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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 13th Aug 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sector sees sales halve in first month back: Britain’s managed pub, restaurant and bar groups saw total July sales down 50.4% compared with last year as the sector re-emerged from lock-down, latest data from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker has revealed. All parts of the market recorded trading well below July 2019 levels but restaurants and bars and the London market struggled most. While pub groups collectively saw total sales down 44.7% over the month, restaurant groups in the Tracker cohort were down 59.8% and bars down 63.3%. London trading was down 58.3% in July, with outside the M25 down 48.5%. The Tracker figures showed more than three-quarters (76%) of the group-owned sites trading in February were open again by the end of July. However, the contrast between pubs, bars and restaurants was stark. While 94% of managed pubs had reopened, only 62% of bars and 36% of group-operated restaurants were back in business. “The figures are a reflection reopening of sites has been gradual and not all are back in business. Plus those that are open are generally trading at well below normal levels,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM. Delivery accounted for 13.1% of sales among the casual dining groups in the Tracker cohort in July, up from 7.4% in March when the effects of coronavirus were first felt and 5.9% in February. Among the managed pub groups, drink sales performed slightly better than food, with sales down 41% compared with minus 48%. The July Tracker figures are the first monthly set of sales data released since March, when all pubs, bars and restaurants were closed. Because reopening of the out-of-home market has been gradual during July, with England reopening first, then Scotland and Wales, the Tracker has only collected total sales figures and not like-for-like for this month but will resume like-for-like comparisons with August trading numbers. Chessell added: “These total sales figures for July give us a clear picture of how far the market still has to go to get back to pre-covid levels and highlights the areas that remain under severe pressure, especially as working from home continues and footfall in city centres, in particular central London, remains well down. The drop in sales across the market actually began in February as covid started to hit the headlines and escalated in March, so by the end of March the managed pub, bar and restaurant sector had already fallen into year-on-year decline, down 2.7% on the previous 12 months. At the end of July, after three months of zero trade, it was down 32.4% year-on-year.”

Industry News:

Sector must commit to customer tracing schemes, says UKHospitality: Sector businesses must play their part in supporting the UK’s test and trace schemes, UKHospitality has said. The trade body’s recent survey showed more than 90% of businesses are taking appropriate measures to record customer visits but recent media reports have accused venues of flouting requirements. UKHospitality said businesses must present a united front to show the sector is committed to providing safe spaces and supporting efforts to fight covid-19. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Hospitality offers safe spaces for people to enjoy being with friends and family at the centre of our communities and high streets. We have a responsibility to keep our customers, teams and communities safe and well. Not complying puts us at risk of a spike and another lock-down. Nobody wants that given the awful commercial impact of the initial lock-down. We need to get this right at the first time of trying and that includes implementing test and trace initiatives to keep people safe. Collecting and providing the information is vital to helping break the chain of transmission and controlling the virus. It takes little time, saves lives and can prevent further lock-downs. It also shows team members and customers we’re professional, proactive and caring. The government has afforded our sector valuable support and, by showing we can be relied on, we can demonstrate our appreciation of its investment. We are an industry that prides itself in looking after people so let’s show we’re proud to support public health objectives by recording customer visits.” 
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company behind Wahlburgers UK fell into administration owing an investor £2.4m: The company behind the UK launch of Wahlburgers, the US burger chain run by chef Paul Wahlberg in partnership with his brothers Mark and Donnie, fell into administration owing an investor £2.4m, Propel has learned. In June, Wahlburgers announced it would permanently close its site in James Street, Covent Garden, which was its debut European restaurant, little more than a year after its launch citing the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis. In the same month FRP Advisory was appointed administrator to Won 20 (the trading entity), Won 1 (the parent company) and Won 2 (set up with a view to expansion). Propel understands the group had been loss-making, with Won 2 posting a year to date loss of £190,000 to September 2019. Florida-based investment firm Fod Capital Investment holds a fixed and floating charge over all three companies as well as a cross guarantee. Fod Capital had provided investment to the group and was owed £2.4m at the date the administrator was appointed. Fod Capital issued demands against the group shortly before the appointment. The amount of debt Won 2 has with the UK site’s landlord, Capital & Counties, is said to be £805,320. In December, Propel revealed the company had started marketing the site at 8-9 James Street with a reported premium of £2m. Antonino Cutraro and Otmar Szafnauer were directors of the UK companies behind the brand’s launch in the UK. Cutraro, who owns a number of Wahlburgers franchises in the US, and Szafnauer, chief executive of the Racing Point Formula One team, had the master franchise for the brand in the UK.
‘Clarity and direction urgently needed to save UK’s nightclubs’: Sector bosses and trade bodies have called on the government to urgently provide details of a roadmap for reopening the UK’s nightclubs, which are “less than one month away from a potentially make or break period”. UKHospitality has written to culture minister Oliver Dowden asking the government to clarify its proposals for nightclubs and stating its concern at the absence of a programme to allow businesses to plan for a return to trade. The letter highlights the crucial role nightclubs play in the UK’s economy as well as their social value. The trade body re-emphasised the precarious position many clubs still find themselves in and reiterated financial support may be necessary to ensure businesses survive and jobs are secured. Peter Marks, chief executive of The Deltic Group, said: “The clubbing season in the UK traditionally begins to get busy in September so we’re less than one month away from a potentially make or break period. We’ve used science-backed plans that take into account our specific issues with every precaution to ensure nightclubs can be fully risk assessed and be as safe as possible for customers and staff. That means controlled entry systems, staff training, improved ventilation and minimal touch points. We’re ready to welcome customers back safely straight away – but the government is keeping us closed.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “Each day that passes feels like a day closer to more business failures and jobs losses. Keeping businesses in the dark helps nobody. We must be told when we can reopen and be given reassurance financial support will be forthcoming to ensure these businesses don’t go under with the loss of potentially thousands of jobs.”

Scotland and Wales see footfall growth as England stays steady: Scotland and Wales enjoyed footfall growth during the past week as the figures in England remained steady, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. The figures look at footfall in UK regions compared with a pre-lock-down average base week in February. The stand-out figures during the past week include a 6% growth over Saturday and Sunday (8 and 9 August) in Cardiff, due in part to the full reopening of pubs and bars in the country last week. Edinburgh saw the most footfall on a Saturday since lock-down eased, with a jump of 7%. However, Glasgow saw footfall decrease on a Sunday for the first time in four weeks. In England, Birmingham’s footfall on Sunday was only 25% behind pre-lock-down figures – the smallest gap seen on the data so far. Footfall in Manchester grew slightly, despite new lock-down legislation. Footfall across the UK as a whole remains at similar levels to last week, stronger at the beginning of the week due to the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Wireless Social added the hot weather during the past week would also have an impact on weekend footfall. 
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Hammerson to trial new lease approach: Hammerson has said it will take a new approach to its leases in the UK, which will see the property firm offer shorter contracts and scrap traditional rent review systems. The new approach will focus on four key areas – more flexible leases, rebased rent at more affordable levels, replacing the rent review system with an index, and an “omnichannel top-up element”. Hammerson said it would trial the new approach at its Union Square shopping centre in Aberdeen before rolling it out across the company’s portfolio, with all leases to be converted by 2023. Hammerson UK and Ireland managing director Mark Bourgeois said: “The traditional approach of basing rent on historical market evidence rather than long-term affordability has created tension between property owners and retailers at a time when partnership and collaboration is needed more than ever. The current dependency on ERV-based valuation models also incentivises landlords to chase the highest rent payer for every unit rather than focusing on the overall vibrancy and brand mix of a particular destination which, over the long term, would deliver much greater value. For landlords and tenants to thrive again, the time has come to create an approach that reflects the role modern stores play in an omnichannel world. As such, Hammerson is introducing a leasing approach in the UK, shaped by conversations with brand partners, our experiences in continental Europe where indexation is common, and the success of premium outlets, where a performance top-up is often included in leases. While we don’t have all the answers, we’re confident this is the right approach. In collaboration with our retail partners, we are trialling this leasing concept at our Union Square centre in Aberdeen and anticipate rolling out the final model in 2021. The current rental system was put in place more than 65 years ago for a market that’s unrecognisable today. It’s clear the time for change is now.”

Capco chief – West End footfall improving daily: Covent Garden landlord Capital & Counties (Capco) has said footfall in the West End is improving daily but warned it’s too early to predict when trading would return to pre-covid levels. Capco chief executive Ian Hawksworth told the Evening Standard he had been “encouraged” since shops and restaurants reopened. He said every day was “better than the last one” in terms of footfall, with about 500,000 people visiting the estate last week. Hawksworth was speaking as Capco revealed how hard the pandemic hit the business in the six months to 30 June. The company said net rental income was down 41% to £18m in the first half of the year, compared with June 2019. The value of the Covent Garden estate dropped 17% to £2.2bn from £2.6bn as at 31 December 2019. Capco said: “While initial indicators are encouraging the trading environment remains challenging and it’s too early to predict when trading will return to previous levels while office occupancy remains significantly reduced, ongoing travel restrictions and fragile consumer sentiment.” Hawksworth said: “Capco is confident in the long-term prospects of the West End and the value of its unique investments.” Last month the property firm said bespoke solutions had been agreed that include rent deferrals, rent-free periods and other arrangements reflecting the position of each customer. For tenants experiencing short-term cash flow issues, Capco said rental agreements would be linked to turnover for the second half of the year in exchange for other provisions such as lease extensions.

Shaftesbury transforms Chinatown London into open air food destination: West End landlord Shaftesbury has transformed Chinatown London into an open air food destination as part of its #LoveChinatown campaign. Operators can take advantage of an extra 150 covers in Newport Place alongside the alfresco dining many restaurants are providing in the pedestrianised streets. The new seating is available daily from midday to 8pm. For a limited time later this month, participating restaurants will also offer a biodegradable #LoveChinatown “take-put” box. An adaptation of the traditional takeaway box, the container folds into a makeshift plate. Karen Baines, head of group marketing and communications at Shaftesbury, said: “The #LoveChinatown campaign will continue to support our restaurants, celebrate the diversity of Chinatown’s offering and inspire people to revisit safely. London is resilient and throughout the pandemic our restaurateurs have been adapting, from providing more deliveries, developing meal kits, expanding apps and honing menus to ensure less waste and more sustainability. We want to reflect this resilience. These initiatives complement our move to an omnichannel Chinatown, keeping people connected whether digitally or physically.” To help with social distancing measures, floor markings have been installed in Mandarin and English, with hand-sanitisation points installed throughout Chinatown London.

Colliers – significant rebalancing of rent and turnover relationship required to reignite casual dining sector: A significant rebalancing of the relationship between rent and turnover is required to reignite the casual dining sector, experts at Colliers International have argued. Almost one-third (30%) of 217 restaurants that were handed back to landlords following the “casual dining crunch” in 2017-18 remain vacant, according to Colliers’ report entitled Can The UK Find A New Appetite For Eating Out. Of those restaurants that have been re-let, four-fifths (80%) have seen a reduction in rent, with the average discount being 20%. The biggest deductions were in the south west (37%) and north east (27%), although some restaurants, many of them in London, witnessed increased rent. Vacancy rates are particularly high for restaurants in leisure schemes (44%), while the landlords of a large number of eateries on high streets and in retail parks have secured new tenants, with respective vacancy rates at 23% and 13%. There are also regional discrepancies in rent reductions and incentives, typically in the form of rent-free periods, which are twice as high in the north west and south west as those offered in the East Midlands. Vacancy rates and reductions in rent payable are expected to exceed those seen following the 2017-18 crunch, Colliers said. Nigel Ball, director, licensed and leisure, said: “The rapid growth of the casual dining sector is well documented and created competition for sites from established and emerging occupiers, which fuelled rental growth. Operators have since found themselves with overheads that are too high, margins that are too low and a target market that’s nervous about a return to eating out on the scale that prevailed prior to the pandemic. Our analysis shows a strong regional correlation between rents payable and household disposable income. The recessionary impact of the pandemic will inevitably result in lower rental values when vacant properties are re-let. Independents and, eventually, startups may flourish in a rebased sector of substantially lower rents but this won’t totally fill the voids created. Operators’ revenues, profits and their ability to pay rent will remain under pressure and to get through this period there will have to be an unprecedented level of collaboration between landlords and operators. Risk will need to be shared and perhaps a greater use of turnover to determine rents can offer operators and landlords the hope that better days lie ahead.”

London hotel market sees record low occupancy: London’s hotel market saw record low occupancy in July, according to the latest data from STR. The figures showed occupancy dropped 74.8% year-on-year to 22.8% – the lowest level for any month on record. Average daily rate and revpar continued to recover from June’s levels. Average daily rate was down 52.4% on last year, to £83.61, while revpar in July dropped 88.0% to £19.02. STR said regional markets in the UK continue to outperform capital cities.

Company News:

Just Eat boss – Eat Out To Help Out hasn’t damaged our business: The boss of food delivery company Just Eat has said Eat Out To Help Out hasn’t damaged the business, despite takeaways being excluded from the government scheme. Chief executive Jitse Groen said during a press call: “Food delivery is rarely in direct competition with restaurant visits – and that doesn’t change under these circumstances. Restaurants have limited capacity because they can only seat a certain number of people. We don’t believe there will be a material impact on our figures.” Groen said he wasn’t “upset” the Competition and Markets Authority cleared Amazon’s 16% stake in Just Eat’s UK rival Deliveroo but added: “I am an entrepreneur – I don’t particularly care who’s competing with us. I think the UK consumer should be upset that happened and that has nothing to do with Deliveroo, that has something to do with Amazon.” Earlier on Wednesday (12 August), Just Eat reported revenue grew 44% to more than €1bn (£927m) with a pre-tax loss of €121m. “Just Eat is in the fortunate position to benefit from continuing tailwinds,” Groen said. “On the back of the current momentum, we started an aggressive investment programme, which we believe will further strengthen our market position. We’re convinced our order growth will remain strong for the remainder of the year.” Just Eat is in the process of buying US rival Grubhub for $7.3bn. The deal is likely to complete in the first half of 2021 but Groen declined to discuss the deal.

Star Pubs & Bars invests further £4m in rent reductions: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is investing a further £4m in rent reductions for its leased and tenanted pubs in September and October. The move brings the total rent support offered by the company to £25m until the end of October. The group said with most pubs open and benefiting from government support such as a business rates holiday, VAT cut, loans and furlough scheme, the company was tapering its rent relief in September and October. The company’s 50%, 75% and 90%-plus rent reductions will reduce to 40%, 55% and 70% in September and 30%, 35% and 50% in October. Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “We have invested heavily in helping licensees through these difficult times. Throughout, we have been transparent and consistent with the rent reductions we have offered. We hope this latest tapered rent relief will help licensees plan ahead as much they are able to and we’ll continue to review our overall support as we have done since the beginning. Now seems the right time to offer tapered support as the feedback from our estate has been encouraging overall, with consumer confidence growing and many licensees trading near to pre-lock-down levels.” The company’s previous rent support had been due to finish at the end of August.

Hall & Woodhouse appoints Paul Barnett as group financial director: Dorset-based brewer and retailer Hall & Woodhouse has appointed Paul Barnett as group financial director. Barnett, who was previously a partner at Deloitte, is a chartered accountant with extensive experience of working with globally listed companies such as Just Eat, Anglo American and Rio Tinto. In his new role, Barnett will lead the finance and IT teams at Hall & Woodhouse to ensure the business meets its “challenging growth objectives by building on its successes from the past to expand in the future”. Barnett said: “Given current events it’s a fascinating time to join Hall & Woodhouse. Through my time with Deloitte I’ve worked with many of the world’s largest companies through good and bad times. I will use these experiences to drive and deliver Hall & Woodhouse’s ambitious growth strategy. A key part of my role will be team leadership. I’m passionate about supporting my people to enable them to achieve their career goals. I’m already enjoying getting to know everyone in the business and visiting all our pubs.” Hall & Woodhouse brews Badger Ale in Dorset and runs 180 pubs across the south of England. Last year, finance director Michael Owen left the business to become chief financial officer of London pub retailer Young’s.

Greene King to recruit at least another 150 apprentices: Brewer and retailer Greene King is set to recruit at least another 150 apprentices and has encouraged young people to apply for jobs as they receive their A-level results. Since 2011, Greene King has supported more than 12,500 apprentices through its programme as it supports the development of its next generation of managers. Apprenticeship programmes are run from level 2 to level 7, which is post-graduate degree level. More than two-fifths (43%) of apprentice vacancies at Greene King were filled by 16 to 18-year-olds in 2019-20, an increase of 3% on the previous year. Greene King offers apprenticeships across the country – 97% of pubs run or have run apprenticeship programmes – with opportunities at all levels. Graham Briggs, head of apprenticeships and employability programmes at Greene King, said: “We know university might not be the right path for everyone and an apprenticeship can provide an alternative route and be the start of a rewarding and fulfilling career. Our apprenticeship programme enables young people to earn while they learn, offering the best of both worlds. With a particularly challenging jobs market at the moment, we’re pleased we can continue providing roles to young people at the start of their careers. Apprenticeships play a hugely important role in social mobility and we are continuing to invest in our programme so we can provide more opportunities and quality training for young people entering the hospitality industry.”

Boxpark appoints Wells & Co’s Bishop as property director: Boxpark has appointed Simon Bishop as property director to drive the company’s development plans during the next five years. With more than 25 years’ experience in leisure acquisitions for restaurants, pubs, hotels and casinos, Bishop has been instrumental in delivering sites in the UK and major European cities for brands such as Peach Pub Company, Scottish and Newcastle Retail, and City Inn Hotels. His most recent role, as head of acquisitions at Bedford-based brewer and retailer Wells & Co, focused on acquiring pubs and hotels. Before lock-down, Boxpark revealed plans to open ten sites in major UK cities during the next five years. Bishop will create a programme of rolling acquisitions focusing on potential sites for Boxpark in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Liverpool and Manchester. He will be responsible for sourcing potential sites for Boxpark’s original concept as well as two new ones – BoxOffice, which will incorporate co-working spaces, and BoxHall, 10,000 to 20,000 square foot food and drink-focused destinations featuring six to 12 street food traders. Boxpark chief executive and founder Roger Wade said: “Despite closing our sites for more than 12 weeks we’ve tried to maintain a positive outlook by realising our key strengths as a business and prospects. Luckily for us, we’ve had a great bounce back. Since reopening our sites footfall and like-for-like sales have surpassed our expectations but there’s no time to stand still. We’re more focused than ever on our growth strategy and think Simon holds the perfect skill set and experience to help us reach our ambitions.” Bishop added: “My experience in the hospitality and leisure sectors lends itself well to Boxpark’s expansion plans and there are loads of opportunities ahead.”

Pizza Pilgrims lines up Queensway opening: Pizza Pilgrims, the London-based sourdough pizzeria concept founded by Thom and James Elliot, has lined up a further opening in central London, in Queensway, Propel has learned. The 13-strong company is understood to have secured a former Persian restaurant as part of the West Walk Estate. It’s thought the group will look to open the site near the end of this year or early 2021. The company has so far reopened nine of its 13 restaurants for dine in, with only its sites in the City, Westfield London, Covent Garden and Swingers in the City closed. Earlier this week the company said it would open a permanent facility for its Pizza In The Post operation. Having sold more than 25,000 units nationwide during lock-down, the company has secured a site in Herne Hill for the purpose-built facility. It will cater for all prepping, packing and distribution of Pizza In The Post. The space will allow the team to create more than 2,000 kits a day and hire ten staff to help develop this new arm of the business. 

Wendy’s chief – we’re on track to open restaurants in UK in first half of 2021: Todd Penegor, chief executive of Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, has said the group is on track to open restaurants in the UK in the first half of 2021. The company, which operates more than 6,000 sites worldwide, has submitted plans to open a site in an empty unit in Station Road, Reading. Speaking on an earnings call after the company’s second-quarter results, Penegor said: “We have continued to make progress towards our plan to expand into Europe and are on track to open restaurants in the UK in the first half of 2021. We’ve been building a top talent team on the ground and have a strong pipeline of locations. International growth is one of the three growth pillars we remain fully committed to. This growth may take a slightly different shape as a result of covid but we know international remains a huge opportunity for the Wendy’s brand and we’re excited to grow this business.” Earlier this summer Propel revealed the company had started building its team ahead of a proposed UK launch. It has appointed Michael Clarke, formerly of Pizza Hut Restaurants and Firezza, as UK director of operations. At the same time Rhodri Jones, former property director at Soho House joint venture Quentin Restaurants, joined Wendy’s as UK real estate manager. Propel revealed last year the company had started searching for sites in the UK to “kick-start a broader expansion plan across Europe”. The group attempted to break into the UK market before the end of the last millennium but surrendered ten leases in 2000.

Lane 7 moves closer to Bristol launch: Lane7, the bowling alley, ping pong and karaoke concept, has moved closer to opening a site in Bristol after applying for a licence at a unit in the city. Propel understands the business, which owns six sites under its eponymous brand, has applied to open at Unit 2, Canons Way, in Millennium Promenade. Lane7 was founded by Tim Wilks and entered the family bowling market with the launch of its Gutterball Alley site in North Shields late last year. Wilks said at the time: “We wanted to bring the soul and flavour of Lane7 paired with a family friendly offer. Gutterball Alley is for the parents who dread a trip to lifeless entertainment venues that cater for kids only.” Lane7 launched its first site in Newcastle in late 2013 and has gone on to open venues in Aberdeen, Birmingham, Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Sheffield. It planned to launch a “super-site” in Leicester this year that would feature a container-style food and drinks village, while it has also thought to have secured a site in Cardiff. 

Nando’s postpones A-level and GCSE giveaway: Nando’s is postponing its annual giveaway to A-level and GCSE students in the UK. Usually they can grab a free Fire-Starter or quarter chicken on the day grades come out by providing proof of their results. The company stated on its blog: “As we continue to get all our restaurants back up and running we’ll postpone our annual results day celebrations until September. Given the circumstances, the safety of our customers and team is still our number-one priority. We also want to make sure customers can take full advantage of the offer when we’re open at a national level for eat-in. We give away free food to GCSE and A-level students each year to celebrate their hard work across the academic year and celebrate with them as they move on to the next chapter of their life, whatever that may be. We get this year has been a tough one, especially for students, and we don’t want anyone to be left out or miss the opportunity to celebrate with some peri-peri.” Nando’s has reopened almost half its 422-strong UK estate for dine-in.

Leeds city centre bars bought out of administration: More than 100 jobs have been saved after two Leeds city centre bars were bought out of administration. Darren Brookes and Molly Monks, of Milner Boardman & Partners, were appointed joint administrators of Bar Fibre, Viaduct Leisure and Mission (Leeds) on 31 July. A deal has now been agreed to save Bar Fibre and Viaduct, safeguarding 102 jobs. However, the Mission nightclub will remain closed. A spokesman for the three companies told Insider Media: “We are pleased to have been able to save 102 jobs at Bar Fibre and Viaduct Leisure. Unfortunately, Mission couldn’t be saved. The night-time industry has suffered the most through the pandemic. We hope the government extends support for the sector into 2021 to ensure its long-term survival.” All three venues operated under the APN Group banner. The company’s website states Fibre is the company’s flagship bar, while Viaduct Showbar is “the UK’s leading drag cabaret venue”. Mission is branded as a “super club with a 15-year history”. APN Group’s website also states the company operates hotels and apartments, media services, and property and facility management services.

Bunga Bunga to relaunch karaoke experience with shower booths: Bunga Bunga, the Inception Group-owned venue in Battersea, south London, is to relaunch its karaoke nights next month featuring shower cubicle-style booths to comply with social distancing. The group said the Friday and Saturday “kara-soaky” nights, which will launch on 4 September, would offer a “singing in the shower karaoke experience” while complying with covid safety measures. As part of the “playful distancing inventions”, the party venue has been transformed into an “Italian bathroom” including bathroom props and tables separated by transparent shower curtains to create “bathroom bubbles” for parties of ten. Cubicles will be sanitised after each performance. To avoid bubbles mixing, retro telephones will allow tables to communicate with each other while providing a direct line for song requests. Each performance will be broadcast on screens, while the venue will offer a three-course Italian feasting menu, including Bunga Bunga’s signature metre-long pizza.

Leon rolls out grocery range to 62 more Sainsbury’s stores: Natural fast food brand Leon has rolled out its sourdough range into a further 62 Sainsbury’s in-store bakeries. The expansion, from 32 to 94 sites, also sees a brown seeded sourdough added to the range, which will be available exclusively at Sainsbury’s stores. The range also features the super white sourdough, which was the best-selling product at Leon’s stores during lock-down. Leon has been expanding its range of products in Sainsbury’s, recently adding gluten-free chicken nuggets to its waffle fries and vegan sauces. Charlotte Di Cello, chief commercial officer and managing director of Leon Grocery, said: “It has been our mission to make food that tastes and does good more widely available and this expansion will allow even more customers to access our bakery products.”

Bone Daddies extends Eat Out To Help Out discount at Flesh & Buns to Thursdays: Bone Daddies Group is extending the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme at its Flesh & Buns restaurants to include Thursdays. The company has decided to subsidise the offer so diners can receive the 50% discount on all food and non-alcoholic drinks up to a maximum of £10 per person for an additional day during August. The offer will be valid for lunch and dinner at the Fitzrovia and Oxford Circus restaurants. Bone Daddies Group also operates six eponymous ramen restaurants in London as well as fusion concept Shack-Fuyu.

Watch House launches roastery and coffee subscription service: Edition Capital-backed coffee concept Watch House has launched a roastery to supply its five London coffee houses alongside an espresso bar. The roastery has launched under the arches of Maltby Street in Bermondsey, offering Watch House’s house-blend coffee while housing the company’s training lab and head office. Each coffee changes seasonally and is available to buy by the bag or as part of a new subscription offering spanning three, six or 12 months. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of the roaster and training room, giving visitors behind-the-scenes access to the modern coffee experience. The training room will also host tastings and workshops. The brand’s coffee houses in Bermondsey Street, Spitalfields and Tower Bridge have also reopened with Somerset House and Fetter Lane set to do so “in due course”. Watch House coffee founder Roland Horne said: “Our new roastery brings with it a new era for Watch House. We’ve spent years fostering relationships with farmers who believe in our way of doing things and our house range has been created with our community in mind. The space also enables us and our guests to have the space to learn, grow and explore our coffee programme even further.”

Colchester-based Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant to shut permanently due to ‘uncertainty’ caused by pandemic: Colchester-based restaurant Grain, which was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand last year, is to permanently close as a result of uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Paul Wendholt and Jordan Sidwell launched the concept in 2016 with a menu focused on British food offered in small plates. However, they have decided not to renew the lease of the North Hill restaurant and it will close in October. Wendholt told Essex Live: “Everything was heading in the right direction but this year came along and threw a spanner in the works. We had to commit to a ten-year lease or walk away. After what has happened over the past six months, ten years is a very long time. Pre-lock-down we were doing very well and even since lock-down we weren’t doing badly at all, but it’s not the same world we opened in.” Wendholt refused to rule out the business returning in some form in the future. He added: “One day we may look at other avenues such as opening another site – but we’re back to square one.”

Santo Remedio launches at-home meal kits: Santo Remedio, the Mexican restaurant brand founded by Edson and Natalie Diaz-Fuentes, has launched a range of at-home meal kits. The Remedy Kits focus on slow-cooked meat and consist of three boxes – bone-in short rib (12-hour beef short rib with mole negro); barbecoa lamb shank (eight-hour slow-cooked lamb); and duck carnitas (two confit duck legs). Each kit comes with garnishes, Santo Remedio corn tortillas and sides such as house-made black beans, citrusy potato salad, and crispy coleslaw. Deliveries go out from Santo Remedio’s site in Tooley Street, London Bridge, on Wednesdays and Fridays with orders required 48 hours in advance, Hot Dinners reports. After three years of pop-ups, supper clubs and a Street Feast residency, the first bricks and mortar Santo Remedio opened in Shoreditch. Following its closure, the brand opened its 100-cover restaurant in Tooley Street. 

MeatLiquor to reopen Oxford Circus site on Saturday: Scott Collins-led concept MeatLiquor is to reopen its Oxford Circus site on Saturday (15 August). The company has been gradually reopening its 11-strong estate with only its King’s Cross and Queensway sites still temporarily shuttered. Meanwhile, MeatLiquor will launch plant-based burger Burgaloo 2 on Thursday (13 August). Developed in-house, the roast white onion and potato patty is served with pink onions, lime pickle, soy yogurt, red chillis and sev jinni.

Club Mexicana to open debut permanent restaurant, in Soho next month: Club Mexicana, which offers Mexican and Californian-inspired street food, is to open its first permanent site, in Soho next month. Having been scheduled to open in spring before the pandemic struck, the venue will now launch in Kingly Court on Tuesday, 1 September featuring an open kitchen, al pastor spit and bar. New tacos on the menu will include chicken and avocado, a vegan version with corn salsa, pink onions and hot sauce, and the Chorizo (with salsa roja and pickled jalapenos). Sides will include shoestring fries with chilli lime salt, while desserts will include rich dark chocolate mousse with salted caramel popcorn. The bar will offer cocktails on tap from Tottenham-based drinks company Black Lines alongside natural wine, Mexican beer, tequila and mezcal. Interiors will feature Club Mexicana’s signature neon pink signs and colour-pop artwork. The bar top will be made using crushed coloured glass, while the venue will offer outdoor tables. Club Mexicana founder Meriel Armitage said: “We look forward to doing what Club Mexicana does best – great vibes, lots of tacos and banging cocktails.” Armitage founded Club Mexicana five years ago inspired by the roadside stalls of Los Angeles and Mexico City. The brand has made a number of residencies and appears at pop-ups and street food markets across London. In 2018, Armitage co-founded London’s first 100% vegan pub, The Spread Eagle. Nick Garston, director of Bruce Gillingham Pollard, secured the Kingly Court site for Club Mexicana as its sole property agent.

Glasgow restaurant to extend Eat Out To Help Out until at least end of September: Glasgow restaurant Mharsanta is to extend the Eat Out To Help Out scheme until at least the end of September. Director Derek Mallon said the company had decided it would continue to subsidise the offer when the government scheme finished at the end of August. Mallon said he saw the extension of the scheme as an “opportunity to encourage guests to continue to use the restaurant at normally quieter times of the week”. He added the response so far had been “fantastic”.

Love Triangle pizza concept launches in Balham: A new pizza concept has launched in Balham, south London. Love Triangle has opened in Ritherdon Road focusing on triple-fermented Neapolitan-style pizza for delivery or collection. Guests can also enjoy their pizza on the venue’s 24-cover terrace. The menu is split into meat, vegetarian and vegan sections and includes nduja and fennel, courgette and pancetta, and roasted mushroom pizza. Sides include burrata with pea and basil salad, while the drinks lists includes spritz, craft beer from Gypsy Hill and Brixton Brewery, and natural wine from Uncharted Wine. The concept is the brainchild of chef director Will Griffiths, formerly of Salon, Peg and Brawn and founder of Hackney barbecue restaurant Billy Smokes, who has overseen menu development; design director Tyson Benton, co-founder of events marketing agency The Flash Pack; and marketing director Ben Mason, a food entrepreneur who appeared on Dragons’ Den with his posh baked beans brand Masons Beans. Mason said: “As the saying goes, three is the magic number and it’s the inspiration behind everything we do. Love Triangle is best described in three words – ‘kneads’ (triple-fermented wood-fired pizza), ‘feeds’ (we’re nothing without our customers), and ‘deeds’ (for every pizza ordered, we donate a meal to our local food bank).”

Gousto secures new north west distribution facility as it looks to triple capacity: Recipe box subscription service Gousto has secured a new distribution facility in the north west of England as it looks to at least triple capacity by 2022. The company has signed for a 307,807 square foot space at Mountpark Warrington Omega II, which is owned by Mountpark Logistics. Following strong trading from the start of the year, lock-down has accelerated demand for Gousto’s products. Mountpark is now working with Gousto to integrate elements of the company's fit-out specification within the build programme. The facility is planned to go live at the end of 2021 and will create more than 400 jobs. CBRE and JLL acted for Mountpark, while Gousto was represented by SBH.

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