised bars full of energy and theatre, all of which will be complemented by consistently brilliant and iconic Friday’s service and spirit of generosity.” TGI Friday’s said it would implementing the same strict safety measures for in-restaurant dining as it had for its click-and-collect and delivery services.
Adnams to open 90% of its managed and tenanted estate on Saturday: Suffolk brewer and retailer Adnams is planning to open 90% of its pubs, hotels and inns on Saturday (4 July), Propel has learned. The company has been working on plans with tenants and managers under the motto of “no pebble unturned” as it reopens the majority of its sites. Adnams then plans to reopen the remaining part of the estate over the next few weeks and said it was already seeing "plenty of demand". At its managed sites, the company is only accepting advanced bookings, with Adnams sending an email to guests before their visit to state “what to expect”. The company said to keep employees and customers safe, it was also stepping up cleaning procedures while other measures being put in place include hand sanitiser stations and the use of personal protective equipment for staff that wish to wear it.
St Austell to reopen entire managed estate and more than 70% of tenanted sites when lock-down lifts: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery will reopen its entire managed pub estate on Saturday (4 July). The company said it would also reopen more than 70% of its 147 tenanted pubs, with the rest planning to in the weeks ahead. St Austell has introduced a number of extra measures in its managed pubs to keep teams and customers safe. In addition to being able to book tables online, guests will be greeted at the door and shown to their seat. They will have the option of table service or using the company new “Easy Orders” app to pay for their food and drink. The company has also introduced one-way systems in all its pubs, with entrance and exit points, to encourage social distancing. Customers will be encouraged to pay by card and make regular use of sanitising stations throughout the pub. Every site has new safety signage, including floor stickers. All tables – inside and outside – will be spaced apart in adherence with government guidelines. There will also be a team member dedicated to cleaning customer touch points, regularly throughout the day. Steve Worrall, managing director of St Austell Brewery’s pubs, inns and hotels, said: “We’ve invested in all of the necessary measures to keep people safe, while ensuring the same authentic pub experience that people have been missing.” The Rock Point Inn in Lyme Regis, which is St Austell’s debut managed house in Dorset, will open for the first time in mid-July.

Trade above expectations at Slim Chickens: All Slim Chickens outlets have now reopened and Boparan Restaurant Group has reported trade levels across the estate are “above expectations”. The company stated: "Following its phased reopening programme throughout May and June, Slim Chickens in Birmingham, Bluewater, Bristol, Cardiff and London’s Soho, St James and Brunswick have been trading from noon to 9pm daily and all are reporting higher than expected customer transactions.” The company said home delivery has been a “very popular option”, the number of customers actually arriving in-store to “takeaway” is much higher than expected and the new “quick and collect” solution is also “proving hugely successful”. Richard Pigott, head of operations at Slim Chickens, said: “We purposely phased the reopening as we wanted to be absolutely sure each site could ensure the safety of both our customers and staff so time was taken to ensure upgraded cleaning regimes, top-end personal protective equipment and social distancing measures were in place. In every location, we’ve been quite overwhelmed by demand and are particularly delighted by the number of new customers engaging with the brand. We’re finally fully reopened and are trading above expectations, so it’s once again all systems go at Slim’s.”
Think Hospitality founder James Hacon takes global chief marketing officer role: Think Hospitality founder James Hacon has taken the role of chief global marketing officer with a hospitality technology business. In a Facebook post, he stated: “Like most suppliers to hospitality we temporarily lost a lot of our clients and many projects. We have slowly been building Think Hospitality back up. Among this uncertainty an opportunity came up to join a business I have been consulting with for the past year – and it was one that I simply couldn’t pass by. So, at the beginning of this month I took up the role of global chief marketing officer for a hospitality technology business called Mapal Software and a UK arm called Flow Hospitality Training, which recently received a significant investment from Providence Strategic Growth. I’m four weeks in and it was a brilliant decision, the vision is incredible and the team awesome to work with. It has given me the flexibility to carry on working on Think Hospitality and in my chairmanship of I am Doner – so I really have the best of all worlds, as I love this work and these teams too.” It is understood the day-to-day management of Think Hospitality will be split between chairman Michael Ingemann and partners Angela Malik and Heleri Rande, with Hacon continuing to provide strategy consulting with some clients.
Tasty takes ‘cautious’ approach to reopening, expects to have circa 25 sites trading by mid-July: Tasty, the AIM-listed operator of the Wildwood and Dim T brands, has said it expects to have circa 25 sites trading again by mid-July as it “cautiously” reopens the estate. The company has so far reopened seven restaurants – about 13% of the total estate – for takeaway only. Tasty stated: “Over the next few weeks, the company intends to cautiously open further units for takeaway and/or full table service, in compliance with government regulations, and by mid-July expects to have some 25 units open for trading.”
Heavitree cancels dividend, extends rent cancellation period until end of July: Heavitree Brewery, the Exeter-based tenanted pub operator, has said it will not pay a dividend for the first half of the financial year after profit plummeted. The company also said rent cancellation for tenants would be extended until the end of July and would be reviewed “as we go forward”. For the six months ended 30 April, Heavitree posted pre-tax profit of £184,000, falling significantly from £705,000 the year before. Revenue was down to £2.6m, compared with £3.4m the previous year. The company said it would review future dividend payouts after trading returns to normal. The cancellation of the payout comes after the company in March withdrew its recommendation to pay a 4.25p final dividend for its financial year ended October 2019. In addition to the sale of land in Christow, near Exeter, for £15,000, the company has secured an increased overdraft facility from Barclays, a 12-month capital repayment holiday on its existing facility and a relaxation of the covenants attached to its original facility. Looking ahead, chairman Nicholas Tucker said: “Much has been written about getting the pubs open to 'save our summer'. It is important to remember that, rather ominously for the second half of our financial year, we already have two months without any trading to absorb.”
Vaulkhard Group secures £1..5m to safeguard long-term future: Newcastle-based leisure firm Vaulkhard Group has secured £1.5m from HSBC UK, safeguarding more than 200 jobs and the long-term future of the business. Vaulkhard Group, which owns and operates 15 venues in Newcastle and the north east, will use the funding to ensure it can remain operational, following the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the leisure sector. The loan also means Vaulkhard Group can continue to pay many smaller, local suppliers. Managing director Ollie Vaulkhard said: “We took steps proactively and quickly to use our relationship with HSBC UK to make sure the business is in a strong place to keep operating and that we pay staff and suppliers in full during this coronavirus crisis. The pandemic has hit the leisure industry hard, but HSBC UK's support means we're able to continue working and provide long-term stability to the group.” Last year HSBC UK supported Vaulkhard Group with a £7m financing deal to expand and refurbish its portfolio of leisure venues.

Coppa Club to begin reopening with Tower Bridge site: Coppa Club, the Various Eateries-owned brand, will reopen its site in Tower Bridge on Saturday (4 July). Ahead of reopening, the site has extended its outside terrace, which customers will be able to visit without prior booking, and has also said it will relaunch its private dining igloo experience. Open for bookings now, the restaurant will be open for all-day dining while the igloos will be bookable for two-hour slots – from 11am Monday to Friday and 11:30am on Saturday and Sunday – from Wednesday (1 July).

Alex Rushmer – relaunching on 4 July will be ‘a gamble I cannot make’: Chef and MasterChef runner-up Alex Rushmer has said he won’t be reopening his plant-based restaurant Vanderlyle in Cambridge when lock-down lifts. In a blog post, Rushmer said he and business partner Lawrence Butler believed relaunching would be too much of a gamble due to the uncertainties around the industry amid coronavirus. Vanderlyle, which opened in 2019, has switched to a takeaway model since being forced to close in March. Rushmer, who was runner-up on MasterChef in 2010, said: “I understand this eagerness and excitement, it’s impossible not to. And I make no judgements on those who choose to open at the earliest possible opportunity. But our own approach is going to be more cautious. Vanderlyle will not be open for business as usual at the start of July. Currently, I don’t know what the odds are of us being open again before the start of next year. A lack of clinical decision making at the start of the crisis gives me little confidence that the government will successfully negotiate our exit from it. Lockdown easing in places as diverse as Florida, Germany and Beijing have all resulted in infection spikes and increases in R rates. Covid isn’t going away. With no guidance about how to reopen safely and no support network if lockdown measures need to be ratcheted up again, reopening a small independent restaurant becomes a gamble I cannot make.”
Purezza secures fourth site, in Bristol: Brighton-based vegan pizzeria Purezza has secured its fourth site, in Bristol. The restaurant is set to open in August in Gloucester Road in the premises previously occupied by pork and barbecue restaurant Pigsty. As well as its plant-based pizzas, the restaurant will offer a range of cocktails and a full gluten-free menu. Co-founder and co-owner Tim Barclay told Vegan Food & Living: “We absolutely adore Bristol. It is a fantastic diverse and welcoming city – we have been looking at opportunities to open here since Purezza began in 2015. Having taken part in the wonderful Bristol Vegfest a couple of times, it was always an amazing experience and it made us eager to put some roots down.” Purezza opened its debut site in Brighton in 2015 before adding a site in Camden three years later. The company, which revealed plans to open in the former Patisserie Valerie site in Hove earlier this month, also has its own vegan cheese factory.
Carlsberg UK slashes losses despite turnover dip but on-trade sales value rises: Carlsberg UK slashed pre-tax losses in its latest financial year despite a dip in turnover, but there was a rise in the value of on-trade sales. The company reported pre-tax losses of £404,000 for the year ending 31 December 2019 compared with losses of £8.5m the previous year. Turnover was down to £414.7m, compared with £430.1m the year before. In a statement accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “2019 saw the UK beer market decline by 1% in volume, in line with long-term trends, following a healthy performance in 2018 with sales boosted by the hot summer and the World Cup. Both the on-trade and off-trade channels saw similar levels of decline from a volume perspective, however, both saw retail value sales growth which was driven predominantly by a shift in mix.” The business added premium products had proved popular during the period, alongside world and craft beer which, together with alcohol-free beer, had outperformed the market. In contrast, standard lager continued to struggle, with heavy declines from key brands resulting in net volume declines of 2.3%. In May, Carlsberg UK announced a joint venture with Marston's to create a “brand-led UK brewer of scale”. Marston's, whose shareholders approved the deal last week, is to receive a 40% stake in Carlsberg Marston's Brewing Company and a cash equalisation payment of up to £273m. Carlsberg UK will receive a 60% stake. The deal values the Marston's brewing business at up to £580m and the Carlsberg UK brewing business at £200m. On the current coronavirus pandemic, Carlsberg UK added: “Since the balance sheet date, there has been significant macro-economic uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the scale and duration of which inherently remains uncertain. This has had a significant impact on the business. The directors are monitoring and reacting to the situation and have put in place contingency plans to safeguard our employees and to mitigate the developing risks.”
Crieff Hydro ‘elevates’ F&B offer as it prepares to start reopening this week: Scottish independent hospitality company Crieff Hydro has said it has elevated its food and beverage offering as it prepares to begin reopening sites from Friday (3 July). The family-owned company will reopen its self-catering lodges at Crieff Hydro in Perthshire on that date, with the hotels in the group following on Wednesday July 15, in line with Scottish government guidance on the easing of lock-down conditions. As well as Crieff Hydro, the company will begin trading again at Peebles Hydro, Murraypark Hotel in Crieff, and three hotels in the West Highlands – The Isles of Glencoe, Ballachulish Hotel and Kingshouse Hotel. News of the reopening comes after the group revealed earlier this month that it was launching a redundancy consultation process with 241 staff in August. The business saw bookings wiped out after its hotels were forced to close in March under lock-down measures to halt the spread of coronavirus. The group, which employs about 1,000 staff across its hotels, hopes the process will ultimately lead to less than half of the 241 posts being cut. 
Vinegar Yard to reopen on Saturday but street food traders to return in second week: Vinegar Yard, the eating, drinking and arts space in London Bridge launched by Flat Iron Square founder Benj Scrimgeour, will reopen on Saturday (4 July) and feature two-new mezzanine cocktail bars. The site’s street food traders will not be part of the reopening weekend but will begin serving their menus again from Wednesday, 8 July. In preparation for the reopening, Vinegar Yard has implemented extensive health and safety measures to protect customers. The fully ventilated outdoor yard will operate in-line with government’s guidelines, with a capped capacity throughout the site, tables spaced out to facilitate social distancing rules with table bookings wherever possible, and all on-site staff adhering to daily temperature checks before each shift. Increased hand washing and sanitation procedures have also been introduced across the site. Vinegar Yard’s indoor warehouse will also be reopening alongside Abigail’s Bar, it’s recently launched 1970s-inspired indoor cocktail bar.
Dishoom extends home cookery kit delivery nationwide: Indian restaurant concept Dishoom has extended delivery of its home cookery kit nationwide. The company launched the kit, which allows customers to create Dishoom’s bacon naan rolls in their own kitchen, earlier this month. Now having initially only been available for delivery to customers surrounding its King’s Cross, Kensington and Shoreditch restaurants, the offer is now available across the UK mainland. Each kit also contains the requisite tea and spices to brew a batch of Dishoom’s Masala Chai. For every bacon naan roll kit sold, Dishoom will donate a meal to Magic Breakfast, its long-term charity partner that provides free, nutritious meals to children that might otherwise go hungry. The kit comes with full cookery instructions while a video to help first-timers will also be available online. Earlier this month Dishoom reopened its King’s Cross, Kensington and Shoreditch sites for delivery and is expected to reveal its reopening plans this week.
Center Parcs to reopen UK villages from 13 July: Center Parcs has announced it will reopen its UK sites from Monday, 13 July. It comes after all five villages closed on 20 March in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. In line with government guidance, there will be social distancing and new safety measures in place to protect the families who visit each week and the company’s 8,500 employees. During the four-month closure period, the majority of the company’s staff have been supported by the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and work is now ongoing to bring employees back to work and “deliver a comprehensive training programme around new ways of working and safety procedures”. Center Parcs’ village in Ireland – Longford Forest – will also reopen on Monday, 13 July.
Flavio Briatore to reopen Crazy Pizza on Saturday: Italian businessman and former Formula One boss Flavio Briatore will reopen his Crazy Pizza concept in Marylebone on Saturday (4 July). Crazy Pizza was launched in the former Carluccio’s site in Paddington Street in June last year and features an open kitchen, dough-spinning chefs and DJs playing vintage tunes. Briatore, who began his career in restaurant management, partnered with Janina Wolkow, owner of Mayfair restaurant Sumosan, to launch a Japanese and Italian crossover concept in the UK in late 2016. The pair opened Sumosan Twiga in Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, having launched the concept in Dubai. Sumosan Twiga will also reopen on Saturday.
City Pub Group enters into three-year supply agreement with Barsham Brewery: City Pub Group has entered into a three-year supply agreement with north Norfolk brewer Barsham Brewery. The deal will see Barsham initially supply City Pub Group’s East Anglian pubs with its beer but in due course will be extended further to other parts of the estate. City Pub Group chairman Clive Watson said: “We plan to incorporate the Barsham range initially into our ten pubs in East Anglia, and in due course into others in our estate. Additionally, through the close relationship that a supply agreement such as this brings, we will lend our experience and knowledge to assist in Barsham’s growth.” Barsham managing director James Prideaux added: “The collaboration with City Pub Group is a major development for Barsham. Being recognised and working with the rapidly growing, listed business is an endorsement of our strategy and of the beer that we brew.”
Westons donates 1,880 kegs to on-trade: Cider-maker Westons is donating 1,880 kegs of Stowford Press to outlets up and down the country, in a bid to help troubled pubs, bars and restaurants get back to business. By offering 1,880 free Stowford Press kegs to its partner outlets, Westons Cider – founded in 1880 – will mark the year the first pints of cider were poured at its Herefordshire cider mill. In addition, Westons will also support pubs with reusable plastic glasses, branded glassware, and Stowford Press parasols as part of the biggest on-trade investment drive in its 140-year history. Head of sales Martyn Jones said: “There’s no denying it has been an incredibly tough few months for the British on-trade and there will be more testing times to come. But we should remember the concept of the British pub is deeply ingrained in our culture. This year at Westons we’re celebrating our 140th anniversary. While we certainly wish circumstances were different, we hope our pledge to support our dedicated on-trade customers goes some way to recognise the crucial role that pubs, bars, and restaurants have played for our business since its inception.” Existing Westons customers can apply for one free keg of Stowford Press apple with their first Stowford Press purchase from Monday (29 June).

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