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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 28th Jul 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Weekly like-for-like sales increase another 13.4%: Analysis of sales from operators who were open last week revealed like-for-like sales were up 13.4% on the previous week, with sales of food up 22.2% and drink growing 7.3%. Data from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, showed a continued growth of sales, building on the 21.3% week-on-week boost from the previous week. While weekly like-for-like sales continue to grow, they are still down 24.1% compared with the last year. However, this is an improvement on the 34.4% drop S4labour reported for the previous week’s year-on-year like-for-likes. London experienced a slight plateauing in its recovery, with a 1.7% week-on-week like-for-like increase and a drop of 28.6% year-on-year. Like-for-like food sales within the capital had been sluggish since lock-down measures were eased earlier this month. However, last week sales of food in London jumped 17.5% on the previous week. Chief product officer Richard Hartley said the figures highlighted an encouraging trend, particularly regarding food sales, which were “starting to turn a corner”. He added: “We would expect to see sales continue to grow as consumer confidence around safety increases and government incentives such as Eat Out To Help Out start to gain traction.” The latest Coffer Peach Tracker showed that for the week ending 13 July managed pub, bar and restaurant groups with businesses open in England saw collective like-for-like sales in sites trading 31.6% down on the corresponding week last year.
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Industry News:

US multi-brand operator Michael Schatzberg 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 Michael Schatzberg, managing director of New York-based, multi-brand operator Branded Restaurants, about the impact of lock-down on the US restaurant and bar sector; evolution of the delivery model and off-trade sales; striking a balance between hospitality and safety; and the increasing influence of technology on how offers are developed. The video will be released on Tuesday (28 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.

Sector loses £30bn of sales in second quarter as rolling annual value dips below £100bn: The UK’s hospitality sector saw sales plummet 87% in the second quarter of 2020, the latest UKHospitality Tracker collated by CGA revealed – equivalent to almost £30bn in lost revenue. The collapse in sales followed the widespread lock-down of restaurants, pubs, bars, hotels, attractions and other hospitality venues from mid-March. As a result, sales from April and June totalled only £4.6bn, down £29.6bn from £34.2bn in the second quarter of 2019. Hospitality contributed £133.5bn to the UK economy in 2019, following 3.9% growth – but the rolling annual value of the sector has now dipped below £100bn, with 12-month sales to the end of June totalling £97.2bn. The cliff-edge drop signals the pressing need for extensive and sustained support during the rest of 2020 and beyond, UKHospitality said. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “These latest figures highlight how precarious the present situation is. While it’s great some businesses are trading again, for many opening their doors remains unviable, while some parts of hospitality are still legally required to stay closed. We are only on the very first steps in a long recovery. These figures substantiate our message that businesses still need support from government if we want to avoid more business failures and job losses.”

Face masks rise on hospitality customers’ agenda: Face masks have become a focus for many consumers despite overall confidence in health and hygiene remaining strong within the hospitality sector, according to the latest Customer Sentiment Tracker from Feed It Back and KAM Media. Consumer confidence regarding safety in the sector has changed little since reopening weekend, with 95% of those who visited a venue this week feeling confident enough to return. For the 5% who didn’t feel safe enough to return, staff not wearing masks was the top reason given (18%). Masks haven’t featured as a concern in previous trackers. Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia said: “When we look at feedback for venues where staff wear masks, their customers seem to be happy about it and feel safe. As people get increasingly used to seeing people in masks, it may become an expectation or even a requirement for some customers when choosing which venues to visit.” KAM Media managing director Katy Moses said: “This isn’t the sexy or fun bit of hospitality but right now it’s critical. There are two clear areas operators need to get right with regards to covid hygiene – sticking to health and safety procedures and how visible that is to customers. That means adopting a more ‘high profile’ approach to cleanliness. Perception is reality for customers – operators need to leave no doubt in their minds that they are safe.” Overall, the hospitality net promoter scores this week remained strong at 59, with the premium casual segment leading the charge, at 74. Satisfaction ratings in premium casual were also well above other hospitality segments. Platia said: “Premium casual is really justifying its price tag. The segment is attracting ‘satisfaction ratings’ above pre-lock-down levels for all areas. Best-in-class NPS is as high as 84, suggesting some operators are over-delivering in terms of safety procedures, food and drink quality, and overall experience.” 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

BBPA – it’s the wrong time for mandatory calorie labelling: Mandatory calorie labelling will “harm pubs and brewers” just as they begin to recover from the pandemic, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has said. The government’s new obesity strategy includes requiring large restaurants, which would include managed pubs operated by companies with more than 250 employees, to include calorie information on food menus. Smaller businesses would also be asked to voluntarily provide calorie information and may be made to display calories in the future. The BBPA said the new measures would be “extremely costly” for pub businesses and could lead to restricted choice for consumers. It said extending mandatory calorie labelling to smaller pubs would disproportionately affect them and their suppliers. The government has also said it will launch a consultation on alcohol calorie labelling before the end of the year, including draught beer. The BBPA said such red tape would further hinder brewers and pubs that were already operating under unusual circumstances. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “As our sector recovers, now is not the time for burdensome red tape and we would urge the government to look at more collaborative ways to work with our sector instead, including promoting the growing range of low and no alcohol beers. We are keen to support the government on tackling obesity and want to work with it to achieve the strategy’s aims in a practical manner.”

Peter Backman – businesses that analyse coronavirus issues will be best placed to navigate the different world ahead: Sector analyst Peter Backman has said businesses that analyse and address issues surrounding coronavirus will be the best placed to “navigate the different world” ahead. Backman said: “What happens to the foodservice sector when the coronavirus packs its bags and leaves town, as one day it will? The answer to this question depends on many things but they will all be influenced in one way or another by the length of time between now and the end of the virus. I have been investigating these issues in conjunction with the IGD during the past few months, with some results published in our joint report Eating Out Versus Dining In. But there are many specifics that remain to be investigated and answered. It seems to me that, up to now, for the foodservice sector at any rate and I would guess most other sectors, there have been four ways the coronavirus has had an impact on the industry and the people and companies within it. First, the virus has exposed faults – and positives – that underline foodservice. Second, it has led to a process of degrading – businesses have been downsized, valued employees have been made redundant and much more. Third, there has been an acceleration of past trends – reduction in overcapacity and the rebalancing of relationships between tenants and landlords spring to mind. The fourth has been an unleashing of innovation – meal kits prepared by high-end restaurants for the home are a great example. All these matters are driven by coronavirus but how does the foodservice town pick itself up and start to restore itself? That seems to me to be a crucial question that can’t yet be answered – but it should be, and soon. Businesses and civil organisations that analyse and address those issues will be placed to navigate the different world we’ll find ourselves in. Getting to grips with the issues at a time when nothing is certain – will there be a second wave, when will a vaccine or effective mitigation arrive, who will be left standing? – is exceedingly difficult right now. But already some of the outlines are beginning to emerge.

Corporate food waste listings double since lock-down: Olio, the food redistribution app that helps foodservice businesses share surplus food with communities, said it had seen 100% growth in corporate listings since lock-down. Olio said thousands of companies had signed up to use the service including Pret A Manger, Compass Group UK and Elior. It said during lock-down the service had saved 70 tonnes of unused food from going to waste. Martin Rohleder, head of Olio for business, said: “Besides the massive impact food waste has on the environment, it also costs money and damages company’s reputations. The pandemic exacerbated the problem of food waste and highlighted the issue of food insecurity in the UK. Our organisation has been built to collect and redistribute surplus food before it goes to waste.” Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One founded Olio in 2015. It has grown from a north London initiative to span more than 52 countries and two million users. Olio business customers receive a monthly report listing volume of food rescued, how many families or community groups benefited, carbon emissions saved, litres of water saved, car miles taken off the road and equivalent trees planted.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a Yorkshire-based restaurant company that is seeking to recruit an HR manager. Based in West Yorkshire, the position will have group-wide responsibility and require some travel across the north of England. The right candidate will ideally have a strong background in hospitality and a good understanding of the industry. The incoming HR manager will oversee all HR, including payroll, employee lifecycle, recruitment and onboarding, relations and legal, and culture and engagement. A salary of up to £40,000 will be considered plus a package and expenses. For more information, email
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Liberation Group restructures management team, Oxford to step down: Channel Islands and West Country-based brewer and retailer Liberation Group has restructured its management team, a move that has created two new roles and led to Christine Oxford leaving her role as managing director of the company’s Tenanted Pubs arm. Jayson Perfect has been appointed group managing director Liberation Pubs and Inns, which covers the Managed and Tenanted divisions. Marc McGuigan has been appointed group managing director Liberation Brewing and Drinks, covering the UK and Channel Islands. Tim Hubert, managing director of Victor Hugo, and Dave Robilliard, managing director of Bucktrouts, will report directly into McGuigan but continue to remain part of Liberation’s senior team. After three years with Liberation, Oxford will leave the company following the restructure and redundancy of her position. Liberation said Oxford had not only made a “significant impact on the Tenanted pub business” but had “directly contributed to the culture and energy of the group and had been a passionate advocate of the potential within our own brewed products”. Liberation Group chief executive Jonathan Lawson said: “These are challenging times and we’ve had to make some difficult decisions. However, I’m confident these changes will enable us to respond quickly to our customers, make decisions swiftly and focus on execution. We have ambitious plans for all parts of our business and that ambition hasn’t been diminished by the difficulties faced during the past few months. Our reopenings are progressing ahead of plan and the response to our revitalised range of beers from both breweries has been really encouraging. As expected, certain trends we saw developing before lock-down have accelerated – demand for local food and drink, staycations and personalised service. With our award-winning food and drink offer our pub estate in the Channel Islands and the UK is well positioned to take advantage of those trends.”

SA Brain launches additional support package for pub partners: Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain has launched an additional package for its pub partners to support them “all the way into 2021”. Measures include a phased rent plan, discounted draught pricing and an enhanced staff training programme. The move comes ahead of venues in Wales being allowed to open fully on Monday, 3 August. Brains said it would initially reopen 40 of its managed pubs on the day and expects the majority of its 60 partners to follow suit. Chief executive Alistair Darby said: “As we entered lock-down we suspended all rent for our partners and our intention is to support them all the way into 2021 as they adapt to the ‘new normal’ and its impact on trading. Our support is tailored to give us flexibility to ensure our partners’ businesses and our own business will be sustainable in the long term.” Founded in 1882, Brains operates more than 160 pubs in Wales and recently moved into its multimillion-pound Dragon Brewery in Cardiff Bay. Brains decided not to reopen its managed pubs on Monday, 13 July when hospitality businesses in Wales were allowed to open 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.” The company sold a majority stake in its coffee business, Coffee#1, to Caffe Nero last year.

Dishoom launches four delivery-only kitchens across London: Indian restaurant concept Dishoom has launched four delivery-only kitchens so it can cover large swathes of London. The kitchens are in Battersea (covering Chelsea, Battersea, Clapham, Stockwell, Brixton, Streatham, Balham and Wandsworth); Whitechapel (covering Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Hackney, Mile End, Bow, Limehouse, Poplar and Shadwell); Park Royal (Kensal Rise, Queen’s Park, Kilburn, Willesden and Wembley) and Swiss Cottage (King’s Cross, Camden, Kentish Town, Hampstead, Kilburn and Marylebone). New dishes will be made specifically for the Dishoom delivery service. Earlier this month Dishoom opened its long-awaited Birmingham restaurant on soft launch ahead of an official opening on Thursday, 6 August. The venue is in One Chamberlain Square, part of the Paradise Birmingham development. Dishoom is led by founders Shamil and Kavi Thakrar and pays homage to the Irani cafes once prevalent in Bombay. Each Dishoom has a “founding myth”, with the Birmingham site inspired by the “city of a thousand trades”. Dishoom’s restaurants in Carnaby, Edinburgh, Kensington, King’s Cross, Manchester and Shoreditch all reopened this month, while its Covent Garden venue is still undergoing a major redesign. All cafes operate with fewer tables and added screens. 

Tootoomoo signs franchise deal with Soar Group: Pan-Asian concept Tootoomoo has signed a franchise agreement with Costa Coffee and Pizza Hut operator Soar Group to aid its expansion. The first site is set to open under the new agreement in north west London this year. Soar Group is the food and beverage vehicle of the Chagani family, which has been operating various restaurant businesses as well as multi-unit Costa Coffee and Pizza Hut franchises in north and west London for many years. Founded by Philip McGuinness in north London in 2012, Tootoomoo has sites in Islington, Crouch End, Highgate and Whetstone. McGuinness said: “We are looking to grow in many ways as a business and franchising is a big part of that. I am pleased to partner with Soar Group as it has the relevant food and franchise experience and knows its local market very well having operated there for many years. It’s a great endorsement for our brand, which has been trading very strongly in the past few months.” Omar Chagani, of Soar Group, said: “We are very excited to begin our partnership with Tootoomoo – a fantastic offering with a specialised focus on takeaway and delivery. Its trading performance over the past few months shows just how robust the model is. We look forward to opening our first restaurant later this year as part of a wider development agreement. In addition to the standard Tootoomoo restaurant format, we’ll partner with its subsidiary, Tiny Cloud Kitchens, to grow its dark kitchen model within the London area.” Seeds Consulting has been retained by Tootoomoo to manage franchise recruitment.

Caprice Holdings lodges fresh plans to bring The Ivy to Exeter: Caprice Holdings, owned by Richard Caring, has lodged fresh plans for an Ivy restaurant in Exeter. The company was previously set to convert Waterstones bookshop in the city into a restaurant and bar and received planning permission for the scheme before pulling out of the venture. Caprice Holdings has now applied to the city council to convert the Jack Wills store in High Street into a restaurant, reports Devon Live. The proposed venue, which would create 100 jobs, would have space for 137 covers inside and a further 52 in an outside area looking out on to Cathedral Green. The planning application states: “The Ivy Collection has been looking to open a restaurant in Exeter for a number of years. Unfortunately, due to commercial reasons and alternative sites found to be not wholly appropriate, The Ivy has been unable to commit to a premises. However, 65-67 High Street has been identified as an appropriate location to open a restaurant in Exeter. The proposed restaurant would be split across the basement and ground floor. The basement level would mainly be used for the kitchen and back-of-house area, while the ground floor would provide the main restaurant space with a private dining room.” The statement added principle of development had already been established for change of use to a restaurant at the site as a scheme was approved in 2007, although the planning permission was never implemented.

Signature Group offers customers ‘reassurance appointments’: Edinburgh-based Signature Group is offering customers “reassurance appointments” as it tackles public concerns surrounding health and safety measures in Scotland’s restaurants and bars. The appointments – available to anyone looking to ask questions about social distancing policies and protective measures – will take place during a dedicated “reassurance hour” prior to venues reopening daily. The initiative comes in response to findings from a recent survey conducted by the group that revealed one in four previously established customers were unlikely to return to dining in restaurants once they reopened and more than one-third (36%) were unlikely to go to a bar for a drink. The “reassurance hour” is being launched ten days after Scotland was given the green light to reopen bars and restaurants indoors, albeit with strict safety measures. Appointments are being held at Edinburgh venues McLarens On The Corner, Kyloe Restaurant and Cold Town House. Signature Pub Group director Nic Wood said: “While we’re delighted to open our venues again we understand some people are still nervous or unsure what to expect when they visit us again. We have listened to our customers’ concerns and have been working tirelessly to ensure all our policies and procedures put the safety of our customers and staff at their heart so everyone can feel safe and confident once again. The introduction of ‘reassurance hour’ will let us answer any questions people may have about social distancing or health and safety.”

Rockfish to reopen three sites this week: Rockfish, the south west-based seafood restaurant group run by Mitch Tonks, will reopen a further three of its sites this week. The group will open its restaurants in Dartmouth, Exeter and Weymouth on Wednesday (29 July). The group has already reopened its sites in Plymouth, Poole and Exmouth. The group’s site in Brixham will reopen early next month, with a reopening date for its Torquay site yet to be confirmed. Earlier this month Rockfish secured more than £1m to help safeguard its future. The group has used the funding as working capital, which has allowed the company to make changes to its restaurants to adhere to new government guidelines, employ additional members of staff for dedicated anti-coronavirus roles, and support the business through a lower period of revenue. Safety measures include a covid monitor – a member of the team whose main responsibility is to keep guests safe – while every staff member has a sanitiser spray attached to their belt for frequent personal use.

Coconut Tree removes Eat Out To Help Out discount limit and extends it to alcohol: Sri Lankan restaurant group The Coconut Tree is to remove the £10 per person limit while operating the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme and has extended the offering to include alcohol. The scheme will run on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during August. The group has also added two “hybrid” dishes to its menu – devilled pork and pineapple, and chicken curried kotthu. Operations director Rashinthe Rodrigo said: “Sri Lankan cuisine is still relatively new to many people in the UK and we want to change that. By extending the Eat Out To Help Out offer we hope to introduce a whole new wave of customers to our food.” The Coconut Tree began its phased reopening programme last week. The group reopened its Cardiff restaurant on 22 July but offering outdoors-dining only until Welsh restrictions are lifted. Customers use the restaurant’s outdoor seating in Mill Lane or order dishes via mobile ordering platform Yoello to be delivered to a designated dining area the council has created in the grounds of Cardiff Castle. The Coconut Tree in Bournemouth reopened on 24 July, while both Bristol sites will reopen on Wednesday (29 July), followed by Oxford (31 July) and Cheltenham (3 August). Last month The Coconut Tree secured a £60,000 loan from not-for-profit company SWIG Finance, supported by Triodos Bank and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, to safeguard 160 jobs and sustain the business during the coronavirus crisis.

Koya reopens restaurants with new delivery and takeaway services plus outdoor spaces: Tokyo-style noodle cafe Koya is opening its two London sites this week following a four-month closure. The sites in the City of London and Soho will offer delivery and takeaway services for the first time so guests can order food without having to queue. Meals can be collected on-site and eaten alfresco at both restaurants – on the terrace at Bloomberg Arcade and at new street seating on recently pedestrianised Frith Street. Both restaurants will initially offer the same, slightly shortened menu of signature dishes. It means Soho diners will be able to order Koya City’s tonkatsu, while City will offer Soho’s atsu-age tofu alongside new summer dishes. Koya City reopened on Monday (27 July), while the Soho site will open two days later. A spokesman for Koya told Harden’s its restaurants would fully reopen for dine-in “later this summer”.

Hawksmoor reveals £10 steak and chips deal as part of Eat Out To Help Out scheme: Hawksmoor, the Graphite Capital-backed steakhouse concept, has revealed a £10 steak, chips and sauce deal as part of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Under the scheme, the brand will offer diners 50% off their food bill (up to £10) from Monday to Wednesday throughout August. As an extra incentive, Hawksmoor has reduced the price of its 300g rump steak and chips, which would usually cost £30, to £20, meaning on qualifying days diners can get the meal for £10. The company has reopened four of its eight restaurants – in Borough, Manchester, Seven Dials and Spitalfields – and plans to reopen Air Street this Wednesday (30 July). Its site in Edinburgh will open on 6 August, Guildhall on 1 September and Knightsbridge on 3 September.

Farzi Café launches gift voucher scheme as it reopens UK site: Farzi Café, the fine dining brand that launched near New Delhi in 2014 and now operates nine restaurants in India and one in Dubai, has reopened its UK site. The venue in London’s Haymarket has reopened with an extended outdoor dining area, a new gift voucher scheme and a streamlined menu. Farzi Cafe will participate in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme but customers will also be able to buy vouchers ranging from £50 to £200 to dine at “generously discounted prices”. Safety measures include a daily staff temperature log; masks worn by chefs and servers during preparation, set-up and service; extra cleaning and “fogging” between services; and a “discreet, airport-style recording of guests’ temperatures on entry”. Farzi Cafe London director Nikhil Joshi said: “With the procedures we have in place we can still offer the fantastic and fun experience our guests have come to expect. London is a city that innovates and moves forward against all odds and we look forward to Farzi Cafe being part of that.” Farzi Café is the brainchild of Zorawar Kalra and features “traditional Indian and global dishes transformed by molecular techniques”. 

JKS Restaurants to reopen Hoppers in Soho on Wednesday: JKS Restaurants, led by Karam, Jyotin and Sunaina Sethi, will reopen its Hoppers site in Soho on Wednesday (29 July). The Frith Street restaurant is the final Hoppers venue to welcome back customers following the reopening of its sister sites in King’s Cross and Marylebone earlier this month. Guests will be able to enjoy the menu of dishes inspired by the home cooking and roadside stalls of Sri Lanka and south India inside the restaurant or in a new outdoor area thanks to the pedestrianisation of Frith Street. The outdoor area, which can accommodate up to 24 diners, is part of Soho’s Summer Street Festival, a district-wide initiative launched by Shaftesbury and Soho Estates alongside Westminster Council, which aims to support hospitality businesses by allowing alfresco dining. A full selection of cocktails, wine and beer will also be available, while the restaurant will continue to operate click-and-collect and delivery within a radius of eight miles. JKS Restaurants has gradually been reopening its estate since earlier this month with Indian barbecue, beer and whisky bar Brigadiers and Michelin-starred Indian restaurants Trishna in Marylebone also now open. Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana is due to reopen on Tuesday (28 July).

Hall & Woodhouse confirms managed pubs to take part in Eat Out To Help Out: Dorset-based brewer and retailer Hall & Woodhouse has said its managed pubs will take part in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. The company began the phased reopening of its managed pubs at the start of the month. Its pubs are currently closed on Mondays but will be open for guests to take part in the scheme on August bank holiday. Guests can claim 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks up to the value of £10 per person. Meanwhile, the company has temporarily rebranded its Forum Lager, with a percentage of sales going to local charities. The beer will be called Unlock’d Lager to commemorate exiting lock-down. To accompany the temporary rebrand, Hall & Woodhouse has pledged to donate 10p from the sale of every pint to the chosen charity of each of its pubs. In addition, £1 per case of bottles sold in the brewery shop, online or in-store, will go to Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance.

London’s only Michelin-starred pub to reopen next month: London’s only Michelin-starred pub, The Harwood Arms in Fulham, will reopen on Sunday, 30 August. The venue in Walham Grove will be open for dinner from Tuesday to Friday and for lunch and dinner on Saturdays and Sundays. Social distancing restrictions will mean the number of diners will be reduced at each service. There will also be free English sparkling wine for diners with their meals during the first week to mark the pub winning the Estrella Damm gastro-pub of the year and gastro-pub chef of the year awards just before lock-down. The Harwood Arms was awarded its Michelin star in 2010.

Mathew Carver reopens sites with bottomless cheese offer to support small-scale producers: Mathew Carver, founder of The Cheese Bar and Pick & Cheese, is to launch all-you-can-eat cheese events next month to support small-scale cheesemakers. From Saturday, 8 August, Pick & Cheese at Seven Dials Market will offer bottomless cheese and charcuterie for £20 per person, which will be half-price on Mondays during the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Meanwhile, The Cheese Bar in Camden will host bottomless raclette events on Wednesday evenings in August, using Ogleshield cheese instead of Swiss raclette and served with Cornish new potatoes, glazed ham and cornichons, with a vegetarian option available. The event will also be half-price during Eat Out To Help Out and will support cheesemaker Jamie Montgomery, who was left with tonnes of Ogleshield when the majority of orders destined for London’s top restaurants were cancelled during lock-down. Many small-scale cheese producers in the UK are struggling. Carver said: “We couldn’t be happier to finally reopen the doors to our restaurants! However, the struggle isn’t over and knowing our beloved cheesemakers are sitting on copious amounts of cheese, we knew we had to do something special to help them sell it! By taking advantage of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and the VAT cut to make the numbers stack up on bottomless cheese, I’m excited to offer our customers exceptional value while showing support to the incredible cheesemakers we work with.” During lock-down, Carver used his trucks – Audrey and Alfie – to deliver cheese around London offering “self-isolation survival kits” featuring British cheese and wine. 

The Oystermen reopens with alfresco dining: Seafood specialist The Oystermen has reopened its seafood bar and kitchen in Covent Garden with the addition of alfresco dining. Although inside covers have been cut from 47 to 28 to correspond with social distancing guidelines, guests can now dine outside in Henrietta Street, which is currently car-free. The menu has been revised to feature lighter starters such as bream ceviche, while the wine list has been shortened. The Oystermen’s raw and oyster bar is now behind screens as part of safety measures. As with the launch and expansion of the concept, founders Matt Lovell and Rob Hampton carried out much of the refurbishment themselves to ensure changes were as “sustainable and sympathetic to the original design as possible while maintaining the restaurant’s hallmark cosy ambience”. As with former work, almost all materials used were salvaged and upcycled. Meanwhile, The Oystermen will operate a champagne and oyster bar at Covent Garden’s Apple Market from Wednesday (29 July) to Saturday, 1 August. Lovell and Hampton will shuck oysters from 3pm to 10pm, while wine will focus on Pol Roger’s portfolio. Covered outdoor seating will be available in the stalls of the original market.

Cotswolds-based restaurant goes into liquidation: Cotswold-based restaurant De La Haye has gone into liquidation. Mark Boughey and Tim Ball, of Mazars, have been appointed joint liquidators of the restaurant business, which is based in Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire. Founded in 2016, De La Haye started out as a fish and chip shop and restaurant. After significant investment a larger, newly equipped fish and chip shop and restaurant opened in February 2018. This was followed three months later by an ice-cream parlour, a larger fully refurbished restaurant, and a pizzeria. The company reached a turnover in excess of £1m in the year ending November 2018. However, with the restriction of flights from China and other parts of Asia earlier in the year because of the coronavirus outbreak, tourist numbers fell dramatically to the Cotswolds. This had a significant impact on revenue and the subsequent closure of all hospitality businesses in March because of lock-down restrictions meant revenue fell to zero overnight. With the business at a standstill, the loss of the majority of the spring and summer season, and no clear timescale for a significant increase in inbound tourism, the directors decided the company had to be placed into liquidation, with its 25 employees made redundant. Boughey said: “In this instance, a viable solution couldn’t be found to rescue the company and the financial implications have unfortunately resulted in the necessary closure of this restaurant. As more certainty returns to the sector, hopefully there will be an opportunity for the site to reopen under new ownership.”

Darwin Escapes acquires North Wales development site for 23rd UK holiday park: North Wales-headquartered Darwin Escapes, the fourth-largest operator of holiday parks in the UK, has acquired a 40-acre development site in North Wales for an undisclosed price. Plas Isaf Lodge Park, which is in woodland near the town of Caerwys, has permission for 57 holiday lodges, with 12 already built. Darwin Escapes is operated by the Darwin Leisure Development Fund. Anthony Esse, an investment adviser to the fund, said: “Plas Isaf is a beautiful lodge resort in an idyllic setting and we’re delighted it will join the four other Darwin Escapes locations in North Wales. We intend to invest in the site to maximise the planning permission already in place.” Ben Jones, director in the parks and leisure team at Colliers International, which acted on behalf of the private vendor, told Insider Media: “The completion of the sale of Plas Isaf at a price agreed before lock-down without any adjustment confirms confidence in the UK holiday parks market. This is a sector that was already showing impressive growth prior to the outbreak of covid-19, it now looks set to bounce back strongly following disruption caused by lock-down. Holiday parks are ideal for maintaining social distancing as they provide self-contained accommodation surrounded by plenty of recreation space.”

Perthshire hotel and spa brought to market for £1.75m: Knock Castle Hotel & Spa in Crieff, Perthshire, has been brought to market for £1.75m. The venue dates to 1870 and is the former home of Scottish shipping magnate Lady MacBrayne. The hotel comprises 30 bedrooms, nine of them in the adjacent Castle Lodge. Christie & Co said the seller would accept offers for Knock Castle and Castle Lodge individually, for asking prices of £1.25m and £500,000 respectively. The site sits in three and a half acres of mature gardens and woodland and features a rooftop restaurant with terrace, a spa, and a self-contained pool and leisure club. It also has two function suites, while the residents’ cinema can also be used for meetings. The sale comes with two additional two-bedroom flats, which could be used as owner’s accommodation. Brian Sheldon, Christie & Co’s regional director for Scotland, said: “This presents a great opportunity for the buyer to further enhance this established business and increase income and profit.”

Birmingham-based bar shuts permanently after ‘failing to secure landlord support’: Birmingham-based Bar Opus, which closed in March because of the pandemic, has announced it won’t reopen. The venue, located on the piazza of the One Snow Hill building, said it had been “unable to secure landlord support to enable it to trade through the difficult times ahead”. Director Ann Tonks told The Business Desk: “The very slow and phased return of business customers to the city centre is a huge challenge. This lack of business customers, on which the bar relies, is a considerable blow while being faced with continued high rent and service charge demands. We recognise the significant support we received from the government through the rates holiday and furlough scheme. In all good conscience we can’t continue to draw on the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme when we know closure is inevitable.”

Kingsland Drinks reports spike in off-trade sales offset drop in orders during on-trade closure: Greater Manchester-based wine and spirits supplier Kingsland Drinks has reported a spike in off-trade sales during the pandemic has helped offset some of the reduction in orders from wholesalers as a result of on-trade closures. The company said while the long-term impact on the business was “hard to predict”, its ability to sell goods hadn’t been impeded despite the impact on the “supply of bulk liquid from certain countries”. Kingsland said measures had been put in place to allow social distancing in the workplace – employees on shifts had been segregated to reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted while all supplier and customer face-to-face meetings had been stopped. The company stated: “There have been changes to the market as there have been reductions in orders from wholesalers that supply into the on-trade market of pubs, clubs and restaurants as a result of government closure of such public venues. However, the business has seen a sudden spike in demand for wine and spirits from the off-trade as part of home consumption. As a consequence, the directors don’t expect to see a fundamental change in overall demand but there’s likely to be a change in the business mix.” Kingsland provided the update as it reported turnover for the year ending 30 June 2019 rose 2.6% to £290.2m, compared with £283.0m the previous year. Ebitda was up to £7.2m from £6.0m the year before, while pre-tax profit was up to £5.5m compared with £3.6m the year before. The directors said given the uncertainty caused by lock-down, they had decided it was “prudent” to delay signing off the accounts as sanctioned by Companies House. The company, which can trace its roots to 1895, sells brands such as Famile Quiot, Marisco, Sensi and Vespucci.

Legacy reopens 30 James Street hotel in Liverpool: Legacy Hotels and Resorts has reopened the 30 James Street hotel in Liverpool. The four-star hotel, themed around the White Star Line shipping company that once occupied the historic building, comprises 63 nautical-themed rooms, a rooftop terrace bar, a restaurant, events space and spa. The venue will reopen in phases, with the upstairs restaurant initially remaining closed. However, the ground-floor bar is open. Legacy Hotels and Resorts was appointed last month by the receivers of 30 James Street to operate the site when it was confirmed aparthotel operator and developer Signature Living, which opened the property in 2014, would have no further links to management of the hotel. Earlier this month it was reported Signature Living’s labyrinthine network of bar, hotel and development businesses owed £113m to creditors when it collapsed into administration in April. Administrators from Duff & Phelps, FRP and Wilson Field are trying to unpick the relationships between group companies, investors and funders.

Plans for UK’s most landlocked surf park moves step closer: Plans to build the UK’s most landlocked surf park near Birmingham have taken a major step forward. The £25m Emerge Surf Birmingham project was originally unveiled last year and has now received the backing of North Warwickshire Borough Council’s planning and development board. All 15 members supported the planning application for the 15-acre site, which is at Coleshill, about seven miles from Birmingham city centre. The wave park would feature a 5.4 acre surf lagoon, an outdoor heated swimming pool, hub building and a perimeter track for Onewheel electric skateboards. The project is expected to create 100 full-time equivalent jobs, attract about 250,000 visitors a year and deliver an annual economic boost of between £18m and £21m to the region. Visitors to the park would also be able to enjoy a surf school, surf shop, cafe and restaurant, multi-purpose fitness studio, physio and massage room, and children’s play area. Steve Price, founder and chief executive of Emerge Surf, told The Business Desk: “Our aim with Emerge Surf is to bring a slice of the ocean to Birmingham, creating a haven for landlocked surfers and those wanting to try the sport for the first time. Our focus now is on finalising our funding structure and progressing on-site groundwork, which we expect to start before the end of this year. We will work collaboratively with all partners as we prepare to open to the public in early 2022.” Dates referenced for the start of groundworks and public opening are subject to the proposed development being referred to the secretary of state.

OrderPay appoints David Charlton as chief commercial officer: Pay at table app OrderPay has appointed David Charlton as chief commercial officer. Having previously held the role of commercial director at Zonal, Charlton will join the OrderPay team on Monday, 3 August, assuming responsibilities in sales, customer onboarding, account management and commercial partnerships. The appointment further strengthens ties between OrderPay and Zonal and coincides with a partnership between the two technology companies. The OrderPay app has integrated with many of Zonal’s iOrder functionalities such as handling price variation, updating stock availability in real-time, and click-and-collect solutions and table service. Charlton said: “I am passionate about implementing technology products that become a crucial part of a business’ operation and strongly believe OrderPay can have a positive impact on its partners’ bottom line so I’m thrilled to join and contribute to its continued growth. I’ve seen first-hand how important Zonal is to operators so this partnership is a big step forward in helping the hospitality sector innovate and use technology to provide a seamless experience for customers.” OrderPay was founded by former senior executives at McDonald’s, Accenture and Pret A Manger and is backed by a council of founding operators, with more brands set to be confirmed in the coming weeks. 

Street food and craft beer emporium to open in North Shields: A street food and craft beer emporium is set to launch next month in an industrial landmark in North Shields. Salt Market Social will be a pop-up events space that will unite the “best of the north east’s street food stalls, craft beer and music under one roof”. The first “social” will run from 14 to 16 August, with another scheduled for August Bank Holiday weekend. The venue is located on the first floor of the former Cosalt factory in Liddell Street, which overlooks North Shields Fish Quay. The venue is set to stage other events in the future and will also be available for hire. Food pop-ups will rotate, with the launch weekend featuring Lobo Rojo, Pan Asia, Med Head, Hatch 76 and La Petit Creperie. Craft beer from north east-based brewers will include Wylam, Errant, Northern Alchemy and Allendale. Salt Market Social co-founder Simon Miller told Insider Media: “The Fish Quay has really changed during the past couple of years and Salt Market Social will be an amazing and distinct addition to what is rapidly becoming a really vibrant quarter.”

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