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Fri 24th Jul 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pub and restaurant groups in England see trade improve to almost 70% of pre-coronavirus levels: Managed pub, bar and restaurant groups with businesses open in England reported improving sales in the second week after lock-down lifted as more sites reopened, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker. Levels remain well below pre-coronavirus norms, with figures for the week beginning 13 July showing collective like-for-like sales in sites trading 31.6% down on the same week last year. However, that was a better performance than the minus 39.8% level recorded in the first week back. Overall, total sales across the managed pub, bar and restaurant market were up 40.6% on week one of trading. Three-fifths (60%) of group-operated sites were open for eating and drinking inside, up from the 55% trading during the first week after restrictions lifted. Restaurants saw the biggest shift, with like-for-likes down 26.9% compared with 40.0% down in the first week. Restaurant groups have generally taken a more cautious approach to reopening, with less than one-quarter (24%) of sites open for business compared with 17% in week one. Pub groups have generally been more ambitious in their reopening strategies, with almost three-quarters (74%) of sites open in week two compared with 70% the week before. Pubs that were open during the week saw sales down 32.4% year-on-year, compared with 39.3% down year-on-year the week before. Bars that were open saw sales down 41.3% compared with 42.9% in week one – and only a few more bars opened for business in week two, with the total up from 42% to 44%. “Trading at approaching 70% of pre-coronavirus norms after just two weeks should be seen as a solid performance in light of consumers’ stated caution about going out to eat and drink again after lock-down,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM. “The steady improvement on the first week back is also encouraging and operators will hope to maintain that momentum as more sites open their doors. Providing the public with reassurance it’s safe to go out and they will also have a good time is going to be crucial.” In all, 45 companies provided data to the Tracker, with another ten operators reporting they had yet to open any sites.

Industry News:

Charlie McVeigh explains why working from home is bad for everyone in latest Premium Opinion: Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh will explain why working from home is bad for everyone in the latest Premium Opinion, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (24 July). Dan Warne, former managing director of Deliveroo and chief executive of Sessions Market, will discuss why operators that remain agile may have the best chance in an uncertain future. Trevor Watson, executive director of Davis Coffer Lyons, will look at implications for the sector to amendments to the Use Classes Order – the biggest change to the system since its creation in 1987. There will also be the latest sector rumblings from Premium Diary. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular columns from Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,600 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email

Eddie Holmes to feature in latest ‘navigating the coronavirus’ video: In the latest in Propel’s video interviews with leading operators about “navigating the coronavirus” pandemic, insights editor Mark Wingett talks to Eddie Holmes, managing director of Chop’d, about staying closed; the challenge of reopening in London without commuters and office workers; the need to be bold; his fear the government won’t intervene in the rent issue; and the future of the food-to-go sector. The video will be released on Friday (24 July)

Government confirms customers must wear face masks for takeaway from food and drink outlets but not on-site dining: People will have to wear face masks or coverings when getting takeaway coffee or food, the government has confirmed. New laws on face coverings will come into force on Friday (24 July) to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Under the rules, customers dining on-site won’t be required to wear face coverings. UKHospitality has hailed the wide-ranging exemptions for hospitality venues as a tribute to the “robust nature of the sector’s covid security measures”. However, the trade association bemoaned the short notice of the requirements and the consequent potential for difficulties in implementation. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Venues have made a huge effort to get themselves open and ensure premises are safe for staff and customers. That has been reflected in the guidance, which makes the bulk of hospitality exempt from the mandatory wearing of masks. Unfortunately, the announcement lacked clarity around many issues affecting outlets offering both takeaway and on-premises dining. Furthermore, with the announcement at about 2.30pm the day before the measures come into effect, it left those venues a very short time to properly brief staff, prepare signage and take steps to encourage compliance. UKHospitality has acted swiftly to provide a briefing on face coverings to provide some much-needed clarity to operators. It is being posted on the coronavirus page of our website and updated as additional information emerges.” Earlier in the day, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis had told BBC Breakfast: “If you’re going into an outlet and you’re buying as if it’s a shop, you should be wearing a face mask. For hospitality, if you’re going into that place to buy a sandwich and eat it on-site, then of course no, you don't have to wear a face mask. But if you’re using it as a shop, you should be wearing a face mask.”
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Most rapid change in consumer behaviour means industry must ‘introduce deposits to tackle no-shows’: Bums On Seats founder Amber Staynings has argued the most rapid change in consumer behaviour means the industry should introduce deposits to tackle no-shows, arguing customers won’t be put off by the move. Writing in this week’s Propel Friday Opinion, she said including a commitment to refund the deposit if a customer cancelled at least 24 hours before the event and prompting them by text message or phone call would help avoid no-shows and build a “crucial relationship that encourages loyalty”. Staynings said: “I understand some nervousness around introducing deposits and fears about putting customers off – but that was before covid. That was before we’ve seen – in my view – the most rapid change in consumer behaviour in such a short time. Do I really believe a customer will book elsewhere because we ask for £5 per person or £20 per table to secure a booking when it’s redeemable? No I don’t, not any more, especially when competition is so high and margins lower. We need to ask customers to make a conscious decision to support our sector by deciding in advance where they want to go, rather than booking two or three places and only turning up to one. If the whole sector agrees to tackle no-shows in the same way and to implement a deposit system, the issue will resolve itself to everyone’s satisfaction. We must all agree to offset the financial damage caused to our industry through social distancing and limited capacity by taking deposits for bookings. This action alone will go a long way to reassuring staff, protecting revenue and giving us confidence to upsell packages and experiences. By all means allow the undecided to walk in where feasible but protecting our advance bookings will bring the best of our hospitality service to increasing numbers and with the ability to forecast our staffing and other resource levels for maximum efficiency.” Staynings will share more of her thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published on Friday (24 July) at 11am.
Bums on Seats is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

BBPA – select committee report should have recommended extending VAT cut to pubs: Pubs should have been included in the extended VAT cut recommended by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee in its report on the impact of coronavirus, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has said. The report recommends VAT cuts should be extended to the cultural sector, for example theatre tickets, beyond January 2021 for the next three years but not the hospitality sector or pubs. In its response, the BBPA said not only should pubs have been included but so should alcoholic drinks sold in pubs. However, the trade association has welcomed the report’s recommendation for a DCMS-led national campaign to restore consumer confidence in the domestic UK holiday market. It said such a campaign would help pubs and brewers in tourist destinations across the UK, especially those that offer accommodation. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “On the whole, we welcome the report. It’s important that across government, policies are considered to support our sectors on their long road to recovery. It’s disappointing to see the report has less focus supporting tourism. More can and should be done to support the sector.”

Nightclub and events sectors launch campaign to access government support package: Nightclub operators, events and festival organisers, and stars of the UK’s dance music scene have launched a campaign to access government support. Last week the government announced a £1.57bn support package for the UK’s arts and culture sector but didn’t appear to include nightclubs, dance music events and festivals. On Thursday (23 July), members of the dance music community were asked to post photos of the last event they attended using the tag #LetUsDance. Campaigners want a support package that includes a government-backed insurance scheme to allow events to go ahead; extension of the furlough scheme; rent breaks; extension of business rates relief; rolling-over fees for single-premises event licences for events and festivals; and financial support for lost income. The campaign is supported by a host of DJs and music artists including Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong and Thom Yorke. Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “We are keen to gain assurances dance music venues and nightclubs will be eligible to apply for the funding and it won’t be reserved purely for venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and West End.” London night tsar Amy Lamé added: “London’s dance venues and nightclubs are the envy of the world. They are a social hub for so many communities and a key part of our economy at night but the government has failed to provide them with specific support or give an indication when they can open again.” Greater Manchester nightlife adviser Sacha Lord said: “There has always been an elitist snobbery towards electronic and dance music but I would argue this sector reaches more people than some of our theatres do.” There are more than 1,600 nightclubs in the UK.

Hospitality crowdfund campaign issues guidance on resolving business interruption insurance disputes: Organisers of a hospitality crowdfund campaign that is challenging insurers over the non-payment of business interruption policies have issued guidance on the next steps members can take. The move coincides with the start of a test case in the High Court by the FCA on behalf of businesses that claim they should have been paid by insurers to cover closures during the pandemic. The crowdfund was launched by Rob Atkinson, in-house hospitality lawyer at Black and White Hospitality, which operates the Marco Pierre White portfolio of restaurants. Atkinson said: “We have received hundreds of policies, which is indicative of how badly those in the hospitality sector feel they have been let down by insurers. Members’ claims have now been ‘triaged’ by reference to a traffic light system, with red standing no realistic prospect of success through the court system, amber providing minimal prospect and green a reasonable prospect. Those with ‘green’ claims are those whose claims are affected by issues being considered by the High Court in the case brought by the FCA. Those members are, we understand, adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach to their claims pending the High Court’s decision. Members with ‘red’ and ‘amber’ claims are unaffected or unlikely to be materially helped by the FCA test case. We’re advising those members to refer their claims to the Financial Ombudsman Service. We will remain resolute in our campaign to make sure policyholders get what they deserve.” Webinars will take place on 27 and 28 July, open to anyone who contributes to the crowdfunding campaign.

Paul Chase – if coronavirus leads to refocusing of PHE’s efforts ‘something good will have come of it’: Leading sector commentator Paul Chase has argued if coronavirus leads to a refocusing of the work of Public Health England (PHE), “something good will have come of it”. Writing in this week’s Propel Friday Opinion and following health secretary Matt Hancock ordering an enquiry into how PHE compiles its numbers over coronavirus deaths, Chase said: “In the UK, the mothership of what I term the New Public Health Movement (NPHM) is PHE. It was formed in 2013 with an annual budget of £300m. Its budget for 2018-19 was £4bn and it now employs about 5,500 people. More than £3bn of this enormous budget is given to local authorities in ring-fenced grants but, of the remaining £1bn, PHE spends only £52m on infectious disease prevention. The rest is spent on its pet obsessions – financing campaigns against alcohol, sugar and preventing the non-existent childhood obesity epidemic. It’s little wonder that when a real epidemic struck PHE was ill-prepared. No-one knows the extent to which this has distorted the overall mortality statistics but as the death toll subsides the distortion effect will become more pronounced. This, in turn, may affect how quickly government feels able to lift the lock-down. The political problem for government will come when the blame game starts in earnest. The public doesn’t understand the distinction between the NHS, PHE, the cabinet or the experts who advise on the science – to them it’s “all the government”. It may be that if government is blamed for the cretinous ineptitude of PHE it will want to abolish it, or at least refocus it on doing what public health has historically done very well in this country – managing and suppressing outbreaks of infectious diseases. If the experience of this pandemic brings about that refocusing and ends this obsession with lifestyle diseases, at least some good will have come from it.” Chase will share more of his thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published on Friday (24 July) at 11am.

Company News:

PizzaExpress to reopen 150 more sites, joins Eat Out To Help Out: Hony Capital-backed PizzaExpress is to reopen a further 150 restaurants. The phased programme will see the company reopen 71 pizzerias on Thursday, 30 July, including sites in Bournemouth, Blackpool, Huntingdon and Lincoln. A further 88 sites will reopen on Thursday, 6 August including venues in Aberdeen, Exeter, Glasgow, Manchester and London’s Leicester Square. The reopening plan follows “test and learn” trials of delivery, click-and-collect and dine-in services at selected pizzerias since 9 July. The company said further reopening phases would be announced shortly. Each pizzeria will take part in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, which will offer diners 50% off food and soft drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August to the value of £10 per person. PizzaExpress will apply the offer to all menu items excluding alcohol and in conjunction with existing offers. Safety measures include a new online booking service, digital menu and cashless payment. PizzaExpress managing director Zoe Bowley said: “It has been exciting to welcome customers back into our restaurants in the past fortnight and our teams look forward to reopening hundreds more pizzerias in the next few weeks. The response to our online booking system, new digital menus and cashless payments has been fantastic and we encourage everyone to use these services as much as possible as their local restaurant reopens.” Last week Sky News reported PizzaExpress had drawn up plans to close about 75 of its 470 UK sites as part of a restructure, although the company declined to comment.

Whitbread to cut 250 head office jobs: Premier Inn owner Whitbread has said it may cut circa 250 head office roles as it hauls itself out of the coronavirus crisis. The company shut all its hotels at the beginning of lock-down and is attempting to save costs as it expects business to be slow “for some time to come”. Whitbread employs 1,300 staff in head office roles and said some of the proposed job losses would be offset by the creation of 75 posts. Final numbers would be confirmed in September, it added. A spokeswoman said: While we’re delighted to reopen our doors, we are acutely aware demand and revenue remain reduced. We anticipate this will be the case for some time to come. Proposed changes are never easy and we’re committed to supporting our support centre colleagues throughout the consultation process.” Whitbread furloughed 27,000 staff and signed up to borrow £600m through the Bank of England’s Corporate Funding Facility. Last month it raised £1bn by selling new shares.

Marston’s expects ‘slight delay’ to completion of Carlsberg UK joint venture, with CMA set to review deal: Marston’s has said it expects a “slight delay” to completion of its joint venture with Carlsberg UK with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) set to review the deal. As a result, Marston’s said completion would occur in the fourth quarter of this year rather than the third quarter. Marston’s stated: “We have been advised for procedural reasons, the UK CMA (rather than the European Commission) will now likely be the relevant competition authority reviewing the deal. As stated previously, we don’t expect the transaction raises any competition concerns and we’re satisfied the group has sufficient liquidity in place to meet its requirements ahead of completion.” Marston’s and Carlsberg UK announced the joint venture in May in a bid to create a “brand-led UK brewer of scale”. Marston’s, whose shareholders approved the deal last month, is to receive a 40% stake in Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company and a cash equalisation payment of up to £273m. Carlsberg UK will receive a 60% stake. The deal values the Marston’s brewing business at up to £580m and the Carlsberg UK brewing business at £200m. Marston’s said the venture would allow it to focus on its pub and accommodation business while retaining a 40% interest in a “larger, more attractive brewing business”.

Greene King supports free trade pubs with £2m package of ‘bounce-back’ measures: Brewer and retailer Greene King has announced a £2m package of measures to support its 6,500 independent free trade customers as they ease out of lock-down and reopen their pubs, clubs and licensed premises. The company has launched a bounce-back loan scheme applicable for all existing and new trade customers to help support the independent trade as they rebuild their businesses. Greene King has committed £2m to the scheme, with loans of up to £10,000 per pub. During the past month, 105 pub licensees have benefited from the scheme, while hundreds of payment plans have been revised favourably to support customers as they bounce back. In addition, Greene King has been offering its free trade customers one-to-one advice on safely reopening premises and bespoke business-building marketing plans. It also provides specialist in-house cellar service technicians who will assist with startup and maintain all brands supplied by Greene King, and a dedicated customer telesales team to guide licensees through drinks ordering and co-ordinating distribution to suit their business. Greene King has been able to secure other benefits for its independent customers including significant product discounts, discounted access to online service and order portal Round, and personal protective equipment at cost price. Paul Downing, sale director – on-trade at Greene King Brewing & Brands, said: “Supporting our customers through reopening and the challenges ahead is a priority to us. Pubs are the hubs of their communities and we will work hand in hand with licensees to help them navigate the months ahead. Our teams have been working hard to support free trade customers, not just financially but with practical solutions and advice to put them on the best footing as they begin to trade again.”

Leon to open four new restaurants at motorway service stations in response to staycation boom: Natural fast food brand Leon is opening four new restaurants at motorway service stations in the next few months in response to a predicted staycation boom. The company launched the first of these this week at the westbound Clacket Lane services on the M25 in Kent, with the eastbound services following next Thursday (30 July). Both services are operated by Roadchef. On the same day it will unveil a restaurant at the new Extra MSA Group’s Leeds Skelton Lake services on the M1 followed by its Cobham services on the M25 in August. The two MSA restaurants will be operated by franchise partner SSP and feature digital kiosks. Leon said the openings highlighted the “brand’s resilience while strengthening its relationship with key franchise partners” as the economy reopened and people began to travel more frequently as well as the expected boom in staycations. Leon founder and chief executive John Vincent said: “One of the big reasons we started Leon was because we were travelling every day from London, often working long hours as most people do, and there was a lack of good food at some motorway service stations.”

Coppa Club to add Cobham site: Various Eateries-owned brand Coppa Club is to launch a site in Cobham in October, Propel understands. The Hugh Osmond-backed business is understood to be planning a seventh site under the Coppa Club brand at the former Strada unit in the Surrey town. The brand reopened its fourth site yesterday (22 July) in Brighton, with its Maidenhead venue set to reopen on Friday (24 July). The company has yet to put a date on when its Henley site will reopen. The company reopened its Coppa sites in Tower Bridge, Sonning and Streatley on 4 July. The group’s new Italian restaurant, Tavolino, will open at More London Riverside on Friday, 31 July after a delay of almost three months.

Hard Rock Cafe extends Eat Out To Help Out offer to include Thursdays and Fridays: Hard Rock Cafe is to extend the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme at its three UK sites to include Thursdays and Fridays. Currently the scheme only offers diners 50% off food and soft drinks to the value of £10 per person on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August. Stefano Pandin, area vice-president of operations Europe at Hard Rock International, said: “We have chosen to not only embrace the generous government scheme but offer our guests an additional two days to come in, have a good time for less, and create lasting memories.” Hard Rock Cafe reopened its sites this month under its Safe & Sound programme. The programme includes thermal temperature screening for staff and guests before they enter the venue, hand-sanitiser stations, contactless menu options and reduced capacity. Retail returns in the Rock Shops will be kept for 72 hours off the shop floor. In total, Hard Rock International operates 256 sites in 76 countries. This week chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed more than 32,000 restaurants had registered for Eat Out To Help Out so far. 

Craft Union reopens five refurbished sites following £1m investment: Craft Union, part of Ei Group’s managed operation, has reopened five sites following an investment of more than £1m during lock-down. The sites are The Punch Bowl in Spalding in Lincolnshire, the Old House At Home in Maidstone in Kent, The Talbot in Warsop in Nottinghamshire, Ye Olde Swan in Burnham in Buckinghamshire, and The Kings Head in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. The projects are part of Craft Union’s investment programme in its estate. Operations director Frazer Grimbleby said: “I am excited to open all five of these sites following their transformation. The operations team and I were determined we would get them up and running and ready to serve their communities safely as soon as possible after lock-down. We recognise the importance of investment in our sites. We weren’t going to let the lock-down get in the way of this, seeing it as an opportunity to make improvements and reflect on all our businesses.” Ei Group was acquired by Stonegate Pub Company in March for £1.27bn. Stonegate’s portfolio comprises 1,270 sites within its managed division and 3,457 leased and tenanted businesses.

Chipotle beats quarterly estimates as digital sales more than triple: Chipotle has said soaring digital sales in its second quarter helped it recover from the coronavirus crisis and continue the performance that has boosted its share price 40% so far this year. Digital sales for the quarter – including customers who ordered ahead through Chipotle’s mobile app to pick up their meal from special drive-thru “Chipotlanes” – grew 216% to almost 61% of total sales. Overall comparable sales were 9.8% lower for the quarter ended 30 June but have turned positive, up 6.4% so far in July. In the third quarter, margins and earnings per share are likely to “remain bumpy”, executives said during a conference call. With more Americans staying home because of the pandemic, Chipotle has relied heavily on online orders in recent weeks. It has also partnered with UberEats and Grubhub to bolster deliveries. Chief technology officer Curt Garner said because Chipotle locations were company owned, it was easier to rethink and build out digital operations, including separate kitchens, for preparing online orders. The company expects to accelerate its plans next year to open new locations and said it had 15 million people enrolled in its rewards programme, up from 11.5 million in April. Total revenue fell 4.8% to $1.36bn, its first decline in at least 14 quarters but still beating Wall Street estimates of $1.34bn.

Adam Handling to charge non-refundable booking deposit as he reopens flagship restaurant: Chef Adam Handling will reopen his flagship Covent Garden restaurant, Frog by Adam Handling, on Saturday, 1 August and charge a non-refundable booking deposit for each diner. The restaurant will offer new menus and pavement dining while Handling’s cocktail bar, Eve Bar, which operates from the same site, will also reopen. New dishes on Handling’s a la carte, tasting and vegetarian tasting menus will include “pimped up” aubergine; crab and pickled melon; and chicken and chips. There will only be one chef and waiter per table, while Perspex screens have been set up at the pass so diners can enjoy counter eating while watching chefs in action. Staff and customers will have their temperature taken on arrival but face masks or gloves won’t be worn. Regarding his move to charge a deposit, Handling said: “There’s no way we could cope with no-shows with the reduced seating guidelines we have to adhere to. It’s not something we would choose to do but the economic realities make it essential over the next few months at least.” Handling said bookings could be moved once without losing the deposit in consideration of coronavirus cases. Outdoor seating on the terrace for up to 36 will be set up along Southampton Street. The terrace food menu will be available at Eve Bar too and include new street food specialities such as a fish finger sandwich made from turbot trim inside an Asian-style milk bun with hollandaise and traditional tartar sauce. Only 20 people will be allowed in Eve Bar at a time, with Perspex screens allowing guests to drink at the bar.

KFC bids to produce chicken nuggets using 3D printers: KFC is planning to start producing chicken nuggets using 3D printers. Last month a company unveiled the world’s first 3D-printed steak and now KFC has announced a similar plan but with chicken nuggets. KFC has partnered with Russian biotechnology company 3D Printing Solutions for a project entitled Meat Of The Future, which aims to create the “world’s first laboratory-produced chicken nuggets”. KFC said the process would use “chicken cells and plant material, allowing it to reproduce the taste and texture of chicken meat”. The company claims its 3D-printed nuggets will be as “close as possible” in taste and appearance to normal chicken nuggets. The cell-based nuggets would contain the same 11 herbs and spices featured in KFC’s chicken nuggets recipe to make them as similar as possible to the real thing. The innovation comes as many fast food companies are being asked to look into the environmental impact of their production, with animal rearing and transportation both having large carbon footprints. KFC claimed its “biomeat” would remove additives used in traditional farming and create a “cleaner final product”. It also said the lab-grown meat would cut energy consumption and harm to animals. The lab-produced chicken nuggets are due to be tested in Moscow this autumn, with plans to take them worldwide if successful.

Stevie Parle to transform Dock Kitchen into summer restaurant: Chef Stevie Parle is to launch a summer pop-up on the site of his Ladbroke Grove restaurant Dock Kitchen, which closed in 2017. Parle has yet to find a new permanent home for Dock Kitchen but will use the space at Portobello Dock to house a restaurant, grocery store and standalone bar under the concept name Joy. The venture will make use of the venue’s large outdoor space, Hot Dinners reports. Joy will open on Friday, 31 July and operate from Wednesday to Sunday. The restaurant will be called Flora and offer a seasonal menu using produce from Kent-based farm to fork supplier The Goods Shed. Planned dishes include red prawns with burned lemon and marjoram; chicken cooked over wood and stuffed with ricotta and nduja; and egg yolk and chocolate cookies. There will also be a wine shop from Uncharted and beer from Beer Craft, while Parle is bringing hives from Craft to provide honey. A veg box will be added to customers’ bills, with the extra money donated to local charities. Parle reopened both sites for his fast casual pasta concept Pastaio – in Soho and Westfield London – earlier this month. 

Oowee Vegan launches in Brighton and Hove for third site: Bristol-based Oowee Vegan has made its debut in Brighton and Hove via Deliveroo’s Editions kitchen in the city. The brand offers an entirely plant-based menu including Beyond Meat burgers, vegan fried chicken and sriracha ‘shrimp’-loaded fries. The vegan restaurant began as a virtual brand of London burger joint Oowee Diner with the aim to recreate its menu with entirely vegan ingredients. Success out of a London Deliveroo Editions site led Oowee founders Verity Foss and Charlie Watson to open a bricks-and-mortar site in Bristol. Oowee Vegan launched a delivery-only site in Dalston, east London, earlier this year and has decided it will only open vegan sites from now on. Founder Verity Foss said: “We focus on creating and developing products that are for everyone without focusing on cliches of what vegan food used to or should be.” Oowee Vegan is the third restaurant to launch in Deliveroo’s Brighton Editions kitchen during the past month, alongside US burger brand Shake Shack and Greek street food restaurant The Athenian. Last year Oowee Vegan won the vegan restaurant of the year and overall restaurant of the year categories in the Deliveroo Awards. 

England cricket star Stuart Broad reports ‘strong’ trading at Leicestershire pubs: The Cat & Wickets Pub Company, which is owned by professional cricketers Harry Gurney and Stuart Broad, has reported unexpectedly high demand from customers following their reopening this month. The company operates The Tap & Run in Upper Broughton, near Melton Mowbray, and The Three Crowns in Wymeswold. According to the company, the pubs have so far been operating at 84% of the same period last year. The sites have been open since 4 July and, despite there being a lower capacity because of the removal of tables to ensure social distancing, trade has been “strong”. Gurney told the Leicester Mercury: “When we reopened I was projecting for about 50% of normal so to have achieved the level of trade we have is really pleasing and humbling.” Broad, fresh from his match-winning performance for England in the second test match versus the West Indies at Old Trafford, added: “When we reopened we placed all our emphasis on making sure both sites were safe for customers and employees. We’re delighted to find our customers have felt the experience has been high in quality but also safe and responsible”. The figures achieved so far are in spite of the pubs being closed on Mondays and Tuesdays this month. During August, however, both sites will open daily and take part in the government's Eat Out To Help Out scheme.

Berkshire-based operators open second pub: Berkshire-based operators Chrys and Hanna Fisher have opened their second pub in the village of Dorney, near Windsor. The Fishers have taken on The Pineapple, which belongs to Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. The pub has undergone a £550,000 refurbishment having been closed since January. It was due to reopen on Mother’s Day but the lock-down meant work had to be halted, delaying the unveiling for 18 weeks. The revamp has doubled the internal capacity of the village pub to 75 and created a garden area with seating for 166. Safety measures have meant ten extra staff have been hired to serve and clear tables. Chrys Fisher said: “We now have a more spacious environment that is more comfortable for everyone and provides plenty of socially distanced seating yet keeps the character of this much-loved pub.” Matt Dyson, regional operations director at Star Pubs & Bars, added: “The Pineapple’s refurbishment is just in time for the new socially distanced world we’re living in. With more people eating and drinking locally, I expect it to be a great success.” The Fishers also operate The Palmers Arms in the village.

F&B brands start operating at new M1 services in Leeds: Food and beverage brands have started operating for the first time at the new £64m Leeds Skelton Lake motorway services on the M1. Burger King and Starbucks are among the first tenants at the Junction 45 services, which are operated by Extra MSA Group. Further brands are scheduled to open at the site soon including Nando’s, KFC, natural fast food brand Leon and PizzaExpress. Strict social distancing measures and comprehensive cleaning regimes have been put in place to keep visitors safe. The services opened in a limited capacity in March and MSA has introduced facilities as government guidance has allowed. Andrew Long, chief executive of Extra MSA Group, told The Business Desk: “We are delighted Leeds Skelton Lake is now open, with a range of popular food and beverage brands. Our tenant operator partners have worked closely with us during lock-down to ensure all their procedures and practices are safe and we’re able to provide a brilliant experience for our customers.”

Bubbledogs founder to launch online Champagne and home kits shop: Sandia Chang, sommelier and founder of Fitzrovia’s Bubbledogs, is set to launch an online shop selling bottles of grower Champagne and home kits. Bubbleshop By Sandia Chang will launch on Monday (27 July), offering a selection of Chang’s favourite grower Champagne from some of the region’s most experienced producers, alongside bottles from lesser-known vineyards. Selections will be available to purchase by the bottle, with names including George Laval, Tarlant, Olivier Horiot and Marie Courtin. Chang will also ensure Bubbledogs makes its own stamp online by creating four home kits – The Mac Daddy, The Reuben, The Mexican and The Chilli Cheese. Each kit serves two, with the added touch of the restaurant’s serving trays. Bubbleshop By Sandia Chang will offer nationwide delivery once a week. All orders placed before midnight on Wednesday will be delivered the following Friday. Alternatively, orders can be collected from Bubbledogs in Charlotte Street, with the collection service running from Wednesday to Saturday.

Action group founder offers Travelodge landlords Ibis brand switch: A Travelodge landlord has launched a hotel platform in partnership with Accor that offers other owners of Travelodge properties an option to switch to the Ibis budget brand on a new lease structure. The platform, AGO Hotels, was created after months of bitter rent disputes with Travelodge culminated in the operator entering into a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) last month and demanding a 38% total rent reduction for 18 months. The platform, spearheaded by Travelodge Owners Action Group founder Viv Watts, describes itself as a “landlord-friendly platform structured as a partnership between landlords, management and an industry-leading operating partner”. The hotels would be run under the Ibis budget brand, with Accor acting as global hotel partner, reports Property Week. Accor has committed £32m in investment to allow Travelodge landlords to rebrand their hotels. Travelodge landlords have until November to exercise a break clause in the CVA. AGO Hotels said it would offer 25-year lease terms with Retail Price Index-linked base rent at 50% of current Travelodge rent, adjusted for inflation since the last rent review. This would be reviewed every five years. Any incoming Travelodge landlord would be eligible to hold an equity stake in the firm. Accor stated: “We believe the hybrid lease structure creates a disruptive business model that will change the face of the UK hotel industry for investors, operators and brands.”

Walsall-based coffee shop operator secures funding: Walsall-based coffee shop operator Laura Tarburton has secured funding from HSBC UK to support her two businesses during the pandemic. Bean and Baked and The Reading Rooms received the money through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme. Having had to close both coffee shops in March in line with government guidelines, the funding has supported the business’ move online and helped cash flow during the period as they adapt to changing customer demands. Tarburton said: “With the closure of our coffee shops we had to think about how to continue providing a service to our customers. With the additional support from HSBC UK we were able to move part of our operation online, offering a ‘brownies-by-post’ service. Going online is something we’ve always wanted to do. We’re now also offering a selection of cakes and savoury items at Bean and Baked from a converted horsebox.”

Robinsons reopens Macclesfield pub following £1m refurbishment: North west-based brewer and retailer Robinsons has reopened the Flower Pot in Macclesfield, Cheshire, following a three-month refurbishment that cost £1m. The company said the renovation continued its commitment to investing in its 250-plus tenanted and managed pub estate. The brewer built the pub in Congleton Road in September 1939, just after the outbreak of the Second World War and during the blackout. The Flower Pot was the last of six roadside inns Robinsons built in the 1930s in the arts and crafts style. Renovation work has included new seating and tables in the beer garden, a new oak bar, snug areas with fixed and loose seating, and a pool room for local teams. The Flower Pot’s new menu offer pub classics, while safety measures include a track and trace system accessed via Wi-Fi, a one-way system, single-use menus, table service and hand-sanitiser stations. Robinsons retail operations manager John Robinson said: “After several difficult months for our industry and the country as a whole, we can’t think of a better way to celebrate than providing a safe and secure space for friends and family to enjoy a catch up with great beer and great food.”

Casa do Frango expands London Bridge site: Algarvian piri-piri concept Casa do Frango has taken over the ground floor of its London Bridge home, the former Native site, to add 40 covers to its restaurant. Casa do Frango has been located on the first floor of 32 Southwark Street since its launch in 2018. The space already has room for more than 100 covers in its conservatory-style dining room and Green Room cocktail bar. Ground-floor interiors have been designed by A-NRD studios and reflect the “colonial Mediterranean aesthetic of Casa do Frango’s vibrant first floor, with natural wood, shrubbery and open plan dining”. The ground-floor space will also be available for private hire. Casa do Frango co-founder Marco Mendes said: “It is a great space and we’re fortunate the opportunity to move in has come at this time. The expansion will make it considerably easier to achieve a safe and socially distanced experience for guests, while we believe bringing part of the restaurant down to street level will have a positive impact on walk-in trade.” At the start of this year, Casa do Frango opened its second restaurant, in King Johns Court, Shoreditch, where it has also created a 100-cover terrace for alfresco dining. 

Five Points Brewing Company to launch open-air taproom: London-based Five Points Brewing Company is to launch an open-air taproom on Friday (24 July). The venue will be based in the yard and arches of its Mare Street warehouse in Hackney. The taproom, which will have space for 154 guests amid social distancing guidelines, will offer the full range of Five Points beer on keg and cask as well as hybrid New York/Neapolitan-style pizza from Ace Pizza. Customers will be encouraged to order food and drink via the new Five Points On Tap app and to book tables in advance. The taproom will open on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer.

Victorian freehouse in Brighton brought to market: Brighton and Hove freehouse The Queensbury Arms has been brought to market for an asking price of £465,000. Formerly known as The Hole In The Wall, the two-storey, wet-only pub in Queensbury Mews is close to the seafront and dates to 1837 as a fisherman’s haunt. It features a large collection of entertainment memorabilia. With its two bars seating 30, it is one of the smallest pubs in the city. Since 1998, the business has been privately owned by Geoffrey Waters. It’s position means it is well connected with the city’s theatre, hotel and conference trade. Simon Chaplin, senior director of pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, who is handling the sale, said: “This is one of the classic pubs of Brighton, with almost 200 years of history. It’s also one of the few remaining freehold freehouses so close to the heart of the city.”

Former Fuller’s brewing boss joins London Beer Factory as non-executive director: London Beer Factory has appointed former Fuller’s brewing director John Keeling as a non-executive director as part of its next stage of expansion. Keeling joined Fuller’s as a junior brewer, holding various positions before his promotion to brewing director in April 1999. During his time as director, more than £60m was invested in developing the brewery. London Beer Factory chief executive Sim Cotton said: “It is John’s experienced application of investment and proved growth that made him so promising to us at London Beer Factory. We are delighted to have him on board.” Keeling, who was appointed chairman of the London Brewers’ Alliance, will advise and direct the London Beer Factory as it aims to capitalise on strong year-on-year performances by growing its bar estate, investing in brewery equipment and relocating from its industrial park site in Gipsy Hill, south London, to larger premises. Keeling said: “I am thrilled to be part of an exciting brewing project that has real ambition, established progress and is operating in unique spaces within the UK’s craft beer scene.”

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