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Tue 14th Jul 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Coffeesmiths Collective undergoes restructure: Coffeesmiths Collective, which runs coffee chains including the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (DoCaSA) and Filmore & Union, has undergone a restructure, Propel has learned. The company, which has spent the past two years acquiring coffee shop and wholesale brands across the UK, is believed to have been working with adviser Quantuma on its options during the past few months. Propel understands a number of the group’s brands, such as Filmore & Union and Small Batch Coffee, have been moved to recently incorporated companies still overseen by Coffeesmiths Collective directors. However, it’s thought the restructuring has led to a number of permanent closures and redundancies, including a significant number of sites under the group’s core DoCaSA brand and single-site operations such as Timberyard in Seven Dials. Propel understands CCL 002, which was previously known as Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, is also set to be placed into liquidation. At the end of February, Toby Smith and Bharti Radix, chief executive and chief financial officer of Coffeesmiths Collective, stepped down from the business after less than a year with the company. A spokesman for Coffeesmiths Collective told Propel at the time: “Following a period of rapid expansion and growth, the board of Coffeesmiths Collective has made the decision to enter a period of consolidation and complete a review of its portfolio.” Smith, former chief executive of Novus and Stonegate Pub Company, and Radix, ex-finance director of Draft House, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group and Petersham Nurseries, both joined the speciality coffee shop operator and roaster in April 2019. Since then, the group has acquired ten Filmore & Union sites out of administration, Yorkshire-based Spring Espresso, London-based The CoffeeWorks Project business, and Taylor St Baristas’ operations in the UK and US. Coffeesmiths Collective moved to a new head office in Clerkenwell at the end of last year, where it opened its first coffee academy. Writing at the time of Smith and Radix’s exits, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett commented: “There is a real sense the swift exit of the highly-rated Smith and Radix is a case of the brochure they were shown when joining the business not living up to what it promised. After acquiring so many different businesses spread across the UK, the company was always going to need a period of consolidation to put in place systems that would bring efficiencies across its eclectic estate. You wonder whether the business has been finding it harder than it imagined to digest such a number of underperforming brands acquired in such a short space of time? The worrying thing for Coffeesmiths Collective is whether it has bitten off more than it can currently chew, while more challenges could be brewing for its eclectic estate.”

Industry News:

Social Media for Profit goes virtual, open for bookings: This year’s Social Media for Profit event will be held virtually on the afternoon of Tuesday, 15 September and is open for bookings. Mark McCulloch, who has more than 20 years’ brand, marketing digital and social media experience including senior positions at Pret A Manger and YO!, will host the social media boot camp. The event will provide insights into how to build sales and brands using social media to help operators bounce back following lock-down. McCulloch will be joined by Alison Battisby, founder and director of social media consultancy Avocado Social. With almost ten years of social media experience, Battisby is a Facebook-accredited trainer and will bring the latest algorithm-busting insights. She will explore how to make the most of Instagram to tell your stories and connect with your community and look at how brands are embracing TikTok, which has disrupted this year’s social media landscape. McCulloch will focus on how the social media landscape has changed and how to approach your content strategy to ensure you stand out, while providing great examples of how hospitality brands have adapted to the new normal. He will also explore how Twitter has moved on from a promotional platform to a conversation-led environment and how businesses need to adapt. There will also be a session with a leading industry influencer to explore how best to approach an influencer, how to incentivise them to work with you, what to expect in return and how to build a long-lasting relationship. The session will also explore the latest legalities and recent best practice examples of influencer campaigns. The event will end with a question and answer session. Tickets are £99 plus VAT for Propel Premium members, £149 plus VAT for operators and £199 plus VAT for suppliers. To book, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Alice Keown to feature in latest ‘navigating the coronavirus’ video: In the latest in Propel’s video interviews with leading operators about “navigating the coronavirus” pandemic, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett talks to Alice Keown, leasing director of restaurants and leisure at British Land, about a landlord’s perspective of lock-down; the ongoing relationship with its food and beverage tenants; why there isn’t a one size fits all solution to the rent issue; sharing data; the acceleration of underlying trends; and where shopping and leisure schemes go from here. The video will be released on Tuesday (14 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 anne.steele@propelinfo.com to sign up.

Customer sentiment remains strong towards hospitality: Despite having risen from before lock-down, net promoter scores (NPS) in the hospitality industry fell at the weekend compared with reopening weekend (4 and 5 July), according to the latest Customer Sentiment Tracker from Feed It Back and KAM Media. The companies are collaborating to create a regular tracker to help the industry understand changing customer satisfaction levels as venues reopen. Comparing feedback across all hospitality channels, 93% of those who visited pubs and restaurants at the weekend said the venues’ new procedures made them feel safe enough to return, a slight drop from reopening weekend. Of the 7% who said they didn’t feel safe enough to return, the top reason given was they felt hygiene measures weren’t “up to expectation”. Comments captured by Feed it Back cited “lack of masks”, “servers touching glasses” and “lack of disposable menus” as items of concern. Lack of social distancing was the second-largest cause for concern. Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia said: “Reopening weekend is likely to have attracted the keenest and most enthusiastic hospitality supporters so the high score last weekend will reflect that. Overall satisfaction ratings were fairly stable.” KAM Media managing director Katy Moses added: “The feedback we’re seeing from customers shows the vast majority are happy with the new procedures operators have adopted, which is testament to the hard work and commitment the industry is putting in to ensure customers feel safe. Obviously different customers will have different expectations and desires in different venues.” The new tracker measures key performance indicators such as NPS and satisfaction ratings covering cleanliness, atmosphere, service and value. Anyone interested in receiving the tracker can email hello@kam-media.co.uk or allears@feeditback.com

Like-for-likes down 30% year-on-year in first full week of trading since regulations ease: The week that preceded opening weekend saw a 30% drop in like-for-like sales compared with the previous year. Data from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, showed like-for-like sales of drink were down 21.3% and food 40%. The figures had little deviation when comparing sites that were inside and outside London. S4labour chief customer officer Sam Wignell said: “In these very early days of reopening, it’s clear social distancing is going to prevent food-led business from serving the same number of guests they previously would have, explaining some of the reasons why food sales have declined more severely than drinks.” S4labour chief product officer Richard Hartley added: “Huge efforts have been made to make eating and drinking out safe and this has inevitably had an effect on capacity. We are also seeing some people dip their toe back in the water with a drink out, perhaps holding off for a period before going out for a meal.” 
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Government unveils more details of points-based immigration system: The government has unveiled further details of its points-based immigration system that will come into force when freedom of movement with the European Union ends in January. Home secretary Priti Patel said employers would be encouraged to invest in workers from within the UK. However, she added the new system would also allow them to “attract the best and brightest from around the world”. The visa system is set to come into force on New Year’s Day, immediately ending freedom of movement with the EU. Under the government’s plans, when the Brexit transition period ends those wishing to live and work in the UK will have to gain 70 points. There will be a mandatory requirement for visa applicants to have an offer of a job on a list of eligible occupations and to speak English – earning them 50 points. There will be a minimum salary requirement of £20,480. Further points would be awarded for meeting criteria such as holding a PhD relevant to the job or earning more than a “general salary threshold” of £25,600. British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The announcement provides important clarity but will present significant challenges for our sector. Given the extraordinary toll taken on pubs and brewers over the past four months, they will find it incredibly challenging to absorb the costs and complexities of becoming a sponsoring employer in order to take on staff from outside the UK.”

Registration opens for Eat Out To Help Out scheme: Registration has opened for sector businesses to join the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Operators serving food for on-premise consumption can now sign up to the initiative, which will offer a 50% reduction up to a maximum of £10 per person to all diners who eat and/or drink-in during August. Businesses can then reclaim the discounted amount through an online service, supported by HM Revenue & Customs. Claims can be made on a weekly basis and will be paid into bank accounts within five working days. The scheme can be used all day, Monday to Wednesday, between 3 and 31 August 2020. Businesses will receive a window sticker to show they are using the scheme and will be included in a searchable restaurant finder tool that will be available to the public before the scheme launches. Businesses must have registered as a food business with their relevant council on or before 7 July to take part.

Consumer spending on eating and drinking rallies in June, takeaway and fast food sales rise for first time since lock-down: Consumer spending on eating and drinking fell 56.4% year-on-year in June, rallying from the steep drop in May (70.3%), according to the latest Barclaycard report. Spending on takeaways and fast food rose for the first time since before lock-down, with 5.7% yearly growth as restaurants, pubs and cafes established takeaway and delivery services. In total, consumer spending fell 14.5% year-on-year in June but was the smallest decline since lock-down began, with month-on-month figures showing an uplift as shops reopened. However, more than half (56%) of consumers continue to avoid stores. Almost one-third (31%) of respondents admitted delaying trips out because of coronavirus fears, while 18% were “put off by crowds”. New social distancing rules are providing some reassurance, with 18% more likely to return because of new precautions. Data from Barclaycard, which sees almost half the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, revealed spending on essential items grew 6.6%, compared with 5.7% in May. Spending on non-essential items fell 22.3% but was an improvement on May (minus 36.9%), as non-essential shops reopened. Spending on electronics increased 14.3% year-on-year as the return of live sport led to increased purchases of home entertainment. Household confidence has also held up (68%), perhaps as people save money by cancelling holidays. More than half (54%) of respondents said they would spend less on holidays this summer, with 30% not expecting to go away at all this year. However, consumer confidence in the UK economy (20%) and job security (41%) remain low. Barclaycard director Esme Harwood said: “Slowly but surely Brits are starting to spend again. The recent VAT cut and meal vouchers are a positive sign for the hospitality industry and it will be interesting to see how these measures have an impact on consumer spending. It also seems shoppers are generally reassured by retailers’ efforts to take precautions.”

Only half of Welsh hospitality businesses reopen as outdoor restrictions lift: Hospitality businesses in Wales were allowed to start serving customers outdoors on Monday – but it has been predicted only half of them reopened. Companies such as JD Wetherspoon, SA Brain and Mitchells & Butlers previously said they wouldn’t reopen venues until customers were allowed indoors, which they will be from Monday, 3 August. With turnover expected to be at 25% of levels before lock-down, the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective warned limited potential to make a profit would see as few as half of independent premises reopen. On Friday (10 July), first minister Mark Drakeford said hospitality businesses could reopen indoors from 3 August providing coronavirus cases continued to fall. He announced the date in a long list of changes to coronavirus restrictions, including exemptions to the two-metre social distancing rule for some businesses. However, Stonegate Pub Company is among the companies to reopen a number of its premises including Henry’s, The Woodville and Owain Glyndwr, all in Cardiff, Railway Hotel in Penarth and The Carlton in Llandudno.

Peter Backman – government initiatives have potential to kick-start the sector: Sector analyst Peter Backman has said the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and cut in VAT to 5% for food eaten in restaurants and pubs has the potential to kick-start the sector by persuading “enough cash-strapped people to overcome their qualms about eating out safely”. He said: “Consider a family of four eating on a Wednesday lunchtime while they are staycationing next month in the UK. Let’s say they don’t want alcohol for this meal. Let’s say they have chosen a meal costing exactly £10. What does this mean to the money in their pocket? A meal that would have cost them £48 (including VAT) will actually only cost them £22. A saving of £26 will surely encourage them to eat out again (and again)? This can represent a real boost – but will it last beyond August and how much will it persuade customers to eat out on the slow business days early in the week?” Backman said the effect of the “imaginative” way of encouraging employers to keep furloughed staff on the books – by paying £1,000 to businesses for each employee who returns – remains to be seen. He added: “For businesses faced with marginal decisions about redundancies – or even about remaining in business – the unclear benefits have to be set alongside the only too clear costs. I hope this initiative staves off closures in the foodservice sector – but I can only hope.” Backman said the shift in government thinking to make hospitality front and centre was down to the industry coming together as one to make its case. He added: “This new-found sense of community is a great and positive thing. Along with other changes in behaviour wrought by coronavirus – think online communities or the emergence of delivered restaurant meal kits – we should ask whether the sense of community within foodservice will last? I really hope so but I sense the entrepreneurial spirit that sustains the sector and the re-emergence of sector-specific pressures will undermine it when we finally emerge blinking into the sunlight.”

New European regulations between businesses and online platforms come into force: New European regulations have come into effect this week providing “increased transparency” between businesses and online platforms. The changes include a more thorough understanding of ranking and search results to allow fairer business decisions and to cut platforms’ capacity to make modifications at their own discretion; effective internal complaint mechanisms to ensure businesses’ concerns and complaints are treated accurately; terms and conditions applied by online platforms towards businesses needing to be clearer; and potential sanctions imposed by online platforms against businesses needing to be “transparent and well-founded”. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Digital platforms are now an essential part of the tourism and hospitality offer. It is no longer the case that businesses, even small and medium-sized enterprises, can expect to succeed without having a presence in the digital economy. It is vital, therefore, the digital landscape is as easy to navigate for businesses as it is customers. The new regulations should provide increased transparency and a level playing field for all to utilise the online options available to them.” 
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

DoorDash refunds overcharged commission: DoorDash is refunding money to a handful of restaurants in San Francisco that were mistakenly overcharged on commission fees, which the city recently capped temporarily at 15%. The mistake was spotted by DoorDash after a San Francisco restaurateur posted an image on Twitter showing his DoorDash invoice. A line item on the third-party delivery invoice suggested his restaurant was still being charged a 30% commission fee. The restaurateur later posted a retraction as while the invoice did say 30% under the commission rate, the actual rate charged was 15%. However, while investigating the mistake DoorDash discovered errors in fee charges made to other restaurants. “We have corrected a separate error affecting fewer than ten out of more than 1,000 of our San Francisco restaurant partners and will be issuing reimbursements to those restaurants,” the delivery company told Nation’s Restaurant News. DoorDash is reviewing commission charges in other cities with fee caps to ensure inadvertent accounting mistakes haven’t occurred.

Soho Farmhouse tops summer’s most Instagramed eco-friendly staycation list: Soho Farmhouse, the members’ club and hotel in Oxfordshire owned by Soho House, has topped a list showing the UK’s most Instagramed eco-friendly staycation sites this summer. As well as receiving the most searched-for hashtags in June, the venue also received the most Google searches (51,100) during the month, according to the research by price comparison site SaveonEnergy. Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve, which is part of the wildlife park in Kent, was second in the most searched-for hashtag list, followed by The Hoxton in Southwark, London, which was praised for its minimalist decor that “cuts unnecessary energy usage and waste”. Jesmond Dene House in Newcastle was the only site in the top ten not in southern England. Other venues in the top ten included Babington House members’ club and hotel in Somerset, Limewood Hotel in the New Forest and upmarket hotel chain The Pig, which operates seven sites in the south of England.

Recipe-sharing platform launches with potential to be ‘Spotify of cooking’: A fund-raising initiative and online recipe-sharing platform has been launched. The Pass will feature signature recipes from 40 London restaurants, including Barrafina, Dishoom, Kricket, Lina Stores, Patty & Bun, Quo Vadis and Tom Aikens, and has been described as having the potential to be the “Spotify of cooking”. The Pass was created in three weeks during lock-down by “home cooks wanting to support a restaurant industry in crisis”. The evolving virtual cookbook is free, with readers encouraged to donate to Hospitality Action. The site also highlights restaurant initiatives such as recipe boxes or delivery and reveals which food and drink suppliers are selling directly to the public. Founder Alex Lazare said: “The Pass is a solution to my own problem – wanting to raise money for an industry that has given me so much while continuing to eat the food I crave from the places I love during lock-down. Longer term, our sector needs innovative solutions to support restaurants’ off-floor initiatives and we want to make The Pass the platform that facilitates that.” Lazare has a long-term vision to create a hub of recipes from the world’s best restaurants with videos and live cook-along content, in-app shopping for ingredients and recipe boxes. Kricket co-founder Rik Campbell said: “We think The Pass has potential to be the Spotify of cooking and we’re excited to be part of its launch.”

London hotel market reports record low performance: The London hotel market reported record performance lows in June, according to the latest data from STR. Occupancy was down 74.4% to 23.0% compared with the previous year, while average daily rate fell 59.2% to £72.48 and revpar dropped 89.6% to £16.64. STR said the absolute levels in each of the three metrics were the lowest for any month on record. However, analysts said they expected to see significant performance increases now hotels were allowed to reopen.

Propel seeks to recruit deputy editor: Propel, which now has more than 20,000 self-subscribed senior-level readers, is looking to recruit a deputy editor. Managing director Paul Charity said: “It is very rare for us to have a vacancy – I think one reason is the hospitality sector is a tremendously stimulating and varied sector to work in. We are looking for an ambitious self-starter to join us, ideally with sector experience.” Anyone interested in this vacancy is asked to email Paulc@propelinfo.com setting out their interest, experience and salary expectations.

Licensing update: Licensing solicitor John Gaunt & Partners has produced a useful monthly summary of licensing news relating to the covid-19 situation. To access it, click here

Company News:

Greene King appoints chief marketing officer: Brewer and retailer Greene King has appointed Maria Sebastian to the new role of chief marketing officer. Sebastian will report to chief executive Nick Mackenzie and join the executive board. In her most recent role, Sebastian was senior vice-president for marketing, product and brand at Starbucks EMEA, where she led product innovation, category management, marketing and loyalty, shaping the brand experience across 42 countries and almost 3,200 stores. She joined Starbucks after 20 years in the airline industry, including at Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines. Mackenzie said: “I am delighted to welcome Maria to Greene King. Her broad experience in brand development, pricing, digital marketing and CRM, customer experience and customer insight will be invaluable as we implement our new strategy.” Sebastian added: “I am delighted to join at such an important time as the business reopens after lock-down, with a renewed focus on delivering an improved customer experience and advancing the digital offering. Greene King has distinctive brands and amazing locations and I look forward to further developing the brand propositions.”

New Vapiano UK owners plan further expansion, deal includes Edinburgh site: UK VAP, a subsidiary of Love & Food Restaurant Holdings, which recently acquired the Vapiano brand and franchising rights from Vapiano SE, has told Propel it is working with two family offices on the relaunch and expansion of the Italian casual dining concept in the UK. The new subsidiary has formed a partnership with Minhoco 56, founded by the Cairn Hotel Group, which operates more than 30 hotels and restaurants in England and Scotland, and Dominvs Group, the privately owned group of companies focused on the hospitality, residential and commercial real estate sectors in the UK. Together, the groups held by the Handa and Ahluwalia families will be partners in the London-based venture that will take over the Vapiano sites in Great Portland Street, Bankside and Tower Bridge. Furthermore, under the terms of the agreement Minhoco 56 will enter an exclusive franchise agreement with Love & Food Restaurant Holdings to operate the restaurants in Manchester and Edinburgh and is “committed to opening further sites” in the UK. “This is an exciting investment towards the hospitality industry’s future,” said Husnell Ahluwalia, director of Dominvs Group. “As a company we are always on the lookout for great opportunities led by quality teams and this is a huge opportunity to look ahead at rebuilding an industry that has faced very challenging times recently.” The transactions secure the future of 209 jobs. “We are delighted we have been able to help safeguard the future of Vapiano UK and many of its workers. Vapiano is a strong brand and the new owners, Love & Food with Mario at the helm, will see this brand continuing to be a market leader and we are committed to its growth in the UK,” said Naveen Handa, of the Cairn Hotel Group. Mario C Bauer, co-founder and chief executive of Love & Food Restaurant Holdings, said: “It was of utmost importance to us to preserve a strong presence in London, a city that’s a global show window for brands and concepts, and be able to offer a stable outlook to hundreds of Vapianisti. The fact we were able to forge a strong long-term partnership with an established third-generation family business that shares our philosophy and values and adds excellent local market know-how to the mix clearly proves Vapiano attracts and inspires leading entrepreneurs. Together with the Ahluwalia and Handa families as our partners, we look forward to growing and sustainably expanding our network throughout the UK.” The deal for Vapiano UK through a pre-pack administration saw the closure of the brand’s sites in Soho and Centre Point. The buyer consortium was advised by MJ Hudson, Clyde & Co and Mincoffs (legal) and Harper Dennis Hobbs (property).

Wells & Co appoints retail director as it sets out ambitious growth plans: Bedford brewer and retailer Wells & Co has appointed Shirley Couchman to the new role of retail director. Couchman, who also joins the board, arrives from UK transport hub foodservice company SSP Group, where latterly she was national operations director – regional rail and Millie’s Cookies. Couchman, who has also worked for Greene King, will be responsible for creating and delivering Wells & Co’s managed pub strategy in the UK and France. The company said the new role reflected its ambition to continue expanding that part of its business. Wells & Co managing director Peter Wells said: “Shirley’s appointment is a statement of intent around our future and plans to rebuild and grow our way out of the covid-19 crisis. Despite the pandemic, we will be on track to move into our new home, Brewpoint, at the end of the summer. In France, 16 of our 17 pubs have reopened and sales are well ahead of forecast. France represents a strategic pillar of growth for the business and we’ll return to our acquisition programme once the pub business is back to normal. In the UK, Pizza, Pots & Pints has proved a successful model we will look to expand as soon as normality resumes. We also have plans to develop our premium Little Gems Pubs With Rooms division in the near future.” Couchman added: “Wells & Co has some exciting activity in the pipeline. I look forward to working with the board and wider team to deliver the company’s ambitious plans for growth.” Wells & Co operates a 190-strong estate of pubs in the UK.

Brewhouse & Kitchen sees 2.9% revenue growth in reopening week as pre-planning pays dividends: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the 22-strong brewpub group, has announced a 2.9% growth in revenue in the first week since it started to reopen its estate. The company attributed part of its success to “swiftly adapting” its offer and said the sales figures meant it was “cautiously optimistic” about the future. The group said its order and payment platform, B&K On Tap, had seen “immediate success”, with take up “growing exponentially every day” resulting in a “critical uplift in individual spend per head”. Brewhouse & Kitchen said the click and collect and UK-wide delivery services it trialled last month had reduced potential for “overwhelming footfall” when reopening. The group said it now planned to fully launch those services, alongside food delivery. It said a focus on early week trading and a gradual reopening plan had also paid dividends. Brewhouse & Kitchen reopened one site every weekday last week, followed by two sites per day this week. The group said it was reaping the benefit of pre-booked experiences that would have taken place during lock-down. The group said in the past seven days it had confirmed more than 1,000 covers across its experiences and was working to accommodate 1,000 more. Brewhouse & Kitchen said lock-down had allowed its teams to undergo further training and development, while a positive and clear message to guests about new measures had helped to encourage customers to return. Chief executive Kris Gumbrell said: “Operators won’t be given a second chance to make a first impression in this market. We know from our guest research we needed to open well and create a positive but safe environment. Our staggered, intensive approach to reopening sites, adopting further online efficiency and new technologies has allowed us to ensure the well-being and safety of our team and guests. The initiatives that have been hard fought for by our trade bodies are extremely welcome. We have been focused on building early week trading and the company will be working hard to drive Eat Out To Help Out.”

East Coast Concepts works with advisers to get through ‘transitional period’: Manchester-based restaurant and bar group East Coast Concepts is working with advisers as it eyes options to help it navigate the covid-19 trading environment. Propel understands the John Hammond-led business, which operates the Neighbourhood and Victors brands, is working with FRP Corporate Finance, with options thought to include securing a further equity injection. The five-strong company is backed by private equity firm NorthEdge, which has invested £10m in the business since 2016. East Coast Concepts operates two sites under New York dining district-inspired concept Neighbourhood, in Liverpool and Leeds city centres. It also operates three sites for its “elegant, Hamptons-inspired” dining concept Victors, in Oxford, Hale and Alderley Edge. Each site requires a circa £1.5m investment and turns over about £45,000 to £60,000 per week. Hammond, who was promoted from finance director to the group’s managing director earlier this year, told Propel: “We have had an incredible response from our guests for our Neighbourhood and Victors restaurants. It remains a challenging time for our industry but bookings have been strong and we’re pleased to welcome our guests and teams back safely. As we look ahead, we’re working with our advisers at FRP Corporate Finance to help us through this transitional period and ensure we are in the best position to continue trading well into the future.” The move to promote Hammond to managing director followed founder James Hitchen’s decision to step down from his day-to-day activities as chief executive of the group to focus on his new venture, Hitch Hospitality.

McDonald’s unveils energy efficient global flagship restaurant: McDonald’s has unveiled a reconstructed eco-friendly restaurant at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, designed to generate enough renewable energy on-site to cover its energy needs for a year. The company is calling it a new “global flagship restaurant”, which will serve as a learning hub for McDonald’s as it tests solutions for cutting energy and water use. The restaurant in Buena Vista Drive is open for drive-thru and delivery and is expected to open for takeaway and dine-in at a later date. A portion of the 8,024 square foot restaurant, closed since the fourth quarter of 2019, was repurposed. The rest of the building was demolished and rebuilt, with almost 97% of the construction waste recycled. The building features an automated energy system and passive ventilation in the dining room that circulates air and regulates temperature to minimise use of the heating system and air conditioning. When dine-in reopens, customers will be able to burn a few calories while using stationary bikes that also help the restaurant generate electricity, while tablet games will teach children and adults about renewable energy. The restaurant also features an expansive solar-panelled roof, with photovoltaic glass panels integrated throughout the building.  McDonald’s said data and what it learns from the restaurant would be used to inform the company’s global sustainability team as it worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 36% in restaurants and offices by 2030 compared with 2015 levels.

Flat Iron to start reopening programme with London Bridge site: Flat Iron, the nine-strong “single steak” dining concept backed by private equity firm Piper, will begin reopening its estate on Tuesday (14 July), starting with its London Bridge site. The Tooley Street restaurant will initially open from 5pm to 11pm on weekdays and midday to 11pm on weekends. The group is taking bookings as well as walk-ins. A company spokesman said “extensive precautions and measures” were being taken to keep guests and teams safe and “ready for a good time”. A message to customers stated: “We want the restaurants to be places for you to relax in and hope you don’t notice too many changes – but rest assured we’re doing lots in the background to keep everyone safe. We’re starting with one site to make sure we get everything right and learn lessons. We hope our other restaurants will reopen soon.”

Junkyard Golf to reopen estate next month: Crazy golf operator Junkyard Golf will reopen its five-strong estate from the beginning of August. The Mat Lake-led group, which was in private equity talks before the covid-19 outbreak, will reopen all its regional sites – Manchester, Oxford, Liverpool and Leeds – on Monday, 3 August, with its London site coming back online a week later. Safety measures will include a track and trace system implemented across all its sites and staff given the option to wear PPE such as masks or visors while working. Pre-covid, the business applied to open a site in Newcastle and was believed to be in talks on a venue in Glasgow. In December, Propel revealed Ignite Growth, which came close to investing in Indochinese restaurant operator Banana Tree a few years ago, had moved ahead of two other investment firms in the race to acquire a stake in Junkyard Golf.

Doubts cast over Out Of The Woods Group: Out Of The Woods Restaurant Group, which operates four pubs across London, has had its future thrown into doubt with founder Jasper Gorst understood to have left the business. Propel understands the business is working with restructuring firm ReSolve, with all four sites currently closed. Gorst opened The Oak W2 in Notting Hill in 2001 followed by The Bird In Hand in Brook Green in 2011 and The Oak W12 in Goldhawk Road two years later. Last year he opened The Oak SW11 in Battersea having transformed the former Butcher & Grill in Parkgate Road. 

Shake Shack launches click and collect: Shake Shack has partnered with mobile technology company QikServe to offer click and collect. Shake Shack has initially launched the pre-ordering and pay solution, which is powered by QikServe’s Preoday product, at its London sites in Brent Cross, Canary Wharf, Mansion House, Stratford, Tottenham Court Road and Victoria. Shake Shack business director John Berberich said: “We are doubling down on our commitment to be an accessible, omni-channel business. Over the past 15 years we’ve built our brand around community and we’re committed to connecting with our community in as many ways as possible. As we look to reopen our restaurants fully, QikServe’s technology will play a key role in building consumer confidence.” QikServe chief revenue officer Nick Hucker added: “Online ordering is the ideal technology for brands such as Shake Shack, which want a safe and simple way to continue offering the service their customers love. Beyond lock-down, we believe it and other forms of digital ordering will maintain popularity.” Meanwhile, Shake Shack has launched a new menu item in the UK – chick’n bites – six or ten pieces of hand-breaded chicken breast served with barbecue or honey mustard dipping sauce. Shake Shack recently launched four restaurants in the US, with each site registering “encouraging levels of sales”. The company operates more than 280 sites in the US and 95 international locations.

Tipjar to embark on £700,000 fund-raise: Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, is to embark on a £700,000 fund-raise as it looks to grow, Propel has learned. Founder James Brown, who is retail director of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, and Rosa’s Thai Café co-founder Alex Moore, who invested in Tipjar about a year ago, aim to raise funds through crowdfunding platform Crowdcube while engaging with a number of fintech and hospitality industry investors directly. Tipjar is offering 15% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £4.5m. Brown said Tipjar had seen record tipping levels during lock-down as people used cash less frequently. More than 10,000 tip transactions have been made since March, while 180-plus venues and 3,000 staff now use the software. Brown added: “We designed Tipjar to help hospitality staff earn more, bring transparency to the world of tipping and help businesses deal with the increasingly challenging administration of managing and distributing tips. To grow our business, we need funds to invest in launching our solution in new markets as well as onboarding clients in the UK.” Moore said: “The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. At the time covid-19 hit we didn’t know what it meant for the Tipjar business. Firstly, we saw lots of delivery-only businesses taking up our software and saw our busiest ever months in March, April and June. Secondly, with the reopening of bars under new guidelines and the new contactless limit, Tipjar has become even more powerful in connecting customers with staff to say thanks for great service.”

Patty & Bun and Swingers partner to launch ‘date night’ burgers and cocktail kit: Patty & Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossman, has partnered with crazy golf and food and beverage concept Swingers to launch a burger and cocktails “date night” kit. Patty & Bun is providing the elements to make two of its Ari Gold or Smokey Robinson burgers at home. The kit includes two burger patties, smoky Patty & Bun mayo, cheese slices, HG Walter bacon, home-made pickled and smoky onions, and buns. Meanwhile, Swingers will provide the ingredients to make summer citrus daiquiris. There will be enough to make four to six glasses of the citrusy rum cocktail, including a 200ml bottle of Duppy Share rum, demerara sugar, two clementines, a lemon, a lime and two sticks of lemongrass. Customers will only need to add ice and water. Patty & Bun and Swingers have also created a music playlist to download.

Paul UK partners with The Food Medic to launch summer range: Paul UK, the French bakery and cafe brand, has partnered with nutritionist and author Dr Hazel Wallace, aka The Food Medic, to launch a feelgood summer range. The range, which features more “sustainable, plant-based and flexitarian options”, will be available in all Paul stores and via delivery from Monday, 20 July until Sunday, 30 September. The range includes grab-and-go breakfast pots, tofu and jackfruit salads, open sandwiches topped with Mediterranean vegetables, and a vegan Reuben sandwich with sauerkraut, balsamic beet and vegan gouda. All items are high in protein and fibre, rich in omega 3 and low in saturated fat and feature Paul’s additive and preservative-free bread. Executive chairman Maxime Holder said: “I represent the fifth generation of our French family to work in the Paul business. Over the past 130 years we’ve always listened to what our customers want. As our customers look to make food choices to support a healthier lifestyle, I’m proud to be able to offer a versatile range developed with the enthusiasm and creativity of such an experienced and respected doctor and nutritionist.” PAUL continues to support the NHS and will donate 20p from every Food Medic salad sold to its charities.

Gizzi Erskine and Professor Green to launch old-school pizza pop-up at Passo: Chef, food writer and broadcaster Gizzi Erskine and musician Professor Green are to take over Old Street’s Italian-inspired restaurant Passo during the summer for a pop-up. The launch of Giz & Green on Friday (17 July) follows the pair’s weekly lock-down Instagram mini-series in which Erskine taught Green how to make his favourite takeaways. They have decided to turn the most successful dish of the series – their take on the Anglo-American deep-dish stuffed-crust pizza – into a pop-up concept at Passo. The menu will include the Hawaiian, pepperoni and veggie “stuffed crust” as well as the chicken barbecue. There will also be a selection of locally produced soft drinks. The menu will be available for eat in, takeaway and delivery. Erskine said “We hope to give an opportunity to local chefs and producers to get back to work. Stephen and I have been good friends for years, enjoy the same kind of food and cooking, and are really happy to finally partner up.” Green added: “I grew up in east London and we want to reset the benchmark for the old-school 1990s delivery pizza we grew up loving.” Phil Smith, Erskine’s head chef from restaurants such as Bibendum and Mare Street Market, will take the reins as executive chef with operations run by Passo owner Jonny Boud. He said: “Gizzi and I share a love of great pizza so this seemed the perfect collaboration with which to reopen Passo’s doors. We have some other exciting projects in the pipeline, too.”

Diageo creates world’s first 100% plastic-free, paper-based spirits bottle: Drinks company Diageo has partnered with venture management company Pilot Lite to launch the world’s first 100% plastic-free, paper-based spirits bottle. The bottle will debut with Johnnie Walker whisky in early 2021. The bottle is made entirely from sustainably sourced wood pulp and is expected to be fully recyclable. Diageo and Pilot Lite have also launched sustainable packaging technology company Pulpex. To ensure the technology can be used in others areas, Pulpex has established a partner consortium of leading FMCG companies in non-competing categories, including Unilever and PepsiCo. Further partners are expected to be announced later this year, with each consortium partner expected to launch their own branded paper bottles next year based on Pulpex’s design and technology. Diageo chief sustainability officer Ewan Andrew said: “We are constantly striving to push the boundaries within sustainable packaging and this bottle has the potential to be ground-breaking.” On Friday (10 July), Diageo fully launched its recovery fund – Raising The Bar – to support the trade as lock-down lifts.

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