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Fri 21st Aug 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Paul Chase – PHE's ‘flawed’ counting methods for coronavirus deaths is a ‘major blunder’ that has directly impacted the hospitality industry: Leading sector commentator Paul Chase has argued Public Health England’s “flawed” counting method for coronavirus deaths was not just a “statistical blip” but a “major blunder” that has directly impacted on the hospitality industry. Writing in this week’s Propel Friday Opinion, Chase said: “Problem inflation is how ‘public health’ keeps the populace alarmed and clamorous to be led to safety. The long-term goal of public health ideologues is not the gradual improvement of the health of the public, but to create an exaggerated perception of risk so public health becomes a new method of governing society and constraining capitalism. Imagine how much sooner we might have reopened pubs, bars, and restaurants if the deaths from covid-19 had been counted properly from the beginning. For example, between 18 July and 24 July the official death toll in England was 442. But count deaths in the way Wales and Scotland do and the number falls to 111 – a fall not of 12% but of 75%! The mortality rate from covid-19 was a key number in determining how quickly the government could enact its roadmap for reopening the economy. So this was not just a statistical blip of little consequence, but a major blunder that has directly impacted on the hospitality industry and all those sectors of it that have remained closed. Deaths in England from covid-19 are now down to single figures and there is no excuse for keeping nightclubs closed – unless we really want to waste police time chasing up and down motorways trying to find and stop illegal raves. Letting covid-19 infect the whole population without doing anything to mitigate the spread or guard the old and vulnerable would have been morally unacceptable. The methods required to completely suppress covid-19 globally are equally morally unacceptable, particularly in a democracy. As such, there is no solution – only trade-offs between public health and economic health. It is the job of politicians to find those trade-offs and that is an extremely difficult task at the best of times. But if political decisions are distorted because of false or misleading information from a politicised public health establishment then it becomes well-nigh impossible for the politicians to get this right.” Chase will share more of his thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published on Friday (21 August) at 11am

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at how leadership in the sector has been impacted by covid-19 as part of Propel Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at how leadership in the sector has been impacted by covid-19 as part of this week’s Premium column, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (21 August) at 5pm. He will also give more of his thoughts on the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme and the restructuring moves by YO! and PizzaExpress. There will be the latest industry rumblings in 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. It costs £395 plus VAT per annum for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com to sign up.

Number of consumers visiting new venues almost doubles as nervousness around eating and drinking out continues to disappear: The number of consumers visiting new venues has almost doubled as the nervousness of eating and drinking out again continues to disappear, according to new research from the We Hear You initiative. The findings by We Hear You, launched last month by restaurant intelligence platform Yumpingo and CGA and backed by UKHospitality, showed customers previously had been quick to return to their well-known and well-loved brands, with the vast majority (81%) visiting venues they had previously. However, four weeks after the sector reopened 36% of customers said they were visiting the venue they were in “for the first time”, compared with 19% a fortnight ago. A high proportion of visitors are also still revisiting the market for the first time. Despite the more relaxed attitude, safety measures remain high on the agenda, with 79% of customers considering covid-19 precautionary measures when choosing to visit venues. But satisfaction scores on hygiene, safety measures and staff compliance with regulations have all remained high throughout the course of outlets reopening. Nine-in-ten customers who have visited an outlet since reopening have been satisfied with the venue’s covid-19 safety measures, jumping to 95% for those aged 55 and above. However, just 68% of that age group suggested safety measures were “extremely clear” in the venue they were in. The net promoter score has seen fairly significant drops since reopening from 78% in the first week to 63%. We Hear You suggested this was been driven by those customers who are repeat visitors and are “increasingly difficult to please”, having experienced the market on more occasions than those back for the first time. The findings were shared during a webinar on Thursday (20 August) that focused on the behaviour and needs of post-lock-down diners and drinkers. The We Hear You initiative now covers almost 400 venues and circa 20,000 respondents.
UKHospitality and Yumpingo are Propel BeatTheVirus campaign members

Industry labour ratios increase by 10% in first month of trading: Industry labour ratios have increased by 10% in the first month of trading as operators get a handle on new ways of operating and lower sales levels. Analysis from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, showed the labour ratio in July was 41.1%, compared with 30.9% in 2019. Chief product officer Richard Hartley said the increase was due to a number of factors including lower sales; business becoming less productive because of various covid-19 measures; and staff getting back up to speed and training. He added: “For the hospitality industry the last 10% to 20% of sales produces all of the profit, and so with the sales levels in July it will be hard for operators to make money. The added increases in labour will make that even harder. The change in consumer behaviour may well be with us for some time.” Hartley will share his thoughts on the subject in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published on Friday (21 August) at 11am 
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Hundreds of venues withdraw from Eat Out To Help Out but overall feedback positive: Hundreds of restaurants are pulling out of Eat Out To Help Out as staff complain the rush for discounted meals has made their lives intolerable – but overall feedback of the scheme appears positive. The Daily Telegraph reported: “A combination of hot temperatures and the promise of half-price restaurant bills on Mondays to Wednesday in August saw venues across the country besieged by customers hunting a bargain. Businesses are allowed to deregister from the government-funded scheme and several based in areas particularly popular with tourists found themselves doing so within days. Almost 700 businesses have already contacted the government to request they are removed from the scheme, according to HM Revenue and Customs. The true number of restaurants opting out is thought to be higher because they can choose to stop offering the discount at any time without formally deregistering. Dismayed restaurateurs have described how angry customers had abused the staff as they grew impatient over the waiting time for food, reducing some to tears. Other customers were said to be intent on making sure they got their money’s worth by ordering double the amount of food – which they subsequently struggled to finish.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The feedback we’ve had from our members has been positive. They aren’t reporting badly-behaved customers and we hope they have no reason to, as hostility towards staff is unacceptable. Venues have worked hard to reopen, to give customers great experiences following a difficult lock-down. We hope customers appreciate this and our feedback suggests they do.”

Scottish pubs and restaurants breaking covid-19 rules face closure under new emergency powers: Scottish pubs and restaurants that fail to observe strict covid-19 restrictions aimed at suppressing the virus face being shut down under new emergency laws, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced. It comes after 77 new cases were recorded in Scotland on Wednesday (19 August) – a three-month high – and the SNP leader admitted there are growing concerns over local outbreaks in Aberdeen and Coupar Angus, as well as in schools. The outbreak in Aberdeen was linked to the reopening of pubs just over a month ago and Sturgeon told MSPs at Holyrood she is concerned about the small number of pubs failing to observe rules on collecting customer contact details and enforcing social distancing. She said: “We therefore intend to strengthen the power of local authorities to act in these circumstances. The Scottish government has powers under emergency legislation to issue directions in respect of a class of premises – for example, to close all pubs in a particular postcode. We intend to give local authorities the power to act in respect of individual, specific premises that are breaching guidelines and risking transmission of the virus. This power would enable local authorities either to close such premises – or to impose conditions on their opening – where they deem that is necessary for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, or controlling the spread of infection.” Despite the increase in cases, Sturgeon has given the go-ahead for bowling alleys and casinos to reopen on Monday (24 August) while she brought forward the reopening of gyms, swimming pools and indoor sports courts from mid-September to Monday, 31 August. Sturgeon said she was also looking to reopen sports stadiums, theatres and live music venues next month with social distancing, limits on capacity and enhanced hygiene measures.

HSBC – listed UK pub companies showing good signs of recovery, balance sheets should be able to withstand any further lock-down: HSBC leisure analysts Joseph Thomas and Ali Naqvi have said listed UK pub companies are showing good signs of recovery with balance sheets able to withstand any further lock-down. They stated: “Restriction across pubs in UK were lifted on 4 July, broadly a month earlier than we expected, and the early signs are trading is going well. After a slow start, like-for-like sales have begun to rebound. While like-for-likes are still well down year-on-year, the reduction is steadily getting better – minus 24% for week commencing 27 July from minus 44% on week commencing 4 July. It leaves us cautiously optimistic groups can hit our estimates. While we cut some forecasts to reflect a weaker than expected first half for Marston’s and Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), it's the outlook we are most interested in. Moreover, as we have consistently argued, those that make it through the covid-19 disruption should emerge in a better position: Capacity is exiting the market, and this could herald an end to years of aggressive price competition that has held back profits as costs have continued to rise. While we are pleased with the trading performance so far, we must acknowledge the recovery may not be linear. A second lock-down of pubs can't be completely ruled out, though we think it unlikely. And there's a chance the current recovery could simply be the result of warm weather and government-funded discounts, with more demanding trading conditions come Christmas. The important thing, however, is company balance sheets should be able to withstand the pressure – covenants have been waived at M&B and Marston’s; JD Wetherspoon has raised cash and Marston’s is in the process of a major asset sale and all operators have demonstrated cash burn can be limited. We don't see any obvious sign of financial distress. Despite the encouraging start, the recovery has not been reflected in share prices. We value the stocks we cover on 2022e earnings, but an EV/sales multiple also highlights the upside potential here. We retain our preference for JD Wetherspoon (Buy, 1,290p target price) and M&B (255p target price), which were both trading well heading into the crisis. While a further equity raise can't be ruled out at M&B, we think it's firmly in the share price. We retain our ‘Hold’ rating on Marston's (50p target price down from 70p).”

Booking.com and Expedia voluntary extend parity commitments to hotels: Hotel booking platforms Booking.com and Expedia have confirmed to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that hotels using either site remain free to offer different prices, terms and availability when listing their rooms on other online travel agents. Formal commitments made in 2015 from Booking.com and Expedia not to enforce “wide” parity clauses expired on 1 July 2020 but the companies have confirmed they will continue to act in accordance with the commitments going forward. Both companies have also confirmed their commitments will still apply in the UK. The CMA said it would continue to monitor how the market develops.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a business that is looking to appoint an experienced and dynamic food innovator to lead its busy food and beverage division. The head of retail operations will be a national position paying between £120,000 and £150,000. The ideal candidate would be a senior leader with excellent hospitality knowledge, specifically focused on innovation across multiple concepts, and developing sales, marketing and product delivery and strategy. The position will be responsible for the leadership of both retail and the food and beverage division and leading a large and dynamic team. The incoming head of retail operations will need to be adaptive and commercially aware. Anyone interested can email Pippa@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News:

Franco Manca operator reports one of its highest weekly turnover figures following Eat Out To Help Out boost: Fulham Shore, operator of Franco Manca and The Real Greek, has reported the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme has helped it record one of its highest weekly turnover figures. Following the trading update chairman David Page told Propel group weekly sales approached £1.5m in the second week of August. In the update Fulham Shore said trade in the first two weeks of this month was “markedly up” on last year despite some sites still being shut. The company has reopened two more The Real Greek restaurants and is planning to welcome customers back to another Franco Manca next week, next to the new Harrods store in Westfield London. This will mean 50 of the 51 Franco Manca and 16 of the 18 The Real Greek sites will have reopened. But Fulham Shore said the three remaining closed sites – in the Strand, Aldwych and Spitalfields – will remain shut until office tenants and theatre-goers return to the capital. Footfall in the City and West End has been hurt by travel restrictions keeping tourists away, and numerous people continue to work from home. Almost all of the group's employees are back off furlough and the company is recruiting and training more restaurant staff at all levels, it said. The company also remains on track to open a new Franco Manca in The Cut, near Waterloo station in London, in mid-September. The group also reported it has reached agreement with more than 40% of its landlords to waive, defer and/or reduce the rent on the properties it leases from them. The company said it remains in discussions over similar arrangements with its other landlords.

Nando’s launches new food donation and employment programme: Nando’s has launched a new food donation and employment programme that sees its restaurants across London, Birmingham, the north east and East Midlands serving free meals once a week to vulnerable young people and their families. The Fuel Your Future programme aims to help with the immediate need for free meals, and “most importantly a long-term impact on the lives of disadvantaged young people, through supporting their futures with employment opportunities”, Nando’s said. The company is aiming to donate more than 15,000 free meals to disadvantaged young people across the UK by the end of the trial period. It will then look to expand nationally over time to ultimately donate half a million meals a year. Over the past three years, Nando's has worked with several external partners including the charity Family Action and its HeadStart programme, supporting more than 200 young people into employment. In addition, almost 1,300 young people have taken part this year in workshops, training, support and career discovery days. Nando’s hopes to be able to increase the number of job placements year-on-year but in the short term there will be a stronger focus on work experience opportunities and mentoring for young people across the Nando’s business. By partnering with Family Action again on Fuel Your Future, Nando’s said it could identify young people who are currently eligible for free school meals, coming out of care or are young carers themselves. Each local Nando’s restaurant can then connect with these young people, and their families, so they can pick up a meal once a week. Fuel Your Future builds on the existing Nando’s No Chuckin’ Our Chicken food donation programme, which has donated more than 2.3 million meals to homeless charities and food banks since it started in 2013. 
 
Mark Hix – I’ve taken the opportunity to return to basics: Chef Mark Hix has said he has taken the opportunity to “return to basics” since his restaurant portfolio was placed into administration in April. Hix revealed during lock-down he bought a food truck and has obtained a licence to sell marine reserve fish and shellfish on the Dorset coast. He has also reopened Hix Oyster and Fish House in Lyme Regis as a “single-restaurant focus” having secured the site out of administration after a higher bid fell through. Last month Hix joined City of London venue 1 Lombard Street, which is owned by Soren Jessen, as food and beverage director. Hix said the pair will be recreating the Marks Bar that was in the basement of Hix Soho “and unfortunately went with the rest”. This time it will be a speakeasy private members’ club in the basement of Lombard Street, below the brasserie, with its own entrance. Membership applications will open this month, and members will have the opportunity to take part in tasting at drink and food pairing events along with other events. Writing for the Evening Standard, Hix said: “When I go back to London now, I find myself staring at pubs and restaurants that are still boarded up, knowing they probably won’t reopen, which is heart-breaking, but maybe like me an act of cod will correct the explosion of restaurants in the capital and get people thinking: ‘Do we really need so many sites?’ On reflection, perhaps I made exactly that mistake through being overambitious when a great site came up, thinking it would work when often it didn’t. Maybe I needed this opportunity to return to basics – smoking salmon in my back garden, supporting honest local fishermen and feeding the local community takeaway sliders from my truck.”

YouTube star makes London debut with plant-based delivery kitchen concept, second site to follow: Clean Kitchen Club, the plant-based delivery kitchen concept from YouTube star and food entrepreneur Mikey Pearce, has made its London debut – with a second set to follow. As previously revealed by Propel, Pearce has launched the site in Chelsea. The kitchen will also serve Brompton, Brook Green, Fulham, Hammersmith, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Putney, Sands End, Shepherds Bush and South Kensington and will be available exclusively on Deliveroo. The opening follows the success the brand has seen in Brighton since its debut site launched in June. A second Brighton site opened last month in Shelter Hall Raw, the debut venture by Sessions Market, the food hall concept backed by Imbiba and led by former Deliveroo managing director Dan Warne. Pearce has also previously said he plans further openings in Bournemouth, Edinburgh, Manchester, Tunbridge Wells and Wandsworth in the coming weeks. Clean Kitchen Club opened its first site during the lock-down, with Pearce deciding to invest £20,000 of savings made from his YouTube career into creating what he hopes will become the UK’s “fastest-growing plant-based brand”. The business said it was on track to turn over in excess of £1m in its first year alone. Pearce said: “We’ve felt so blessed the local Brighton community has really got behind us and we’re aiming to open sites in every major city. Chelsea will be our first London site but by no means our last. We’re already planning to open an east London site in the coming weeks.” 

East Midlands-based bakery company Birds shuts three sites as leases expire: East Midlands-based bakery company Birds has shut a trio of sites. The Derby branches in Iron Gate, in the city centre, and Walbrook Road, Normanton, will not be reopening, along with its store in The Poultry in Nottingham city centre following the opening of a larger store in Lister Gate last year. Birds, which has 60 stores across the region and employs 800 people, said the closures had been planned for many months in the run up to lease renewals. Birds confirmed 16 people have been redeployed to the company’s other stores and a “very small number of staff” are seeking voluntary redundancy. Chief operating officer Lesley Bird said: “The changes we have made have been planned for some time. While we have three stores affected by lease renewals, we still looking at refits to other stores. We are still investing heavily in our bakery and retail outlets. We now have two remaining stores in Derby city centre – Albert Street, and Crown Walk, and our bakery shop in Ascot Drive.” At the start of lock-down, Birds introduced its click and collect and home delivery services and these are still operating. Birds was founded in 1919 by three brothers.

Ghetto Golf gets go-head for Sheffield site for fifth venue: Liverpool-based cocktails and mini-golf concept Ghetto Golf has been given the go-ahead to open a site in Sheffield for its fifth outlet. City council planning officers have approved the conversion of industrial buildings and a shisha lounge in John Street into the venue. It is proposed the site, which would have a food court and bar. would open until 1am daily, reports Insider Media. A planning statement submitted as part of the application said: “The proposed use of the premises will help bring into use vacant industrial warehouses, with a use that will attract investment and footfall to the area and help to improve the vitality of the John Street area.” Kip Piper and Danny Bolger launched Ghetto Golf in Liverpool in 2016 and have subsequently added sites in Birmingham and Newcastle. The company is also set to open a venue in Glasgow.

Leon expands plant-based range with new summer menu: Natural fast food brand Leon has expanded its range of plant-based dishes with the launch of its summer menu. The new offer includes dishes such as the paleo plant box – chargrilled British seasonal vegetables topped with either roasted aubergine and sumac-pickled onions, or paprika chicken with garlic aioli. For breakfast, Leon has launched a vegan grilled mushroom and “cheeze” muffin and its new Shakshuka – made with two freshly poached free-range eggs in a chilli and paprika-spiked tomato sauce, topped with garlic yoghurt, sumac and fresh herbs. The Big Breakfast Boxes have also made a return, now served with an extra slice of grilled halloumi. There is also a crunchy vegan oat, maple and pecan cookie and a plant-powered chocolate and banana vegan protein shake. Meanwhile, the grilled halloumi fingers and rice with a side of peas and tomatoes has been added to the “Little Leon” menu. Head of food Erica Molyneaux said: “This menu is a celebration of the power of plants and British seasonal produce. Now more than ever is important to continue to support British farmers and producers and offer food that tastes good, does good and is kind to the planet.” Leon has also reopened its Oxford site along with its outlets in Liverpool Street and Carnaby Street in London.

Piebury Corner permanently shuts both north London sites: Gourmet pie company Piebury Corner has permanently closed its two north London sites. Founders Paul and Nicky Campbell have revealed the outlets in Caledonian Road, King’s Cross, and Holloway Road in Highbury will not reopen. In a Facebook post, Paul Campbell said: “Covid-19 has put us in an impossible situation financially with landlords at both sites still demanding rent in full plus all the other fixed overheads due on top, so we will not be opening back up at our existing restaurants.” He said key to the decision was the fact so much of their business comes from Arsenal fans heading to the Emirates on match day. “Full attendance at the Emirates looks like a full season away yet possibly longer until a vaccine is found,” he added. “We do not have the financial resources to last that long trading at a loss under the current social distance guidelines.” The Campbells started the business in 2011 by serving pies to fans from their front garden in Highbury. 

Newcastle-based Greek street food business eyes further expansion after opening second city site: Newcastle-based Greek street food business Acropolis is eyeing further expansion after opening a second permanent site in the city. The business has built a following for its range of Greek street food through its base in Newcastle's Grainger Market, in addition to pop-ups at Quayside Market and By The River Brew in Newcastle, Jesmond Market and Tynemouth Market. The company has now added a second permanent site to its portfolio, opening in Danieli Holdings’ Stack shipping container development in Newcastle. Acropolis was established by brothers Viktor and Filip Tachan with their friend Yusef Yenil in 2016. It is targeting further sites to add to its portfolio. They said: “Moving into Stack is big for us and increases our Newcastle city centre presence further still. We are really busy in the Grainger Market and this will help us to serve even more customers in another iconic setting.” Newcastle-based Sintons acted on the deal.

Good Food Society extends discount at Barboun as Shoreditch restaurant reopens: The Good Food Society, led by Levent Büyükuğur and Sanjay Nandi, is to extend the 50% discount into September at its eastern Mediterranean restaurant Barboun. The restaurant in Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, will reopen on Friday (21 August). Guests will be able to get the discount off food and non-alcoholic drinks, up to a value of £10 per person, on the a la carte and new weekend brunch menu between Wednesday and Sunday. They will need to book in advance using the code “welcomeback”. Barboun’s menu of modern small plates takes its cues from the Levant’s abundant herbs and freshly-ground spices, with dishes including beef manti with oak smoked paprika sauce and garlic yoghurt; and sun-dried aubergine dolma with sour cherry and bulgur. The new weekend brunch menu features favourites with an eastern twist such as shakshuka – Turkish eggs, with poached eggs, garlic yoghurt and chilli butterl. Good Food Society launched Barboun in December. 

Plans to transform Nottingham Guildhall into £120m hotel, restaurant and conference space get go-ahead: The £120m transformation of Nottingham Guildhall into a hotel, restaurant and conference space has been approved. The city council has given the go-ahead for the development, which is a joint venture between Locksley Hotels and hotel group Ascena and will create more than 250 jobs. The plans are for a 162-bedroom hotel with a rooftop restaurant, spa and wedding and conference facilities. The development will house “larger than average” hotel rooms, with the Guildhall’s court rooms converted into bars and restaurants while retaining listed features. John Wilby, project lead for Ascena, said: “Having most recently housed the city council’s offices, Nottingham’s Guildhall is an iconic building in the city centre, which has hosted a magistrates’ court, police station and fire station since it was built in 1887. After it has sat vacant for the best part of a decade, we’re pleased to have hit this significant milestone in breathing new life into it. The development will not only bring jobs to the area but will also help elevate the city as a tourist destination.” Ascena owns and operates a number of hotels and restaurants, including Michelin-starred Opheem in Birmingham, which is a partnership with Aktar Islam, former winner of The Great British Menu.

Benares extends discount offer to end of September following ‘significant’ increase in reservations: Michelin-starred restaurant Benares is extending its discount offer throughout September, due to a “significant” increase in reservations in August. It means customers at the Mayfair venue will receive 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks, up to the value of £10 per person, for lunch or dinner when ordering from the à la carte or tasting menu every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday throughout September. It comes as Benares executive chef Sameer Taneja said there had been a “welcoming spike in consumer demand” over the past two weeks – bookings have increased and there has been a positive uplift in sales compared with the weeks before the initiative started. Taneja said: “We’re delighted to see the positive impact Eat Out To Help Out has had so far – both lunch and dinner reservations have surged on the days the offer is available. This has allowed us to increase staff working hours and bring back more of the team from furlough. The scheme has improved consumer confidence by incentivising people to dine out. We hope by extending the offer to Thursdays for the remaining weeks of August, and also for September, we’ll be able to welcome many more diners to Benares.”

Nottingham-based Michelin-starred restaurant Alchemilla secures CBILS funding: Nottingham-based Michelin-starred restaurant Alchemilla has secured a funding boost from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. The venue, run by former Sat Bains chef Alex Bond, has received the funding through Barclays to support working capital requirements. Bond opened Alchemilla in August 2017 and the restaurant in Derby Road was awarded a Michelin star last year. He said: “Like a lot of businesses in our industry, the past few months have been very challenging. We have looked at ways of innovating to maintain income streams. We have also tried to do our bit for the local community.”

Peter Joseph to reopen Belgravia restaurant Kahani for dine-in, extends discount scheme: Peter Joseph, former executive chef of the world’s first Michelin-starred Indian restaurant, will reopen Kahani in London’s Belgravia for dine-in on Monday (24 August). Joseph, who was in charge of the kitchen at Mayfair’s Tamarind for ten years, has been operating the business via takeaway and offering an “at-home” service. Kahani will be open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, with the addition of Mondays in August to take part in the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme. Joseph is also extending the discount to cover the rest of the month – including bank holiday Monday (31 August). He opened the venue in Wilbraham Place in September 2018. 

Klose and Soan take over kitchen at Unwined Bars’ Waterloo venue permanently following residency: Chefs Matt Klose and Sam Soan have taken over the kitchen at Unwined Bars’ Waterloo venue permanently after a residency last year. The layout at the Lower Marsh site has also been updated to accommodate more alfresco dining. The menu is weekly changing, focused on seasonal ingredients. Dishes are pan-European with influences taken from Asian cuisine throughout, available in small plates and larger plates designed for sharing. Klose and Soan are also continuing their residency at Winemakers Deptford every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The menu also changes on a weekly basis. The duo have also launched an “at-home” delivery service. The menu includes a Mediterranean-focused selection of marinated meat and an extensive range of regularly changing frozen “ready meals”, prepared using seasonal ingredients. Deliveries are made on a Wednesday and Friday around London, with free delivery for anyone in an SE postcode.

Irish whiskey distillery to launch €1.5m fund-raise to fuel growth: Irish whiskey distillery Sliabh Liag is to launch a €1.5m fund-raise to fuel the next phase of its expansion. The company is to embark on a campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube from next Wednesday (26 August), offering 9% equity in return for the investment. The funds will support the company’s phased move to Ardara, its new headquarters. Work on the site is already underway, and will increase the business’ production capacity to 500,000 litres of alcohol per annum with room for expansion, as it anticipates growing international demand. Moira Doherty, director of Sliabh Liag, said: “The Ardara Distillery is the natural next step in our journey to revive the Irish whiskey tradition; to bring it back to the communities while taking the name of Donegal to the furthest reaches we can.”
 
Property developer acquires Birmingham hotel to expand hospitality business: Property developer SevenCapital has acquired the 186-bedroom Royal Angus Hotel in central Birmingham as part of plans to expand its hospitality business. The hotel, which was also formerly a Thistle hotel, is located off St Chad’s Queensway, near to the city’s Snow Hill train station and Colmore Business District. SevenCapital plans to transform the hotel into a four-star luxury aparthotel, building on its existing four-star Park Regis Hotel, which is also located within the city centre near to Edgbaston at Five Ways. Damien Siviter, group managing director of SevenCapital said: “The Royal Angus Hotel is an exciting acquisition for SevenCapital that will allow us to expand our hotel ownership, while helping to uphold and further boost the hospitality sector and create jobs within Birmingham. This will be especially important in helping to meet and alleviate demand ahead of the upcoming 2022 Commonwealth Games, which will see unprecedented pressure and spotlight put on the city.” 
 
Gluten-free brewer Bellfield invests in equipment and all-weather beer garden as part of bounce-back measures: Bellfield Brewery, the UK’s only dedicated gluten-free and vegan micro-brewer, is investing in production equipment and an all-weather beer garden at its Edinburgh brewery and taproom. The company has also unveiled new branding as it looks to bounce back following a challenging period during the pandemic. The brewery lost 95% of its on-trade sales overnight when lock-down started in late March but the company managed to quickly pivot to online sales, which have seen “dramatic” growth. It has also opened a beer garden that includes booths, each separated by acrylic panels to allow socially distanced drinking while maintaining the “friendly feel of a pub”. The brewery is also investing in additional vessels to further boost capacity. Chief executive Alistair Brown said the investment was being made, in part, to sustain the growth in online sales as well as gaining new export listings. He said: “Our planned investment in production kit allows us to scale up production to meet demand in the UK and overseas.” Looking to 2021 and as restrictions ease further, Bellfield hopes the brewery and taproom in Abbeyhill will start hosting brewery tours, tastings and events again.
 
Mapal Group to create 60 jobs by end of year: Mapal Group, the firm behind Flow Hospitality Training, jointly headquartered between Madrid and Edinburgh after its merger with Flow Hospitality Training last year, has announced 60 new vacancies between now and the end of 2020. These will be across all departments of the business – including technology, marketing, product, sales and account management – and more than half of the positions will be in the UK. Recruits will be working towards developing new products and enhancing existing solutions for its many hospitality clients, who include Burger King, Five Guys, Costa Coffee, Starbucks, KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. The company aims to continue its expansion from 22 countries to more than 30 over the next year, with the biggest growth markets expected to be France, Portugal and Latin America. The firm is backed by Providence Strategic Growth – the growth equity affiliate of Providence Equity Partners – and has recently announced its acquisition of CloudReputation, a US-based review analysis platform. Jorge Lurueña, founder and chief executive of Mapal, said: “Since our partnership with Providence Strategic Growth we have been able to accelerate our development plans with a clear vision for a differentiated solution that will stand out in the global hospitality software market. Our latest announcement will see the number of full-time employees grow by 50%, with more than half of new positions being based in the UK.”

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