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Thu 27th Aug 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Operators extend discount offer from their own pockets into September but call for further government support: Operators are extending the 50% discount on food and soft drinks into next month by footing the cost themselves amid calls for the government to continue covering the bill – and provide further support to the sector. At least £336m has already been claimed across 84,000 outlets taking part in the scheme, with diners getting an average of £5.25 off their bill. With reports of restaurants and pubs again being fully booked as diners look to use the government-funded scheme before it finishes next week, operators are looking to continue the momentum by extending the discount out of their own pockets. Oakman Inns, which manages 28 pubs and restaurants across the Midlands and Home Counties, has taken the decision to continue to offer 50% off, up to a maximum of £10 per person, on all food and soft drinks consumed on the premises between Monday and Wednesday in September. The company said its sites were often fully booked during the first two weeks of the scheme, with many of the customers making their first visit to one of its venues. Oakman Inns has not only brought back from furlough its near 1,000-strong workforce, but has even created 105 jobs, in order to meet the new compliance requirements. However, chief executive Dermot King is still urging caution and looking for further support from the government. He said an urgent review was needed on VAT and business rates as well as scrapping employers’ National Insurance contributions on all employees who earn under £20,000. He added: “This would help create jobs at a time when people all over the country are losing theirs.” Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands, will offer the 50% discount on Mondays and Tuesdays in September –with no £10 cap. Chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said: “The Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been a phenomenal success for us with total sales up 111% across Monday to Wednesday. Trading later in the week has also not been adversely affected, which is also encouraging. We would like to see the Government extend the scheme but, regardless, we are looking forward to keeping the momentum going.” Mitchells & Butlers is also extending the discount at Toby Carvery, Harvester and Stonehouse Pizza and Carvery until Wednesday, 9 September. Bill’s, the Richard Caring-backed restaurant group, is to continue the discount scheme in September with a bespoke menu. Guests will be able to enjoy one course for £10 and two courses for £14.50 from Monday to Wednesday. Other operators extending the scheme include Prezzo, Comptoir Group, Pizza Pilgrims, Burger & Lobster, Boxpark, Kricket, Pasta Remoli, Flesh & Buns and Shack-Fuyu. Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett who will do so on the same terms as the government initiative at her three London venues – Michelin-starred Murano in Mayfair, Cafe Murano Bermondsey and Cafe Murano St James.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – HEINEKEN offers expert advice for the on-trade through ‘Keg Talks’ webinars: With many venues now open again, the reality of the “new normal” and its implications for the industry is becoming clearer. While there are difficulties to be addressed, lock-down has created an opportunity for operators to review and build on their current offering. As part of this, operators have been reviewing practices and policies to create the most effective and safe working model for staff and customers. As part of its on-trade support resource, HEINEKEN has launched a series of webinars, called Keg Talks, featuring advice from operators and independent experts on a variety of topical areas. These range from discussing recommended health and safety procedures post-lock-down, to opportunities arising from changing consumer behaviour, and the best tools to help you optimise your online presence. Each of the webinars are accessible in video and audio formats via The Pub Collective site, which is open to the entire on-trade. Key tips and advice from each of the experts can also be found in written format here. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com

Greene King pledges to create 1,000 job opportunities for young people and drive BAME diversity with new Prince’s Trust agreement: Brewer and retailer Greene King is strengthening its partnership with The Prince’s Trust with a new five-year agreement, a pledge to create 1,000 opportunities for young people and an increased financial commitment to the charity directly linked to its workforce diversity aims. Under the new terms of the partnership, funding will be increased by one third and invested into projects that will support Greene King’s commitment to raising the percentage of young people from minority ethnic backgrounds it employs from 24% currently to 40% by year five. Greene King has worked in partnership with The Prince’s Trust for four years, supporting 440 young people across the UK and kick-starting their careers by helping with training, work experience and employment, through its Get into Hospitality and Ready to Work programmes. In addition, it pledged a £20,000 donation to The Prince’s Trust Young Persons’ Relief Fund at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The partnership will deliver the ambitious targets through a catalogue of programmes including Get into Hospitality and Ready to Work as well as recruitment through Get Hired and The Prince’s Trust’s online Job’s Board. Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie said: “Supporting young people into careers now is more important than ever as we face globally uncertain times. We care about building a diverse workforce that represents the society we live in. The young people we recruit into our business today will be the business leaders of tomorrow and so it is vital we address the diversity imbalance across our business and create opportunities that encourage young people from BAME communities to join us. We are committed to developing an ambitious programme on diversity, particularly focusing on welcoming colleagues into Greene King from BAME communities and we will be updating with more detailed plans in the coming months.” Other initiatives Greene King has already put in place include an employee-led race diversity group that sits alongside its established LGBT and women’s networks and a data gathering exercise among the company’s 38,000-strong workforce to capture ethnicity.

UK eating and drinking-out market shows steady signs of recovery but Britain lagging behind other European countries: The UK eating and drinking-out market is showing steady signs of recovery, according to the latest Operational Real Estate Recovery Tracker from CBRE – but Britain’s performance overall is lagging behind other European countries. The report said some UK operators are reporting like-for-like sales not too far below previous levels, but with some limited menus and reduced capacities, margins may be affected. Restaurant customer numbers in the UK are behind many European counterparts, reflecting the closure period in various cities and countries. In Munich, and Germany as a whole, numbers appear to be close to or at pre-covid levels, and it is a similar picture in Dublin. Meanwhile, in London, levels are still below 30% of those previously, but the picture across the UK as a whole “is a little better”, at circa 50%. Visitors to retail and leisure venues in the UK are still well below previous levels – down 37% compared with before lock-down. Meanwhile, Germany saw a 60% drop in visits post lock-down and is now only 4% below previous levels, while France fell furthest (down 88% at its low) but has recovered very strongly. High street footfall across the UK remains at levels well below 50% lower than earlier in 2020. The lack of tourists in London and Edinburgh – the latter also being affected by currently tighter lock-down restrictions – means these areas are lagging behind more local centres, the report said. In Europe, London is significantly behind other capital cities with Paris currently back to pre-covid levels. The Tracker said the cinema sector could be very slow to recover given film studios have been unable to produce new content. Meanwhile, the report said the key test for the hotel industry will be as occupancy picks up, how quickly room rates recover.

Tourism plunge could hit UK economy for £22bn: The UK looks set to lose out on £22bn as tourism spending falls, putting almost three million jobs at risk, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Travel restrictions amid covid-19 are causing millions of people to take holidays in their own country rather than travel to the UK. As a result, foreign visitor spending could plummet by 78% versus last year, equating to £60m losses per day. WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said: “The economic pain and suffering caused to millions of households across the UK, who are dependent upon travel and tourism for their livelihoods, is evident from the latest WTTC figures. The lack of international travel caused by the pandemic could wipe out more than £22bn from the UK economy alone – a loss of £60m pounds a day – from which it could take years to recover. It could also threaten London’s position as one of the world’s premier hubs for business and leisure travel, which could see other destinations take over. We urgently need to replace stop-start quarantine measures with rapid, comprehensive and cost-effective test and trace programmes at departure points across the country. This investment will be significantly less than the impact of blunt quarantines, which have devastating and far-reaching socio-economic consequences. Targeted test and tracing will also rebuild consumer confidence to travel. It will enable the restoration of vital ‘air corridors’ between countries and regions with similar covid-19 case rates. A quick turnaround test-and-trace system in place for all departing passengers means the government could consider reinstating travel between the UK and major international hubs. Restoring business class travel between the world’s top financial centres, such as London and New York, would act as an engine to help kick-start the economic global recovery. International co-ordination to re-establish transatlantic travel – for business and leisure trips – would provide a vital shot in the arm for the travel and tourism sector.” WTTC said London was particularly dependent on international tourism, which accounted for 85% of tourism spending in the city.

Dip in drinks sales leads to 2.4% weekly sales drop, London figures down 7.7%: Analysis from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, showed hospitality sales fell 2.4% last week. This owed mostly to a decline of 13% in drink sales but food sales continue to perform strongly, up 5.4% on the previous week. London operators suffered a 7.7% week-on-week decline in sales while sites outside the capital fell just 1.7%. Like-for-likes were also down 8.2% on the same week last year. Notably, there was a dramatic difference between the performance of food and drink, with drinks sales sliding 24.4% on the same week last year while food sales rose by 17.5%. Chief customer officer Sam Wignell said weather was a major factor on like-for-likes sales because, last year, UK temperatures were about 30°C versus the inclement weather last week. Wignell added: “We would expect to see some decline in drink sales owing to this but are encouraged by the continued re-emergence of the public eating out.”
S4labour is a Propel BeatThe Virus campaign member

Sector executives predict better winter as summer is written off: Despite the doom and gloom among hospitality and leisure sector leaders for this summer, confidence is high for an upturn in fortunes this winter. Just 6% of more than 300 business executives responding to a Barclays Corporate Banking survey are confident of growth this summer yet 83% believe winter will bring some cheer. On average, businesses predict their earnings will fall by 41% year-on-year when comparing 2020 with 2019, and almost two fifths (39%) say they’ve been ‘kept afloat’ by the VAT cut to 5% – a figure that peaks at 55% for cafés. Some 76% of survey respondents claim there will be a noticeable boost thanks to number of people enjoying staycations this summer. Mike Saul, Head of Hospitality and Leisure, Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “The hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit and the road ahead is tough. The government schemes, particularly the Eat Out To Help scheme has given the industry a massive and much needed short-term boost. While many bosses in the industry have essentially written off this year it is pleasing to see they are feeling more confident in the run up to winter and into next year.” Another emerging development is for companies to review their rental agreements with landlords. From Barclays Corporate Banking’s study, more than a quarter of sector leaders (26%) said they will be having conversations with landlords in the near future. Of that number, 13% will offer landlords shares in the business in exchange for rent while 10% will move towards a shared ownership scheme with landlords.

Strong support for local operators as diners save cash during Eat Out To Help Out programme: Families are saving hundreds of pounds while supporting independent operators thanks to the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. The BBC reports Daniel Davies-Luke, from Hartlepool, estimated he has saved £218 on meals out – often with his six-year-old daughter. Davies-Luke said: “We have tried to keep away from the chains as those guys have got big bank balances anyway. Apart from McDonald’s once, it’s all been independent places.” He also said going for meals under the government initiative was the “natural choice” because other traditional summer holiday activities were closed, and had taken advantage of the scheme three times in one day. Multi-site operator Linsey Scott, who runs Mason Belles Kitchen in Linlithgow and Dunblane, said the government is putting its money where its mouth is. Scott said: “The money is in my account in three to five days.” She amended her restaurants’ opening times to capitalise on the initiative and plans on carrying the offer on into September by funding it herself – albeit with a maximum discount of £5 per person, rather than £10.

UK footfall enjoys biggest Saturday jump in four weeks: Footfall on UK streets has gathered pace and enjoyed the biggest leap in Saturday week-to-week footfall for a month, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. The figures look at footfall in UK regions compared with a pre lock-down average base week in February. They showed footfall on Saturday (22 August) was up four percentage points on the previous week – its biggest rise since the end of July. The stand-out figures during the past week show Oxford Street in London enjoyed growth on Monday (17 August) and Tuesday (18 August) but this was tempered on Wednesday (19 August), likely due to heavy rain in the capital that day. Manchester remains static at the same level as the previous week with lock-down still in place. Edinburgh had a 12% increase on Saturday’s footfall (22 August) – the closest figures to the pre-March comparison at minus 22%.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Plans to reopen wet-led pubs in Northern Ireland postponed: Pubs in Northern Ireland have been given a major blow as the Executive decided to keep them shut despite a date being set for reopening next week. A proposed 10 August reopening was delayed until Tuesday (1 September) but those plans have also been scuppered. A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Executive said: “With the increased transmission rate of the virus in the community and the R number at around 1.3, the Executive agreed that no further restrictions will be lifted at this time. The indicative date of 1 September for the opening of wet pubs, private members’ clubs and audiences returning to theatres has not been ratified by the Executive. Officials have engaged with the different stakeholder bodies and no new indicative dates have been set.” The move will be sour for many operators, many of whom would have placed supply orders in anticipation of reopening.

Scotland’s hotel recovery programme must be followed by wider sector support, says UKHospitality: The Scottish government has launched its £14m hotel recovery programme, but UKHospitality has said it must be followed by wider industry support. The programme, which was announced last month, allows eligible businesses to apply for individual grants of up to £250,000 in addition to business support and advice. The programme is jointly administered by the Scottish government’s enterprise agencies. UKHospitality has said the scheme is a welcome boost for the sector, but it needs to be “the first step on the road to recovery”. Executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod said: “Hospitality businesses remain in rescue mode despite reopening more than a month ago. There is still a lot more that can and should be done to support Scottish hotels and the wider tourism and hospitality sectors that are so vitally important to the Scottish economy. We hope the programme is followed by further, more extensive support from both UK and Scottish governments to help the industry get back on its feet and keep as many jobs safe as possible.”
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Eat Out To Help Out helps restaurant operators boost like-for-like sales by 35% at Liverpool ONE: Restaurant operators at Liverpool ONE have recorded sales 35% higher than Monday to Wednesday figures in 2019, thanks to the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Turnover for the remainder of the week is, on average, 9% higher compared with last year. Footfall at the complex is 86% of volumes experienced at the same time last year while sales are at 88% – both figures are exceeding UK averages by 7% and 10% respectively, Liverpool ONE’s owner Grosvenor Europe said. Alison Clegg, director, asset management, Grosvenor Europe, said: “Liverpool ONE’s combination of detailed planning, wide streets and open-air layout has certainly been a great advantage for us to be able to welcome visitors back within a safe, yet atmospheric, environment. With 98% of retailers reopened and trading, effective dining initiatives in place, and summer enlivenment programmes on offer, these figures accurately reflect the steady increase in activity and demand that we’ve seen over the past few weeks, and expect to see continue in the coming months.” Dining performance has also benefited from Liverpool ONE’s involvement in the city’s £450,000 “Without Walls” initiative, which has provided additional external alfresco covers for visitors.

Background music ban is ‘kiss of death’ for Scottish restaurants: Restaurant owners in Scotland have claimed a ban on background music in venues is putting businesses at risk. The reason for a hush on music is so diners do not have to raise their voices to be heard – something the Scottish government says raises the risk of covid-19 transmissions. James Thomson, owner of The Witchery restaurant and the five-star Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh, told the BBC: “This is a nonsense for restaurants. No size fits all. Very loud music in nightclubs could cause people to lean in to each other but in hotels and restaurants background music adds a little bit of ambience. Having no music at all is the kiss of death in terms of atmosphere for us and there is no logic behind such a blanket ban.” The rule was introduced on 14 August.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking for a head of reservations and revenue for a tour operator in Warrington. This position is paying between £70,000 and £85,000 and will oversee reservations departments across all sites (restaurants and rooms), ensuring the departments run efficiently as per standard operating procedures and high customer service standards. The individual will have experience of revenue management, sales and pricing strategy, forecasting and budgeting, competitive and demand analysis, monitoring and driving commercial performance. Anyone interested can email their CV or profile to Lara@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

TRG announces further leisure brand reopenings: The Restaurant Group (TRG) is set to reopen more Chiquito, Frankie & Benny’s, Coast to Coast and Filling Station sites. A further 12 Chiquito venues – including Liverpool Edge Lane and Manchester Printworks – are set to reopen for click and collect, delivery and dine-in from bank holiday Monday (31 August) following the restart of three sites on Monday (24 August). Frankie & Benny’s in Bury St Edmunds will open Thursday (27 August) for click and collect, delivery and dine-in along with delivery options from 14 other sites, including Tamworth and Oxford. Meanwhile two Coast to Coast and three Filling Station operations began full reopening on Monday (24 August). Leisure division chief executive Mark Chambers said: “We are delighted to be reopening more of our restaurants and very much look forward to welcoming back our guests. Our priority will be to ensure the health and safety of our teams and guests while providing a first-class experience. We are very pleased with the feedback we have received from returning guests so far and we will be monitoring feedback very closely to ensure we continue to deliver a great and safe experience.” All dine-in outfits in the TRG stable are taking part in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out initiative.

Itsu to reopen nine more venues and offers chance to win 50% off menu items: Itsu will reopen a further nine sites, offer customers the chance to win a 50% off card and is launching nine new recipes. Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, will reopen sites on Friday (28 August), which it claims are some of the firm’s most popular venues, including The Shard and Regent Street. Metcalfe said: “It was heart-breaking for us to close in March, so the fact we are reopening our doors just makes me well-up with gratitude. I wanted to celebrate this big moment by giving back to our beloved returning customers.” Winners of the “pink card” will be entitled to 50% off all menu items, including sushi, broths and bao buns for three months. Itsu will also give gifts such as free sushi boxes and refill flasks to the first 1,000 customers back to each of its UK stores and restaurants, visiting stores or ordering via delivery. New recipes will includes the debut of veggie meatballs and coconut pot’soup.

McDonald’s widens Easterbrook probe: McDonald’s is examining whether former chief executive Steve Easterbrook covered up improprieties by other McDonald’s employees. The Wall Street Journal said there are fears potential misconduct took place within the company’s human resources department because former managers have alleged their complaints were ignored and they were scared of a backlash for reporting misconduct. Easterbrook was sacked in November over a consensual relationship with an employee but the business received information that he had been involved in multiple affairs with staff members. McDonald’s said: “The board will follow the facts wherever they may lead.” New chief executive Chris Kempczinski has vowed to improve the firm’s work environment and hired Boeing’s Heidi Capozzi as its new global chief people officer.

Qoot to open The Lebanese Bakery in Harrods for second London site, plans further expansion: Qoot Restaurant Group, which operates a number of fast-growing brands in London, is to open a second The Lebanese Bakery site in the capital, within department store Harrods. It follows the launch of the first London outlet, in Covent Garden in 2018 – and more are set to follow. The Lebanese Bakery is the creation of brothers Samer and Bassam Chamoun. They opened the first site in 2016 and as well as the Covent Garden venue they also have an outlet in Bahrain. Two more are in the pipeline – in Riyadh and Cairo. As well as its signature offer, the restaurant and bakery in Harrods will feature some exclusive dishes including aubergine fattoush, lentil tabbouleh and cauliflower freekeh salads. Scot Turner, vice-president of operations at Qoot, said: “Following the success of our first opening in Covent Garden we have ambitious plans for The Lebanese Bakery, and despite the current climate we are confident of our expansion. We have seen such big demand for the food concept, driven largely by the increase in popularity of Lebanese cuisine within the city and this allows us to cater for more of that demand, especially in such a renowned location. Covid-19 has been challenging for us and the industry overall but we are looking for opportunities as they arise and will have more plans to announce soon.” Samer Chamoun added: “As a Lebanese-born brand coming from a neighbourhood in Beirut, we take pride in being in such a prestigious institution like Harrods. This will be a great opportunity to promote the Lebanese food culture to an exclusive and international crowd.” Qoot’s other brands include plant-based brand By Chloe and delivery brand Vegan Dough Co. 

Star Pubs & Bars invests £250,000 to continue discount eating-out initiative: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is ploughing £250,000 into its Just Add Talent (JAT) managed operator pubs so they can continue to offer 50% off meals from Monday to Wednesday during September. The move by Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is to consolidate food sales growth at JAT managed pubs, which have risen from 14% to 30% of pub turnover during the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Four new premium mains dishes are being added to the menu to meet a trend towards premiumisation, which the government initiative fuelled. There will be no cap on individual expenditure with customers able to use the scheme as often as they like. Star Pubs & Bars retail concept manager Beki Davies said: “The dishes we sold during the Eat Out To Help Out scheme reflect the change in profile of customers and in their desire to trade up, which wasn’t immediate but continued to grow over three weeks. For the first time, our children’s menu and desserts made our top ten best-sellers. We sold 680 rump steaks in the first week compared to 1,800 last week. While we expected to see a rise in food sales Monday to Wednesday, we actually saw a week-on-week increase in Thursday to Sunday total sales. Customers are changing their behaviour, coming out more often and increasing their spend per head.” The Eat Out To Help Out programme saw turnover across the JAT estate increase by 43% since pubs reopened post lock-down. Star Pubs & Bars owns 2,500 pubs, of which about 130 operate on its JAT model.

Papa John’s continues to see sales soar as international like-for-likes jump: Papa John’s has continued to see sales soar with like-for-likes in North America up 24.2% for the period between 27 July and 23 August. The company, which had a record-breaking second quarter, also saw international like-for-like sales jump from 6% in June to 23.3% in the reported period. “Papa John’s sales, driven by product innovation, remained strong in August,” president and chief executive Rob Lynch said. “As we have added new customers throughout 2020, our customer satisfaction and brand affinity scores also continue rising. Our international business gained further momentum in August too and continues to improve as more countries across the globe open back up for business.” As of the third week in August, 150 of the company’s 2,100 international stores remain closed, mostly in areas of Europe and Latin America, as recovery from the pandemic continues. Papa John’s also reiterated it would be continuing to release monthly updates as “the uncertainty and volatility related to the pandemic” continued.

Treetop Adventure Golf tees up Birmingham site for fourth venue: Discovery Adventure Golf, a partnership between former Goldman Sachs entrepreneur Elizabeth Stanway and experienced leisure operator Chris Richards, has secured a site for its Treetop Adventure Golf concept in Birmingham. The site – its fourth in total – will open at the Bullring shopping centre in the spring following an investment of more than £2.5m. Treetop Adventure Golf has signed a 25-year lease for the former Forever21 unit with landlord Hammerson. The site will offer two indoor 18-hole mini golf courses – the Tropical Trail and Ancient Explorer – as well as a bonus 19th hole that gives guests the chance to win a free round. The food and drink offer will include pizza from “Pizza Cabana”, cocktails and mocktails from The Thirsty Toucan bar, as well as coffee from the Rainforest Roast Cafe. Stanway said: “The Bullring is a landmark location and we can’t wait to be a part of the fantastic offering.” Iain Mitchell, UK commercial director at Hammerson, added: “It’s clear now, more than ever, consumers are looking for a memorable experience, something they can share with their friends and family. Treetop Adventure Golf delivers that in spades, and I am certain it will be a great addition to Bullring. It’s a challenging time for the retail and hospitality sectors, but the investment Treetop is making in the site highlights that strong brands with a distinctive offer are still seeking growth opportunities.” Treetop Adventure Golf also operates sites in Cardiff, Leicester and Manchester.

Whitbread increases discount for NHS and front-line workers: Whitbread is offering an increased discount for Blue Light Card members of up to 33% off their food bill this September. The offer is exclusive to Blue Light members who dine in any of its restaurants, UK-wide, on presentation of their membership card. The increase in discount is also open to Defence Privilege Card holders. Only one card per party is required though a minimum purchase of two main meals from the main restaurant menu must be made. Phil Birbeck, managing director of Whitbread Restaurants, said: “Those working in the NHS and all the public services dedicate their lives to helping others and, since the start of the pandemic, it has made us all appreciate their work more now than ever. Now our restaurants are open again we want to show our thanks.” The Blue Light Card is available to those working in the NHS, emergency services, social care sector and armed forces.

Signature Living announces deal to ‘protect all areas’ of the business: Aparthotel firm Signature Living has thrashed out a deal with investors “to protect business” and plans to open four hotels and create 500 jobs. Owner Lawrence Kenwright said the deal will help refinance parent company Signature Living Hotel Ltd, parts of which fell into administration during the past 12 months. A company statement read: “We have decided to align ourselves with a group of our investors by creating two new companies that will house a range of assets along with our trading businesses. These new companies will also be exploring funding options to buy back those assets that have been placed into administration. Put simply, this new structure will see Signature Living continue to grow, continue to deliver wonderfully unique experiences for its customers, continue to create new jobs and deliver new hotels and developments.” The statement said there are plans to open four more hotels and create 500 jobs within the next six months, and added: “We believe our future is now stronger than ever.”

Inn Collection Group launches recruitment campaign focusing on flexible working, creating more than 200 jobs: The Inn Collection Group has launched a recruitment campaign that centres on flexible working for staff and is creating more than 200 jobs. The company is rolling out its INNtelligent campaign across the group’s 13 pubs with rooms in Northumberland, County Durham, Yorkshire and the Lake District. Flexible working hours and a raft of employee benefits, including free online training, bonuses plus family and friends’ discount, are key features of the campaign. In Cumbria alone, the group is offering more than 200 full and part-time positions. Managing director Sean Donkin said: “Our INNtelligent campaign is all about building a happy, skilled team across our inns. We want to dispel the old school mentality that jobs in hospitality equate to long, unsociable hours, working every weekend and low rates of pay. INNtelligent recognises people are individuals with differing needs and requirements when it comes to work. We are offering people more flexibility with full and part-time positions in roles ranging from chefs and kitchen opportunities through to housekeeping, maintenance and front of house. It’s all about working with people to find solutions that are a fit for everyone.” The Alchemy-backed group has invested more than £100,000 in free, online training for its workforce, including a bespoke training app that takes staff on a learning journey, from initial induction to core modules such as food hygiene and customer service, up to management level.

Meatless Farm launches plant-based drive-thru: Meatless Farm has launched a pop-up drive-thru diner targeting meat eaters. Taking place at the American Car Wash in Hackney, east London, the stand-out item on the menu is the McBluffin – a plant-based take on the McDonald’s breakfast staple. However the drive-thru is not just for cars – bikes and walkers are welcome with dedicated service lanes. Meatless Farm has collaborated with street food, burger maestros, Mother Flipper, to recreate its classic mighty meaty menu but without the meat. The drive-thru will run from Wednesday (26 August) to Monday (31 August). Meatless Farm founder Morten Toft-Bech said: “We’ve been working hard over many years to perfect our original burger patty recipe. Our unique blending process uses ingredients like pea protein alongside other plant-based goodness to create a remarkably meaty experience. The only way to get the world eating more sustainably is to make delicious food. We hope that our drive-thru is another step towards making plant-based a preference rather than an option.” Meatless Farm claims if everyone in the UK swapped just one more red meat meal to a plant-based meal per week, it could cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 8.4% – the equivalent of taking 16 million cars off the road.

Halewood to shut Huyton site and make redundancies: Halewood Wines & Spirits will close its Merseyside headquarters as covid-19 continues to crunch sales. The company will give employees the opportunity to apply for voluntary redundancies while the business seeks alternative warehouse facilities “within a 15-mile radius” of its site in Huyton. The company, whose core products include Whitley Neill gin, Liverpool Gin, Crabbie’s and Dead Man’s Fingers rum, said: “We are committed to our ongoing strategy of building a range of premium artisanal spirits with strong provenance. However, the impact of covid-19 and the recent abolition of duty dilution has had a major impact on our sales mix, meaning our carbonated drinks have become less profitable. Consequently, we are considering outsourcing Lambrini to a contract packer, and moving the production and bottling of Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer to our manufacturing site in Chorley.” However, Halewood claimed it is enjoying “strong international growth” for its premium brands. The current Huyton site is a 30-acre facility with six bottling lines, capable of producing 28m cases per year. Some operation roles are expected to transfer to the business’s Chorley site in Lancashire.

Neighbourhood cafe Beam to open third London site, in Notting Hill next month: Independent neighbourhood cafe Beam is pressing ahead with plans to open its third London site, in Notting Hill, next month. Beam focuses on healthy breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes inspired by Mediterranean and British cuisine. The site in Westbourne Grove, which will launch on Monday, 7 September, will feature mid-century modern interiors to create a “warm, cosy and chic vibe”. The Beam menu includes goat’s cheese and beetroot benedict, Turkish eggs and a vegan breakfast alongside halloumi wraps, gluten-free buttermilk pancakes and brioche French toast. Family-run Beam made its debut in Crouch End in 2013, opening a second site, in Highbury, five years later. Founders Ozgur and Sidar Akyuz said: “We are excited to bring Beam to west London. We hope to provide locals with a space to catch up with friends and family over breakfast and brunch.”

Beavertown opens ‘London’s largest brewery’: London-based brewer Beavertown, which sold a minority stake to Heineken in 2018, has opened the “capital's largest brewery” in an expansion that will create 150 more jobs. The £40m from the Heineken investment has funded the site in Enfield, dubbed Beaverworld, which will make 90 million pints annually as Beavertown increases its capacity tenfold. Builders started work on the site early last year and the brewery is recruiting 150 more staff as it starts selling its first beers produced at the brewery. Founder Logan Plant said the expansion would help drive his aim of getting the beer “in the hands of people in every pub on every street corner”. “It’s been quite the journey to turn this from home brewing at the kitchen table to making beer in London’s biggest brewery,” he told PA. “It’s been three years in the planning, from when we needed to expand from the Tottenham Hale brewery. This is even bigger than we first planned and really does show the leaps and bounds we’ve been able to make.” Plant said about 85% of its revenue was cut off after pubs and restaurants were forced to close, but revenues have steadily improved in recent weeks after hospitality businesses reopened. Plant said: “Covid-19 has absolutely had an impact but we are seeing signs it will shift back towards a more normal pattern.” Jochen Van Esch, craft development director for Heineken added: “Logan and his team of highly creative craft visionaries will be able to experiment and collaborate with other brewers and share knowledge, ultimately adding excitement to the British beer scene, value to pubs and more choice for beer lovers.”

Hollywood Bowl opens new £2.8m York site: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, has opened a new site in York following a £2.8m investment. The 24-lane site forms part of the 28,000 square foot York Stadium leisure complex and sits alongside a range of other food and drink operators. The new Hollywood Bowl, which has created 30 jobs, features plush furnishings, contemporary American decor, four exclusive VIP lanes and an American-style diner. In accordance with coronavirus-safe conditions, booking slots are less frequent to control capacity, with only alternate lanes in use, and amusement machines – as well as bar and dining seating – are spaced out.

Bespoke reopens Warwickshire hotel following £5.6m refurbishment: Independent hotel group Bespoke has reopened the Billesley Manor hotel in Warwickshire following a £5.6m refurbishment. The 16th century manor house hotel near Stratford-upon-Avon has been transformed during lock-down, with upgrades made to its Stuart Restaurant as well as the majority of its 71 bedrooms. General manager Stephen Fearnley said: “The unprecedented closure of the hotel has, of course, been both challenging and disappointing. However, we’ve remained positive by channelling our energy into our refurbishment programme, using this period as a time for transformation and improvement so that guests will have an even more enjoyable experience.” The hotel’s spa and leisure facilities have also reopened in line with the government’s current guidelines to include the treatment rooms, heated indoor pool and fitness centre.

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