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Wed 22nd Jul 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Epiris to commit more than £40m of funding to Casual Dining Group: UK-based private equity firm Epiris, which is in exclusive talks to acquire Casual Dining Group (CDG), will commit £43m of funding for the business if a deal is successful, Propel has learned. It’s understood that figure would include significant levels of cash commitment for the next 12 months to manage the impact covid-19 continues to have on footfall and revenue, and then to support and grow the group by refurbishing sites. Propel understands a successful deal via a pre-pack administration would also see £100m of debt in CDG removed and there would be no third-party debt in the new structure. The new company would only have debt owed to Epiris and this debt would have no contractual cash interest payments and would be repayable in seven years. Epiris is believed to have beaten US hedge fund Elliott Adviser in the race to acquire the whole of CDG, which closed 91 of its 250 sites earlier this month after it was placed into administration. A successful deal would see circa 4,000 jobs preserved, with Epiris backing the current management team led by chief executive James Spragg. Epiris, which was also a bidder to acquire Azzurri Group, is understood to be negotiating with landlords on revised lease terms ahead of completing a deal. The eventual number of sites it takes will depend on those negotiations, with a number of properties understood to be marginal. Earlier this week CDG reopened six concessions at Center Parcs as the villages welcomed guests back following a four-month lock-down. For a limited time the six restaurants will offer a special menu for delivery and collection only. In total, CDG operates 12 restaurants at Center Parcs locations, primarily split across its Café Rouge, Bella Italia and Las Iguanas brands.

Industry News:

Stephen Finch to feature in latest ‘navigating the coronavirus’ video: In the latest in Propel's video interviews with leading operators about “navigating the coronavirus” pandemic, Mark Wingett talks to Stephen Finch, founder of Imbiba-backed wine bar business Vagabond, about the importance of being alert and nimble; the ongoing challenges around rent and how the new code of conduct set back talks with landlords; having the “mind space” to realise what was most important to the business; speeding up strategic projects; and how the crisis has changed how he leads. The video will be released on Tuesday (21 July). Meanwhile, readers can support independent sector journalism and get their news 12 hours early (at 7pm each night) with a Propel Premium subscription. It costs £395 plus VAT per annum for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to sign up.

Government publishes call for evidence over business rates reform, trade bodies want holiday period extension: The government has published a call for evidence for a fundamental review of business rates. The government is seeking views on the current business rates system, issues that need to be addressed, ideas for change, and alternative taxes. The government has also confirmed the next revaluation of non-domestic property in England, scheduled for 1 April 2021, will now take effect on 1 April 2023. The government also said it recognised the need to reform the duty system to support the pub sector in the long term and would publish a call for evidence before the end of September. UKHospitality said it was a “welcome first step on the road to business rates reform” but, along with the British Institute of Innkeeping, called for the business rates holiday to be extended by another 12 months. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Kicking back the revaluation by a further year will give businesses some much-needed breathing room and stability. Pushing back should also provide time for reforms to be introduced and a more accurate reflection of property values following this crisis, which has clearly had an enormous impact on trade. However, with rateable values staying high for longer, the need for an extension of the business rates holiday is more acute. The holiday has been a hugely valuable lifeline for hospitality businesses and we need the government to extend it for another year to give the sector the extra degree of flexibility it needs to get back on its feet. Acknowledgement the alcohol duty system needs reforming to support the sector is also a positive development.”
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
British foodservice industry shows signs of recovery as spend reaches 50% of level before lock-down: Weekly spend to the end of week 28 (Sunday, 12 July) recovered to 50% of levels seen before lock-down, according to new research by insights firm The NPD Group. The figure represents an improvement of 30 percentage points since lock-down in late March, with the group stating it was clear evidence of a “slow but encouraging recovery” in the British out-of-home foodservice market. Dinner has recovered strongest, with weekly spend at almost two-thirds (64%) of levels before lock-down, compared with the late March low point of 29%. This improved performance is supported by the continued strength of delivery, which is 60% higher in spend terms than it was before lock-down. Activity at weekends is increasing. Since the end of June, weekend spend has doubled from 29% to 57%. Recovery is more evident among younger consumers. For those aged 16 to 24, spend is at 45% of the level before lock-down, while for 25 to 34-year-olds it’s 51%. Among over-55s, spend is still less than 25% of pre-covid levels, although this is up from 9% in late March. Spend motivated by the desire for a “treat” has increased sharply and at the beginning of July had recovered to 70% of the level before lock-down. Before the 4 July relaxation in England, spend associated with eating at home was more than one-third (34%) above the level before lock-down. Spend for eating out in a venue is still low and, as of 12 July, was 77% below levels seen before lock-down. Dominic Allport, insights director (foodservice), at The NPD Group, said: “While this data shows evidence of recovery in British foodservice, it isn’t clear whether this reflects the start of a sustainable improvement or the short-term satisfaction of pent-up demand. These tentative signs of improvement are welcome. Treating could be an indication consumers have grown impatient with lock-down. Operators can tap into this desire by offering choice or value to encourage repeat visits.” The NPD Group said staycationing would boost the sector, although the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme would be too “short term” to have a major impact. It said the VAT tax cut until January would provide much-needed stimulus as operators passed on lower prices.
The NPD Group is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
One-third of hospitality businesses report ‘better than expected’ revenue after reopening: Almost one-third (32%) of hospitality businesses that reopened on 4 July reported “better than expected” revenue, according to a survey of members of the Hospitality Professionals Association (HOSPA). Almost half (46%) said revenue was “as expected”, with more than one-fifth (22%) reporting revenues were worse than they forecast. However, two-thirds (67%) of operators reported revenue was down by more than 50% on the previous year, one-quarter (25%) reported revenues down less than 50%, and 5% felt revenue remained the same. Only 3% of respondents reported an improvement. HOSPA’s membership consists of more than 1,000 operators and 97% of respondents felt their safety procedures were working, while 94% felt that, generally speaking, guests abided by the new rules. Regarding capacity given social distancing requirements, almost half (49%) of respondents said they were operating at between 50% and 75% of normal capacity, with more than one-third (34%) operating between 25% and 50%, and 14% operating between 75% and 100%. HOSPA chief executive Jane Pendlebury said: “While revenues are down considerably, a big plus is such a large proportion seemed to fare better than initially expected. We’re keen to look for any positives and, while we’re set for difficulties for some time to come, the fact some have seen better than anticipated trade is good to hear. With safety measures (so far) seeming to work and guests (so far) seeming to abide by them, we’re hoping as an industry we can build on this initial positivity to try to bounce back – with recent government initiatives helping us in this.”

UK footfall continues to rise but at slower pace: UK footfall has continued to rise during the past week albeit at a slower pace, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. English city centres saw growth on average of a couple of percent, with footfall on Sunday (19 July) for the majority increasing faster than Saturday (18 July. Liverpool on Sunday was the closest footfall has been seen compared with the February average with it being 41% behind the benchmark date. Leeds also saw a spike in footfall on Sunday compared with the previous weekend, probably due to the city centre celebrations over Leeds United’s promotion to the Premier League, Wireless Social said. With Scottish hospitality starting to reopen, a bigger jump was seen in Glasgow and Edinburgh, with Glasgow’s footfall on Saturday increasing by 16% and Edinburgh by 9% compared with the week before. Cardiff’s footfall grew but at a slower rate. Wireless Social said however, if Scotland’s patterns were anything to go by, this would spike next week as consumer confidence grows and people tentatively head back out. New analysis on suburbs showed footfall is growing between 5% and 10% each week. London shopping streets are still fluctuating up and down, with no real pattern yet emerging. Oxford Street was very similar to last week, while other areas were in growth and some were in decline. The West End’s usual footfall drivers of tourism and theatres and entertainment are still waiting for a return.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

CAMRA – alcohol duty review a ‘fantastic opportunity’ to save pubs: The government’s review on alcohol duty is a “fantastic opportunity” to save pubs, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has said. The government has confirmed the wider Alcohol Duty Review is expected in September as well as its continued commitment to Small Brewer Relief and improvements to its current structure. CAMRA national chairman Nik Antona said: “This review into how alcohol can be taxed more fairly is a fantastic opportunity for the government to save our pubs by introducing a lower rate of duty on draught beer, with savings passed on to pubs and consumers. A preferential rate of duty on draught beer is a radical proposal that would support and encourage drinking in the supervised setting of the local pub.” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, added: “Now we have left the EU we have the opportunity to level the playing field compared with other major beer-producing countries, especially as we pay 11 times more beer duty than Germany or Spain.”
Shaftesbury to pedestrianise Seven Dials to help F&B operators: West End landlord Shaftesbury has revealed plans to implement temporary timed road closures in Seven Dials from Monday, 3 August as part of a programme of initiatives to support tenants. Working in partnership with Camden Council, Shaftesbury plans to use a series of timed road closures to put pedestrians and cyclists first during food and beverage operators’ and retailers’ core daytime trading hours. The closures would operate from 10am to 6pm daily and would be controlled by a combination of droppable and plug-in barriers and monitored by the Seven Dials security team. In addition, Shaftesbury is implementing a one-way system for pedestrians visiting Neal’s Yard and installing additional cycle parking throughout the estate. Shaftesbury is also in talks with the council to allow food and beverage operators to use Seven Dials’ newly pedestrianised streets to provide additional external seating. Charles Owen, portfolio executive at Shaftesbury, said: “The timed road closures in Seven Dials are a significant step in helping all our restaurants, bars, cafes and retailers rebuild as lock-down eases and footfall begins to grow. The combination of open streets and, in effect, wider footways will make Seven Dials an even safer and more enjoyable experience for visitors and residents. While the Camden community, its businesses and residents face challenges, working together like this will ensure everyone thrives once again.” Cllr Adam Harrison, Camden Council cabinet member for improving the environment, added: “The plans are consistent with our vision to deliver a more sustainable, successful Camden, an agenda that has never been more relevant as we rebuild from the effects of coronavirus.” Shaftesbury has already announced it is moving to monthly rents across its portfolio.
Confusion reigns as Gove goes back to wearing face mask in Pret: Cabinet minister Michael Gove has been spotted donning a face mask in Pret A Manger a week after he sparked a backlash for failing to wear one. Gove was pictured leaving a Pret site in Westminster without a mask last week, days after telling the public it was “good sense” to do so. Cabinet colleague Liz Truss wore a mask in the same shop on the same day. The government’s policy on wearing masks in shops will become mandatory in England from Friday (24 July), with the threat of a £100 fine for failing to do so. The rule isn’t set to apply to cafes but health secretary Matt Hancock later said: “You do need to wear a face mask in Pret because Pret is a shop.” Hours later the prime minister’s spokesman said: “My understanding is it wouldn’t be mandatory if you went in, for example, to a sandwich shop to get a takeaway to wear a face covering. Where it’s mandatory we’re talking about supermarkets and other shops.” Chancellor Rishi Sunak added to the confusion after he tweeted a picture of himself wearing a mask in Pret. Police chiefs, industry leaders and medics have branded the face mask rule “illogical” and “impossible” to enforce, the Evening Standard reports. 

Landlord Capital & Counties sees value of holdings fall 17% in first half: Capital & Counties (Capco), which owns 1.2 million square foot of shops, restaurants and offices in London’s Covent Garden, said the value of its holdings fell by 17% to £2.2bn in the first half of the year. It said the write-down related wholly to its retail, leisure and food and beverage properties, which were forced to close at the start of lock-down. Only 44% of rent for the second quarter has been collected and 27% for the third quarter. Overall, 71% of rent has been collected in the first six months of the year, compared with 99% for the equivalent period last year. The landlord reported a 12% decline in the estimated rental value of the portfolio to £95.5m. Capco said most retail and hospitality tenants had reopened or were due to reopen imminently. However, it said the trading environment remained challenging and it was too early to predict when footfall would return to previous levels while office workers stayed at home and consumer sentiment remained fragile. It said bespoke solutions had been agreed which include rent deferrals, rent-free periods and other arrangements reflecting the position of each customer. For certain tenants that are experiencing short-term cash flow issues it said rental agreements would be linked to turnover for the second half of the year in exchange for other provisions such as lease extensions.

Investors’ appetite for hotels remains strong: Investors’ appetite for hotels has continued to remain strong despite the pandemic, according to agent Christie & Co. Its Buyer Registration Index revealed as lock-down restrictions began to lift on 27 April the company witnessed an 84% surge in hotel buyer enquiries and viewings up to 22 June. It said demand from hotel investors remained “very strong” during the period as they chased opportunities in the market for closed and existing businesses. Christie & Co said it expected this general trajectory of increased activity to be maintained, particularly as banks began to focus on new lending. In recent months Christie & Co said it had seen a notable increase in searches for rural and coastal businesses as many buyers looked to relocate from towns and cities. It said the continued low interest rates and rise in unemployment could lead people to look for other investment and career opportunities with hotels providing an “attractive proposition for many people”. Carine Bonnejean, managing director of hotels at Christie & Co, said: “Booking websites and reservation platforms are reporting unprecedented levels of enquiries as domestic guests escape for a leisure break in seaside and rural destinations. This provides a great opportunity for hotels to capitalise on this short-term demand and collect some well-needed cash liquidity. Post-summer, the market outlook is more uncertain. International travel and business demand will take time to recover and we don’t expect the market to return to pre-coronavirus levels until 2022 at the earliest. Unfortunately, over-rented or over-leveraged hotels may not be able to wait that long and we’ve already seen casualties. Additionally, government support is being slowly phased out and deferred payments will start to have an impact on cash flows. As such, we expect to see a pick up in distressed situations towards the end of 2020/early 2021.”
Christie & Co is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Irish pub industry asks government to protect the sector: The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has asked the Irish government to develop a plan to protect the future of the Irish pub industry and its 50,000 employees. Following comments made by minister for health Stephen Donnelly that pubs could “materially add to the possibility of a second wave”, the LVA is asking the government what its plans are for the sector. The LVA said if the government wanted pubs to survive, special measures would be required to safeguard the industry’s future. The LVA has asked for significant grants for pubs based on their licence band, with a minimum of €20,000 (£18,000) rising to €50,000 for 2020; maintaining the wage subsidy scheme for pubs for as long as social distancing restrictions apply; a VAT cut for on-trade alcohol until the end of the year; and the abolition of commercial rates for 2020. LVA chief executive Donall O’Keeffe said. “We are the only sector still to reopen. We have repeatedly been separated from the rest of the economy and the rest of the hospitality sector. The livelihoods of publicans and staff are being badly affected. The infection rate is rising while they remain closed. No other industry is being told they can’t return to work. No other business owners or staff are being told they can’t earn a living for 40% of the year. We recognise the gravity of this pandemic and the need to listen to expert advice. However, it must be recognised there are economic consequences too and the pub sector is bearing a real financial burden.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is seeking a finance director for a multi-site restaurant business. Based in London, the finance director will work closely with the company’s founder to build financial strategy and budgets, put plans in place, work regularly with the operations team to ensure strong everyday finance keeping, and troubleshoot weaknesses. This position would suit an all-rounder but experience working with franchise partners would be an added bonus. A salary of up to £80,000 will be considered. If you are interested in this great opportunity, email your CV or profile to
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Stonegate launches own version of Eat Out To Help Out with no spending cap: Stonegate Pub Company has launched its own version of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme – but with no spending limit. Customers will be given 50% off their bill when they dine at any Stonegate site on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. The offer will be automatically applied to customers’ bills on all food, tea and coffee orders. The scheme will operate until the company switches to Eat Out To Help Out next month. Stonegate has opened the majority of its estate with new safety measures including enhanced cleaning regimes, single-use menus, contactless payment, hand-sanitiser stations and revised layouts. Customers have been encouraged to book because of reduced venue capacity. Stonegate managing director Helen Charlesworth said: “I am excited to launch this campaign two weeks ahead of the government initiative. We’re committed to providing the best possible customer experience and this is just the start of many initiatives and campaigns that will roll out across Stonegate in the coming weeks and months to benefit our customers.” Meanwhile, Stonegate will reopen the majority of its cocktail bar chain Be At One this week. Be At One has already reopened five of its 39 sites, four in London – in Greek Street, Regent Street, Russell Street and Shoreditch – and its bar in Birmingham. The company will open a further 23 venues on Friday (24 July), while the Be At One in Cardiff will reopen on Monday, 3 August.
Whitbread to have entire restaurant portfolio open by 5 August as it signs up to Eat Out To Help Out scheme: Whitbread has said it will have reopened its entire portfolio of more than 750 restaurants by Wednesday, 5 August. The company said brands including Bar + Block, Beefeater and Brewers Fayre would also participate in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. The discount scheme, which gives guests 50% off their bill up to £10 per person when dining from Monday to Wednesday, will run alongside Whitbread’s current restaurant loyalty schemes, meaning guests can still earn points when dining. Whitbread said there would be plenty of additional offers coming up for loyalty members in August that could be used from Thursday to Sunday. Whitbread Restaurants managing director Phil Birbeck said: “Our restaurants have introduced a range of measures to keep our guests and teams safe so, when our guests are ready, they can dine with us in confidence and feel assured their well-being is of utmost importance to us.” Since the start of July, Whitbread’s restaurants have been opening in a phased approach and, in preparation for welcoming guests back, have been working to create a gold standard set of measures called A Generous Serving Of Safety. Meanwhile, Whitbread has appointed Leo Burnett London as its creative agency for Premier Inn following a four-month competitive pitch process that mainly took place virtually. The agency will be responsible for Premier Inn’s above-the-line advertising as the hotel company continues the phased reopening of sites. Incumbent agency Lucky Generals declined to repitch for the account, ending its four-year relationship with the hotel group earlier this year, reports Campaign.

Andrew Stones appointed interim managing director of Vagabond: Andrew Stones, the former managing director of Be At One, has been appointed interim managing director at the Imbiba-backed wine bar business Vagabond. Stones worked with Be At One’s founders and private equity partners to grow the company from ten to 39 sites before managing a trade sale to Stonegate Pub Company in 2018. He joined sector investor Imbiba last year, and sits on the board of the eight-strong Vagabond. It is thought long-term the group will look to hire a permanent managing director. Founder Stephen Finch told Propel: “What became pretty clear to me early in the lock-down was there were a number of important strategic projects I believed would create value for the business that had not really moved beyond my head into practice. The day-to-day management of the business had not afforded me time to focus on these projects, and it is easy to get stuck in that mindset. Speaking with the company’s board it quickly became apparent I should not be still doing that day-to-day role anymore. So it was a case of let’s get a proper, experienced managing director to do the day-to-day management and free me up to take those strategic projects forward, and also provide an overall direction and tone for the business. So we have brought Andrew, formerly of Be At One, who already sits on our board, in to be our interim managing director. He has taken the reins quickly and is running with it and it has freed me up to do what I need to do, and I couldn’t be happier.”

McDonald’s to reopen 700 restaurants for dine-in: McDonald’s has said it will reopen about 700 restaurants for dine-in from Wednesday (22 July) in a move that will allow some venues to take part in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. The company said following a trial at four sites the reopenings would involve restaurants across the UK apart from Wales, which has yet to lift eating-in restrictions. McDonald’s has already reopened UK sites for drive-thru and takeaway after they temporarily closed in March. Social distancing measures will be in place at reopened venues with the number of customers carefully managed to prevent congestion. Venues will operate table service only, with orders taken through the McDonald’s app or at tills and kiosks. Customers will be asked to use hand sanitiser at the sites alongside other safety measures. Customers who dine in will also be asked to leave contact details via their smartphone. McDonald’s said the move would enable “some restaurants” to take part in the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, halving dine-in bills by up to £10 per person on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August. Last week McDonald’s said it had recommended franchisees cut the price of popular items and meal deals after the government slashed VAT on hot meals from 20% to 5% for the next six months. It said it intended to reduce the price of Happy Meals by 30p and breakfast meals by 50p, with price cuts also recommended for Big Macs, Quarter Pounders and McNuggets.
YO! to reopen some sites for table service only as it continues new contactless format roll out: YO!, the Richard Hodgson-led global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group, is to open some of its restaurants yet to convert to its new contactless format for table service only due to customer demand, Propel has learned. YO! will begin by reopening its Bromley, Nottingham and Windsor restaurants on Wednesday (22 July), but without the conveyor belt in operation. The phased reopening will see another six sites open by Saturday (25 July). Five more restaurants, including Brighton, Milton Keynes and Exeter, will reopen for table service next week followed by Leamington Spa on Wednesday, 5 August. Propel understands YO! has taken the decision to offer table service after receiving a huge number of requests on social media. Meanwhile, the company is continuing to roll out its new and improved “kaiten” conveyor belt providing guests with a personal, contactless dining experience. Guests can take a picture of a QR code and order and pay for their food through the digital menu on their phone via a platform powered by Vita Mojo. Dishes are prepared in each store’s kitchen and arrive on the kaiten belt in front of customers. The interactive traffic light system turns amber to tell customers when their food is on its way and green when it arrives. Having piloted the format in Guildford, it has now been rolled out to eight sites, with its restaurants at Harvey Nichols in London and Cheltenham following this week. The company plans to continue rolling out the format across its 70-strong estate at a rate of roughly three sites a week. 

Boparan Restaurant Group confirms first UK franchise partner for Slim Chickens: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) has confirmed JRK Restaurants as the first UK franchise partner for Slim Chickens, as it seeks to accelerate the growth of the “better chicken” brand. BRG has entered into a franchise development agreement with JRK Restaurants under which the new partners will open initially five outlets across the south coast. The first site will be located within Southampton’s Westquay Shopping Centre and is due to open next month. Propel revealed in February that Karim Kassam, the founder of hotel operator Ziz Hospitality, was one of the directors behind JRK Restaurants, and BRG was looking to go down the franchise route to expand Slim Chickens in the UK. BRG currently operates seven sites under the brand in the UK. Judd Williams, BRG’s franchise director, said: “We are delighted to partner with JRK in what is a significant move for everyone associated with the Slim Chickens brand. As a result of this new signing, we have taken the first steps in our ambitious sub-franchise plans to fast track the roll out of Slim Chickens and introduce the brand to more towns and cities across the UK.” Kassam added: “Slim Chickens is undoubtedly one of the most exciting new brands in the market and we are pleased to partner with BRG to increase Slim’s presence across the UK.”
Starbucks to update loyalty programme and app: Starbucks has announced plans to update its loyalty programme this autumn by giving members more payment options and ways to earn stars through the Starbucks app. The update to Starbucks Rewards will begin in company-operated stores in the US and Canada, with members able to scan their app and then pay by cash, card or select mobile wallets to earn stars towards free items. Members will also be able to save their preferred payment methods in the app to earn stars when paying. The enhancements will be in addition to the current option of earnings stars by paying with a Starbucks Card in-store and within the app. Starbucks chief marketing officer Brady Brewer said: “Our customers shared with us they would like more options to pay and earn stars in the app as a Starbucks Rewards member in addition to the Starbucks Card. We expect the expansion of payment options will appeal to an even wider customer audience and deepen engagement with our members.” Meanwhile, as a continuation of the company’s commitment to a more sustainable future, Starbucks has joined the new Transform to Net Zero initiative as a founding member. Comprised of nine founding members, the Initiative’s objective is to accelerate the transition to a net zero global economy no later than 2050.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen begins reopening sites for dine-in: Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) has begun reopening its restaurants for dine-in. The company has reopened 14 of its 72 sites so far, including Bath, Bluewater, Guildford and Watford, and is working to welcome customers back to further outlets. In May, GBK appointed advisors to assess its options going forward. The Famous Brands-owned business had appointed Deloitte to oversee this process, with speculation increasing the group would need to be placed into administration after Famous Brands announced in April it was pulling the plug on its investment.

TGI Friday’s launches UK premium meat delivery service: TGI Friday’s has launched Butcher’s Boxes, a premium meat delivery service in the UK. The move is part of the company’s Fridays At Home range. There are three boxes to choose from – The Famous, The Signature and The Legends – with each box delivered frozen as they contain enough meat for “several meals”. Meat includes slow-cooked, marinated baby-back pork ribs, Cumberland and barbecue sausages, burgers made using brisket and chuck steak from British and Irish farms, and PGI-certificated Scottish 12oz ribeye steak or 10oz sirloin steak. Each box also contains cooking and handling instructions, with the first available delivery on 30 July. Chief executive Robert Cook, said: “We have been working tirelessly to bring the Friday’s feeling to our fans’ homes through click and collect and delivery. We’re excited Butcher’s Boxes are the latest addition to the Friday’s At Home range. We’ve made a significant investment in the quality of our meat. Each box contains an accompanying brochure that includes essential care, preparation and cooking information to give them the full Friday’s experience” Earlier this week, TGI Friday’s revealed more details of its simplified and enhanced menu, which is available at six UK restaurants. The Famous At Friday’s menu pays homage to “what made Friday’s famous” when it launched in 1965 and is set to cut food waste. 
Heavenly Desserts to open debut Manchester site and second London outlet: Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts is to open its debut site in Manchester and is set to add another outlet in London to its estate, Propel has learned. The company also launched sites in Coventry and Rochdale this month, while it will open its fourth store of 2020, in Walthamstow, east London, shortly. Heavenly Desserts made its debut in the capital earlier this year with a site at International Quarter London – Lendlease and London & Continental Railways’ £2.4bn development in Stratford. The company is also strengthening its presence in the north west of England having secured its first site in Manchester. The restaurant in Wilmslow Road is due to “open soon”. In March, Heavenly Desserts appointed agents to find it prospective stores in London and the south of England in a bid to accelerate expansion plans. The business, which operates circa 25 stores in the UK, is looking to ramp up its presence in the south. It aims to open further outlets in London with Shepherd’s Bush, Hounslow and Wembley among the areas on its radar.
Watch House to launch Maltby Street roastery, plans further expansion as coffee shops start reopening next month: Edition Capital-backed coffee concept Watch House is to launch a roastery to supply its five London coffee houses, which will start reopening next month. The company said it would also continue with its “calculated expansion plans across London and further afield”. The roastery will launch under the arches of Maltby Street on Saturday, 1 August offering Watch House’s own house blend coffee while housing the company’s training lab and head office. The brand’s coffee houses in Bermondsey Street, Spitalfields and Tower Bridge will reopen on the same day. The Bermondsey Street site was the debut venue for Watch House, founded by chief executive Roland Horne. The 19th century former watch house will reopen featuring a new look. Horne said he decided to keep all his coffee houses closed during July as he felt they couldn’t offer the “full customer experience we are known and loved for, with community at the core”. He said: “We are really excited to be reopening to our community and coming back using our own coffee roasted in our new roaster, which will serve as our academy for our coffee teams. Our home at Bermondsey also gets the 2.0 treatment while staying true to its honest principles of design and history. We reopen Watch House cafes focusing on these silver linings to ensure 2021 is our most exciting year yet.” Watch House said it would announce reopening dates of its Somerset House and Fetter Lane sites in the “coming weeks”. 
Danny Meyer brings back tipping: Union Square Hospitality Group, the New York City operator owned by Danny Meyer, is allowing tipping again at its restaurants. Meyer said he was ending the company’s Hospitality Included system in which menu prices were raised to cover higher pay and benefits for servers, with tips politely refused. He added the tip-free system he implemented had always gone against cultural norms and against the “precarious and unpredictable backdrop” of the pandemic so he was allowing tipping again. In an interview with The New York Times, Meyer said he didn’t want to deny extra money staff might be able to earn. He said: “We don’t know how often people will be eating out, we don’t know what they are going to be willing to pay. We do know guests want to tip generously right now.” When Meyer announced the elimination of tips he said he was doing it to create a more equitable system in which back-of-the-house staff could be compensated similarly to those front-of-house staff, noting servers, in effect, got raises any time menu prices went up. He added: “We’ve come to believe it’s the inability to share tips that’s the problem, not the tips themselves.” The jurisdictions where the company operates – New York City and Washington – don’t allow tips to be shared with back-of-house employees, although federal law does allow it at restaurants that pay servers the full minimum wage, according to a United States Department of Labor Ruling last year. “Our ultimate goal is for your tips to be shared among our entire team, so both kitchen and dining room teams can benefit when a guest has a great experience,” Meyer wrote on LinkedIn. “That will take a shift in public policy and we are actively doing all we can to persuade state and federal lawmakers to make that change.” In the meantime, he said, the company’s restaurants would provide a share of revenue to kitchen staff and “will be increasing total compensation by an average of 25% across our full-service restaurants.”
EasyBite heads to East Midlands as it secures fourth site, in Nottingham: Food-to-go operator EasyBite is heading to the East Midlands as it prepares to open its fourth site. The company has secured a vacant unit in Nottingham’s Beastmarket Hill in a deal brokered by Box Property. EasyBite has two outlets in Birmingham and one in Leeds. Frankie Labbate, a director at Box Property, told The Business Desk: “There are very few deals to national operators happening in the city, so this is a positive letting.”

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal to launch debut at-home offering and garden terrace: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, the two Michelin- starred restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel, is to launch a dine at home offering for the first time in its nine-year history. The service will launch on Friday (24 July) and include some of the restaurant’s most famed dishes such as Meat Fruit. The service will operate from Friday to Sunday and offer three special four-course menus, with meals available to collect from the restaurant. The menus have been inspired by historic British gastronomy. The Vivendier Menu dates to circa 1430, while the Forme Of Cury menu is from 1390. Both menus will feature a pairing of meat and fish, alongside the sambocade dessert, a medieval-inspired cheesecake. The Royal Cooking Menu (circa 1716) is a vegetarian option and will feature a truffle version of Meat Fruit. The restaurant’s dining room will remain closed until 1 September but its new Garden Terrace will launch on Saturday, 1 August, offering views of Hyde Park and opening from midday to 7pm daily.
Domino’s Pizza embarks on box recycling programme in US: Domino’s Pizza is partnering with its primary box supplier in an effort to increase cardboard recycling in the US. The Don’t Trash The Box programme has been created with Domino’s box supplier WestRock and includes a website with recycling information and a guide for customers in communities that might not accept pizza cardboard for recycling. Tim McIntyre, Domino’s executive vice-president of communications, said: “Because almost everything that leaves a Domino’s store leaves in a corrugated box, we know we have an opportunity to make a difference when it comes to packaging and recycling. Our goal is our customers will set aside any misconceptions they have around the recyclability of pizza boxes, read the facts and put their empty box in the recycling bin.” Domino’s worked with WestRock earlier this year to increase the recycled content in its pizza boxes from 40% to 72%.
YouTube star to open second Brighton site for plant-based delivery kitchen concept: YouTuber Mikey Pearce is to open a second Brighton site for his plant-based delivery kitchen concept, Clean Kitchen Club. Having launched the concept a month ago, Pearce will open the venue on Saturday (25 July) at Shelter Hall Raw, the debut venture by Sessions Market, the ethically-driven and immersive food hall concept backed by Imbiba and led by former Deliveroo managing director Dan Warne. Clean Kitchen Club dishes include the Clean Burger (homemade patty, lettuce, tomato, gherkin, vegan cheese, vegan mayo and ketchup), and the Cheat ‘N’ Clean (double homemade patty, homemade mushroom bacon, double vegan cheese, lettuce, tomato, vegan mayo and ketchup). Pearce said: “We have sold out of our most popular burgers almost every day since opening and need to open a second site to keep up with the incredible demand. We’re currently looking at how we can develop our menu and will launch a number of new plant-based treats.” When he launched the concept last month, Pearce said he planned to grow the business with childhood friend Abe Garman and open delivery kitchens in major UK cities including Edinburgh, London and Manchester.

London casino sale boosts full-year profits at Genting UK: The sale of a London casino has boosted the full-year profits of Genting UK after a slight fall in revenue, newly filed accounts have revealed. The announcement comes after the business revealed plans to cut 1,600 jobs because of the pandemic. Genting UK reported pre-tax profits of £41.3m for the year ending 31 December 2019, up from £1.9m the year before. The surge comes after the group’s sale of Coastbright, which owns and operates Maxims Casino London, was completed in March 2019 for more than £36m. Revenue dipped slightly from £322.1m to £318.2m during the same period. The company operates 36 casinos, five of them comprising the “high end” division in London and 31 casinos throughout the UK – its “core” division. It also operates a casino in Cairo as well as Resorts World Birmingham, which includes the Resorts World Casino, Genting Hotel, Santai Spa and Gym, an 11-screen cinema, the Vox conferencing facility and a number of shops, restaurants and bars. The business also runs a hotel in Mayfair, London, in addition to other land and property interests. In October 2019 the group acquired Authentic Gaming and Authentic Gaming Malta, providers of live online casino services, for €15m. In their statement accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “While trading conditions have improved for the ‘core’ division, the ‘high-end’ market segment has continued to be volatile in 2019, with a decline in business from Middle Eastern customers owing to the changeable political and economic climate in the region. The UK business has remained resilient against this challenging backdrop as it continues to benefit from strategic changes implemented in previous years.” The results come after Genting UK revealed 1,642 of its staff are at risk of redundancy because of the pandemic. Genting UK is a subsidiary of Genting Malaysia Berhad, a company incorporated in Malaysia and listed on the Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad.
Ten Entertainment Group to reopen English estate on 1 August: Ten Entertainment Group is to reopen all its bowling centres in England on Saturday, 1 August. Modifications have been put in place in each of the 39 centres, which represent 91% of the group’s turnover. The company said its three centres in Wales and three in Scotland were “fully prepared for reopening once government restrictions were lifted in those countries”. The group will unfurlough staff in England, who will undergo a retraining programme prior to restarting work. All staff will receive personal protective equipment for work, while other safety measures will include a new web-based ordering platform that will allow customers to order food and drink directly to their lane or table via a QR code. During lock-down, Ten Entertainment offered a free game to NHS workers when its venues reopened to show appreciation for their dedication, with more than 6,000 workers registering for the offer. Ten Entertainment Group interim executive chairman Nick Basing said: “We are fully prepared and look forward to delivering fun and entertainment in a safe way. The government has delivered extraordinary levels of support, enabling businesses such as ours to endure the crisis and emerge intact to restart and rebuild.” In March, Ten Entertainment Group raised £5m through a share placing for “contingency” funds in light of the coronavirus outbreak. A total of 3,250,000 new ordinary shares of 1p each were placed at a price of 155p per share. Among the investors were majority shareholder Harwood Capital, which subscribed for 554,123 shares, equating to £0.86m.

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