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Wed 1st Jul 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Hornby – industry needs to be relentless, because it will get harder as the year goes on: Andy Hornby, chief executive of The Restaurant Group, the Wagamama and Brunning & Price owner, has told Propel the industry will need to be “relentless, because it will get harder as the year goes on”. Speaking as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” video series, Hornby said the final quarter of this year and the first three months of 2021 will be the sector’s real test. He added: “Something I talk to our competitors about is the fourth quarter of this year is going to be really tough. By that stage all of us will be fully open, off furlough, and suddenly the reality is going to hit us, all of us, that if we are at 80% of last year’s sales in the fourth quarter, which would be a great achievement, then the thought that hits you is you are looking at a business that is minus 20% like-for-like. It is pretty daunting. Relaunching is going to be massively fun and it is going to be so exciting getting out there again, but I think the fourth quarter this year and the first quarter of next year is going to be our real test. We will have to keep flexing and keep changing what isn’t quite working, and keep building because it is not going to be like turning the lights back on. It is a marathon not a sprint, but you have to get off to a good start because we all need to get momentum. It is in all of our interests the whole industry gets a good start in terms of getting the media and the consumer behind us. We are going to have to be relentless, because it will get harder as the year goes on.” Hornby also said the industry will need to be realistic about the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus, and local lock-downs – as now being witnessed in Leicester. He said: “We will get a second wave, but it will be what the definition of that is. Let’s imagine what is happening in Leicester happened in three weeks’ time, we would then be closing down the hospitality sector in that city. If you look at what is happening in Los Angeles, Texas or Florida, and indeed parts of Germany, there will be some local lock-downs, it is almost inevitable, and we need to be ready for that, and making sure it is not blamed on our sector. You can imagine what would happen if the Leicester lock-down was needed two weeks after our sector had reopened. So we need to be optimistic and push ahead with the reopening plans while being realistic that will happen at some stage, and we will need to be ready and react really quickly.” Hornby will share more of his thoughts in the video, which will be released on Wednesday (1 July). 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.
(Hornby: We will have all our pubs open by the end of August – see Company News) 

Industry News:

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Host of London operators demand action from government and mayors to stop city ‘becoming a ghost town’: A host of London operators including D&D London, Soho House, JKS Restaurants and Market Halls have written to mayor Sadiq Khan and prime minister Boris Johnson demanding action to stop the city “becoming a ghost town”. They have outlined actions that need to be taken “to prevent millions of jobs being lost and many operators going out of business before the end of the year”. The open letter, which is also addressed to the lord mayors of Westminster and City of London, called for “clear and succinct” messaging from the government, backing a slogan of “be alert, stay safe but return to the workplace and return to London’s city centre”. It wants the mayors and government to encourage families from around the UK to come to central London and also asks for the end of the 14 day quarantine of people coming into the UK by instead testing those entering the country “at every airport, port and station”. The letter calls for “virus guides” in Westminster and the City to hand out free face masks as happens in Berlin; more temporary cycle routes; suspension of the congestion charge for three months; and the increase of public transport as confidence grows and prices lowered for three months. The letter stated: “Without tourism, without millions of visitors spending millions of pounds, without office workers and daily commuters, our favourite places will close; Chinatown will shut down, Covent Garden will be empty and there will be no hustle and bustle on the streets of the City. London will not be able to lead a national recovery this time, as it has in the past.”

Downey – we have to be realistic and do what’s reasonable: Jonathan Downey, founder of Hospitality Union, has said operators need to be “realistic and do what’s reasonable” when it comes to following the government guidance as large parts of the sector reopen this week. Downey said: “All of your thinking needs to start out with this – it is not your responsibility to ensure everyone in your premises complies with anything in the guidance. The guidance is not the law and you are not the police. We may want to encourage certain behaviours, from a business/brand reputation and customer reassurance point of view, but literally nobody is going to be going around checking whether someone is 90cm or 110cm from someone they’ve never met before. We must ensure no groups of 30-plus gather but nobody should be checking whether groups smaller than that are from the same household (plus support bubbles). How could anyone prove they are or aren’t? It’s impossible. We have to be realistic and do what’s reasonable. Even the ‘one-metre-plus’ advice is unenforceable (which the guidance itself recognises can only apply ‘wherever possible’). You’re all over this, but even if some of your guests ignore the new guidance and general advice from the government what can you do? You can ask them to leave if they’re being aggressive or upsetting others. But they’re much more likely to be aggressive if your team approaches them with irrelevant, intrusive questions about numbers of households and support bubbles. We’re hosts not jobsworths. We generally need to leave people be. You know your customers better than anyone and, in almost every case, you can just leave them to it. Most will comply and some others won’t. If the ones that won’t are upsetting the ones that will, then you might want to ask the recalcitrant to move or leave, but that’s a decision that should be driven by all of the reasons our managers and teams are already expert at – managing people and the time they spend with us. But we shouldn’t treat those guests that are possibly, technically breaching some soon-to-be-dropped-or-updated guidance in the same way we would a group of loud, aggressive, offensive idiots. It feels to me like there’s a growing tendency to treat every guest as a potential deadly threat. That’s airport security not hospitality. Everyone should do what they think is best for their people and their business but this is how I will be approaching the reopening of Dinerama.”

More than 250 operators sign letter to PCA asking for pub companies to agree adoption of commercial property code of practice: More than 250 operators have signed a letter from the Licensees Association to Pubs Code adjudicator Fiona Dickie asking her to get the regulated pub companies to agree they will adopt the covid-19 code of practice for commercial property. The letter was sent after the Licensees Association consulted with tenants, and claimed “there appears to be little genuine negotiation happening between some regulated pub companies and their tenants”. The letter stated: “In defence of the pub companies, and it is more than one that have adopted such a position, the code of practice was not yet in place. That said we haven’t seen any evidence of them seeking to enter into meaningful negotiations with either tenants or tenants representative bodies that are genuinely free from landlord influence post publication of the code. The adoption of the code of practice by those who you regulate will ensure tenants will have guidance they can refer to. It will give them the confidence to enter into meaningful negotiations with their landlords and ensure they have the best opportunity to agree to a way forward that takes into account their circumstances, rather than being offered a fait accompli deal, caveated with a take it or leave it option to a deadline that, as we approach reopening, leaves little time for the tenant to seek meaningful advice on the proposal on the table. There is a simple way out of this. That reassurance is sought from all the regulated pub companies they will adopt the code of practice, removing the opt-out of it being voluntary to ensure tied tenants can enter into meaningful negotiations that will help save businesses and jobs. That reassurance given to your office will, in our opinion, be a big step forward and would also ensure regulated companies are fulfilling their requirements of fair dealings with their tenants.”

UK holidaymakers emerging from lock-down with caution, staycations set to dominate: UK holidaymakers are emerging from lock-down with caution and new priorities when it comes to their travel plans with staycations set to dominate, according to new research. The findings by global home swapping platform Love Home Swap showed while more than 25% of respondents believe they will spend the same amount on travel over the next few months than they did pre-lock-down, there is a divide emerging between those feeling positive about travel (14%) and not wanting to travel at all (22%). Those not wanting to travel cited health concerns around coronavirus and safety, as well as not being able to afford it. For those thinking about booking their next holiday, hygiene came out as the number one priority among respondents as more than 80% claimed it would be important or very important. This was followed by personal safety and security – well ahead of factors including weather and location. Meanwhile, one in five Brits have less to spend on their next holiday, one in ten will spend less on travel over the next few months and one in ten believe they will travel less than they did previously suggesting that affordability will be a key deciding factor when booking future holidays. As UK consumers exit lock-down more hygiene and safety conscious, they also suggested they would feel more safe travelling closer to home, with half of respondents claiming they would feel safe travelling in the UK versus 29% travelling short haul and 21% travelling long haul. This, in conjunction with 40% of travellers planning to holiday in the UK, indicated the 2020 holiday season will be dominated by staycations, said Love Home Swap. 

Footfall in UK town and cities drops slightly as hot weather drives people to beaches: Footfall in UK towns and cities dropped slightly last week as the hot weather drove people to the beaches, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. It showed footfall overall has stayed down about 70% compared with the February average. Footfall in London has risen slightly, but is still down about 60% from what it was prior to the lock-down. Wireless Social stated: “Although we have been seeing a gradual increase in footfall in the towns and cities over the past few weeks, the good weather that many experienced towards the end of last week meant that people instead headed to the beaches and similar places and consequently urban footfall decreased, most noticeably on Thursday.” The company added with pubs and restaurants reopening on Saturday (4 July) it would be “interesting to see if that leads to a more general ‘bustle’ throughout the week as people get used to being out and relaxed about being in public places”.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

PGB confirms rent review negotiations can restart: The Pub Governing Body (PGB) in conjunction with the PGB of Scotland has confirmed rent review negotiations can recommence from Wednesday (1 July). The PGB, the organisation responsible for promoting the advancement and improvement of landlord and tied tenant relationships in the licensed retail sector, suspended rent review negotiations on 16 March. The PGB board has also recommended member companies continue to engage actively with tenants and lessees regarding ongoing support, taking account of the government’s code of conduct for commercial property relationships during the coronavirus pandemic, “recognising continuing government controls will constrain trade materially and some pubs may not be able to open at all”.

Welsh government publishes guidance for phased reopening of visitor economy: The Welsh government has published its guidance for a phased reopening of the Welsh visitor economy. It would see outdoor attractions opening on Monday (6 July), followed by accommodation businesses on Monday, 13 July, with the remainder of the sector opening at a date to be confirmed. The publication links to UKHospitality Cymru’s own reopening guidelines for hospitality in Wales, drawn up following extensive discussions with its members and sector stakeholders. David Chapman, UKHospitality executive director for Wales, said: “It is positive to see our close working with Welsh government throughout the pandemic period has produced progress towards the reopening of hospitality in Wales. Tourism and hospitality are huge employers and two substantial pillars of the Welsh economy, so getting these sectors back up and running as soon as possible will be key to ensuring businesses are open and jobs secure. The guidance will give businesses the best possible help to make sure they get themselves in a position to reopen and trade safely.”
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Hornby – we will have all our pubs reopen by end of August: Andy Hornby, chief executive of The Restaurant Group (TRG), has told Propel the company plans to reopen all 80 of its pubs by the end of August, and take a gradual approach to the reopening of the rest of its business, including Wagamama. Hornby said: “All 80 of our pubs will be open by the end of August, and we will open at least 50 in July, including 20 to 25 next week. We are obviously going quickest with pubs with large gardens. Wagamama will be much more gradual. We are already open in 100 sites for delivery and click-and-collect, but we will be opening gradually for dine-in over the next three months, and it won’t be far off opening a third, a third, a third through July, August and September, so we are fully open going into October. We are incredibly positive about what we hope to see in what I call residential areas. What we have already seen from the five weeks we have been doing delivery and click-and-collect is really promising, significant increases in say the Home Counties, places like St Albans; Reigate and suburban parts of London, whereas central London, Birmingham and Manchester are going a lot slower. So, we will focus the reopenings at the start away from places where a lot of people are still not going to be back at work.” Hornby said TRG would take a similar gradual approach to its leisure division, which includes Frankie & Benny’s. He said: “Our leisure business will be pretty similar to Wagamama in terms of gradual reopening, with about a third of the sites opening in July, then rolling on through August and September, with the aim of being fully reopened by October. So that just leaves the concessions business, where it will be site-by-site and airport by airport.”

YO! sets out reopening plans for new format: YO!, the Richard Hodgson-led business, is to launch its new fast-casual, covid-safe format through five sites from Saturday (4 July). The company will initially reopen its sites in Ashford, Cheshire Oaks, Guildford, Leeds and Newcastle Grainger Street. As previously revealed by Propel, the sites will feature a new and improved “kaiten” conveyor belt providing guests with a personal, contactless dining experience. When visiting their local YO! restaurant, guests will be able to take a picture of a QR code and order and pay for their food through the digital menu on their phone, through a platform powered by Vita Mojo. Their dishes, which are freshly prepared in each store’s kitchen, will then arrive straight to the guest on the kaiten belt. An interactive traffic light system turns amber to tell customers when their food is on its way and then green when the food arrives in front of them. Delivery through Deliveroo and click-and-collect options will also be available. The company is looking to reopen sites with the new format at a rate of three sites a week. 

Bone Daddies to reopen all sites for dine-in on Saturday: Bone Daddies Group, which comprises the eponymous ramen restaurants, Shack-Fuyu and Flesh & Buns, will reopen all sites for eat-in on Saturday (4 July). Bone Daddies will have a reduced price menu on selected items including the T22 ramen with pulled chicken and cock scratchings. All Bone Daddies restaurants, Shackfuyu and Flesh & Buns will trade daily with extensive health and safety and social distancing measures being introduced across all sites to protect staff and customers.

Six by Nico to make London debut in July for seventh site: Six by Nico, the restaurant concept led by Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone, has revealed it will make its London debut on Monday, 20 July. The 76-cover venue will open at the former Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi site in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia. There will be strict adherence to social distancing with all surfaces cleaned and disinfected between sittings every two hours. The Six by Nico concept is based on a revolving culinary hub as Simeone and his team “reinvent the wheel” every six weeks by serving a new six-course tasting menu, each one with a different theme. As is traditional, the first menu at the Fitzrovia restaurant will be themed The Chippie. Simeone said: “At a time when London is starting to emerge from this horrific crisis, we are determined to be among the first of the new places that make this city such a great place to visit and look forward to welcoming our customers safely very soon.” The debut Six by Nico launched in Glasgow – now home to two restaurants – in 2017 followed by openings in Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester and Liverpool. Simeone launched his first restaurant, 111 by Nico, in Glasgow in 2011. He also operates a gastro-pub in the city’s Great Western Road.

Parent company of Signature Living collapsed into administration owing £113m: The parent company of aparthotel operator and developer Signature Living’s labyrinthine network of 60 bar, hotel and development businesses owed £113m to creditors when it collapsed into administration in April. It is the largest of six group companies that is now in administration. Administrators believe a going concern sale is unlikely because of insufficient funds and assets when weighed against “the level of secured and unsecured indebtedness”, reports The Business Desk. Signature Living was founded by Lawrence and Katie Kenwright and had been responsible for a swathe of developments in Liverpool city centre. In recent years it had begun to spread its interests across the UK with developments in Manchester, Preston, Cardiff and Belfast. But now the companies responsible for the Shankly Hotel in Liverpool, the Coal Exchange Hotel in Cardiff and the George Best Hotel in Belfast are among those in administration. Administrators from Duff & Phelps, FRP and Wilson Field are trying to unpick the relationships between group companies, investors and funders. Matthew Ingram and Michael Lennon, of Duff & Phelps, are joint administrators of the parent company, Signature Living Hotel, and two other group companies. The first company to fall into administration was the Shankly Hotel on 9 April. Its development had been part-funded by investors who had bought bedrooms, encouraged by fixed returns and sell-back options. But arrears and the failure to settle with investors who exercised their option to sell led to a bedroom investor seeking an administration order in the High Court. “There is a complex inter-company loan position across the various group entities,” said the administrators, who have estimated creditors are owed £113.3m. That includes a £10m figure for retail investors, but “the final figure will be much higher”, the administrators said. 

Aurify confirms acquisition of Le Pain Quotidien US: Aurify Brands, which owns the Little Beet, Melt Shop and Fields Good Chicken brands, has confirmed it has acquired the US division of Le Pain Quotidien. It said it would be reopening more than 40 restaurants under the brand in select cities and suburban markets across New York, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Florida. Select locations are anticipated to reopen as early as mid-July. The relaunch of the Le Pain Quotidien business by Aurify Brands will create more than 1,200 jobs, including the rehiring of a significant number of former employees who had been terminated by the prior owner primarily due to the covid-19 outbreak. “We are thrilled to add Le Pain Quotidien, which has an ethos and mission we greatly admire, to our established and growing family of leading brands," said John Rigos, co-chief executive of Aurify Brands. "Leveraging Aurify Brands' operational expertise and financial resources as well as our platform's proprietary tools, systems, and infrastructure, we see a significant opportunity to build on Le Pain’s unique position in the market place, differentiated offering, and loyal customer base to fully realise the brand's potential.” Earlier this month, the bulk of the Le Pain Quotidien UK business was acquired through a pre-pack administration by a new vehicle BrunchCo, which is a subsidiary of Cobepa, a Belgian-based investment firm.

Manorview makes commitment to become ‘real’ living wage accredited: Scottish-based boutique hotel and leisure group Manorview has made a commitment to become “real” living wage accredited. The group, which closed its sites in March and is currently planning for reopening, said it has always been a goal to become accredited, but it proved a challenge, with cost being the biggest barrier. However, motivated by its team during lock-down, Manorview said it was committing to working towards “real” living wage accreditation for staff, “to give them and their families, some reassurance, hope and peace of mind”. Manorview has now started the application process and is aiming to become accredited by 1 November. It will mean the entire team of more than 500 will be set to receive the “real” living wage as a minimum rate, irrespective of age. When the accreditation application process has been completed and approved, the move will see all employees being uplifted to the living wage rate of £9.30 per hour. The group has estimated this will come at a cost of about £300,000 to £350,000 per year. Managing director David Tracey said: “We feel compelled to back the team that has shown so much commitment and resilience in recent months. This decision not only supports our people but demonstrates our confidence in the hospitality sector. We have faith we can recover from this and come back stronger, particularly with the incredible team we have behind us.” The group, which was founded in 2007, comprises eight hotels, two pubs, two nightclubs, and a gym and luxury spa with outdoor hydrotherapy pool, all located across the central belt of Scotland.

Shake Shack reveals China expansion plans: Shake Shack has revealed plans for expansion in China. The company is expanding its partnership with licensee Maxim's Caterers, with plans to open a minimum of 15 Shake Shacks in South China by 2030. Maxim's, which operates Shake Shack locations in Shanghai and Hong Kong, with Beijing and Macau in development, plans to have 55 Shake Shacks in mainland China within ten years. Maxim's also owns full-service and quick-service restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops. Michael Kark, chief global licensing officer of Shake Shack, said: “We remain humbled by our fans in China and continue to be encouraged by the performance of our Chinese business through this recovery. It's a great time to deepen our roots in this market.” Since the original Shake Shack opened in 2004 in New York, the company has expanded to more than 280 locations in 30 US states and more than 95 international locations, including London, Dubai and Tokyo.

Salon and Levan team to launch Larry’s in Peckham in July: The team behind Brixton restaurant Salon is to open a second site in Peckham, on Friday, 31 July. Nicholas Balfe, Mark Gurney and Matt Bushnell will launch Larry’s in Blenheim Grove next door to “new-wave” restaurant Levan they opened in November 2018. Larry’s will be inspired by New York’s corner bars, diners and cafes and offer coffee and pastries for breakfast, deli-style sandwiches for lunch and sharing plates for dinner. Just like its neighbour, Larry’s is named after 1970s dance music pioneer Larry Levan. Larry’s will only offer two wines of each colour alongside two cocktails and one beer, while the centrepiece will be a marble bench used for pastries and baked goods in the morning, rolling pasta in the afternoon, and communal dining in the evening. Balfe said: “We have cherry-picked everything we love about eating in New York and combined them into the kind of place we would want in our neighbourhood.” Gurney added: “It is a naughty little brother – relaxed and informal.”

Steve Parle reveals reopening plans for Pastaio sites: Chef Stevie Parle will reopen both sites for his fast casual pasta concept Pastaio on Saturday (4 July). The sites in Soho and Westfield London will offer free meals for under-12s throughout the summer holidays; 50% off food for all NHS staff; and 25% off the entire bill for pensioners and students. Both restaurants have implemented extensive health and safety measures to protect staff and customers. For the first time, Pastaio Soho will offer reservations. The Westfield London site will trade daily, while Soho will start by opening on Saturday and Sunday (5 July) only, followed by all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday from the following week. The Soho team hopes to scale trading up to daily “if and when the demand dictates it”.

Le Gavroche to reopen next week: Two Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche in Mayfair, which is run by Michel Roux Jr, will reopen from Tuesday, 7 July. The restaurant, which first opened 53 years ago, is implementing an extensive health and safety programme. Measures will include daily health and temperature checks for employees on arrival. Kitchen staff will wear masks, while the front of house team will follow Public Health England guidelines. The wine list will be on i-Pads. Le Gavroche will have two tasting menus, including an eight-course menu available for lunch or dinner and a four-course tasting menu in the evening. There will also be a smaller menu of individually priced dishes to select three or more courses from as well as its set price lunch menu during the week. Roux Jr said: “There will be changes, but each of these is designed to make sure our guests’ safety, as well as that of our kitchen and front of house staff, is paramount.” Meanwhile, Ramael Scully will reopen Scully St James’s, at the St James Market development in central London, on Tuesday, 21 July for lunch and dinner. Capacity is being reduced to keep tables at least one metre apart, a one-way system will be in operation, and there will be transparent protective screens between tables. Hand sanitiser will be provided to customers continuously during service. Scully’s menu takes inspiration from his diverse cultural upbringing, coupled with his seven years as chef with Yotam Ottolenghi.

Little Lion Entertainment to being new immersive experience based on Judge Dredd to London: Little Lion Entertainment, which was behind The Crystal Maze Live challenge attraction, is to bring a new immersive experience to London next year. The company will be launching Judge Dredd Uprising: The Live Experience, which will see teams of five take on the urban adventure. Based on the “satirical and darkly funny world of Britain’s foremost science-fiction comic book character”, the attraction will feature five zones of mental and skill challenges and a laser-tag combat arena. Tom Lionetti-Maguire, founder and chief executive of Little Lion Entertainment, said: “The experience is part comic book, part sci-fi film, part immersive theatre, part escape room, part action adventure and part indoor theme park – all wrapped into one. This is our second show and I really wanted us to push the boundaries of what audiences can expect, to explore the space between theatre, film and reality.” Jason Kingsley, chief executive of Rebellion Entertainment, owner of Judge Dredd intellectual property, added: “The world of Judge Dredd is the greatest imaginative universe to come out of British comics and we’re proud to bring it to ever wider audiences. Every reader has dreamed of setting foot in a Mega-City, and with Judge Dredd Uprising: The Live Experience, they can do just that.” Tickets for the experience will go on sale later this year. Little Lion Entertainment launched The Crystal Maze Live experience in 2016. 

Gulliver’s Kingdom to open fourth and largest theme park, in Rotherham: Family-run theme park operator Gulliver’s Kingdom is to open its fourth and largest theme park to date, in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, on Saturday, 11 July. The multimillion-pound development in Rother Valley spans 250 acres and feature more than 50 rides and attractions. A number of additional safety measures have since been made to the park in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including temperature checks on arrival, mandatory advanced booking, contactless entry, social distancing measures and a food pre-ordering system. The park will also be operating at a limited capacity, with pre-booked slots only, to adhere to the government's social distancing guidelines. Gulliver’s managing director Julie Dalton told Insider Media: “The past few months have been tough to say the least – when we started work on the park, we didn't ever expect to be faced with a global pandemic, but I am proud to say our team has risen to the challenge and worked hard to enable us to open, just one month later than we initially planned.” Gulliver’s other theme parks are in Milton Keynes, Matlock Bath and Warrington.

Aviation software firm brings occupancy control systems for toilets and entrances to hospitality sector: The Software Farm, which normally work on aviation software, has brought to production a toilet occupancy warning system – similar to the ones used on passenger aircraft. Known as the Sintuitive project, the solution ensures one in/one out occupancy and eliminates queues and bottlenecks by providing visible alerts in communal areas. It works by installing a specially designed sensor on the toilet door frame from which an ethernet cable runs to a beacon placed in any location, informing when the toilet is vacant or engaged via a red or green light. Sintuitive is also providing an integrated, occupancy counting system for entrances. The system records and counts people in and out of venues and will warn staff of capacity thresholds via a beacon. There is also the ability to broadcast to a real-time display tablet at entrances to inform customers of the live occupancy levels. 

Anna Haugh to reopen Myrtle this month, launching takeaway and delivery service: Former Bob Bob Ricard executive chef Anna Haugh is to reopen her debut restaurant, Myrtle, in Chelsea and is also planning a new delivery service. The Irish-influenced venue in Langton Street will reopen for dine-in on Saturday, 18 July with the necessary social distancing measures in place. Meanwhile, Haugh is launching a takeaway, delivery and picnic service from Saturday (4 July), inspired by her time spent in Paris. Anna's Bistro will offer a menu that includes chicken liver pâté and pickles; and beef bourguignon with wild mushrooms, lardons and red wine. It will also offer picnic hampers featuring pâté and crostini, smoked salmon and lemon, and mini sausage rolls, reports Hot Dinners.

Up at The O2 to reopen on Saturday: Up at The O2 has announced it will officially reopen on Saturday (4 July), offering a more “intimate and memorable experience than ever before” and with enhanced health and safety measures in place. In line with social distancing guidelines, each climb has been reduced to less than half the capacity previously in place – from 30 to ten people. Dan Hurst, head of attractions – Up at The O2 said: “While health and safety is our top priority, we are fortunate as an outdoor attraction that we are now in a position to start welcoming back visitors while offering them a more memorable experience than ever before.” NHS training staff who worked within the NHS training facility at The O2 arena during the pandemic have been invited back to the venue on Thursday (2 July) to enjoy a free climb ahead of the general public reopening.

US cinema franchise to open debut UK site: US franchise Star Cinemas is to open its first UK site, at The Concourse Shopping Centre in Skelmersdale, Lancashire. The company, which operates screens in California and Arizona, is poised to launch on the ground floor in a bid to further extend the site's retail and leisure offering. When it opens, it will be the first cinema in Skelmersdale since 1982 and will be ready in August or September. Andrew Barrett, retail director at London and Cambridge Properties, which is bringing the project forward on behalf of the Skelmersdale Partnership, said: “It's a considerable investment but it is one we are prepared to make to improve the shopping centre, enhance the leisure facilities and boost the local economy.” The franchisee behind the venue added: “We want to create a habit where cinema-going is done on a regular basis, just like the good old days, and we aim to achieve this by offering a low-cost, affordable day out, but with the same luxury and comfort as other cinema chains.”

D’Urberville Hotels puts Southport hotel on market as part of planned exit strategy: D’Urberville Hotels has put the Royal Clifton Hotel & Spa in the Merseyside coastal town of Southport up for sale as part of a planned exit strategy. The company is marketing the business, which it bought in 2015, through agent Christie & Co, and is offered for sale on a serious offers invited basis. The property features 120-en suite bedrooms alongside a restaurant and bar areas, and a leisure club and health spa. The business trades within a franchise agreement under the SureStay Hotel Collection by Best Western. The sale is being run under a fast four-week process with bids due in from serious buyers by noon on Thursday, 23 July. D’Urberville Hotels is led by founder and chairman Paul Clark, the former chief executive of Virgin Hotels and De Vere Hotels, along with partner Steve Grant.

Virtual queuing app launches new features to help operators welcome diners safely: WalkUp, the virtual queuing app for restaurants that is backed by Just Eat, the market place for online food delivery, is launching new features. The “Eat Now” feature, which will be available from Saturday (4 July), will enable restaurants in London to display free tables that customers can reserve for the next ten minutes and once the restaurant is full, begin operating their virtual queue that diners can join. While every WalkUp user starts off with a 2km radius from which they can “Eat Now” or “Join Queue”, loyal diners who show up on time can achieve a radius of up to 5km whereas those who no-show will be negatively impacted. Following the government’s recent announcement restaurants should implement contact tracing, WalkUp has also built a way to easily enable restaurants to contact their diners for covid-19 purposes. Use of scannable QR codes outside venues will for the first time also give diners who may not have the WalkUp app the opportunity to add themselves to the queue without coming into contact with anyone inside the restaurant. The diner is then free to roam until being notified their table is ready. WalkUp , which raised $1m in its seed round of investment, is looking to shortly start its Series A funding to expand its current London-based team of seven. WalkUp was launched in 2018 by Archie Kennedy Dyson, Amos Teshuva and Frazer Harper and has more than 200,000 users.

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