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Tue 21st Jul 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Oakman Inns launches exact copy of Eat Out To Help Out scheme – two weeks earlier and at own expense: Oakman Inns and Restaurants has launched an exact copy of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out campaign – two weeks earlier and at its own expense. Customers can download a £10 voucher to use towards all food dishes and soft drinks at any of the company’s venues, its websites or social media pages. Vouchers will be available until Wednesday, 29 July and, like the government scheme, will be valid from Monday to Wednesday only. The vouchers will entitle customers to 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks up to a maximum value of £10 per person. Only one voucher can be used per table booking. Oakman Inns and Restaurants chief executive Dermot King said: “Our customers and staff have been in this horrible mire for more than four months and, frankly, we thought we all needed a bit of cheering up ahead of August. With prospects of good weather and some lovely pub gardens to visit, this is our way of thanking our friends and loyal regulars for supporting us since we reopened. We were the go-to pub group when the government needed some input into health and safety measures for safe reopening and we believe we offer a more secure environment than a crowded beach or park. It’s our tenner they’ll be spending – not the taxpayers’ – so here’s a chance to have a guilt-free meal from Monday to Wednesday until the end of July – day or night – at our expense.” King added the company had worked hard to ensure the welfare of its teams and guests. Safety measures include intensive cleaning six times a day, table-only service, one-way systems, screens between spaced tables, disposable menus, multiple hand-sanitiser stations, strict social distancing rules and cashless payment. Staff are also temperature checked before each shift.

Industry News:

Duncan Garrood to feature in latest ‘navigating the coronavirus’ video: In the latest in Propel’s video interviews with leading operators about “navigating the coronavirus” pandemic, Yumpingo founder and chief executive Gary Goodman talks to Duncan Garrood, chief executive of Ten Entertainment Group, about the frustrations of not being open yet; striking the right balance between safety and providing a fun experience; finding a mixed experience of service across the industry after lock-down; and getting used to different criteria from consumers on what makes them feel good about going out. The video will be released on Tuesday (21 July)

Kerridge warns no-shows may mean more meals paid for in advance, Erpingham House to ask for deposit: Chef Tom Kerridge has said “selfish” no-show diners could lead to meals in the future having to be paid for in advance as people do with theatre or airline tickets. Kerridge reiterated the problems the sector faces when people who make reservations fail to attend. He told Sky show Ian King Live it could see more restaurants move to a model where credit card details or full payment was taken in advance. One restaurateur taking such action is Loui Blake, who told Propel that after 22 no-shows at the weekend he would now take deposits at his Erpingham House restaurants in Brighton and Norwich. He said: “It’s unbelievable people think it’s acceptable to be reserving tables and not turning up knowing restaurants have limited capacity at the moment.” Kerridge went public last week with his frustration about the behaviour of no-show customers at a time when the industry was on the “verge of collapse”. On Monday (20 July), he told Sky News the situation had been “better” since he sounded the alarm, adding he was simply calling for people to show “common courtesy”. Kerridge said: “I do think we are moving towards a market place where there will be a lot more in the way of credit card details being taken – similar to if you book tickets for the theatre, cinema or an airline. There isn’t an issue if people let us know. If they aren’t going to be able to make it but give us plenty of notice we can resell it, it’s not a problem. He said the no-show issue was hitting the industry at a time when it was “only just coming out of hibernation”. 

FCA begins business interruption insurance test case: The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has started a test case on behalf of thousands of businesses that claim they should have been paid by insurers to cover closures during the pandemic. Insurers were inundated with claims under business interruption policies – many of them from small companies – after the government enforced closures in March. Many insurers have declined to pay out, arguing the policies weren’t designed to cover a government-imposed lock-down. The refusal of some insurers to pay out sparked anger among businesses that believed they were covered, prompting the FCA to start a test case covering many of the disputed policy wordings. Two other groups, representing clients of Hiscox and companies in the hospitality industry, have joined the FCA as claimants. The regulator hopes the test case will be the quickest route to clarity for companies and insurers without the need for each claimant to bring individual cases at a time when many smaller companies face the threat of going out of business. Last month the FCA said some insurers had paid out under business interruption policies after previously arguing the pandemic wasn’t covered. The FCA has whittled the claim down to 17 representative policy wordings a judge will scrutinise. The case will be streamed live online over eight days, ending on Thursday, 29 July. Eight insurers are directly involved in the case but the FCA believes the trial’s outcome will be relevant to about 370,000 policyholders, although only a small proportion of those are likely to have a claim affected by the ruling. The insurers defending the case are Arch Insurance, Argenta Syndicate Management, Ecclesiastical Insurance Office, Hiscox, MS Amlin Underwriting, QBE, Royal & Sun Alliance, and Zurich. Policies from Allianz, American International Group, Aspen, Aviva, Axa, Chubb, Liberty Mutual and Protector also include the wording to be tested in court.

Leisure and travel sector sees most equity raises due to coronavirus impact: The leisure and travel sector has seen the most equity raises among listed companies because of the impact of coronavirus on their finances. Of the 92 fund-raises to date, 17 have been from the leisure and travel sector, with a total of £2.8bn raised; followed by industrials (12) and healthcare and building firms (11). Sector companies to raise funds include Whitbread, which raised £1bn; JD Wetherspoon (£141m), and Young’s (£80m). Peel Hunt leisure analysts Charles Hall and Clyde Lewis said the average offer price for the 92 companies had been a 10% discount, while the average raise had been £150m. Hall and Lewis said the pace of coronavirus-related equity raises had slowed materially, with only three raises since 26 June. This takes the total raised to £13.8bn from the 92 deals since the middle of March. However, Hall and Lewis said there had been a material step up in deals, with 19 in the past three weeks raising more than £1.0bn, taking the total to £3.5bn. Hall and Lewis said: “The average share price move from the pre-raise price is up 16% (10% excluding Avacta), with 60 of the 92 companies experiencing rises since the placing. Avacta leads the way, with a circa 560% increase, followed by ASOS (up 124%), City Pub Company (up 68%) and Safestyle (up 66%). The worst performer remains Arena, which is down 38%, followed by Boohoo (minus 31%). The six largest completed raises are up between 8% (Ocado) and 56% (Whitbread). While coronavirus-related raises have been limited in the past couple of weeks there has been a lot more activity for non-coronavirus deals. The past three weeks have seen £1.0bn raised or block traded across 19 deals. This takes the total to circa £3.5bn from 55 deals, of which circa £1.67bn have been block trades. The industrial sector (12 deals) and financials (11) have been the most active, while healthcare has raised the most in terms of value (£0.93bn) ahead of financials (£0.89bn).

Peter Backman – concerns about eating out part of a ‘bigger picture the sector hasn’t fully addressed’: Sector analyst Peter Backman has argued consumers’ concerns about safety while eating out are part of a “bigger, longer-term picture the foodservice sector hasn’t fully addressed”. He said a general wariness of eating out before the pandemic had “transferred to the coronavirus world”. Backman said: “People are rightly worried about their finances in the medium term but their lack of spending on eating out is way out of line with what has happened in previous times of lack of demand. For example, the maximum downturn in any quarter at the time of the Great Recession was only minus 7%. The downturn in restaurant demand in the latest – April to June 2020 – quarter was minus 92%. And, following the reopening on 4 July, the Huq Index shows the sector stalled in this past week. The difference, of course, is at the time of the Great Recession the problem was economic while the problem now is fear – fear of being infected. This is a medical and hygiene issue – but it isn’t new – consumers have been wary of hygiene and safety in restaurants for far longer than the period of coronavirus. The Food Standards Agency carries out a biannual survey of consumer attitudes towards food. The survey wave in May 2018 noted one-third of the population was concerned about food hygiene when eating out. It seems to me this general wariness has partly transferred to the coronavirus world of eating out. To that extent, therefore, consumers’ current concerns about safety are part of a bigger, longer-term picture. It’s clearly one the foodservice sector hasn’t fully addressed and, until it can get it right or a vaccine or other mitigating factor comes to the rescue, demand will remain very low.”

Almost 500 people apply for two jobs at London pub: Almost 500 people have applied for only two positions at a London pub as research showed job listings plummeted in July compared with last year. Mick Dore, who manages The Alexandra in Wimbledon, south west London, said 484 people sent in CVs for two £9-an-hour jobs at the pub, which reopened on Monday (20 July). He tweeted: “I don’t want to alarm anyone about the economy or anything but I advertised two bar jobs at 4.30pm on Thursday. We’ve had well over 400 applicants. Gulp.” Dore added he would usually have expected about ten replies from people who might not have been that experienced. However, this time there were applications from former air stewards and restaurant managers who had found themselves out of work because of the coronavirus crisis. Office for National Statistics figures showed 74,000 more people left employment in June, with 649,000 fewer people in work since lock-down began in March.

Welsh hospitality businesses report successful first week of ‘outdoor-only’ reopening but warn of continued jobs risk: Welsh hospitality businesses have reported a successful first week of outdoor-only trading but warned there was a continued risk to jobs and companies. In Cardiff, alternative events venue The Depot welcomed more than 3,500 people to its socially distanced “street food social”. Customers were booked into three-hour slots, given temperature tests on arrival and could order street food and drinks straight to their tables via a contactless payment platform. Debs Lewis, co-founder of Canton-based Dusty Knuckle Pizza, said: “We are lucky enough to have a large outdoor space so we didn’t have to make too many changes to make the site safe for our customers and staff. We only had one no-show all weekend and are a little overwhelmed at the volume of dough we got through.” Meanwhile, Wright’s Food Emporium in Llanarthney has turned its car park into Mas Tu Fas – a 30-cover outdoor dining experience. Broadcaster, food writer and restaurateur Simon Wright said: “We are offering a weekly changing menu of two to three courses for lunches from Thursday to Sunday but we plan extra openings if the weather is fair. Our first weekend was a success.” Last week the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective warned many venues would still be unable to open under current Welsh government guidance. A recent survey by the collective suggested less than one-third (32%) of its members were able to reopen under the “outdoor only” measures, meaning thousands of jobs and livelihoods were still at risk. Hospitality is set to resume indoors in Wales from Monday, 3 August.

Consumers hesitant over return to normal habits but strong backing for Eat Out To Help Out scheme: Consumers are hesitant about returning to pre-lockdown eating-out habits but there are signs take-up of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme may be strong, according to research by guest experience management expert HGEM. The study reveals less than one-fifth (16%) of respondents are eating out as regularly as they used to, while one-quarter (25%) still don’t feel safe enough to eat out at all. Of the more than half of respondents that fell between those two extremes, almost one-third (30%) said they had become used to not eating out and weren’t really bothered about returning, while more than one-quarter (28%) had eaten out once or twice for the novelty but didn’t plan to return very often. There was a strong gender influence in the figures, with women significantly more hesitant than men. In terms of age, millennials emerged by far the most confident but, while confidence slides gradually with age, Generation Z bucked the trend and showed a similar profile to those in their 50s. However, almost half (48%) of respondents said they would “definitely” take advantage of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme next month, with almost two-fifths (39%) “possibly” taking advantage. HGEM managing director Steven Pike said: “Many operators will recognise the degree of hesitation expressed by our respondents. There’s a big group in the middle waiting to be tempted out. However, the statistics on likely take-up of Eat Out To Help Out suggest habits aren’t set in stone and people will come out if given a reason to do so. The age and gender profiles may signal to marketers where the greatest opportunities lie for conversion.”

Hospitality net promoter scores soar driven by casual dining: Net promoter scores (NPS) are soaring across the hospitality sector, according to this week’s Customer Sentiment Tracker from Feed It Back and KAM Media. Following feedback from those who visited hospitality venues at the weekend, the overall industry net promoter score sits at 63, which is well above levels before lock-down (58). The rise in scores has been mainly driven by the casual dining and casual premium segments. Both saw a ten-point increase compared with last week, while pubs are also delivering strong scores. Almost all (96%) of returning customers said new safety procedures gave them confidence to return – a rise even from last week (93%). Despite this, the number of complaints about cleanliness has risen since reopening weekend – from 7% to 10%. Before lock-down, fewer than 1% of complaints were focused on cleanliness. “Food quality” was the area receiving the highest number of complaints. The tracker measures key performance indicators such as NPS and satisfaction ratings covering cleanliness, atmosphere, service and value. Operators can trial the Feed It Back system for free and be included in the tracker. To receive the tracker, click here.
Feed It Back and KAM Media are Propel BeatTheVirus campaign members

Two-thirds of US operators pessimistic about next three months: US restaurant operators and executives have grown more pessimistic about the next three months in the face of coronavirus-related fears. A poll by analytics company Black Box Intelligence found two-thirds expect things to become “worse for restaurants over the next three months”. With surges in coronavirus infections reported across a number of US states, the operators surveyed expect the environment for restaurants over the next 90 days to “continue to be challenging”. The biggest concern among the polled operators was safety, with a growing number taking visible precautions. Almost all (96%) require masks for all restaurant staff while 86% have removed some tables from restaurants. Meanwhile, more than three-quarters (77%) are taking the temperature of their employees before a shift, 71% require gloves for all restaurant staff, and 57% have implemented Perspex screens. Black Box president and chief executive Kelli Valade said: “For guests, ‘clean’ is the new ambience or atmosphere and operators are addressing this head on. Trust will come when guests feel safe and we’re already noticing higher service scores as a result.” Black Box also said year-on-year growth in dine-in sales at full-service restaurants had started to trend down again in recent weeks, while off-premise sales growth had shown an increase.

Cornish hotel launches UK’s first purpose-designed and built socially distanced restaurant: The founders of Cornwall’s St Moritz Hotel & Spa have created the UK’s first purpose-designed and built socially distanced hotel restaurant – in four weeks. Hugh and Steve Ridgway partnered with design companies Absolute and Excess Energy Communications to launch dining concept The Anti-Social Club, which consists of 16 private dining rooms with a maximum of 96 covers. The space mixes elements of private members’ clubs, private dining rooms and pop-up restaurants. Diners enter by their own private door, with shared platters served from a series of central hatches. Interiors in the rooms mix palm-inspired pot plants, dressers, hat stands, shell chandeliers and mirrors. Absolute creative director Helen Stephens said: “Working on a pioneering, positive, bounce-back project has been rewarding in every way.” 

OAPA teams up with Bums On Seats: Only A Pavement Away (OAPA), the industry charity that supports the homeless, ex-offenders and veterans with jobs in hospitality, has partnered with agency Bums On Seats to raise funds. The partnership announcement coincides with the launch of Bums On Seats’ foundation course, Miracle Sale, with 5% of every delegate place sold going to the charity. The one-day course has been developed by Bums On Seats founder Amber Staynings and is designed for entry-level sales and marketing professionals as well as front-of-house operations. The course is initially running online, with a view to start face-to-face training in September. Staynings said: “I am elated and very proud of forming this long-term partnership with OAPA. This is only the start.” OAPA founder Greg Mangham added: “With hospitality one of the hardest-hit industries by the pandemic, we couldn’t be happier or more grateful for support.” 
Bums on Seats is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Deadline to apply for Propel deputy editor vacancy this Friday: Propel, which now has more than 20,000 self-subscribed senior-level readers, is looking to recruit a deputy editor, with the deadline for applications being 5pm on Friday (24 July). 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.

Company News:

Papa John’s launches three stores to pass 450-site milestone in the UK: Papa John’s has opened three stores to take the brand past the 450-site milestone in the UK. The new venues are in Gosport in Hampshire, Maidstone in Kent and Wednesbury in the West Midlands. Phil Gaffer, Papa John’s UK franchise sales and business development manager, said: “The stores are being managed by some of our most experienced franchisees and their teams, who have all run multi-unit operations for several years. By being able to support and deliver to our communities safely in line with government advice, we’re proud of how our network of franchisees and their staff across the country have been able to continue to deliver hot food to those needing to stay at home in recent months.” The company said it was seeking franchisees to develop businesses in the north west, north east, Nottinghamshire and the south west. Earlier this month Papa John’s reported like-for-like sales increased 24% in its North America stores in June, with like-for-likes up 6% internationally. Papa John’s was founded in the US in 1984 and has 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.

Azzurri Group begins reopening ASK and Zizzi estates: Azzurri Group, which was acquired by TowerBrook Capital Partners last week through a pre-pack administration, has started reopening its ASK Italian and Zizzi estates. The Steve Holmes-led business reopened 39 sites from 5pm on Monday (20 July). It initially reopened 16 ASK sites in locations including Horsham, Manchester Piccadilly, Scarborough, Lincoln, Winchester and York. New safety measures include fewer tables, daily health checks for teams, disposable menus, card payment only and the collection of contact details for one person in each group for NHS Test and Trace. It has also reopened 23 Zizzi sites, including those in Bath, Plymouth, Chiswick and Milton Keynes. Azzurri said the deal announced on Friday (17 July) enabled the business to “restructure its balance sheet and operations to support future success”, with TowerBrook initially injecting more than £70m into the business. The deal secures the future of circa 225 restaurants, protecting 5,000 employees. However, about 75 sites won’t reopen and the Pod business, which Azzurri acquired last year, will become a delivery-only brand. Azzurri is set to start reopening its Coco di Mama estate later this summer.

Pizza Hut Restaurants to have more than two-thirds of UK estate open by end of July: Pizza Hut Restaurants will have reopened more than two-thirds of its circa 230-strong UK estate by the end of this month. The Jens Hofma-led group had reopened 100 sites for dine-in, with about 60 more reopening on Monday (20 July). A further 16 will reopen for dine-in by the end of July, with the rest of the group’s estate set to reopen by the middle of August. Hofma said the group had sped up its reopening programme on the back of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s VAT cut and Eat Out To Help Out scheme, which comes online next month. He said: “Following the chancellor’s announcement, we will expedite the reopening of an additional 50 Pizza Hut restaurants – on top of those already reopened – and provide work for 1,000 more team members.” 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 its ice cream factory. 

Puttshack consolidates UK management team, curtails expansion plans: Indoor mini-golf experience Puttshack has consolidated its UK management after the pandemic led the business to curtail its short-term expansion plans. Propel understands Roberto Moretti and Sophie Evans, chief operating officer and marketing director respectively, have left the business. Former Bill’s chief operating officer Moretti joined Puttshack last year after stepping down as chief executive of Italian casual dining brand Vapiano UK less than a year into the role. Evans also joined Puttshack last year following senior marketing roles at Be At One and Novus. She has subsequently joined Wireless Social as head of marketing. Puttshack, which completed a £30m equity raise with lead investor Promethean Investment this year, opened its third London site, at 1 Poultry Bank, in November. Adam Breeden, co-founder of Flight Club, Bounce and All Star Lanes, founded Puttshack with Topgolf and World Golf Systems founders Steve and Dave Jolliffe, opening their first site, at Westfield London, in July 2018.

Paul UK starts reopening for dine-in: French bakery and cafe brand Paul UK has started reopening its sites for dine-in, Propel has learned. Paul UK is now allowing customers to eat-in at 21 sites, which have outside and/or inside seating. Among the sites now offering dine-in are Bankside, Holland Park and Wimbledon. Full safety measures are in place including appropriate distance between tables, strict hygiene measures, Perspex screen protection at tills and contactless payment. The company stated: “We look forward to welcoming our customers back to take time to sit and enjoy their favourite hot and cold drinks and freshly baked French food.” Paul UK has so far reopened about 30 of its circa 40-strong estate for eat in, takeaway or delivery. It has also 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”, is available in all open stores and via delivery until Sunday, 30 September.

SA Brain to reopen first 40 sites, next month: Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain has said it will reopen 40 of its pubs on Monday, 3 August followed by the remainder of its estate in the “following weeks”. SA Brain will launch a beer for the reopening, a 4.3% ABV lager called Bayside, and a new food menu. Of the 40 pubs reopening, 13 are in Cardiff, five in Bridgend and three in Swansea, Wales Online reports. SA Brain decided not to reopen its managed pubs on Monday, 13 July when hospitality businesses in Wales were allowed to open their outdoor spaces only. The company stated at the time: “We want our customers to be able to use all the facilities in our pubs come rain or shine and receive a warm welcome back in safe surroundings. We won’t be able to do that by opening outdoors only.” During lock-down SA Brain used surplus beer to make hand sanitiser for the NHS. Earlier this year the brewer said it had identified about 40 pubs it planned to sell off, while the company sold a majority stake in its coffee business, Coffee#1, to Caffe Nero last year.

Island Poké begins roll-out in France: White Rabbit Fund-backed concept Island Poké has started the roll-out of its brand in France after opening a second site in the country, with a third due to launch later this week. The company began its expansion into mainland Europe in June by opening a site in Paris. The business, which earlier this year announced plans to become the key consolidator in the European poké market, opened its second site in France last week, in Montpellier. This week it will open a site in La Rochelle. The company plans to open 42 sites in the next five years in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland under a joint-venture agreement, with the majority of sites in France. The James Porter-led business plans to open 13 sites in the first year under the agreement, ten in the second and 12 in the third. The company will reopen the rest of its eight-strong UK estate by the end of July. The group has already reopened half its sites in London with the rest due to open on Monday, 27 July. The Island Poké sites in Broadgate Circle, Canary Wharf, Shoreditch and Soho are currently open for walk-ins and online orders.

The Lucky Onion launches contactless hotel concept: Cotswolds hotel and restaurant group The Lucky Onion has launched a hotel concept focusing on a contactless guest experience. The company, owned by Julian Dunkerton, the entrepreneur behind high-street brand Superdry and Dunkertons Organic Cider, has launched Cult Hotels in Cheltenham. The George is the debut site for Cult Hotels – consisting of five refurbished grade II-listed Regency townhouses with 46 bedrooms. With practical elements such automated check ins, the hotel focuses on being contactless with as few touchpoints as possible for guests, including a pantry for guests to visit at any time. The properties feature landscaped gardens and terraces for guests to drink and dine at a responsible distance. 

Dirty Bones to begin reopening programme this week: US comfort food and cocktails brand Dirty Bones will begin a gradual reopening of its five-strong estate this week, with openings in London and Oxford. The Cokey Sulkin-led business will reopen its sites in Kensington Church Street and Oxford Westgate on Wednesday (22 July). Dirty Bones will follow this by reopening its site in Soho’s Denman Street on Wednesday, 5 August. Its sites in Carnaby Street and Shoreditch will remain closed for the time being. The company also launched a DIY home kit during lock-down, which is available in central London, Greater London, Oxford and “post codes in between”. The group’s Dirty Vegan site in Westfield White City remains temporarily closed. 

Butchies secures former VQ site for Clapham opening: London-based chicken sandwich concept Butchies is to launch a site in Clapham next month, Propel has learned. The concept, which was founded by Garrett Fitzgerald in 2013, has secured the former VQ takeaway site at 122 Clapham High Street. The company, which is chaired by Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh, currently has two sites, in Shoreditch and Fulham (Market Halls), and also operates a dark kitchen in King’s Cross. However, when the Clapham site opens the company will close its unit at the Foodstars kitchen in Battersea. Butchies opened its first bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Rivington Street, Shoreditch, in 2018. Fitzgerald told Propel that before the pandemic the business was looking to secure a bigger unit in Tooley Street, London Bridge, but the success of its delivery sales, which had gone “through the roof” during lock-down, and the impact of covid-19 on the capital and consumer trends, had meant the business had changed its expansion strategy. He said: “We are now looking to focus on smaller-footprint, A5 sites and further ‘cloud kitchen’ opportunities. We believe there will be good deals to be found on sites in London villages for some walk-in but mostly takeout trade. We’ve learned a lot from the Battersea site but Clapham will give us a greater delivery radius. We look forward to opening next month.” Kit Alexander, at Etch, acted for VQ.

JD Wetherspoon to launch Leeds pub: JD Wetherspoon is to launch a pub in Cross Gates, Leeds, on Tuesday (21 July) creating 40 jobs. The company has spent £2.6m to develop the outlet on the site of a former GP surgery and adjoining dental practice in Austhorpe Road. The pub will be called The Charles Henry Roe in memory of a local bus manufacturer after the Transport Yorkshire Preservation Group suggested the name. Charles Roe established his Cross Gates Carriage Works in 1920 and became the “most successful, well known and long-lived of Leeds’ bus manufacturers”. The pub will be managed by Tom Reeve and open from 8am until 11pm, Sunday to Thursday, and 8am until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Food will be served daily until 11pm. The pub will feature one bar and a beer garden, while smoking will be permitted in a separate designated outdoor area. Historical photos and details of local history as well as artwork and images of local scenes and characters of the area will be displayed in the pub, together with information boards relating to events. A number of bus-related artefacts will be on display, while replica bus-seat fabric has been used to upholster some of the bar stools.

Six by Nico makes London debut for seventh site: Six by Nico, the restaurant concept led by Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone, has made its long-awaited London debut. The 76-cover venue has opened at the former Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi site in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia. It strictly adheres to social distancing, while all surfaces are cleaned and disinfected between sittings. 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 is themed The Chippie. The launch means all Six by Nico sites are now open. 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.” 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. Plans for the company’s food delivery business will be revealed later this year.

All Star Lanes to reopen estate for bowling in August: All Star Lanes, the boutique bowling alley operator backed by sector investor Luke Johnson, will reopen all five of its sites for bowling from Saturday, 1 August. The Graham Cook-led business reopened its Manchester and White City sites for restaurant and bar reservations earlier this month while its Brick Lane bar reopened for walk-ins. However, from the start of next month all venues will fully reopen for bowling and karaoke reservations. Safety measures will include reduced capacity to help social distancing, hygiene screens between lanes and guests being allowed to wear their own shoes to bowl where safe to do so. 

JKS Restaurants to reopen Gymkhana next week: JKS Restaurants, led by Karam, Jyotin and Sunaina Sethi, will reopen Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana on Tuesday, 28 July. The venue in Albemarle Street, Mayfair, which is inspired by the elite clubs of India, will offer its a la carte and tasting menus alongside cocktails and an extensive wine list. The delivery and click-and-collect services that were introduced during lock-down will continue to operate but at reduced hours. Gymkhana only reopened in February following a major refurbishment after a fire last summer. JKS Restaurants began reopening its sites earlier this month, starting with Hoppers in King’s Cross and Indian barbecue, beer and whisky bar Brigadiers. The Hoppers site in Marylebone is due to open on Wednesday (22 July), with the Soho venue following in “due course”. The company will also open its Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Trishna in Marylebone on Wednesday.

TGI Friday’s reveals more details of enhanced menu: TGI Friday’s, led by Robert Cook, has launched its simplified and enhanced menu at six UK restaurants. The company said the key to its Famous At Friday’s menu was an upgrade in ingredients and a focus on provenance, including certificated beef and Red Tractor chicken. The menu pays homage to “what made Friday’s famous” when it launched in 1965 and is set to cut food waste. The menu also features the Famous At Friday’s burger (truffle and black garlic aioli, Stilton cheese, crispy bacon and Branston pickle), while Friday’s favourites such as pot stickers, Cobb salad and loaded potato skins return alongside new cocktails. The participating restaurants are in Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Birmingham Hagley Road, Nottingham, Manchester Royal Exchange and Glasgow Buchanan Street, with plans to roll out the menu to the rest of the estate in the “coming months”. Cook said: “We have invested in the return of classic dishes made with quality ingredients. The return of the iconic four-sided bar brings excitement and theatre, all of which will be complemented by consistently brilliant Friday’s service and spirit.” Earlier this month, TGI Friday’s acquired two former Carluccio’s sites out of administration – in Lincoln and Cobham. Both sites will reopen featuring the Famous At Friday’s format in the autumn. Friday’s reopened its restaurants in England for dine-in on 6 July and in Scotland on 15 July.

Pern permanently closes Mr P’s Curious Tavern: Multi-site operator Andrew Pern won’t reopen his Mr P’s Curious Tavern pub in York. The venue in Low Petergate has remained empty and partially cleared of furniture since lock-down. Its website states: “The new social distancing issues and continued restrictions imposed by the government for restaurants reopening following covid-19 closure make it unviable to open Mr P’s Curious Tavern at this time. We’ll continue to review the situation in line with changes to restrictions and will make further announcements regarding Mr P’s in due course.” However, a member of staff at the restaurant told York Mix the venue had “closed for good”. Mr P’s Curious Tavern opened in June 2016 in what was previously Georgina’s Café by Pern. The restaurant was vastly different to his other York venue, The Star Inn The City, which has reopened. Mr P’s Curious Tavern offered small plates from around the world. Pern, who also runs the Star Inn in Harome and The Star Inn The Harbour in Whitby, has held a Michelin star for 15 years.

Adam Handling to reopen Chelsea site next month as Belmond Cadogan introduces ‘secret gardens’: Belmond Cadogan Hotel and bar and restaurant Adam Handling Chelsea are set to reopen in south west London on Saturday, 1 August. Handling has created a sustainable bar menu featuring family recipes and using offcuts from the restaurant kitchen to ensure zero waste. New dishes on the menu will include Nanny Sophie’s fried chicken, a spice-infused dish inspired by Handling’s mother-in-law. Handling has also create a “best of British” menu for his eponymous restaurant, which will feature main courses such as sharing dish of barbecued lamb shoulder. A new grill menu will also be introduced, which will include wagyu beef bavette with treacle onion and truffle, and whole brill with smoked shrimp butter. Belmond Cadogan will also introduce a salmon, champagne, oyster and caviar menu on its terrace overlooking Sloane Street. Meanwhile, the hotel will launch an afternoon tea delivery service across London from Friday, 7 August. Meanwhile, the hotel has arranged special out-of-hours access to Chelsea Physic Gardens, which features apothecary plants collected over centuries, and Cadogan Place Gardens, which will include a key to its private tennis courts. Adam Handling Chelsea will initially open for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings only throughout August and September and on Sundays for lunch. Full restaurant opening for breakfast, lunch and dinner is planned from October. The bar and terrace will open from 11am to 11pm daily on 1 August. During lock-down, Handling launched at-home delivery service Hame while his restaurants were closed. The chef also operates The Frog Hoxton and Frog by Adam Handling. 

Taco Bell to further streamline menu and clear space for plant-based items: Taco Bell is removing 12 more items from its menu as it streamlines operations and clears space for new items such as plant-based meals. The downsizing, which will begin on Thursday, 13 August, comes less than a year after the brand cut nine items from its menu. Among items being removed are the grilled steak soft taco, spicy tostada and mini skillet bowl. Taco Bell said it would continue to innovate and bring new items to the menu but the decision to remove items was made to “streamline operations and improve customer and team member experiences”. It added: “A simplified menu and innovation process will leave room for new fan favourites, continued progress in categories such as plant-based diets, and opportunities for the return of some classics on a limited-time basis. The decisions were made about specific menu items after months of analysing the new way we run our restaurants and strategically weighing a variety of factors, from cost to speed. Now the majority of our business is via drive-thru we need to deliver on speed of service for our customers.” Taco Bell has suffered significant traffic declines during breakfast and late-night occasions during the pandemic, according to parent company Yum! Brands. In late March, some Taco Bell restaurants temporarily stopped serving breakfast. In addition, the late-night segment has been hit hard as fewer people are out in the evening because of the temporary closures of some bars and entertainment events.

Judy Joo to launch Korean concept after lock-down delay: Chef Judy Joo will launch Korean concept Seoul Bird at Westfield London next month. As first revealed by Propel in October, Joo will open the concept in the food hall at the Shepherd’s Bush shopping complex. The restaurant was due to launch in April but lock-down caused it to be delayed. It will now open on Thursday, 6 August. The concept will specialise in crispy, double fried, Korean-style chicken inspired by Joo’s Korean-American heritage. Chickens are brined for 24 hours before being double fried and served with Asian slaw. Seoul Bird will also offer bibimbap bowls (steamed rice with vegetables, pickled daikon, edamame beans, onions and poached egg). The drinks menu will include three Korean iced teas alongside bottles of Jinro Chamisul Fresh Soju and beer. Joo said: “The Korean way of cooking is so generous and hospitable, something we all need right now. Seoul Bird is my interpretation of true Korean comfort food, from crunchy fried chicken to spicy gochujang sauces. We won’t hug you but our food will!” Joo left the business she founded, Jinjuu, last summer after launching the Korean street food concept in Kingly Street, Soho, five years ago. Jinjuu grew to three sites, including one in Mayfair, but only the original in Soho remains.

Camden Market to host one of UK’s first live music performances since lock-down: Camden Market is set to host some of the first live music events since lock-down with eight ticketed but free open-air weekend performances. Owner Labtech has appointed Xfm founder and NME radio station manager Sammy Jacob and live agent Neil O’Brien to produce the series of live events at the Stables Market Amphitheatre from Saturday (25 July) until Sunday, 16 August under the banner Camden Unlocked. Social distancing will be implemented with the wearing of face masks encouraged. There will also be hand-sanitiser dispensers throughout the area. A single act will perform each Friday, Saturday or Sunday afternoon, with the programme featuring semi-acoustic sets from artists such as Miles Kane and Sons Of Pitches along with DJ sets by Don Letts and Solar Radio. Maggie Milosavljevic, LabTech’s commercial director for Camden Market, said: “Camden Market has a long history of hosting globally renowned bands and now, with our own Camden Unlocked event, we look forward to going back to our roots.”

Crowdfunding campaign to save Glasgow nightclub hits almost £190,000: A crowdfunding campaign to save Glasgow nightclub and music venue Sub Club has hit almost £190,000 after reaching its initial £90,000 target in fewer than six hours. The Save Our Sub fund-raiser was launched earlier this month after the 400-capacity venue, which first opened in 1987, was said to be at risk of permanent closure due to the impact of lock-down and rejection of its application to the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to pay wages of furloughed staff because an “error” by HM Revenue & Customs meant it missed out on being eligible by a day. So far more than 4,300 people have pledged about £187,000. The amount raised will cover the venue’s rebate claim of £31,864 used to pay its 31 staff members during the first eight weeks of lock-down. It will also go towards the venue’s weekly running costs of about £10,000; set up a hardship fund for staff; launch Sub Club’s charitable initiative, the Dazzle Fund; and invest in infrastructure for reopening. Sub Club managing director Mike Grieve said: “The reality for us at the moment is we’ll be lucky if we open this year. The very nature of the business means opening with social distancing requirements in place seems impossible.”

The Hut Group bids to expand King Street Townhouse into Manchester restaurant: The Hut Group has submitted plans to expand its King Street Townhouse hotel in Manchester city centre into a neighbouring restaurant. The online beauty and well-being retailer has submitted plans to repurpose the former 1761 and Lily’s Bar at 2-4 Booth Street, which is two properties down from King Street Townhouse. The company wants to build a spa within the basement and a gym on the first floor. The former would be accessed from the main Booth Street entrance and include a champagne bar, cafe, lounge, sauna and plunge pool. The gym would be accessed from a second entrance off Booth Street, which was previously used for the restaurant. The plans are with Manchester City Council, Insider Media reports. The Hut Group bought Eclectic Hotel Group from founders Eamonn and Sally O’Loughlin last year in a move that brought King Street Townhouse and Great John Street Hotel under its ownership. The boutique hotels have 70 bedrooms between them and offer events space. The O’Loughlins continue to own and manage Didsbury House Hotel and Eleven Didsbury Park. The hotels form part of The Hut Group’s strategy to grow its marketing infrastructure to deliver “enhanced consumer experiences, influencer and brand-led events, and content creation”. The Hut Group founder and chief executive Matthew Moulding said at the time: “As a fast-growing, brand-led business we are always looking to develop innovative approaches to drive greater engagement with our customers.” The group acquired Hale Country Club & Spa in July 2016.

Danieli Holdings to open Stack development in Sunderland next month: North east-based Danieli Holdings is to open its shipping container development – Stack – in Sunderland next month. The £2.5m project on Seaburn seafront will launch on August bank holiday weekend, creating 100 jobs. The venue will house a range of independent street food and casual dining businesses as well as events and socialising space. Operators will include Mexican street food trader Chapos Tacos, Thai street food concept Healthy Thaim and Downey’s Fish & Chips. Meanwhile, Danieli Holdings is doubling up its Cafe Yolo concept to add to the site at its Stack Newcastle development. Danieli Group chief executive Neill Winch told BDaily: “Sunderland is gathering pace in its journey of transformation and we’re pleased to be part of that process through investing in Stack Seaburn. It’s a special city and we’re proud to bring our concept to the area.”

Hyatt reopens Manchester sites: Hotel company Hyatt has reopened both its sites in Manchester and launched a care and cleanliness commitment. Aparthotel-style Hyatt House Manchester features an on-site H Market for round the clock grab-and-go snacks and groceries and room service from sister property Hyatt Regency Manchester. Both hotels are in Manchester’s Innovation District. A Hyatt spokesman said its new Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment ensured every stay involved “comfort, safety and enjoyment”.

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