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Tue 25th Aug 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Numis – JD Wetherspoon to make a loss after subdued start: Numis leisure analyst Tim Barrett has said JD Wetherspoon has got off to a slow restart, even with the benefit of Eat Out To Help Out, and argued its sales scenario for the current financial year is “too optimistic”. Issuing a ‘Reduce’ note on the shares with a target price of 815p following the company’s trading update, Barrett said: “Like-for-like sales for the 44 days to 16 August were below management’s base case presented with its equity placing on 29 April even though the latter did not anticipate the sales boost from Eat Out To Help Out, which was announced in early July. The statement identifies a gradual improvement and ‘clear acceleration recently’ in the early part of the week due to this scheme. Note, of the 44-day period, nine benefited from Eat Out To Help Out. The company now expects to make a loss in the year to July 2020, from previous guidance of a profit of £12m. A data point for the £12m to end July 2020 is not quoted, although Wetherspoon had previously expected like-for-likes of minus 10% in July and total sales for FY20 falling by 26%. Based on a broad assumption, sales in July were minus 20%, the resulting sales shortfall of £21m could impact profit before tax by £12m. This is consistent with the comment that it now expects FY20 to be loss-making compared to previous guidance of a profit of £12m. Management ‘expects a period of more subdued sales once the scheme for subsidised early-week meals and drinks ends’. This suggests its base case for August (minus 8%) and September (minus 6%) is very unlikely to be achieved, and forecasts based on its FY21 sales scenario of £1.9bn (up 38%) are too optimistic. For FY22, the essential difference between Wetherspoon’s base case (£100m profit before tax) and bear case (£131m ie lower sales, higher profit before tax) is the absence of staff bonuses, which we view as unsustainable. At year end, net debt is expected to be £825m, up from £786m the previous year and £805m in Jan 2020 notwithstanding the £141m inflow from April’s equity placing (15%). Our net debt forecast was £807m. We await the full accounts, but the slower sales recovery may mean a lower rebuild in negative working capital. Net debt/Ebitda is circa 6.3 times for FY20 expected to fall to 3.2 times by 2022 (five times on an IFRS16 basis). Wetherspoon trades on a peak (2019A) price-to-earnings ratio of 16.5 times and free cash flow yield of 9.9%, with a slow rebuild of profits we expect the FY22 multiples to remain elevated.” However, Paul Ruddy, leisure analyst at Goodbody, argued JD Wetherspoon would emerge from the covid-19 crisis in good shape. He said: “We see the like-for-like performance in bar and food sales of minus 16.9% for the 44 days until 16 August as a positive as Wetherspoon has previously said it would be generating positive cash flows at a level above minus 50% like-for-likes. The recovery is unlikely to be perfectly even from here given Eat Out To Help Out will end in a week, there could well be more localised covid-19 related lock-downs and positive covid tests will all likely disrupt trade. However, the group is coming out of the crisis in good shape.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – teapigs advises on how to increase your tea sales: There is increasing concern about the effect reduced capacity will have on businesses so it’s vital to have an offering that will work hard for you to maximise your profit. Your tea offering is a key part of that. “Serving quality tea is the first step to increasing tea sales,” said teapigs co-founder and tea taster Louise Cheadle. “People are very happy to spend £3 on a good coffee because it’s different to what they can make at home. However, tea drinkers aren’t as willing to pay for a cup of tea out-of-home if it’s going to be ‘just tea’ – a cheap paper bag with hot water. The demand for premium, whole leaf tea out-of-home is on the rise and research shows customers are looking to treat themselves in the coming months and will be expecting a higher quality beverage.” teapigs is a renowned mark of quality and serving our teas will make it clear you’ve upgraded your offering. teapigs’ range and support are unrivalled; 30-plus teas and infusions in a variety of formats (foodservice packs, individually wrapped envelopes), stylish display jars and a free tea school to train your staff! For more information on upgrading, contact Ruby on trade@teapigs.co.uk or click here. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com 

Consumers rally behind coffee shops since lock-down but more government support needed, click and collect and delivery yet to catch on: Consumers have rallied behind cafes and coffee shops since lock-down has lifted but businesses need longer-term government support to ensure a sustainable recovery, according to new research. The findings, from Allegra World Coffee Portal, also showed technology is still no substitute for the real cafe experience with click and collect and delivery yet to catch on. A total of 55% had visited a cafe or coffee shop since 4 July, second only to the 69% who visited family and friends. Of those who ventured to a cafe or coffee shop, 43% purchased takeaway only, 22% opted exclusively to sit-in, and 35% did both. A total of 22% have made between five and nine visits, 21% have called in twice and 17% made three visits. Despite the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and the temporary VAT cut, just 26% of consumers believe the UK government has done enough to protect hospitality businesses during the pandemic, with 42% critical of its response. More than half (51%) fear for the future of their local coffee shop because of the covid-19 pandemic. Just 5% of respondents indicated they had used a coffee shop click-and-collect service before and during the covid-19 pandemic, with 81% yet to do so. Delivery from coffee shops has also yet to gain significant adoption with only 3% having done so since the pandemic was declared. Allegra Group chief executive and founder Jeffrey Young said: “Cafes and coffee shops should be heartened by the wave of public support they have received since restrictions were eased in July. Nevertheless, this study indicates there are difficult times ahead for many businesses, and the extension of government support is likely needed to ensure the medium-term viability of the UK hospitality industry.”

Peter Backman – foodservice faces a poorer consumer whose habits have changed: Foodservice analyst Peter Backman has argued the sector faces a poorer consumer who has made fundamental lifestyle changes. He said: “We can probably speculate, fairly accurately, that consumers generally will be poorer. They will have drawn down on their savings, they may be out of a job, or in a job but earning less. Of course, this is not true of everyone. Some will have improved their financial position and prospects; others will have seen their prospects diminished far worse than they could have imagined only six months ago. Overall though, consumers will have less money. And they are likely to be significantly more aware of the need for cleanliness, safe distancing and other factors with a social dimension. The ways consumers live their lives will change. I don’t go along with the school of thought that says the world of foodservice has got to completely change its way of thinking about London because London is dead. There are far fewer tourists, more people working from home and fewer shoppers. The same is true of Paris, New York and all major cities. But the city is an essential way of the world, and London, like all other major cities, will be back. And it will have changed in many ways – some very large but many of the changes will be noticed by only a few. It is possible to identify many other changes like these that define the line between what went on before covid lock-down to what happens from here on. And here, to my mind, is the interesting thing. The future direction of the foodservice sector will be driven by what happens in the spaces between the changes. Keep an eye on these gaps because they will point to the opportunities that will arise as we develop our futures.” 

Tipjar receives significant investment from Fourth alumni: Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, has received significant investment from Simon Bocca, the former chief operating officer at Fourth, and four other Fourth senior leadership alumni. In total, the group’s investment equates to a 4% ownership in Tipjar. Bocca will join Tipjar founder James Brown, retail director at Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog; chairman Alex Moore, co-founder of Rosa’s Thai Cafe; and their team, on the board as a non-executive director, to help guide the business through the next stage of growth. Tipjar also launched a campaign through crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, and hit its target of £300,000 within just two days. The campaign is now 150% overfunded with 16 days remaining. Tipjar has seen huge growth over the past few months, with more than 17,000 transactions since March. More than 3,000 professionals and 250 restaurants UK-wide are now using the software. Brown said: “We designed Tipjar to help hospitality staff earn more, bring transparency to the world of tipping and help businesses deal with the increasingly challenging administration of managing and distributing tips. It has been an exciting journey so far and the opportunity to work with Simon on the next stage of our growth and have his wealth of experience was one we had to grab with both hands.” Bocca added: “When we first met James, Alex and the team, we knew they were on to something. Staff and consumers want transparency and fairness in the brands and venues they frequent. Tipjar and the team have developed a unique model that protects businesses from current and impending legislation but at the same time puts the staff firmly in control of their tips and gives the transaction level visibility.”
 
Fast casual sees customer satisfaction go backwards: The fast casual and grab-and-go sector is moving backwards in terms of customer satisfaction, according to the latest Customer Sentiment Tracker from Feed It Back and KAM Media. It showed net promoter scores (NPS) were still significantly lower in these outlets compared with pre-lock-down – 20 compared with 64 in February. The tracker showed confidence levels among customers of the fast casual sector were also lower than other sectors. At a hospitality industry average, 94% of customers said they feel safe enough to return but this is just 78% for fast casual customers. Again, the data collected via the Feed It Back platform showed this figure had dropped since July when it was 88%. According to 17,298 customers who visited one of 794 hospitality venues in last week, lack of social distancing is the number one reason given for not feeling safe enough to return to a hospitality venue – for the third week running. Social distancing is an even higher concern within fast casual venues with one-in-five customers stating it is the reason they will not return. KAM Media managing director Katy Moses said: “The smaller size of many fast casual venues and the need for queue management is clearly causing extra concern for customers when it comes to physical distancing. Speed of service is, of course, also especially important for these customers, so operators have a particularly tricky conundrum.” The tracker also showed Eat Out To Help Out continues to attract harsh critics overall. NPS scores continued to be significantly lower from Monday to Wednesday (52), compared with Thursday to Sunday (60). Operators can trial the Feed It Back system for free and see how they compare with industry peers. To receive the tracker directly to your inbox click here.
Feed It Back and KAM Media are Propel BeatTheVirus campaign members

Peel Hunt – tense few weeks lie ahead for UK cinemas to see reaction to first major film release since lock-down: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Ivor Jones has said a tense few weeks lie ahead for UK cinemas to see the consumer response to the first major film release since lock-down. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on Cineworld’s shares ahead of the release of Tenet, with a target price of 180p, Jones said: “We have lowered our FY20E Ebitda forecast to US$318m from $1,113m. A key assumption is revenue will be 50% of pre-covid levels from September. We previously updated forecasts in May when we didn’t expect lock-down to last so long. Cineworld has not published guidance on costs or cash burn during lock-down, so our forecasts are uncertain. In terms of survival, our key conclusions are Cineworld has enough liquidity (we forecast it will end FY20E with cash and undrawn facilities of $240m); and the business will trade on an approximately cash-neutral basis once attendance reaches 50% of pre-covid levels. We will feel more confident in these forecasts once management has guided on, inter alia, capex plans with the interims on 24 September. We believe it is in the best interests of Cineworld and Cineplex to settle or terminate their legal suits against each other and to agree to revive their merger plans, ideally on a share-for-share basis. There is a risk of prolonged litigation with a negative outcome for Cineworld. However, Cineworld says Cineplex was in breach of covenant which means, at the very least, it has a plausible case for winning the litigation battle. Tension in the share price could result in quite a bounce. Since March, Cineworld’s shares have fallen further than any other company we cover. This reflects uncertainty over the relationships between film studios and cinemas, and cinema customers and cinemas. It also reflects uncertainty over Cineworld’s ability to trade through covid-19 without further capital. We expect the clarity that will emerge in relation to these key issues over the next few weeks to be positive for the share price. We reiterate our ‘Buy’ rating and 180p target price.”

CAMRA urges government to rethink small brewer tax changes: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has urged the government to change its plans to increase the amount of tax that small brewers across the UK will have to pay. In a letter to Kemi Badenoch, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, the campaign’s chairman and chief executive laid out their concerns over the move to reduce the level of production at which small brewers receive the full level of tax relief – in order to allow larger brewers to pay less. Nik Antona, CAMRA national chairman, said: “Small Breweries’ Relief has been instrumental in creating the brewing boom that we have seen over the past two decades and is vital to maintaining a thriving and diverse beer market, and choice for consumers. The news of these poorly considered reforms to the Small Breweries’ Relief Scheme could not come at a worse time for our small brewers, who are already facing financial uncertainty due to the coronavirus crisis. That’s why CAMRA is joining calls for the government to rethink its plans to remove tax relief from the smallest brewers to allow larger brewers to pay less, and to publish more information about any other proposed changes to the scheme as soon as possible.” 

Aberdeen pubs and restaurants to reopen on Wednesday: Pubs and restaurants in Aberdeen will be able to reopen on Wednesday (26 August) – three weeks after being forced to shut. Hospitality businesses were closed again on 5 August after a spike in coronavirus cases were linked to bars and pubs in the city. But they will be allowed to welcome customers back from Wednesday, subject to environmental health checks. Operators are also urged to contact Aberdeen City Council if they have not already undergone an environmental health check. A total of 28 licensed venues were linked to the outbreak. Latest figures show a total of 427 cases were identified in the Grampian Health Board area since 26 July, with 259 of these cases being associated with the cluster linked to Aberdeen pubs. First minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It’s due to the commitment of people in the city, as well as world-class contact tracing that means we are now able to lift these measures, but it is vitally important everyone follows the rules in order to prevent an outbreak of this scale occurring again.” 

UK’s first ‘robot-themed’ restaurant opens: The UK’s first “robot-themed” restaurant has opened in Milton Keynes. Robotazia is now open at 12th Street – formerly the Theatre District. The venue has with bespoke sci-fi fitments and backdrops for the robots. Visitors can head to one of the tables inside surrounded by robots on display and order from their menu that includes hand-stretched pizza from a stone oven, chicken wings, jerk chicken, rice and more. All food and drinks are served to your table by robots themselves, as well as a number of robot-themed displays surrounding the tables.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a Cheshire-based hospitality group that is looking for a new head of finance. The position will be responsible for the group’s accounting and all financial management requirements as well as leading and training a small and dedicated team. The role will also require overseeing the whole accounting department, procurement function and electronic data processing systems. The head of finance will need to be CIMA/ACCA fully qualified with at least five years’ experience. The group is a multi-site hospitality business and anyone interested can send their CV to Oliwia@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Redcomb Pub founders secure second pub – two more in the pipeline: Dan Shotton and Mark Draper of Prospect Pubs & Bars, former owners of Redcomb Pubs, which was sold to Young’s Brewery last year, have taken on their second site, The Victoria in Woodham, Surrey. The duo are undertaking a joint £580,000 refurbishment with Star Pubs & Bars, owners of The Victoria, which has been closed for 14 months, transforming it into a top-quality, family-friendly village local, offering great food at affordable prices and exceptional service. This latest venture follows on from the successful launch of their first pub under the Prospect Pubs & Bars banner, The Evenlode in Eynsham on the outskirts of Oxford. The pair bought the freehold site for £1.75m in July 2019 and have since undertaken a sympathetic refurbishment, which included adding seven en-suite bedrooms to the property. Draper said: “Despite the current situation, our strategy remains to acquire three to five sites a year for the next five years, comprising of a mix of freehold, leased and tenanted sites, and it’s great to finally be able to get these wheels back in motion. Our ambition is to create a group of successful and profitable pubs and pubs with rooms that are accessible to all, with a well-positioned premium offering. The Victoria, like The Evenlode, is ideally located to attract both a local audience as well as those travelling through the area for business or for pleasure. We follow the same simple philosophy for every site we are involved with, and that is to create authentic, timeless, quality pubs that are as well-known for their friendly welcome and independent spirit as they are for their fine food and drink at fair prices. Covid has delayed our plans but not dampened our enthusiasm to take on The Victoria. We’re now on schedule to reopen the pub early November.” Alongside The Victoria, Prospect Pubs & Bars also confirmed two further properties are in the pipeline, both forecast to open in 2021.

KFC – we’ve used pandemic to steal share of voice, temporarily drops ‘finger lickin’ good’ slogan: KFC has said it has used the coronavirus pandemic to steal share of voice in the UK as other brands cut back on their advertising spend. The company is temporarily dropping its “finger lickin’ good” slogan it has used in its advertising for 64 years and launching its first global campaign in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign shows various images of KFC – with the “finger lickin’ good” part of its slogan pixelated out. It ends with the line: “That thing we always say? Ignore it. For now.” KFC UK and Ireland head of retail and advertising, Kate Wall told Marketing Week: “This year has thrown everyone – all brands – and we took a bit of a global stance that actually, right now, our slogan is probably the most inappropriate slogan out there, so we need to stop saying it.” KFC and its owner Yum! Brands usually allows markets to run their own marketing to ensure advertising is relevant and based on local insights. However, KFC found it was getting the same insights from all its markets, prompting its first global campaign. The second phase of the campaign will see KFC hunt for a temporary replacement for its slogan. The brand does not know how long it will need to drop “finger lickin” for, but is hoping to drive engagement by introducing a replacement using influencers. KFC has continued to advertise during the pandemic despite the closure of all its restaurants in the UK during lock-down. Wall said despite this, ensuring the brand is front-of-mind has remained critical, meaning while it is running promotions and deals, brand building remains key. “To be spending on brand building right now is bold and brave, but it is absolutely what we’ve always done and we always see the results come in. We’ve used it as an opportunity to steal share of voice when everyone else has been quite quiet. That has been really authentic to the brand. We are not just trying to make up stories, we are just shining a light on what people are saying on Twitter or doing anywhere. Being a bit more entertaining when people have needed a bit more entertainment.”

BrewDog offers more details on £30m carbon negative plan: BrewDog has provided more details on its £30m plan to become carbon negative. BrewDog said it will remove twice as much carbon from the air than it emits every single year. Long-term plans will see the brewer offset its carbon through owned assets, as it has purchased a 2,050-acre site, that will become the ‘BrewDog Forest’, in the Scottish Highlands. Where it plans to plant one million trees over the next few years in 400 hectares of land, alongside restoration of 650 acres of peat land. Green infrastructure projects currently under way at BrewDog include: the brewery and the UK bars are now wind powered; it turns its spent grain into green gas that powers its brewery; it is building an on-site anaerobic digester to turn our wastewater into clean water and produce food grade C02 to carbonate its beers; it is investing in the electrification of its vehicle fleet; through investing in local brewing sites across the UK, EU, USA and Australia it has significantly reduced the miles its beer is travelling to reach the consumer. James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog, said: “Huge change is needed right now, and we want to be a catalyst for that change in our industry and beyond. We fully acknowledge that we are a long way from perfect. However, we are determined to rapidly and fundamentally change everything as we work hard to ensure we have a positive impact on the planet.” 

Robinsons reports 96% of customers satisfied with pubs’ covid-19 safety guidelines: North west-based brewer and retailer Robinsons has reported 96% of customers are satisfied with covid-19 safety guidelines in its tenanted and managed pubs. Under the banner of “Safe Visit”, the company created a guide to safe trading and a range of editable signage and safety posters, banners and tent cards for pubs to use. A total of 94% of customers said they were happy with the cleanliness and hygiene of the pub and almost 97% said efforts would make them want to visit again. The responses were gathered as part of feedback through its partnership with restaurant intelligence platform Yumpingo and its We Hear You initiative. Robinsons marketing director David Bremner said: “Over the weeks since it started, we have seen a fall in guest nervousness pre-visit to 80% and we are really encouraged we seem to be attracting more new customers, with 34% stating they haven’t visited that pub before. It may be coincidence, but this aligns with some strong trading figures that sees managed and tenanted beer sales in the past four weeks only 5% down on the same week last year, and that is with a few pubs still closed in this period. There is no doubt the Eat Out To Help Out scheme has helped too, with 36% of guests saying this was the primary reason for their visit to one of our pubs, but I am really pleased we’ve kept them safe and they have said they’ll be back.”

Greggs gets go-ahead for first Scottish drive-thru: Food-to-go retailer Greggs is set to open its first drive-thru in Scotland. The company has been granted permission by Glasgow City Council for the restaurant at Great Western Retail Park. The 1,800 square foot restaurant will be open daily from 5am to midnight, with outside seating and a car park with space for 72 vehicles. Plans for the drive-thru were submitted in March, reports The Daily Record. Last month, Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside said the company was keen to open more drive-thru locations given the changing habits of consumers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Asma Khan – a larger Darjeeling Express will offer more opportunity to female talent: Restaurateur and chef Asma Khan has reported her new and larger Darjeeling Express restaurant, occupying the former Carlucco’s in Covent Garden, will provide a better opportunity to develop female talent. The new 5,770 square foot restaurant will feature a much larger kitchen to allow the chef-restaurateur to employ and train a greater number of female staff into senior leadership roles in the restaurant industry. Asma Khan said: “The kitchen at our home in Kingly Court was just too small to achieve everything I have planned for Darjeeling Express. Our new home will allow us to train and prepare women of all backgrounds, into restaurant owners, managers and chief executives. There is a desperate shortage of women and diversity in senior roles in the hospitality industry and it is poorer for it. I will use our new Covent Garden restaurant to open doors to those who are under-represented in our industry.” Richard Lake, an associate in the real estate team at Royds Withy King, who advised Darjeeling Express, said: “While the hospitality industry has been hit hard by coronavirus, it is also creating opportunities for successful, committed and ambitious restaurateurs. The hospitality sector – and its customers – need and want chefs like Asma Khan to be successful, to deliver fantastic food and to change the shape of the industry.”

Kurobuta founder launches two deliveries services and plans permanent site: Restaurateur Scott Hallsworth has launched a local delivery service, Joe’s Oriental Diner, and Joe’s @ Home, which offers premium food deliveries that includes plating up at customers’ home – with plans to open a permanent site in the future. Joe’s Oriental Diner delivers to south and west London with the latter service available across the capital for orders in excess of £100. The Aussie-born chef, known for his fusion-led Japanese and pan-Asian cooking, is the owner of Freak Scene and is best known for founding Kurobuta in 2013. Dishes available on both delivery services will feature a selection of Hallsworth’s signature Freak Scene dishes mixed with some new inventions, including cheeseburger spring rolls (£8): mixing truffle burger patty, American cheese and Joe’s Diner relish in a crunchy spring roll coating with miso cheese fondue dip, and Jasmine tea-smoked lamb ribs with spicy Korean miso and Japanese daikon (£10). Hallsworth said: “We’re not looking for expensive locations to enhance our cooking, we want the food to speak for itself. In the current climate, it’s made more sense for us to open a delivery-only site so we can provide the same level of food without the overhead costs.”

Sam Smith’s boss sacks management couple because chocolate fondant is off the menu: The Sheffield Star has reported The Cow and Calf in Grenoside, a suburb of Sheffield, shut indefinitely last week after brewery chief executive Humphrey Smith sacked the management couple because a dessert was not being served. After customers expressed their shock, Louise Brownhill, who had run the pub with her husband Steve since last year, took to Facebook to explain what had happened. She said Humphrey Smith had visited and been disappointed when they were unable to serve him his favourite dessert. They were fired, she claimed, despite explaining that they didn’t have the dessert – understood to be a chocolate fondant – because they hadn’t been provided with a freezer. “We are sad to be leaving as we have made many great friends here, but onwards and upwards,” she added. The brewery declined to comment when approached by The Star. Customers reacted with dismay to news of the pub’s closure, with one describing how the outgoing managers had been a ‘breath of fresh air for the place’ and served ‘amazing’ food. Humphrey Smith has reportedly ordered managers of his pubs to ban customers from swearing or using mobile phones inside, with anyone caught breaking those rules liable to be thrown out. When pubs reopened following the lockdown, it is understood that prices of some drinks at Samuel Smith pubs rose by up to £1. Last week, it was reported that Sam Smith’s had decided against using the track-and-trace system over GDPR concerns.

Tomahawk Steakhouse to open eighth site this week, in talks on further outlets: North east-based multi-site operator Howard Eggleston is to open an eighth site for his Tomahawk Steakhouse brand on Wednesday (26 August), occupying the former Jamie Oliver site at Lendal Cellars, York. The site will include a Perrier Jouet Champagne and Oyster Bar. Eggleston said: “We have been overwhelmed by the interest and sheer volume of bookings already made at Tomahawk by the lovely people of York. The Facebook posts alone have attracted more than a third of a million insights and the first post had 3,300 likes and just short of 5,000 shares on our page, which is, without doubt, the most we have ever had for an opening.” A spokesman added: “We also have our Brazilian concept Rio in Jesmond, as well as two takeaway stores, in Jesmond and Yarm. Will be opening soon in London and we are in talks with a stately home in the north east to open a Tomahawk Steakhouse as the main restaurant there. It really is exciting times for the company.”

Pie giant plans first drive-thru restaurant: Pie company Wrights Food Group has resubmitted plans for its first drive-thru restaurant. The company has identified vacant land alongside Leek New Road, in Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent, for the development. It first submitted plans last year, but they were thrown out by council planners in March because the site is within a coal mining ‘referral area’ and the applicant had failed to provide an adequate mining risk assessment. But Newcastle-based Mode Architects has now re-submitted plans to Stoke-on-Trent City Council, with a decision expected in the coming weeks. Wrights supplies a wide range of savoury products, cakes and ready meals to many of the UK’s top restaurant brands, foodservice distributors and independent bakers, as well as 26 overseas export markets. Its bakery complex produces more than three million savoury products every week. Its 40,000 square foot confectionery factory produces up to half a million doughnuts a week and 30 million cookies each year. 

Native to relocate from London to Essex coast: Zero-waste wild British food restaurant Native, founded by Ivan Tisdall-Downes and Imogen Davis, is to relocate from London to Osea Island on the Essex coast. Native will be truly seasonal with dining times being dictated by the tide, allowing guests to travel to the island via boat or an ancient Roman causeway. Diners will enjoy snacks and aperitif drinks around a campfire on the beach before sitting down to a tasting menu in the island’s converted First World War torpedo store. The food will be accompanied by a range of organic, biodynamic and low-intervention wine alongside house-made cocktails and beer. The 30-cover restaurant – which will open on Thursday, 22 October – will initially operate from Thursday to Saturday in the evenings and Sunday service in the early afternoon – depending on the tide. The team will also operate the Native Oyster shed – a seafood shack specialising in freshly shucked Blackwater and West Mersea oysters. Davis said: “It’s always been a dream of ours to escape the city and look for a restaurant near the sea where we can further expand our closed-loop and regenerative agriculture practices.” Native had been operating at Flat Iron Square, near London Bridge.

Jay Morjaria to launch residency at Dalston bar Untitled: Jay Morjaria, who ran London’s first vegetarian cookery school and had a stint on BBC show My Million Pound Menu, is launching a residency called JAE at Dalston cocktail bar Untitled. The residency will kick off on Thursday, 3 September, and run from Thursday to Saturday thereafter. Morjaria will bring his own version of Korea’s anju food to the table in the form of small plates that will change seasonally. The initial menu will include the day-boat crudo with apricot and leche de tigre; and the cold soba noodle salad with sweet and sour gochugaru dressing and cucumber salad. After a short stint in the art and design world, Morjaria was lured into the food world and opened London’s first vegetarian cookery school, Sutra Kitchen, in Kingly Court. A few years later – with a stint on My Million Pound Menu sandwiched in the middle – Morjaria ventured into the world of pop-ups and residencies at venues such as Great Guns Social, Taste of London, and a guest chef series at Adam Handling’s Frog Hoxton, Native and Silver Lining.

Buzzworks staff upskill as mental health first aiders: Scottish bar and restaurant operator Buzzworks Holdings has invested in training 11 mental health first aiders. The course offered advice on how to recognise when someone might have a problem and how to provide immediate help – the workshop also covered suicide prevention. Topics included attitudes to mental health, recovery, listening skills, depression, suicide, anxiety, psychosis, self-harm, alcohol and drugs, how and where to get help, and looking after personal well-being. People director Carole Lamond said: “Training and well-being for our people is a core principle at Buzzworks and it’s a way for us to give back to our teams. Encouraging a positive attitude towards mental health in the workplace and at home is really important to us. It’s fantastic to now have a group trained as mental health first aiders across the business and we know this will enhance our already strong commitment to supporting our people regarding all mental health issues.”

Frasers Group acquires DW Sports gym business for £37m: Frasers Group, which owns Sports Direct, has acquired DW Sports’ gym business for £37m. DW Sports had been placed in administration earlier this month and Frasers Group has snapped up assets relating to the firm’s gym and fitness business. Up to a maximum of another £6.9m may be payable contingent upon the number of leasehold sites eventually acquired. DW Sports operates 73 gyms. For the year ended 31 March 2019 – the last date to which accounts are available – DW Sports had gross assets of almost £195m and made a loss of just over £20m. Frasers Group stated: “The transaction complements the existing gym and fitness club portfolio within the company’s group and is consistent with the group’s elevation strategy. Frasers Group looks forward to elevating the gym and fitness assets acquired pursuant to the transaction under the group’s existing iconic Everlast brand, and is also pleased to have saved a number of jobs.”

Belleville Brewing Co more than triples beer production: Belleville Brewing Co has boosted its brewing capacity from 6,000 litres per week to 20,000 litres by upgrading its facilities. The south London-based brewery, which launched in 2013, has also added a canning line. Belleville founder Adrian Thomas said: “The investment we’ve put into equipment and our brew team mean the quality and consistency of our beers is top notch, and we’re producing a bigger range of styles than at any time over the past seven years.” The extra capacity will help the brewery meet demand for its flagship London Steam Lager and Picnic Session IPA, which were seeing strong market growth prior to lock-down – during which the business reached peak sales of 3,000 cans per week through home deliveries. The company’s taproom has also reopened. Thomas said: “Our taproom is starting to buzz again after three months being closed. It’s been great to welcome back our local community and lovely to see some familiar faces. Even with new distancing measures in place, we’ve managed to keep the atmosphere and we’re proud to be offering a special discount to all NHS workers who have been heroes throughout this.”

Bibendum adds four wines to range: Drinks distributor Bibendum Wine is introducing Bodega Mustiguillo (Valencia, Spain), Neudorf Vineyards (Nelson, New Zealand), Giovanni Rosso (Piedmont, Italy) and Domaine Felines Jourdan (Languedoc, France) to its portfolio. Bibendum buying director Andrew Shaw said: “We are delighted to have such an incredible range of producers joining our portfolio. All of the producers are family owned and are champions of their respective regions, producing high-quality wines that truly represent their terroir. They complement our existing portfolio perfectly and have established demand in some of the best outlets in the UK.” The producers join from distributor Fields, Morris and Verdin.
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