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Mon 24th Aug 2020 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Night-time operators present government with science-backed reopening plan: A consortium of leading night-time operators, including the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), has called on the government to save the UK’s late-night sector from collapse, as the furlough scheme comes to an end in October with no plans to mandate reopening of venues or pledge further financial support. The late-night sector, which comprises nightclubs, late-night bars, music venues and events spaces, still does not have a clear reopening plan from government. The majority of late-night operators have not qualified for any grants or loans and as yet have had no help with rent. Many are under immense pressure from landlords and banks, and have prioritised the payment of fixed costs in the hope further government support will be forthcoming. New research from the NTIA showed 57.6% of night-time venues will not survive longer than two months without further government support; and 73% of night-time operators will be making more than half their workforce redundant from September. A further 82.9% will be making people redundant following the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. In response, the consortium has launched a report, supported by the Institute of Occupational Medicine, which examines the science behind covid-19 and how to mitigate the spread of the virus. It calls on the government to allow for the reopening of clubs across the UK, and provides a clear roadmap for late-night venues to do so safely and within government guidelines. The report found venues have more mitigation control measures than retail, most pubs, restaurants, households and illegal raves. People tend to turn up for an optimum period that is typically two hours and as such the capacity at any one time is well within the total capacity of the venue. Overall capacity restrictions to 75% of legal building occupancy based on regulations will ensure distancing is possible throughout the venue. The report highlighted the safe operation of these venues can be assured by implementing a range of mitigating measures, many of which were already in place, including ID scans and temperature checks upon entry and frequent and high intensity cleaning and hygiene regimes. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “We implore the government to give us the opportunity to reopen in a safe, risk-assessed way. Doing so will protect thousands of jobs, contribute to the struggling UK economy and ensure our towns and cities remain economically healthy and culturally vibrant.” Peter Marks, chief executive of The Deltic Group, added: “The late-night leisure sector, a sector which employs tens of thousands of people across the UK, is at risk of collapse if the government does not act now – it is that simple. Despite the furlough scheme continuing until the end of October, the lack of clarity from the government around reopening and financial assistance for operators is alarming to say the least, especially as it is inevitably resulting in closures and widespread unemployment. We need a clear reopening plan, or at the very least fit-for-purpose financial assistance.” 

Industry News:

More London restaurants pledge to carry on Eat Out To Help Out in September: More London restaurants have pledged to carry on Eat Out To Help Out in September – or variations of the discount offer. Martin Williams, chief executive of Rare Restaurants, which runs Gaucho and M Restaurants, said it would match the government’s offer on “all a la carte dining” throughout September. Williams said some 40,000 diners will have taken advantage of the government-funded discount by the time it ends. He added: “Now it’s our turn to give back, both by rewarding previous guests’ loyalty and thanking new diners who are experiencing Gaucho or M for the first time in September. We encourage those restaurants that are able to, to do the same. Let’s all play our part in getting the hospitality industry back on track and being part of the solution.” King’s Cross-based sharing plates restaurant Hicce will keep the same offer but run it on Tuesday and Wednesday at dinner and Thursday and Friday at lunch from Wednesday, 2 September. Director Gordy McIntyre said: “The government’s scheme has been an amazing lifeline for Hicce. The general feel-good factor it generated was much needed, so we thought we’d keep the positivity going.” Indian small plates concept Kricket, which has branches in Soho, Brixton and White City, has decided to make Mondays half price for the rest of 2020. Better pizza brand Homeslice, run by Mark and Alan Wogan, will maintain the 50% offer from Monday to Wednesday throughout September. They said: “It’s a scheme that clearly works for everyone, both for the customers as well as the industry, so we’ve decided to carry it on.” Other restaurateurs said they were drawing up their own promotions. Sam Harrison, of Sam’s Riverside in Hammersmith, said: “The government’s offer has been great but we need continued support.” The company that runs Aqua Shard and Hutong in the Shard and Aqua Kyoto in Soho also said it would continue offering the discount on any bills above £30. A spokesman for Aqua Group said: “In the past week we had 1,508 people through the door from Monday to Wednesday, which was more than double the same days at the start of July. It's a crucial time for restaurants right now as we all rally to survive, so we're delighted to extend this offer with our compliments to keep London eating out.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls and Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, are among those who have already called for an extension to Eat Out To Help Out, while Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of brewer and retailer Greene King, has suggested the scheme could be extended in a targeted way for city centres. 
 
Bury St Edmunds cafe owner – we're up 350% but Eat Out To Help Out must not continue: Gemma Simmonite, who owns Gastrono-me, the all-day cafe in Bury St Edmunds, has seen “amazing” results with the Eat Out To Help Out scheme but still believes it needs to come to an end sooner rather than later. She said: “On most Mondays to Wednesdays through August we’ve seen a 350% increase year-on-year. Even while reaping those results we’re still concerned the impact of extending the scheme could end up having a negative impact on the hospitality industry in the long term. Restaurants have to have a chance to find their equilibrium; to stand on their own two feet. Discounting is a hard habit to break customers from – we have to help them appreciate the real price of a meal out, and to not only be turned on by cheap fixes. Customers don’t get to see how much restaurants are claiming back, they are unconcerned and understandably unaware. But those costs are very high and equally unsustainable as is the scheme for the government. If we’ve learned anything about the demise of the majority of chains is that nobody is a winner where aggressive discounting is involved. The month of August from the government was a huge boon for hospitality and customers alike, but businesses have to find their new normal, and it’s time to kick the discount habit for good.”
 
CGA survey – safety concerns fuel no-shows: Almost one-in-six people have failed to keep a reservation since lock-down, CGA’s latest Consumer Pulse survey showed – and highlighted the reasons behind cancellations and no-shows. CGA’s bi-weekly poll of 2,000 nationally representative consumers found 8% admitted to not turning up for a reservation without warning in the six weeks after restaurants, pubs and bars reopened from 4 July. The same number (8%) said they had cancelled a booking before it was due. The survey uncovered the causes of no-shows, with one-in-five (21%) failing to turn up because a member of their group had fallen ill with covid-19-related symptoms, while 16% forgot about the booking. But the results also highlighted consumers’ deep anxiety at the moment. Almost one-in-six (16%) of those who didn’t show for a booking said it was because of nerves in advance. The same number (16%) backed out at the last minute, arriving at a venue for a booking but then deciding they didn’t feel comfortable enough to go in. Among those who cancelled, almost a quarter (23%) did so because a venue wasn’t sufficiently able to reassure them about safety. 

Birmingham bar sees licence suspended for ignoring covid-19 regulations: Birmingham-based bar PBs has had its licence suspended for ignoring covid-19 regulations on social distancing. West Midlands Police had forced an urgent review of the venue in Key Hill in the district of Hockley, to scrutinise claims it was “associated with serious crime and disorder”. Sgt Nick Giess described PBs as “the worst premises I’ve been dealing with in Birmingham” at a licensing hearing last week, reports The Business Desk. Birmingham City Council’s licensing committee has suspended the premises licence until a full review takes place on Monday, 14 September. It has also removed Nickeshia Reid-Davidson as the designated premises supervisor. In its judgement, the committee said: “The covid-19 virus is a pandemic that has required all licensed premises to act responsibly and in accordance with both the law and the government guidance when trading, in order to save lives. It was therefore a flagrant public nuisance for any licensed premises to breach the government guidance by trading in an unsafe manner.” West Midlands Police said they had previously given advice to Reid-Davidson about her responsibilities. The expedited review took place after officers visited the venue several times this month before handing out an anti-social behaviour closure notice. Reid-Davidson told the committee changes had been made following visits by police officers, but accepted she had “failed in many ways” in her role. On Friday (21 August), Birmingham was added to the government’s coronavirus watchlist as concerns heighten about rising infection rates in the city.
 
UK hotel occupancy fails to show any improvement for first time in six weeks: UK hotel occupancy has failed to show any improvement for the first time in six weeks, according to the latest data from STR. Occupancy remained at 46% for the week ending 16 August as regional markets continued to show high performance with the staycation boom but cities again struggled. Plymouth saw the highest occupancy level for the week (92%), followed by Bournemouth (86%). London again saw the lowest occupancy level (29%) but that was an improvement on the 27% from the previous week. Manchester’s occupancy also remained at 29% due to the partial lock-down. Average daily rate stayed at 29% year-on-year while revpar remained down between 57% and 64% during the seven-day period. Meanwhile, data from STR showed UK hotels showed a slight improvement in July from June, but it was still a record-low for the month. Occupancy in July was down 67.1% compared with the previous year, at 28%. Average daily rate fell 36.3% to £66.74 while revpar dropped 79.0% to £18.67. It was a similar picture across Europe, with the market also reporting record-low performance for the month of July. Occupancy fell 66.4% compared with the year before, to 26.5%. Average daily rate was down 20.9% to €96.43 while revpar dropped 73.4% to €25.51.

Small music venues receive extra funding: Small music venues in England have received a further £1.1m of emergency government funding. Many venues, which have been closed since mid-March due to covid-19, are facing the threat of closure. Last month culture secretary Oliver Dowden rolled out his plan for a £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund, including £2.25m for music venues. That has now increased to £3.36m due to high demand. The fund will be split between 135 grass-roots venues. Recipients include The Troubadour in London, where Adele and Ed Sheeran performed early on; and The Jacaranda in Liverpool, where The Beatles played early gigs. The grants range from £1,000 to £80,000, with the average working out at £25,000 per venue. Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, said: “We warmly welcome this first distribution from the Culture Recovery Fund, which will ensure the short-term future of these venues is secured while we continue to work on how we can ensure their long-term sustainability.” He said the government together with Arts Council England had “worked very quickly to fully understand the imminent risk of permanent closure faced by a significant number of grassroots music venues across the country”. The funding “creates a real breathing space for under pressure venues”, he added. The money is intended to cover ongoing running costs including rent and utility bills. Indoor performances can now restart with socially distanced audiences, so some music venues are able to reopen. Dowden said: “I encourage music fans to help too by supporting music and cultural events as they start to get going again. We need a collective effort to help the things we love through covid.” Venues receiving the most were The Amersham Arms, London – £80,000; Chalk, Brighton – £80,000; The Clapham Grand, London – £80,000; The Troubadour, London – £80,000; Camp and Furnace, Liverpool – £79,604; The Dublin Castle, London – £78,583; and Liverpool Olympia – £73,900.
  
STA Travel collapses: STA Travel has become the latest travel firm to fall victim to the covid-19 pandemic. The company, which grew out of a student travel business and specialised in trips for young people, including gap years and volunteer projects, has ceased trading. STA Travel has more than 50 shops in the UK. The firm said customers with bookings would “receive further communication in the coming days”. About 500 UK jobs are thought to be at risk. The firm's parent company, based in Switzerland, said the pandemic had “brought the travel industry to a standstill”. A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents said the news would “send a shockwave through the industry, bringing to life the very real pressures that travel is under at the moment”. 
 
Local lock-downs hit Manchester sales: With the risk of local lock-downs around the UK appearing to rise, CGA’s Trading Index showed their immediate impact on the out-of-home eating and drinking sector. The index demonstrated the close correlation between lock-downs in some parts of north west England and sales in Manchester – the region’s biggest hub for eating and drinking out. It suggested with so many consumers respecting the local restrictions, trade from social occasions is taking a hit. For most of July, the deficit in year-on-year sales in Manchester was just below the national average. But in the week after regional restrictions were introduced on 1 August, Manchester’s sales dipped to 34% below last year’s levels—well down on the countrywide figure of 22%. In the week from 8 August, the gap had stretched to 19 percentage points, with Britain’s sales down 10% but Manchester’s down 29%. Guidelines for the Manchester area have stopped residents socialising with people they don’t live with, and CGA’s Consumer Pulse survey showed restrictions quickly reduce people’s use of pubs, restaurants and other venues. Among consumers in the north west who have been out since hospitality reopened, about a third said they have had to cancel eating or drinking-out plans due to restrictions. Local lock-downs may also dent people’s confidence about safety, even if they are not directly affected by them, the survey showed. Two-thirds (68%) of consumers said they are worried about their local area returning to lock-down, and more than three quarters (77%) were concerned about a second wave of covid-19 cases. “These figures show any restrictions on movement have an immediate and damaging impact on footfall and trading,” said Charlie Mitchell, CGA’s research and insight director. “Our consumer data suggests the majority of consumers are respecting government guidelines, and that will hopefully help to keep the pandemic under control and the need for lock-downs to a minimum. But while the risk of new restrictions remains, the confidence of both consumers and businesses is likely to stay frail.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking to speak to brand managers to take on a new position at a leisure business. The business operates a growing collection of branded concepts, with sites across London. The company has a focus on a fun customer experience and exceptional service as well as a strong brand identity and excellent people culture. The brand manager will be responsible for the creation and implementation of all e-marketing campaigns, social media content and campaigns, and liaising with external PR companies to maximise brand exposure. The brand manager will also organise external agencies, photoshoots and paid advertising as well as working collaboratively with in-house sales and events teams. The position is based in London and paying up to £40,000. Anyone interested can contact Abbie@corecruitment.com with their CV or profile.
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News:

Gerry’s extends Costa portfolio with double deal: Gerry’s Offshore Incorporation UK has acquired two Costa Coffee franchise companies. The business has acquired Coffee Snob and South West Coffee, comprising 24 stores in total. This is in addition to the existing 33 Costa Coffee stores it operates spanning across eight counties. The acquisitions bring the total number of Costa Coffee stores managed by Gerry’s Offshore Incorporation to 57. Group managing director Akram Wali Muhammad said: “It is a proud moment for us, this acquisition of Coffee Snobs and South West Coffee is the next exciting chapter in Gerry’s ambitious expansion plan within the UK. Our primary objective is to bring all the 57 Costa Coffee stores together into a single business entity with a view to maximise our combined strength. This could not have been possible without the trust of the board of directors, the UK team headed by Triloc Seebundhun and the support staff.” Gerry's Offshore Incorporation has been a Costa UK individual franchise for more than 15 years.
 
Stonegate extends tenant support package, now worth more than £32.5m: Ei Publican Partnerships, the leased and tenanted division of Stonegate Pub Company, has extended the support for its tied publicans operating on substantive agreements, with further subsidised rental payments of 40% for September. This takes the overall support package to in excess of £32.5m during the covid-19 pandemic. The additional support follows the granting of 100% rent credits between April and June for publicans who did not qualify for government grants and trade credits of either 75% or 50% for those who received government grants of £10,000 or £25,000 respectively. To further support publicans on reopening their business all publicans on substantive agreements received a 75% rent credit in July and 50% in August. Proportionate credits have also been applied to tie release fees and fixtures and fittings rentals for the entire six-month period. The company said publicans were also benefiting from some special promotional pricing on wine, spirits and minerals that would help to grow sales and margin. Nick Light, managing director of Ei Publican Partnerships, said: “About 96% of our publicans are trading and we continue to support the increasingly few pubs who have so far been unable to do so, primarily as a result of their trading format. We have been enormously impressed by the determination shown by our publicans to attract customers safely back into their pubs and bars and have been encouraged by initial trading levels. Good weather and the popularity of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme have undoubtedly helped, and those making the most of their outdoor areas seem to be reaping the benefits. We do not under estimate the ongoing challenges the industry is facing however and we remain committed to working closely with our publicans as they navigate their way through the ongoing uncertainty.”
 
Running Hare Restaurants paid £150,000 to acquire five Balans sites out of administration: Running Hare Restaurants paid a total of £150,000 to acquire five of the seven sites that were operated by London-based casual dining group Balans Soho Society out of administration. A statement of administrators proposal by joint administrators Robert Cundy and Bijal Shah, of Edge Recovery, revealed Balans went into administration in July after the coronavirus pandemic brought sales to a halt and further shareholder support was not forthcoming following two rounds of funding in 2019 to support the company’s turnaround plan. A bid to raise funds saw all seven sites placed on the market in May with the company having rent arrears of more than £250,000. Five bids were received for the sites, with Running Hare Restaurants willing to buy the leases of the two sites in Old Compton Street in Soho along with Kensington, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford. The report revealed Running Hare Restaurants had recently acquired the intellectual property for the Balans brand and was also willing to take on the staff associated with the outlets. Running Hare Restaurants includes Balans founder David Taylor, ex-Selfridges and Egg marketing executive Nick Cross, and Alastair Gibbons, a senior partner at Bridgepoint, as directors. The £150,000 was paid immediately with the proceeds used to pay Balans’ secured creditor, NatWest, which is owed a total of £1m. The Ealing and Victoria sites have closed with the former under offer to an unnamed party for £20,000 subject to a rent reduction and rent-free period being obtained. Earlier this year Balans, which opened its first venue in Old Compton Street in 1987, sold its site in Clapham Common to the team behind the Little Yellow Door concept. The house parties-style bar and restaurant concept, backed by Edition Capital, reopened the site as The Little Orange Door.
 
Krispy Kreme reports covid disruption, UK turnover nears £100m: Krispy Kreme has reported covid-19 disrupted its “ambitious growth plans” in the near term “with the temporary closure of all of the company's manufacture and retail locations and a short pause in delivery to off-premise partners”. In a Companies House submission, the company stated: “The company took rapid and decisive action to instigate new ways of working in all areas of the business, and was able to reinstate manufacturing and the off-premise business very quickly.” Krispy Kreme said it would be closing a small number of shops this year after considering the potential impact of the pandemic. The company said this would require an impairment of property, plant and equipment of £800,000 and exit costs of a further £1m in 2020. Meanwhile, Krispy Kreme has reported turnover rose 13.3% to £94.1m in the year to 29 December 2019. Profit before tax rose to £8.53m from £8.48m the year before. The company said it had “refined” its retail estate by opening nine shops and closing nine shops – it made an exceptional charge of £327,000 for onerous leases. The company added: “The directors consider 2019 a highly successful year in which the foundations were laid for future growth plans.” On 6 July, the company entered a funding agreement with its US parent company for a facility of up to £10m repayable on or before 30 June 2022. 

Karma Kitchen secures £252m of funding to play ‘pivotal role in the bounce-back of the UK economy’: Karma Kitchen, the London-based cloud kitchen operator, has secured £252m of new funding. The company, which was founded by Eccie and Gini Newton in 2018, said it wanted to become Europe's biggest kitchen space provider by opening 53 sites across the UK and Europe in the next five years. Its new fund-raising round was backed by existing investors and real estate investment management firm Vengrove Asset Management. The funding provides Vengrove with a minority stake in the company. Karma Kitchen, which currently operates sites in Oval and Hackney, has a new site in Wood Green due to open next month. Eccie Newton said: “We are delighted to have completed our round with Vengrove Real Estate Management. Karma Kitchen is going post-covid and this is only the beginning. Karma Kitchen is going to play a pivotal role in the bounce-back of the UK economy post-covid and this is only the beginning.” Last year the company secured a partnership with UberEats to run a youth training programme, “pick and mix” delivery service, and a London-based accelerator for new restaurants.

Cristiano Ronaldo plans luxury hotel with rooftop bar in Manchester: Cristiano Ronaldo is planning to open a luxury hotel with a rooftop bar overlooking Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens. The former Manchester United player has teamed up with Portuguese hotelier Pestana to launch the proposed “high-end lifestyle hotel” on the corner of Piccadilly and Newton Street. Pestana CR7 Manchester is due to open in 2023, subject to planning permission, and will be the seventh of the chain's CR7 branded hotels – named after the Portuguese international's initials and shirt number. “It couldn’t be more appropriate – after all, this is the city where Cristiano Ronaldo started his international career in Man United back in 2003 and where he first used number seven,” the hotel group announced on its website. Plans have been submitted to Manchester City Council for the development, which is to be delivered in partnership with property company Eastern Green. The £27m project would see the grade-II listed Halls Building at 69-75 Piccadilly – home to The Piccadilly Tavern pub – redeveloped, while the empty building next door at number 67 will be demolished and replaced with a new 11-storey tower. Together they would house a four-star hotel with 151 bedrooms, a ground-floor bar and cafe, basement gym and roof terrace, according to plans lodged with the council.

Three staff members test positive at JD Wetherspoon pub in Wrexham: Three staff members have tested positive for coronavirus at a JD Wetherspoon pub in Wrexham. Staff from the North and South Wales Bank had tested positive, said Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon. He said a number of other staff who work at the pub – a former bank – are now self-isolating. Gershon added the pub had spoken to Public Health Wales and does not need to take any further action. Dr Graham Brown, from Public Health Wales, said: "Public Health Wales is working with Wrexham Council to investigate a small number of cases of coronavirus associated with the North and South Wales Bank pub in Wrexham. The identification of these cases is evidence the Test, Trace, Protect strategy is working, and no outbreak has been declared.”

Indian concept Darjeeling Express to replace Carluccio’s in Covent Garden: Indian restaurant concept Darjeeling Express, which closed its debut permanent site in London’s Soho earlier this year, is to reopen in Covent Garden. The brainchild of self-taught cook Asma Khan, the concept has secured the former Carluccio’s flagship site in Garrick Street for the opening of an all-day deli. Khan had already planned to move out of the 55-cover space in Kingly Court, which opened in 2017, but the impact of covid-19 sped up the process, with the site closing in June. Khan said at the time she was searching for “new, bigger premises”.

Dubai-based Lincoln Hospitality to bring La Serre to London as part of international expansion plans: Dubai-based Lincoln Hospitality is to bring its La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie to London as part of its international expansion plans. Representing the first international outpost for the brand, La Serre Riyadh is confirmed to open at Saudi’s up-and-coming King Abdullah Financial District by the first quarter of 2021. London will follow later in the year, when La Serre’s will arrive in Knightsbridge; closely trailed by a launch in New York. The original La Serre is a two-level restaurant in Dubai with a Parisian-style cafe downstairs and a more upscale bistro above. The menu includes whole baked sea bream marinated in provençale spices; and whole roasted chicken, foie gras and truffle sauce. Ralph Homer, chief executive and co-founder of Lincoln Hospitality, said: “We’re excited to export the La Serre brand internationally. After years of success here in Dubai, this is the next natural step for us. There’s no denying the pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works, but as a company we are pushing forward with persistence and resistance to break into new and exciting markets. Evolution is key. We have to be adaptable in business, and I truly believe in pushing higher during difficult times to achieve success. We have an array of plans in the pipeline, so it’s an inspiring time of growth for our company.”
 
Adnams female boss tells students ‘glass ceilings are there to be smashed’: A boss at Suffolk-based brewer and retailer Adnams, who went from office cleaner to becoming the first woman on her company's board, has said “glass ceilings are there to be smashed”. Karen Hester joined the army aged 16 in 1979 because she was “one of those kids who had to go out to work” and sent her monthly wages to her mother. She began cleaning at Adnams in Southwold in 1988 and within two years was a procurement clerk. She is now its chief operating officer and responsible for 500 staff. Speaking to BBC Look East on GCSE results day, she said she wanted to tell youngsters not to despair if they had not got the grades they wanted. “Whether you choose to do A-levels and continue through the education route or you choose a job you think will be really great – the most important thing is do your best and your best will be good enough,” she said. “I absolutely love the diversity of my role – through logistics, manufacturing and sales to the customer door.” As well as its brewery in Southwold and warehouse in Reydon, Adnams has 70 pubs along with hotels and shops, mainly in Suffolk and Norfolk. Hester had not planned to climb the ranks and credits “the culture of the company” for giving her opportunities. Hester, who was appointed to the board in 2015, has worked in Adnams’ logistics department, helped restructure its distribution, human resources and IT departments and is responsible for the company's brewery, engineering, hotel, pub and shop staff. She said: “People talk about glass ceilings, but glass ceilings are here to be smashed.”
 
Hai Di Lao Hot Pot opens at The 02: Hai Di Lao Hot Pot, China’s biggest hot pot restaurant brand, has launched at The O2 in London. The new addition joins more than 30 restaurants and bars under The O2’s roof. Marking Hai Di Lao Hot Pot’s second site in Europe, the restaurant is situated on the lower level of The O2, and spans across an 8,200 square foot space with a 2,800 square foot mezzanine. The brand’s latest restaurant hosts 212 covers. Founded in Sichuan in 1994, the brand has more than 700 directly operated restaurants in more than 115 cities. Diners are served premium vegetables, meat and noodles, which are then added to a wide selection of broth soup bases. Speaking on behalf of AEG and Crosstree, Marion Dillon, leasing director for Icon Outlet and The O2, said: “Hai Di Lao Hot Pot is a dynamic entrant to our portfolio, and a fantastic addition to have on offer as we gradually welcome back visitors to our 360-degree experience at The O2. Hot pot culture is a huge trend in the UK, and we are delighted to be selected as one of the first sites in Europe by such a globally acclaimed operator. Hai Di Lao Hot Pot provides the sense of theatre and sociability in dining that the public have missed during lock-down, and we look forward to delivering this concept with health and safety remaining front-of-mind for all our staff and visitors.”
 
Boparan to bring back two more Carluccio’s sites: Boparan Restaurant Group will continue the gradual reopening of its Carluccio’s estate with another pair of sites. The company, which paid £3.2m to acquire 30 Carluccio’s sites and buy the rights to the brand in May, will welcome customers back to its Cambridge and Colchester sites on Thursday, 3 September. The move will take the brand’s total number of reopened sites to 16.
 
Taco Bell to launch ‘go mobile’ smaller footprint store: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is to launch a smaller footprint store in the US that caters for on-the-go consumers. Dubbed “Taco Bell Go Mobile”, the format has been in planning for three to four years but has been accelerated due to the coronavirus pandemic, One key feature of the Go Mobile format is dual drive-thru lanes. One lane will be a traditional quick-service drive-thru lane, where customers order, pay and get their food. But, the second lane is a “priority” lane geared for picking up mobile orders, similar to that operated by Chipotle and Noodles & Company. The first stores, aimed for new-builds, won’t open until early next year. Some franchise locations will also get retro-fits. Mike Grams, Taco Bell president and global chief operating officer, told Nation’s Restaurant News the stores would be about 1,400 square feet, as they have less of a dine-in focus. Most Taco Bell restaurants are about 2,000 square feet. The company, which has opened about 1,000 stores over the past five years, is also not moving away from its urban in-line stores such as the Cantina format. The Go Mobile and Cantinas are part of the brand’s plan to design and build “flexible format” restaurants that meet the needs of customers in specific trade areas. Part of that plan was to open a “fast social” restaurant in California that was fitted with stadium-style seating for gaming fans. But that format, announced in mid-March, is on pause for now. Taco Bell is also using “smart” technology to determine when a mobile customer has entered the car park. At that point, the app will send the customer a message to let them know which is the best and fastest option for picking up their food – kerbside, takeaway or the express lane.
 
HMSHost lay-offs flow from huge drop in passenger numbers in US: HMSHost, the company that provides many of the food and retail outlets at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, plans to permanently lay off 940 employees. “HMSHost continues to see an unprecedented decline in traffic in airports and on the motorways,” the company told the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. “The covid-19 pandemic has devastated the travel and restaurant industries and, unfortunately, HMSHost sits at the crossroads of both. Never in the history of aviation and the hospitality industry have we experienced such catastrophic customer traffic declines.” The letter from HMSHost is required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which notifies the state 60 days in advance about lay-offs. The latest passenger numbers from June saw 867,528 passengers fly through McCarran, down from 2,989,768 the previous year.
 
Kibou Restaurants to open recently acquired Cheltenham restaurant in new home next month: Kibou Restaurants, led by Regent Inns founder and chief executive David Franks, is to open its recently acquired Japanese restaurant KIBOUsushi in Cheltenham in its new home next month. KIBOUsushi had operated in Cheltenham’s Regent Street since Emma Graveney launched it in August 2013. But following its acquisition by Kibou Restaurants, KIBOUsushi has moved to larger premises after taking on the lease of the former Carluccio’s site in Regent Arcade. Having undergone a £450,000 renovation, the new 80-cover restaurant and 150-capacity bar will open on Sunday, 6 September, reports So Glos. The menu will focus on classic and contemporary Japanese dishes and an expanded cocktail and drinks offering with a late licence. The acquisition by Kibou Restaurants added to its existing site, Kibou Japanese Kitchen & Bar, which opened in Northcote Road, Battersea, south London, in August 2019. Further acquisitions are planned to meet a gradual and sustained five-year expansion strategy.
 
Shake Shack to pay year-end bonuses to all employees as 10% premium scheme ends: Shake Shack has said it will be giving year-end bonuses to all employees ranging from $250 to $400. The move comes as the company ends the 10% premium pay it had been giving hourly workers since the peak of the pandemic in April. That programme, which impacted more than 6,000 employees, ended on Wednesday 19 August, the company said. As a continued “thank you to our teams”, Shake Shack said it would be giving team members year-end bonuses. The amount will be based on the position held. The company said it would also be guaranteeing bonus payments to all managers through the next two quarters. During the coronavirus crisis, Shake Shack adapted by adding new revenue channels and drastically changing operating procedures. Last month the company revealed plans to open its first restaurant with a drive-thru as part of a strategy to diversify the format of its stores. The new drive-thru restaurant, planned next year, could have at least three lanes dedicated for mobile pick-up orders, as well as in-person drive-thru ordering like a traditional fast-food company, according to a rendering the company released. The brand also plans to modify restaurants to include drive-up lanes and walk-up windows to accommodate mobile orders.
 
Cornish hotel saves 72 jobs following staycation boost: The Headland Hotel in Cornwall has saved 72 jobs following a boost in bookings driven by staycations. The hotel, a double five-star destination in Newquay, had expected 80 staff would be made redundant in order to safeguard the business following the loss of revenue caused by enforced closure during the lock-down. However, following its reopening – and the launch of its £10m The Aqua Club at the end of last month – the total number of redundancies has been reduced to just eight. The jobs were saved as a result of a huge jump in demand by “staycationers”, and ongoing support from the government through initiatives such as the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and the reduction in the VAT rate for hospitality businesses, the hotel said. The opening of The Aqua Club swimming and well-being centre also saw several members of staff being retrained during the lock-down ahead of moving over to the new facility. The Headland employs more than 180 staff in total, and runs a year-long talent development programme that allows employees to nurture their skills by working in different areas of the business. The Headland's facilities include 95 hotel rooms and suites, 40 self-catering cottages, four restaurants, a five-bubble rated spa, and a surf school. Awarded five stars by both the AA and Quality in Tourism in 2019, it remains Cornwall’s only double five-star hotel.
 
Northern Monk Brewing Co attracts more than 1,000 applicants for packaging job: More than 1,000 people have applied for just one job at Northern Monk Brewing Co, with the number of vacancies plunging steeply following the coronavirus outbreak. The Holbeck-based company said among the applicants for the packing job were people who had made been redundant or were currently on furlough. HR manager Sophie Lennon told the BBC: “When we posted the job within the first day we had a really high number of applicants. We’ve never seen that before. We advertised the job for three weeks and at the end of that time we’d had 1,021 applicants, which is way above what we’d usually see.”
 
Whitbread opens Premier Inn hotel in Tunbridge Wells: Whitbread has opened a Premier Inn hotel in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The 110-bedroom property, which has created 20 jobs, has been launched following conversion of the town’s former magistrates court that was being used as offices. The original court building was stripped back to its concrete frame and an extension was added. Geoff Cook, senior development manager at Whitbread, said: “Our Premier Inn in Tunbridge Wells demonstrates how flexible we can be for the right location. It also shows office-to-hotel conversions can be as successful in popular market towns as in the major cities.”

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