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Fri 10th Jul 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Ford – Caffe Nero saw 10% to 15% jump in revenue when seating areas reopened: Gerry Ford, founder and group chief executive of Caffe Nero, has said the business saw a 10% to 15% jump in revenue when the business reopened seating in its sites last week. Speaking as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Ford said the group could also see early trading patterns across the circa 600 stores it had opened so far out of its 800-strong UK estate. He said: “With 600 stores reopen we have a lot of data points and it’s easier to see trading patterns now. You can see some stores are trading 80% of normal and some are 20% of normal, and those ones are the few we’ve opened in transport hubs. It’s also slow in central city areas such as London, Glasgow and Manchester. Those stores that are office, worker or tourist-orientated tend to be doing worse. If you look at the behaviours, where people are working from home in their villages or market towns, going out to get coffee and trying to get back to normalcy in some shape or form, those stores are doing really well. Those people who used to take a train to London are getting coffee in their local Caffe Nero and we’re doing well with those guys, but the stores they used to visit in London when at work aren’t. Last week, when hospitality sites could open in England, we saw a jump of 10% to 15% in revenue relative to takeaway. Takeaway was taking us to a certain level but now sitting in stores has jumped us up another 10% to 15% of revenue we didn’t have before. We’ve continued delivery out of about 100 stores and what we found is it’s incremental and not a worthwhile cause on its own. Our stores are getting six to ten delivery orders a day. That’s not massive but its incremental sales – and we’ll take it.” Ford will share more of his thoughts in the video, which will be released on Friday (10 July).

Industry News:

Sponsored message – gift card redemptions driving visits as hospitality reopens: Hospitality operators that sold their customers gift cards early in lock-down to plug a cash flow gap are now reaping the benefits as guests with redeemable vouchers are among the first back into pubs and restaurants as the industry reopens. Andrew Whiteley, CXO of Toggle, whose gift card platform is used by 120 businesses, said: “We are delighted to have played a key part in our Togglers’ lock-down survival and recovery. We saw a gradual increase in gift card redemptions during June as venues started to offer takeaway food and drink but from 4 July they’ve been growing by about 300% every day. It seems that with money in their pocket already in the form of their gift card, people are more inclined to head back out. As they spend on average 55% more than the card value and rarely visit alone, the cards are driving visits and revenue. Operators can access this powerful driver and generate valuable pre-visit revenue by using all the smart features Toggle offers. Toggle integrates with Zonal, Comtrex, Access, DataSym, DBE, WRS Systems, GS Systems and Polaris as well as having a non-integrated option for sale and redemption. Toggle will remain free to operators until 1 September after which they are only charged after £1,000 of gift card sales. To set up, visit If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email

Mark Wingett to assess impact of chancellor’s intervention in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will assess whether chancellor Rishi Sunak’s latest intervention this week will kick-start the sector or be another case of kicking the can down the road in the latest Propel Premium column, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (10 July) at 5pm. He will also look at the current state of the burger wars. Meanwhile David Roberts, corporate partner, head of leisure at CMS, will explore mergers and acquisitions and investment opportunities in the leisure and hospitality sector in a post-covid world, while there will be the latest industry rumblings in Premium Diary. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular columns from Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,600 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email

Pubs and restaurants see trade down 45% on reopening weekend: Those managed pub, bar and restaurant companies that reopened sites in England last weekend have reported like-for-like trading 44.5% down on the corresponding weekend last year, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker data. Tracker figures revealed more than one-third (36%) of group-operated sites were open for eating and drinking inside on 4 and 5 July, the first time hospitality businesses were allowed to reopen fully in England since the lock-down. Managed pubs and bars that opened saw sales more than two-fifths (44.7%) below pre-covid levels compared with the same weekend in 2019. Group-owned restaurants that were open saw sales 41.1% down. However, many more pubs opened their doors than restaurants. The industry barometer shows more than two-fifths (42%) of managed pubs, bars and pub restaurants traded, while only 12% of restaurants were open for business. “Trading at around 55% of pre-covid norms may seem a disappointing result – and it won’t be profitable for operators – but it is very much in line with what we have seen in other markets,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM. “When bars and restaurants began reopening in the US during May, it was only after a couple of weeks that sales reached 54% of pre-covid levels, according to data from Nielsen CGA, our Chicago-based research business. It is going to take time for the trade to return – but this provides a foundation on which to build consumer confidence and adapt and improve operations.” In total, 32 companies provided data to the Tracker out of its usual cohort of 58, with another 17 operators reporting they had yet to open any sites. CGA will report trading progress via the Tracker on a weekly basis as the market begins to recover and more sites reopen, including measuring week-on-week increases.

Scottish hospitality given green light to open indoors from next week: First minister Nicola Sturgeon has said pubs and restaurants in Scotland can welcome customers indoors from Wednesday (15 July), subject to strict health measures. Sturgeon made the announcement as she said the country would move into the third phase of her government’s four-step route map out of lock-down. She said: “Just as with indoor household meetings, opening up indoor hospitality poses significantly increased risks of transmission. So it is essential the guidance on health and safety is followed rigorously by businesses, staff and customers. That includes guidance on physical distancing and taking customer contact details.” Hospitality venues will also be allowed to ease the two-metre rule, with mitigations in place. However, phase three could last longer than the three-week review date, Sturgeon said. She added: “Next week represents the most substantial easing of lock-down so far and everything we learn about this still new virus – about its infectiousness, its ability to kill and its potential to do long-term damage to health – should warn us we mess with it at our peril. Perhaps, more than ever, now is a time for great caution.” Willie Macleod, UKHospitality executive director for Scotland, said: “This is great news for hospitality and tourism in Scotland. The additional flexibility around social distancing will be a huge help for businesses that need as much support as they can get. Venues will be diligent in their preparations and every step will be taken to ensure staff and customers are safe.”

UKHospitality – government must provide roadmap and additional support for parts of sector not yet able to reopen: There must a roadmap to reopening for those parts of the sector unable to and government support to ensure no businesses “fall through the gaps”, UKHospitality has said. Chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “For those businesses still unable to open fully, such as nightclubs, business events hosts and music venues, there must be a roadmap for reopening accompanied by government support that ensures none fall through the gaps in the meantime. Much of the focus has been on restaurants and pubs reopening but there have been many other parts of our sector waiting for the nod to reopen. This will bring more people back into work and off furlough. It’s another positive step forward for our industry.”
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Paul Chase – how the public calculates risk has ‘got lost in all the noise’: Leading sector commentator Paul Chase has argued the clear idea of how the public calculates risk has become “lost in all the noise”, with understanding it crucial to rebuilding confidence and re-establishing demand. Writing in this week’s Friday Opinion, Chase said: “The government must deal with the economic fallout from the political decisions it took based on its perception of the health risks posed by covid-19. This involves passing the assessment of risk from the government to the public – and that in itself is a huge political risk if it leads to the much-feared ‘second wave’ of infections. What has got lost in the noise is any clear idea of how the public calculates risk – and understanding this is crucial to building public confidence and re-establishing demand. Government messaging will need to emphasise this is a disease that is most likely to kill the elderly and infirm; that the median age of death is 81; that healthy people under 60 aren’t at significant risk of dying; and the mortality rate is around 0.1% of the population – similar to seasonal flu. When communicating and guiding the public’s perception of risk, it’s how you frame information that’s all important. In parliament, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds mounted a critique of the government’s economic package that was coherent and articulate but, when the Tories are offering a £30bn stimulus package, it doesn’t leave the opposition with much oxygen.” Chase will share more of his thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (10 July) at 11am.

More than 70 brands sign up for Wireless Social and Purple AI track-and-trace solution: More than 70 brands have signed up to the track and trace solution from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social and analytics company Purple AI. Operators including Oakman Inns and Restaurants, Corbin & King and Darwin & Wallace are using the product. It asks guests to log in when they first visit an operator and deliver a unique code to confirm their registration. All track and trace enquiries are then handled centrally to remove the burden on operators.  While it isn’t compulsory to log in to Wi-Fi when registering, Wireless Social has reported an average 79.4% increase in new users logging into Wi-Fi, with average opt-in percentages rising 4% to 65.4%. This means the overall increase in marketable data available to brands using the track and trace solution is 90.63%. The product is free to all Wireless Social customers and, for any new customers, the first three months of their contract are free. Chief executive Julian Ross said: “At the heart of our solution was keeping the UK, our customers and their guests safe from a second wave of covid-19. The additional benefit of having increased marketable data and new insight into their guests’ behaviour in this landscape is hopefully going to help them re-emerge in a stronger position.”
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Asda launches home delivery partnership with UberEats: Asda is partnering with UberEats to trial a “rapid home delivery service”. The trial, which launches this week from stores in Leeds (Pudsey) and Birmingham (Barnes Hill), gives customers a choice of more than 300 Asda own-brand products and branded everyday items, including ready meals, fruit and vegetables, beer, wine and spirits. There is no minimum basket size required to qualify for the delivery, which Asda said would arrive in as little as 30 minutes. If the trial proves successful, the partnership may be extended to more Asda stores later this year. Simon Gregg, vice-president of online grocery at Asda, said: “This will give Asda customers more choice in how they shop with us and offer yet another way to quickly and conveniently get their favourite branded and own-brand products delivered to the doorstep.”

Diageo recovery fund goes live: Drinks company Diageo has fully launched its recovery fund – Raising The Bar – to support the trade as lock-down lifts. As of 1 July, more than 10,000 sites in Great Britain had registered interest in the programme. Eligible venues can apply for free five-litre hand-sanitiser units created in partnership CleanedUp, 20 litres of hand sanitiser and a basic hygiene kit containing PPE masks and gloves. Venues can also access Special Bar Services’ mobile bars, which are fitted with protective sneeze screens so outlets can make the most of their open spaces. Raising The Bar is open to independent and managed operators, while any bar can access free training and support online via Diageo Bar Academy. Diageo said it would continue to support outlets in the long term including measures to ensure live sport could be screened safely. Diageo on-trade sales director Melissa Wisdom said: “We have partnered with a range of innovative UK operators to ensure business owners can provide a safe, welcoming space for customers to socialise and celebrate in a socially distanced way, and still have a great experience.” Outside the Raising The Bar programme, Diageo has also partnered with digital agency Omnifi to offer contactless mobile platform OrderBee free for six months. OrderBee offers table booking, digital menus, order to table and cashless payment.

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

Company News:

Costa Coffee trials return of eat-in: Costa Coffee, owned by Coca-Cola, has begun trialling the return of eat-in at 44 of its sites. Costa said it would look to reintroduce an eat-in option across a further 1,000 stores by the end of the month following feedback and adjusting its operations in line with strict government guidelines. Seating will be limited and operate on a first come, first served basis. On arrival customers will be greeted by a Costa Coffee team member and, if choosing to eat-in, will be allocated a table specifically for their use ahead of being guided to the counter to place their order behind a Perspex screen. If there are no tables available, the customer will be encouraged to use the takeaway service or wait outside the store until a table becomes free. As with current procedures across takeaway stores, hand-sanitiser stations will be made available for customers to use, while all team members will be provided with personal protective equipment. The move comes as the company reopened a further 467 stores for takeaway, meaning the company now has more than 1,800 outlets back in operation. The company began gradually reopening its estate at the end of April having initially reopened four sites – two for delivery only and two drive-thrus.

Peach expects to lose £2m in eight months due to covid restrictions: Hamish Stoddart, managing director of gastro-pub operator Peach, has told Propel the company expects to lose up to £2m during the next eight months as a result of coronavirus restrictions at its sites. However, he stressed the company was working its way through the “issues that presents”. Stoddart said the company had made a “very good start” following the reopening of sites but was expecting to see turnover of between 65% and 75% of last year’s level once the “honeymoon period” was over. He said the business would need further financial assistance in the medium term. Peach reopened seven of its sites on Saturday (4 July), trading at 89% of last year, while the remainder of its 19-strong estate will be back in operation by this weekend. Stoddart said: “The sites are doing well but we’ve benefited from the fact they are in market towns where people have been working from home and, because they aren’t commuting, have money in their pockets. Let’s be realistic, at the moment it’s a honeymoon period. Not having people drinking at the bar is going to hurt us ultimately as about a third of our trade comes through a pure bar experience. Rooms are empty.” Stoddart said one of the biggest challenges would be around labour costs – with “more teams needed for table service and hosting”. He added: “We’ve lost about £1m while we’ve been closed and think we could lose another £1.5m to £2m by next March. Who knows what Christmas is going to look like this year. If we were doing about 90% of last year’s turnover in December I would be celebrating but we expect that to be nearer 70% or 75% all the way until March. In the meantime, we’re among the best around and will keep on going, finding ways to win. We’re working with all our partners to make sure we all survive. We’ll be ‘Making Life Peachy’ for many years to come. Our aspiration is to be the best gastro-pub company on the planet – but we’re going to have to prove it in the next nine months.” 

Pizza Hut to reopen more than 100 sites for dine-in, introducing app-based menu: Pizza Hut is reopening more than 100 branches to dine-in customers during the next week. All restaurants will have new measures in place to ensure customers can eat safely, while the company said it would participate in the government’s new Eat Out To Help Out scheme in August. Pizza Hut is introducing what it’s calling a “bluffet”, which will allow diners to stay in their seats while food and drink is served at their table. It includes unlimited individual-sized pizza, a bowl of salad, tortilla chips and a basket of garlic bread sticks. Pizza Hut is also introducing an “ice cream builder” as part of its new app-based menu to replace the usual ice cream factory. Guests will be asked to enter the restaurant via separate lanes depending on whether they’re ordering a takeaway or looking to dine in. Dine-in customers will pick up their own pre-wrapped cutlery before heading to their table and ordering through Pizza Hut’s new app. Children are provided with activity sheets – including single-use or take-home crayons.

Tortilla working with advisers on landlord negotiations: Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed fast-casual Mexican concept, has started to work with advisers on its negotiations with landlords as it looks to agree a long-term solution to its rent structure. The 42-strong group is working with lease and property expert Cedar Dean Group. Tortilla chief executive Richard Morris said: “We have a good relationship with our landlords but, with our estate starting to reopen for dine-in, we’ve decided to bring in help in regards to continued negotiations on rent. We need to be able to find a solution that’s not a short-term fix but something that will benefit both parties in the long term. Cedar Dean can help us find that solution while we focus on the day-to-day challenges the sector faces in trying to reopen in a covid-affected trading environment.” The company has reopened six sites for dine-in and Morris expects to have 70% of the brand’s estate open for dine-in or delivery and takeaway in the coming weeks. However, he said it might be another three months before some of Tortilla’s central London and shopping centre-based sites could open viably.

Whibley heads up new management team at Le Pain Quotidien UK: Steven Whibley, who was managing director of Le Pain Quotidien UK at the turn of the decade, has returned to the role as the brand’s new owners look to revitalise the Belgian restaurant and boulangerie brand. Whibley takes over from former EAT chief executive Adrian Johnson, who had been Le Pain Quotidien UK’s managing director since October 2018. Lee Nixon, the brand’s director of operations, has also stepped down, while the company is understood to be on the verge of appointing a new finance director. Last month new vehicle BrunchCo, a subsidiary of Belgian-based investment firm Cobepa, the chain’s existing backer, acquired 15 of Le Pain Quotidien’s 26 UK sites through a pre-pack administration. The company is in talks on taking on a further three of the brand’s London sites. Whibley, who has also worked for Gail’s Bakery, told Propel: “We are progressing well in negotiations with landlords of the estate. We’re pursuing 18 of the bakeries in total and have agreed terms on ten. We’ve appointed Faye Hance, previously of Five Guys and Wagamama, as head of people and are engaging in an in-depth conversation with the teams around reopening and revitalising the brand. At present, we’re planning a staged reopening from August.” Whibley said the group would spend six to nine months looking to put in foundations to revitalise the brand and look to open a new site in 2021 before embarking on an expansion strategy of opening three to four sites a year from 2022 onwards.

Bill’s to reopen 30 sites next week: Bill’s, the 78-strong Richard Caring-backed group, will reopen circa 30 sites in England on Friday, 17 July after reopening its first six restaurants last week. The sites will include venues in Bath, Brighton, Cambridge, Canterbury, Chelmsford, Chichester, Colchester, Eastbourne, Epsom, Exeter, Farnham, Greenwich, Guildford, Hammersmith, Horsham, Kingston, Leamington Spa, Leeds, Liverpool, Newbury, Norwich, Reading, Richmond, Sevenoaks, Southampton, St Albans, Tunbridge Wells, Welwyn Garden City and York. Safety measures for guests will include thermal cameras for temperature checks on arrival and new seating arrangements in line with social distancing guidelines. Dedicated members of staff have also been appointed to ensure health and safety is at its highest standard. Each restaurant has also implemented tracking software that logs employees’ temperature readings over a seven-day rolling period. Bill’s managing director Baton Berisha said: “We have received so many positive messages from guests and worked tirelessly to 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.”

Triple Two Coffee merges with Esquires UK operator: Triple Two Coffee has merged with Cooks Global Foods, which owns the franchise rights to Esquires Coffee stores in the UK. Triple Two, which operates 13 sites in the UK having started out in Swindon, said the move would secure jobs for the foreseeable future and help it grow across the country and abroad. Co-founder and managing director David Hodgetts said the partnership showed high-level companies saw the “market potential in the Triple Two name and its position in the industry”. He told the Swindon Advertiser: “The board of directors has been working with the Cooks Global Foods board for 12 months to secure this transaction. All through this period the chemistry between the two organisations has been exceptional and a major reason this has completed, even during these challenging covid-19 times. Our exciting brand now has the backing of a larger organisation, which will enable us to go from strength to strength and ensure all the directors continue driving the business for years to come.” Triple Two Coffee opened its first site in 2016 – a kiosk inside the Brunel Shopping Centre in Swindon. It has continued to grow and plans to open its first branch in mainland Europe later this year, in Paris. Cooks Global Foods operates 144 Esquires Coffee stores in the UK, Ireland and China as well as other businesses based in the Middle East and Canada.

BrewDog plans eco-friendly drive-thrus: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has unveiled plans to open four eco-friendly drive-thrus. The company is looking to open the outlets in the UK, Columbus in Ohio, Berlin and Brisbane. BrewDog stated: “They will be beer collection points, hubs for electric vehicle deliveries and closed-loop, zero-waste packaging such as growlers, mini-kegs and returnable bottles. We are looking to deliver cold, fresh craft beer direct to our customers in a way that’s better for the planet.” Retail director James Brown told Propel: “We are committed to bringing great craft beer and food to as many people as we can and, in the post-covid world, we have to find new and innovative solutions to do so. The drive-thru concept was an idea conceptualised during lock-down, with roots in our new understanding of the delivery and collection business model and our view on likely changes to consumer behaviour. At the same time, it will help us deliver projects connected to our mission to evolve our business and our bars to be ever more sustainable.”

Island Poké to reopen rest of estate by 27 July as it expands dark kitchen reach: Island Poké, the White Rabbit Fund-backed concept, has announced it will reopen the rest of its eight-strong UK estate by the end of July. The group, which opened its debut venue in Paris earlier this year, has already reopened half its sites in London, with the rest due to open on Monday, 27 July. Island Poké’s sites in Soho, Shoreditch, Canary Wharf and Broadgate Circle are now open for walk-ins and online orders. As part of the relaunch, the brand has added more dishes to its “House Bowls” menu, with a broader range of prices. New additions to the menu include a salad bowl for £5, a new vegan bowl with smoked tofu in a shiitake teriyaki sauce (£6.95) and a spicy twist on its classic ahi tuna bowl (£7.85). The company also plans to expand its delivery reach across London, with dark kitchens in more residential areas such as Battersea and Camden due to open in August. The brand has also introduced an online click-and-collect ordering option via its website, while its app allows customers to order ahead, skip the queue, and earn digital loyalty points and rewards such as free toppings and bowls. Island Poké founder James Porter said: “It feels great to be back open and see our customers again. We had the new menu and pricing planned for before the lock-down and, despite the impact on our business the past couple of months, we felt introducing some lower prices was the right thing to do for our customers, particularly now they are likely to be much more cautious with their spending. We’re excited to expand our reach across London and get people their poké fix while working from home as well as when they’re at the office!”

TGI Friday’s acquires two former Carluccio’s sites: TGI Friday’s, the Robert Cook-led brand, has acquired two former Carluccio’s sites out of administration – in Lincoln and Cobham. Cook told Propel the company wasn’t looking at group deals but was keen to add the “right individual sites” to its estate if the “right opportunities came up”. He said both sites would reopen under the group’s recently launched Famous At Friday’s format. The Lincoln site is scheduled to open at the end of September or early October, with the Cobham site to follow at the end of October or in early November. The company reopened 66 sites for dine-in on Monday (6 July), with the new brand showcased at six restaurants and elements introduced across the rest of the estate. The Famous At Friday’s restaurants are Covent Garden and Leicester Square in London, Birmingham Hagley Road, which was the first Friday’s in the UK when it opened in 1986, Glasgow Buchanan Street, Manchester Royal Exchange and Nottingham. CBRE act for TGI Friday’s.

Polpo places three London sites plus regional venue on the market: Polpo, the central London-based business owned by Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, has placed three of its sites in the capital on the market, Propel has learned. The company, which underwent a company voluntary arrangement last year, is understood to have placed its sites in Cowcross Street, Farringdon and Covent Garden on the market through property adviser CDG Leisure. At the same time, it’s thought to have put its remaining regional site, in Brighton, on the market. Last year the company put its Polpetto site in Soho’s Berwick Street and eponymous restaurant in Notting Hill Gate up for sale, with the former taken over by all-day concept The Breakfast Club. The company recently reopened its site in Chelsea and also has a restaurant in Beak Street, Soho.

High-class cafe brand EL&N launches grab-and-go concept in King’s Cross for eighth London site: High-class cafe brand EL&N has launched its debut grab-and-go venue, at King’s Cross station, for its eighth London site in total. The brand’s other cafes – in Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Oxford Circus, Park Lane, Selfridges, South Kensington and St Pancras Station – have all reopened too. EL&N focuses on Instagrammable venues with a plethora of pink products. The menu features pink coffee and pink cake, while the retail section includes pink water bottles, ceramic coffee cups and keyrings. The brand is also offering a limited edition Spanish latte and cold brew in cans, with all profits going to the NHS, Hot Dinners reports. 

Nico Simeone to start reopening sites from Monday: Scottish chef Nico Simeone will begin reopening his Six by Nico restaurants from Monday (13 July). His Manchester and Liverpool restaurants will be the first to return, followed by Belfast on Wednesday (15 July) and Glasgow and Edinburgh two days later. The new Six by Nico in London’s Fitzrovia will launch on Monday, 20 July. In preparation for the reopenings, more than 20,000 customers tuned in to a Facebook live-stream to watch Simeone cook the steak pie from his The Chippie menu. In April, Simeone launched Home by Nico in Belfast, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh to allow people to experience Six by Nico from the comfort of their own homes during lock-down. The home delivery kits have served more than 100,000 customers to date. Home by Nico will be put on pause as the teams focus on reopening the restaurants, while plans for the company’s food delivery business will be revealed later this year.

The Celtic Collection says almost half of jobs under threat: The Celtic Collection, which includes the Celtic Manor Resort, has said almost half the company’s jobs are under threat as the business responds to the impact of the pandemic. While the Celtic Manor Resort reopens on Tuesday (14 July) for the first time since 23 March, it will only do so under reduced capacity and restricted facilities in line with safety guidelines. The business said it needed to “reshape and resize”, with the coronavirus crisis set to have a “catastrophic effect on the global economy, our nation, and the travel, tourism and events industries for many months to come”. A consultation has started on a redundancy programme, which is expected to result in the loss of about 450 jobs from a total permanent workforce of 995. The figure is based on current restrictions surrounding hospitality and tourism and The Celtic Collection said the total may reduce significantly should more of its facilities be permitted to reopen during the consultation period. The business told the South Wales Argus: “The Celtic Collection deeply regrets having to take this course of action and understands the enormous impact this will have on the livelihoods of affected team members and their families. Everything possible will be done to support those affected and an employees’ consultative panel has been involved in the decision-making process.” The Celtic Collection also includes the Resort Hotel, the Manor House, Coldra Court By Celtic Manor, and the Newbridge On Usk country inn restaurant with rooms.

DSC Group to open third The Tapas Room next week: DSC Group is to open a third site for its The Tapas Room concept, next week. The company will open the outlet in Brixton Village on Thursday, 16 July. DSC Group launched in Pop Brixton as Donostia Social Club and is now returning to the area at a larger space inside the village. As previously reported, the company is also launching a site in Battersea, with a Tapas Room inside the new Battersea Spanish school. Along with a wine shop, tapas bar and delicatessen, the Battersea site will also offer wine tasting and cookery classes. DSC Group already operates The Tapas Room in Deptford and Tooting.

Deliveroo and Majestic Wine expand partnership after record sales growth during lock-down: Deliveroo and Majestic Wine have added 54 stores to their partnership after sales soared during lock-down. Sales of rosé, for example, increased 90% and Majestic will now add more lines of rosé and white wine from new regions to the Deliveroo range. Deliveroo said the expansion made the Majestic partnership its largest wine business tie-up and fastest to roll out – 104 stores have been added in total this year. The partnership now covers 137 stores. Company data revealed customers’ favourite time to order is 5pm on a Friday, with Londoners the thirstiest, followed by Edinburgh, Brighton and Manchester. Deliveroo vice-president of new business Ajay Lakhwani said: “We are delighted to play our role in making sure households have access to everything they need and want during covid-19.” Majestic chief commercial officer Robert Cooke added: “Wine has never been so popular in the UK.”

Taco Bell rolls out overhauled rewards programme in US: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is rolling out an overhauled rewards programme this month after experiencing a surge in app usage during the pandemic. The beta test, dubbed Taco Bell Rewards, will offer fans ten points for every dollar they spend via the app. Consumers can earn free food such as a crunchy taco, a bean burrito or a baja blast once they earn 250 points, known as the “Hot” tier. Anyone who has spent $200 or more in one year at Taco Bell will be part of the “Fire” tier and earn 11 points for every dollar spent. They will also earn rewards for upgraded items such as chalupas. Zipporah Allen, vice-president of digital experiences at Taco Bell, told Nation’s Restaurant News: “This is the perfect time for us to launch something like this. We know we have a dedicated fan base that’s craving our food more than ever and we know this is really a pivotal point in the industry and in the category where we want to take that fan base and formalise the relationship.” Allen said accelerating the brand’s digital business wasn’t solely about convenience but also about creating a more “personalised experience and relationship with customers”.

HSBC’s Thomas – Travelodge CVA brings ‘three clear benefits’ to Whitbread: HSBC Global Research analyst Joseph Thomas has said the Travelodge company voluntary arrangement (CVA) brings “three clear benefits” to Whitbread as the estate of its main competitor looks set to be broken up. Thomas said the travails of Travelodge would position the Premier Inn owner as the “likely winner in a difficult sector once demand recovers from the covid-19 shock”. Thomas said: “Whichever way we cut it, Travelodge’s entry into a CVA brings clear benefits for Whitbread’s Premier Inn. We have spoken to the landlords and see three benefits – opportunities to take on new sites as disaffected landlords exercise new break clauses in their contracts; pricing/market share benefits as a fragmented estate renders Travelodge a less relevant competitor; and a grip over long-term industry supply now Travelodge becomes a less bankable customer for developers to raise finance against. All point to potentially higher levels of profitability for Whitbread.” Thomas said Premier Inn’s like-for-like revpar growth had lagged behind Travelodge in recent years for a variety of reasons. He said: “But Whitbread should now be in a position for this to reverse. If it’s able to get back to historic levels of absolute revpar, we think profits could move circa 24% higher by FY23e. While it won’t want to acquire all the Travelodge hotels, it might wish to acquire some. With relatively limited capital outlay against the leasehold sites, this should be comfortably affordable while permitting continued heavy spend on expansionary freehold growth in the UK and Germany. If landlords are sufficiently alienated, it might even be able to acquire some of the 77 ‘crown jewel’ leases for which Travelodge is currently paying in full. There’s an uncertain path to normality ahead. As highlighted in Tuesday’s trading update, the bulk of the estate will be open by the end of July and units in regional tourist areas are already seeing high levels of demand. However, this is a relatively small part of the estate and, ultimately, a recovery to 2019 levels of revpar looks set to take about 18 months. There will no doubt be bumps along the way. A temporary VAT cut (to 5% until 12 January 2021) will clearly help.”

Mother Clucker launches DIY kit: Buttermilk-fried chicken specialist Mother Clucker has launched a DIY kit. Each kit contains halal chicken brined in sweet tea, buttermilk, Mother Clucker’s secret flour mix, hot sauce, lime mayo and coleslaw and full instructions on how to make a meal from home. Mother Clucker co-founder Brittney Bean said: “There has never been a better time to try new things in the kitchen. Since we can’t fry as much chicken as we’d like, we’re stoked to offer a Mother Clucker ‘D.I.FRY’ kit nationwide. We’re also donating £2.50 from each box sold to Brixton Soup Kitchen.”

Junkyard Golf founder launches late-night bar restaurant in Manchester: Lyndon Higginson, director and co-founder of crazy golf operator Junkyard Golf, has launched a late-night bar and restaurant in the Manchester suburb of Withington. Southside specialises in tequila and tacos and has opened at the former Solomons Cafe Bar in Wilmslow Road. Higginson, who is also behind pizza parlour Crazy Pedro’s in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, has teamed up with former Solomons owners Rupert Cade and Rick McClean for the venture. Southside features additional seating downstairs and on a terrace. Snippets posted on social media show a ceiling plastered in music posters, bright orange booths and graffiti-style artwork, the Manchester Evening News reports. Higginson also owns Wolf At The Door in the Northern Quarter, which offers creative tacos with fillings ranging from cauliflower shawarma to jerk chicken. Just before lock-down, Junkyard Golf was in private equity talks and had lined up an opening in Newcastle. The Mat Lake-led business was also believed to be in talks on a site in Glasgow. Higginson and Lake launched Junkyard with Chris Legh and Bart Murphy as a pop-up in Manchester in 2015. It has grown to five sites – in London, Manchester, Oxford, Liverpool and Leeds. The four directors remain sole owners and have so far funded growth themselves. In February, Lake said Junkyard was “mapping” its next phase of expansion, with sights set on two more London venues and cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh and Sheffield.

Supper club Supa Ya Ramen opens debut restaurant: Supper club Supa Ya Ramen has opened its debut restaurant, in Hackney, east London. The intimate 16-cover site was due to open in Hackney Road in March but was delayed following lock-down, leading the company to offer delivery only. Original opening plans have changed following covid-19, with the venue currently only open for “bubble bookings”, in which six to eight friends can book out the restaurant for their own private dinner. There are three sittings a night, each an hour and 15 minutes in length. The venue is open from Wednesday to Sunday and operates a bring your own bottle policy. Luke Findlay developed Supa Ya following spells as development chef at Patty & Bun and head chef of Berber & Q in Spitalfields. He has also worked at NOPI and Tom Kerridge’s Michelin-starred gastro-pub The Hand & Flowers.

PPHE Hotel Group to open 80% of hotels in Europe by end of July, launches safety programme: PPHE Hotel Group, the international hospitality real estate group that develops, owns and operates hotels and resorts, has said 80% of its hotels in Europe will be open by the end of July. Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London has remained open to provide accommodation to key workers, while venues have already reopened in Croatia, Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands. The company has launched a Reassuring Moments programme to reassure staff and guests regarding safety. Initiatives include social distancing, sanitising stations, screens, and no-contact options for check-in and room service. Systems have been upgraded to improve air circulation and purification. Breakfast will be on offer through in-room dining or grab and go. Greg Hegarty, deputy chief executive and chief operating officer of PPHE Hotel Group, said: “Our Reassuring Moments programme is in place to create the confidence and freedom to enjoy the comfort of our hospitality and the fun and excitement of travel.” 

Torquay Leisure Hotels secures £1m loan to support reopening plans: Devon-based operator Torquay Leisure Hotels has secured a £1m loan to help it through the coronavirus crisis and support reopening plans. The company, which operates four hotels as well as apartment complexes and leisure centres, has received the funds from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme through Santander UK. The business was forced to close on 20 March, with 359 staff placed on furlough. The funds have supported the group during the closure and enabled it to prepare to reopen safely. Martin Pitcher, relationship director at Santander UK, said: “As the lock-down measures in the UK begin to ease, thoughts turn to summer holidays. For many, they will now be looking to stay in the UK so I’m delighted our funding has enabled Torquay Leisure to reopen. This will provide crucial support to the local economy and vital hotel and leisure employment, as well as a much-needed break for many Brits.”

Elior UK launches covid-secure food brand: Catering company Elior UK has launched Good To Go – a covid-secure brand that will deliver a range of food at sites “quickly, conveniently and safely”. The range, created by Elior’s development team, includes sandwiches, salads, pasta pots, fruit and a selection of grab-and-go snacks and drinks. The Good To Go service replaces all open, self-service food displays including salad bars, deli counters, soup stations and cake displays. Carl Morris, Elior UK sales, marketing and communications director, said: “As employees begin to return to work our aim is to help clients reassure their teams they can return with confidence. We want to make staff restaurants the safest choice.”

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