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Tue 1st Sep 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Operators unite to call for more action to get London back to normal: More than 90 hospitality business leaders operating in London and trade body UKHospitality have warned unless there is a co-ordinated campaign to encourage tourists and office workers back to London, the capital’s hospitality and tourism sectors are at real risk of failure. In a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson and mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the businesses have highlighted the acute risk to London’s hospitality and tourism sectors, as well as retail leisure and supply chains, if tourists and office workers are not encouraged to return. The letter calls on the leaders to put politics aside and deliver a co-ordinated campaign to support businesses reliant in these income streams and help save potentially tens of thousands of jobs. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The capital is at a very real risk of finding itself totally left behind the rest of the UK and global competitors. Around the country, life is beginning to return to some degree of normality. People are returning to work and hospitality businesses are slowly starting to bounce back from a disastrous few months. Outside of London, we are seeing trading back to 70% of pre-covid levels, in some cases. The case is much bleaker in London. Some businesses are struggling to hit double figures and the reality is businesses are going to fail, with the associated job losses, if nothing is done. Hospitality and tourism businesses in London rely in large part on the twin revenue streams of tourists and office workers. Visit Britain’s latest forecast for inbound tourism to the UK in 2020 shows a decline of 73% in visits and a decline of 79% in spending. The estimated drop in London’s international tourism spend is £12bn. The latest estimates also show only 30% of British office workers are back at their desks and only 15% of businesses expect the majority of staff to be back by the end of September. London needs its workers and tourism to survive. Unless action is taken to get people back into the city, hospitality and tourism businesses, retail, leisure and supply chain businesses, which combine to provide 20% of all employment in London, will be ruined. This goes beyond politics. There must be a joined-up plan from both the government in Westminster and the mayor’s office to get London back up and running again. Otherwise, we will see widespread job losses and the destruction of years of progress in establishing London as one of the world’s leading cities for commerce and tourism.”
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Industry News: 

Further operators offer discounts into September on back of Eat Out To Help Out: Further operators are offering discounts into September as they extend the Eat Out To Help Out scheme from their own pockets. Stonegate Pub Company will offer 50% off food and soft drinks at all Slug and Lettuce sites and selected pubs between Monday and Wednesday with no cap on the discount. Brewer and retailer Greene King is continuing the 50% off, up to £10 per person, from Monday to Wednesday at its Metropolitan Pub Company and Loch Fyne sites. TGI Friday’s is offering free appetisers from Monday to Wednesday for the first two weeks of the month. The deal will be available to guests dining in when they order a main meal. To redeem, guests will simply have to present the offer on the TGI Friday’s rewards app to staff before ordering. Revolution Bars Group, which operates the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, will offer 50% off food and soft drinks from Monday to Wednesday as will Tasty-owned Wildwood on production of its email confirming the offer. Burger & Lobster is reverting back to its 2011 pricing for the month, including a luxury lobster feast or the famous lobster roll for £20. The offer will be available all-day every day at all sites, with the dishes also served with a side of fries and house salad. Burger & Lobster will also continue to deliver via Deliveroo while customers can also make their own burger or lobster at home through the Prime Feast service. JKS Restaurants, led by Karam, Jyotin and Sunaina Sethi, has extended a selection of special offers and discounts across the restaurants for the month of September. Indian barbecue, beer and whisky bar Brigadiers and Michelin-starred restaurants Gymkhana and Trishna will offer 20% off the full menu – excluding alcohol – on select days and times. Diners will have to quote “Stay Eating Out” when booking. Meanwhile, the company is introducing two new discounts across its three Hoppers sites. All diners enjoying the Taste of Hoppers tasting menu before 6.30pm on weekdays will receive a free drink; while the late-night set menu features unlimited hoppers or dosas for guests after 9.30pm from Monday to Thursday. JKS' Berenjak restaurant in Soho will continue offering a bottomless kabab menu from 9.30pm each evening. The restaurant will also be supporting fellow hospitality workers throughout September with 50% off food – up to a maximum of £10. London-based Italian restaurant Emilia’s Crafted Pasta will offer 50% off pasta only – up to £10 per person discount – on Mondays and Tuesdays at its Aldgate site.
 
Sunak encourages consumers to continue to dine out: Chancellor Rishi Sunak is urging UK consumers to continue eating out at restaurants, as he winds up the government’s subsidised dining scheme. The move comes after diners have claimed more than 64 million meals – the equivalent of one for almost every person in the country – since the scheme was introduced to help preserve hospitality jobs in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. Sunak said: “I want to say thank you to the diners who have fallen back in love with their local, to the managers who have spent weeks ensuring their restaurants were safe and to the chefs, waiters and waitresses across the country who have worked tirelessly, sometimes with more customers than they’ve ever had before – all helping to protect 1.8 million jobs in the hospitality sector. The scheme reminded us why we as a nation love dining out and I urge diners to maintain the momentum to help continue our economic recovery.”
 
Sector bosses demand government intervention as end of rent moratorium looms: Sector bosses have called on the government to intervene to prevent more job losses as a stand-off with landlords over rents looms. In April, the government introduced a moratorium on business evictions that ends on 30 September, shortly after the next quarterly rent day where tenants have to pay for the next three months’ occupancy. Some tenants have agreed six-month rent holidays with landlords, but many have not and now fear they will be unable to pay the outstanding rent, after suffering three months of closure in lock-down. Serial sector investor Hugh Osmond told the Evening Standard: “If something is not done about the backlog then we are going to see huge number of closures. Even among the big chains there is no one that has the cash to afford six months of back rent. The VAT concession has meant some businesses that would have lost money at their current prices can just about make money. But it’s the backlog that’s the real issue.” David Page, chairman of Fulham Shore, which owns Franco Manca and The Real Greek, said: “I would like to see the government extend the moratorium, not for ever and a day, but for a further six months. This would encourage both parties to thrash out reasonable compromises within that time frame.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “There remains a huge sum of rent unpaid and many businesses will never be able to pay this debt and many landlords cannot afford to sustain losses of this scale. We need the government to step in and provide rent support, otherwise we will see more businesses closed and the needless loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.” The British Property Federation, however, said the moratorium must end because it “continues to fuel the non-payment of rent among large, well-capitalised businesses”. A government spokesman said: “This government recognises the huge challenges faced by commercial tenants and landlords during this period and we’re working closely with them to ensure they are supported.”
 
Monday to Wednesday sales up 4.3% in final full week of Eat Out To Help Out: Sales were up 4.3% between Monday and Wednesday compared with the previous week, in what was the final full week of Eat Out To Help Out. Figures from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, also showed they were up 1.8% on the week before that, and down 0.5% on the opening week of the scheme. Weekday sales in the final week of the scheme were also up a 82.4% on the week prior to it being introduced. There have been regional differences in the rate of recovery, particularly when comparing between sites inside and outside London. While Monday to Wednesday sales were up 60.1% of pre-Eat Out To Help Out levels in the capital, they were up 85.7% outside London. Sales for the final full week of the scheme were also up 38.7%, on last year, with food sales making up the majority of the growth – up 66.8% and drink sales rising 9.6%. S4labour chief customer officer Sam Wignell said: “Eat Out To Help Out has given many people an incentive to get back to eating and drinking out and operators a welcome boost to sales. We have seen fully booked restaurants and queues for tables. As we prepare for life without the government scheme, we know customers' confidence in the sector has started to return and their appetite has grown.” 
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 
Campaign to launch encouraging workers back to offices: People will again be encouraged to go back to their workplaces as part of a government campaign starting this week. Employers are being asked to reassure staff it is safe to return by highlighting measures taken to prevent the spread of covid-19. Business leaders have warned of damage being done to city centres as people stay away from offices. However, Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents civil servants, said ministers needed to accept the “world of work has changed” and millions of employees were working from home successfully. Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are still advising people to work from home if possible. A BBC study found 50 major UK employers had no plans to return all staff to the office full-time in the near future. One of the main reasons given was firms could not see a way of accommodating large numbers of staff while social distancing regulations were still in place. In May, prime minister Boris Johnson said people who could not work from home – such as those in construction and manufacturing – should return to the workplace. Then in July, he told people to “start to go back to work now if you can” and has repeated the plea since then.
 
Gatwick – ‘four to five years’ for passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels: It will take “four to five years” for passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels, Gatwick Airport has said. The West Sussex airport experienced a 61.3% fall in revenue and a £321m loss between January and June, compared with the same period in 2019. Ebitda in the reported period plummeted 98.3%. The prediction on numbers came after the airport announced 600 jobs cuts. Passenger numbers fell from 22.2 million to 7.5 million during the period. Gatwick stated: “The restructuring will better align the business to passenger and air traffic forecasts while allowing it to remain agile should demand recover faster than expected. The recovery period to pre-pandemic traffic levels is forecast to be four to five years.”
 
Eat Out To Help Out key to speedy UK economic recovery but fears over unemployment voiced: The UK is making the fastest economic recovery from covid-19 of the G7 countries according to the Guardian’s latest monthly tracker of economic news, thanks largely to the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. But trade union TUC claimed more support is needed to avoid an unemployment catastrophe as businesses have announced redundancies faster than during the 2008 global financial crisis. Retail spending has also returned back to pre-covid levels. However, the end of the furlough initiative means companies have started to make many positions redundant. TUC director general Frances O’Grady said: “Without urgent action, we face the prospect of mass unemployment on a scale not seen since the 1980s.” O’Grady also issued a plea to chancellor Rishi Sunak. She said: “There is still time to stop mass unemployment. We worked together once before as this crisis began. I will work with you again if you are serious at stemming the haemorrhage of jobs.” The tracker uses eight economic indicators, plus the level of the FTSE 100, to track the impact on jobs and growth from covid-19 and the measures used to contain it. In the past month, private sector business activity has risen at the fastest pace in seven years as companies race to catch up on work put on hold during lock-down.
 
Hospitality Ulster calls for coronavirus guidelines to be made mandatory as nine premises receive prohibition notices: Hospitality Ulster has written to Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann asking for coronavirus guidelines for the sector to be made mandatory because the current guidance “lacks power”. It comes after police issued prohibition notices to nine licensed premises for breaching the coronavirus guidelines. A prohibition notice means the venue must close and remain shut until police are satisfied the rules can be adhered to. Of the notices, one was served in Banbridge, two in Irvinestown, two in Roslea and one in Tempo. Swann said there had been a “blatant disregard” for covid-19 regulations by some in the hospitality sector, and he would ask the executive to “prioritise” stronger legislation to deal with the issue. Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said licensed premises that flout covid-19 guidelines should be shut. “Unfortunately, the vast majority end up suffering because of these people,” he said. “We have written to the health minister asking him to turn the guidance into legislation to make it enforceable and then come down heavily on anyone who breaches the regulations and puts people’s lives at risk.”
 
Newcastle nightclubs face last dance without support as £340m economy remains largely closed: The night-time economy in Newcastle, which is valued at £340m per year, faces collapse because nightclubs have not been able to reopen. NE1, the business improvement district (BID) for the city, has called for help as 6,500 people’s livelihoods are at risk. NE1 chief executive Adrian Waddell said: “We need the government to step in to support nightclubs, one of the last remaining sectors of the economy that is still being forced to remain closed. Nightclubs are the forgotten industry. In Newcastle, these venues make a huge contribution to the city’s night-time economy as well as giving the city its unique vibrancy. We want and need them to survive lock-down and be in a strong position to reopen when it is safe to do so. Without financial help, this is not going to be possible and Newcastle will be poorer for it. We need to ensure we don’t lose these venues forever.” NE1 wants the government to provide a rescue package for sites affected until they can safely reopen. It would also like an extension to the furlough scheme for businesses such as nightclubs.
 
UK hotel to offer safari-style break: A new luxury hotel opening at the Port Lympne reserve in Kent will allow Brits to have a safari-style break without leaving the UK. The venue’s Giraffe Lodge has been two years in the making, and is dubbed the first of its kind in the western hemisphere. The accommodation, due to open next summer, will be in the 15th century grade II-listed timber-framed Wealden hall house – and feature ten en-suite bedrooms, and an additional five luxury cabins. Overlooking The African Experience, Giraffe Lodge will give guests the opportunity to get up close to animals usually only observed in the wild. A route for giraffes is also being created in the surrounding landscaped gardens. A Port Lympne spokesman told The Mirror: “Once completed, the hotel will offer a luxury safari feel while incorporating the comforts and decor of an English stately home.” The on-site restaurant at the safari park, near Ashford, is also being revamped to include an outdoor decking area.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking to speak to experienced and ambitious HR business partners for a upcoming London position. This senior HR business partner role, paying £60,000, will see the successful candidate join a European omni-channel retail business, which has a fantastic people culture. As the company grows, maintaining values and inspiring its people to live them is essential to the continued success of the business. This role will be responsible for driving the people agenda across the individual’s business areas while supporting everyday HR activities and queries. Five-plus years of HR experience and retail experience is essential while European experience would be beneficial. Anyone interested can send their CV to Gemma@crecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News:

Inn Collection Group buys 15th site: The Inn Collection Group have taken its pubs with rooms portfolio to 15 with the purchase of a fifth Lake District site. The north of England operator has acquired the 20-bedroom Churchill Inn in Ambleside. The multimillion-pound deal is the group’s second Lakes acquisition of 2020 and its second venue in Ambleside. The Churchill Inn will be closed temporarily before trading independently until the start of a major redevelopment, which is set to take place later this year, to bring the site into the group’s “eat, drink, sleep and explore” philosophy. The Inn Collection Group’s managing director Sean Donkin said: “We’re looking forward to unlocking the venue’s full potential and investing in what will be a valuable new addition for locals and visitors to the Lake District here in Ambleside as we continue to grow our customer base and group foothold across the north of England.” The group’s existing Ambleside venue, The Ambleside Inn, opened in December following a major refurbishment, while the company’s 42-bedroom The Coniston Inn in Coniston opened on 1 August, following an 18-month redevelopment. Elsewhere, the group’s trading portfolio includes sites in Northumberland, County Durham and Yorkshire with a 40-bedroom new-build development under construction on Sunderland’s seafront. The Alchemy-backed group, which is supported through banking by OakNorth, is continuing to push ahead with its strategic “buy and build” expansion across the north of England to more than double its portfolio within the next two years. 
 
BrewDog lines up raft of new bar openings, including franchise site with Red’s True Barbecue: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has lined up a further 11 bar openings across both the UK and internationally, including a franchise site with Tokyo Industries-owned smokehouse brand Red’s True Barbecue. Propel understands Red’s will operate its current site in Headingley as a BrewDog bar under franchise. The two companies currently work together at the BrewDog site in Leicester. BrewDog also plans to open second sites in Manchester (Fountain Street) and Paris, while also making its debut in Shanghai, Wiesbaden, Lincoln, Huddersfield, Bradford, Plymouth and Mumbai. It will also open a DogTap site in Ellon, Scotland. The openings will be a mixture of company-owned and franchise sites. 
 
Bill’s to reopen further four sites: Bill’s, the Richard Caring-backed restaurant group, will reopen a further four of its sites in September, but as yet not put a date on when it will reopen its remaining 22 sites, with speculation continuing many will remain permanently closed. The group’s sites in High Wycombe and Muswell Hill will reopen on Friday (4 September) and those in Camberley and Hammersmith on Friday, 18 September. That leaves sites in locations including High Street Kensington, Glasgow, Ealing, Taunton and Oxford still closed. In August, Propel revealed Bill’s was set to close parts of its 78-strong estate. It’s thought the business has earmarked a number of sites for closure. One industry source suggested the number of closures could be more than 20 including Glasgow, the group’s only site in Scotland; Worcester and some in central London.
 
Fuller’s developing technology to allow consumers to view pub floor plans: Fuller’s, the Simon Emeny-led pub company, is currently developing technology that will allow people to view the floor plans of its different pubs when they are booking a table online. Emeny told The Telegraph booking online will also become the new norm for customers, even in pubs. He said: “Customers have got in the habit of booking tables electronically. In future, we’re going to let customers choose which table they want to have. When groups now sit down at tables, even if they’re there just to drink, they will want to order electronically rather than visit the bar. That’s a preference, particularly for women in pubs who may have been intimidated by going up to a bar. The ability to be able to order from a phone will be something they might want to stay.”

McDonald's labels ex-chief executive Steve Easterbrook ‘morally bankrupt’: McDonald's has labelled Steve Easterbrook “morally bankrupt” as it asked a judge to reject its former chief executive’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to reclaim the $40m severance he was paid after his firing last year. The company sued Easterbrook earlier this month in the Delaware Court of Chancery, accusing him of lying and covering up his inappropriate relationships with at least three employees while negotiating his severance package. Easterbrook was fired in November 2019 after he admitted to a consensual relationship with one of the employees – and McDonald's now claims an internal probe found he lied to investigators and the board about additional relationships in an effort to get more money upon his departure. Easterbrook filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on 14 August, claiming its allegations were meritless because the company had information about his relationships during the negotiations that was stored on his company email account. McDonald's responded to that motion on Monday (31 August), saying the evidence was “buried somewhere in the tens of thousands of his emails” and calling for Easterbrook's questions about the thoroughness of its investigation to be answered in court. In the latest court filing, McDonald’s said: “When McDonald’s investigated, its chief executive lied”, and Easterbrook’s argument amounts to “he cannot be liable because, as a matter of law, he did not hide his misconduct well enough”. A subsequent statement from McDonald’s said: “This brazen attempt at table-turning has no merit. He violated the company's policies, disrespected its values, and abused the trust of his co-workers, the board, our franchisees, and our shareholders. His argument he should not be held responsible for even repeated bad acts is morally bankrupt and fails under the law.” It is also alleged David Fairhurst, the company’s former head of global HR, was sacked for making women at the firm “feel uncomfortable”. Fairhurst, who was promoted to McDonald's chief people officer in 2015 by Easterbrook, was suddenly sacked last year after Easterbrook’s dismissal. At the time no reason was given for Fairhurst's dismissal and his family claimed he had been made a “scape-goat” for his boss, but allegations have now emerged the Wigan-born executive was also the subject of complaints from members of staff. The Wall Street Journal reported Heidi Capozzi, the new head of McDonald's HR, told staff during a meeting last week Fairhurst was fired for “making women at the company feel uncomfortable on numerous occasions at business events”.

Island Poke to extend discount Out scheme into September after a 242% jump in like-for-like dine-in sales: Island Poké, the London-based, White Rabbit Fund-backed business, is to extend the discount scheme into September, after seeing like-for-like dine-in sales jump 242% in August compared with the same month last year. Throughout September, customers dining in will receive 30% off their food and drink every Monday to Wednesday. The offer applies across all stores that have space allocated to dine in (six out of the seven currently open). Since reopening Island Poké have added more dishes to its “House Bowls” menu with a broader range of prices. With the offer in place, bowls will now start from £3.50 for a house salad bowl, and toppings such as avocado and miso aubergine will be an extra 70p. Island Poké founder James Porter said: “We’ve been blown away by the success of the scheme and we want to be a part of the continued effort to encourage people back out into hospitality venues. It’s right we do it in a way that’s sustainable for us, which is how we got to the 30% discount, but we feel this is still a compelling offer for our customers to take part in and look forward to continuing to welcome customers back to our stores.”
 
Boston Tea Party to give away 25,000 reusable cups: All-day dining casual cafe brand Boston Tea Party is to give away 25,000 reusable cups in September. Chief executive Sam Roberts said: “Boston Tea Party was the first chain to ban single-use coffee cups completely in 2018 and has already stopped 360,000 cups from going to landfill. After suffering an initial loss of £250,000 due to a drop in takeaway sales, we bounced back to have a record year in 2019. Now, the team aims to drive behaviour change by giving away 25,000 reusable cups (worth £250,000) in September, in a further attempt to drive the change the industry and ultimately the world needs to see. We’ve seen global brands take a huge step backwards on their ‘sustainability agenda’ using covid-19 as an excuse to no longer accept reusables. Even when deemed safe by science they drag their heels. Where are the outraged masses? Are we too tired to shout about the hypocrisy of a popular brand launching a reusable cup at a time when they will also refuse to refill it? Or the fact you can take a reusable cup in and receive a discount but you’ve got to actually drink your coffee from a takeaway cup? Are the big boys serious about being sustainable or is this just pure purpose washing? It’s easy for big chains to give away a 25p discount to the 5% of their takeaway customer base that actually use reusables. In September we’re introducing a 25p discount for every single takeaway customer, because we’ve believe it’s not a choice between planet or profit, you can choose both.” 
 
Stew & Oyster reports 120% sales boost during August from Eat Out To Help Out, extends scheme: Leeds-based bar group Stew & Oyster has reported sales in August between Monday and Wednesday were up 120% compared with last year, and will now extend the discount scheme into September out its own pocket. The company will offer 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks, up to the value of £10, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the month at its five sites. Operations director Jay Weir told Propel: “Most days at every site we have been full through August, with circa 60% being advance bookings – we’d never operated any kind of table booking system before 4 July. This investment through September will be significant for us, and we are wary of the perils of heavy discounting, but we have been given the chance to look after a large number of new customers thanks to the government scheme. We want as many more new people as possible to try our new menu we refreshed during lock-down.”
 
Goodbody – Greggs distribution centre coronavirus outbreak unlikely to hinder operations but could affect customer sentiment: Goodbody leisure analyst Jason Mollins has said the coronavirus outbreak at food-to-go retailer Greggs’ distribution centre in Leeds is unlikely to prove a hindrance operationally, but could affect customer sentiment. Greggs confirmed on Thursday (27 August) an undisclosed number of people working at the centre in Bramley tested positive. Following further tests, the company said more staff were found to have the virus and the centre was deep cleaned. Public Health England could not confirm the exact number of cases but told the BBC it was “fewer than 20”. Mollins said: “Given its manufacturing and distribution footprint across the UK, we expect Greggs to maintain its store operations despite the disruption at one of its distribution centres, noting it is likely to source product from some of its nearby centres, such as Manchester and Newcastle. However, we consider this outbreak is unhelpful for sentiment both from a customer and investor perspective.” Meanwhile, Greggs is looking to open a new drive-thru in Swansea. The company is seeking permission for the site on vacant land to the north of Langdon Road.
 
Boparan to bring back three more Carluccio’s sites: Boparan Restaurant Group will continue the gradual reopening of its Carluccio’s estate with another trio of sites. The company, which paid £3.2m to acquire 30 Carluccio’s sites and buy the rights to the brand in May, will reopen its Solihull outlet for delivery and click and collect on Tuesday, 8 September and then dine-in on Wednesday, 16 September. Meanwhile, its Chichester and Reading restaurants will reopen on Thursday, 10 September. The move will take the brand’s total number of reopened sites to 18.
 
Golden Union to make second reopening attempt after lack of footfall forces closure: Soho-based fish and chips concept Golden Union is to make a second reopening attempt after shutting due to the lack of footfall. Owners Kerry Brennan and Billy Drew tried to open the Poland Street site in mid-June, but were forced to close after a short spell because of the scarce number of people across central London. Now they will try again on Friday (4 September) to coincide with National Fish and Chip Day – offering free portions to the first 50 customers. Its new buttie menu will sit alongside its traditional offering of beer-battered fish ‘n’ chips, pies, sides and saveloys. Brennan said: “It’s been the toughest few months we’ve ever been through so we wanted to create an offer that people can really celebrate. Hopefully, it will mean we can try to start to put the lock-down period firmly in the past. I’m normally in the restaurant every day. I talk to our customers, the builders, office workers, the disenfranchised, the tourists, tired and hungry shoppers. In that respect, Golden Union provides a vital service and I’m gutted we had to take that away. I can’t wait to get stuck back into Soho again.” Brennan and Drew launched Golden Union in 2008. Deliveries will continue on Deliveroo and Orderswift.
 
Hong Kong-style egg waffle concept Bubblewrap opens second site, in Covent Garden: London-based waffle cone concept Bubblewrap has opened its second site, in Covent Garden. The company has opened the outlet within the Market Building, adding to its debut venue, in Chinatown. The new space is focused on grab and go, with just six seats inside, reports Hot Dinners. Bubblewrap is a Hong Kong egg waffle concept that cut its teeth as a festival food truck. An egg waffle is similar to a pancake and is cooked in a waffle iron, rolled up like an ice cream cone, topped with a scoop of gelato and covered in sauce and fruit.
 
Peel sells Leeds hotel to ambitious fledgling business: Yorkshire-based Peel Hotels has sold The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Leeds city centre for an undisclosed sum. The property has been acquired by the newly formed Belfont Hotels, which is a joint venture owned by the Thakerar and Dhamecha families, and plans to add further sites. The property, which will be managed by Countrywide Hotels on the families’ behalf, has 89 bedrooms and an extensive ground-floor lounge, bar and restaurant facilities. Keval Thakerar said: “Leeds city centre generates such strong corporate and leisure demand across the year and, once our investment has been undertaken, we will have one of the best hospitality venues in the city.” Peel said it decided to sell this property to focus on its remaining hotels across the UK. Christie & Co acted for Peel Hotels on the deal.

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