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Wed 2nd Sep 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Hawksmoor – a time is coming soon when restaurants have to stand on their own two feet without government help: Hawksmoor, the Graphite Capital-backed steakhouse concept, has said it won’t be extending the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, and said that a time is coming soon when “restaurants have to stand on their own two feet – without government help and with the conviction that their normal prices are the right ones”. In a blog on its website, the group said: “For Hawksmoor, we want that time to be now. We want to be able to run our restaurants with the confidence that the 14 years we have spent endlessly obsessing about our food, our restaurants and about the people who work in them mean that we can open our doors every day and feel proud that we’re doing things properly. That if we put everything into standards and service, if we continue to work closely with our amazing farmers, fishermen, winemakers, brewers and other suppliers, that Hawksmoor will work on its own terms. Of course, we have always tried to run our restaurants in such a way that people can enjoy them without breaking the bank. We will still have £5 corkage on a Monday, we’ll still have Sunday roasts for £23 and we’ll still have an express menu and, as we have a lower VAT rate, we’re going to reduce that to £20 for two courses. Eating for less at Hawksmoor has always been possible and now shouldn’t be any different. Within the next fortnight or so, as we open Hawksmoor Knightsbridge and Guildhall, we will have all our restaurants open again. That is something we’ve been dreaming of since March.” At the same time, Grace Regan, founder of SpiceBox, the London-based vegan curry house concept, has argued that independent restaurants will be put at risk if the Eat Out To Help Out scheme is extended. And that people must understand the real value of food rather than it being a cheap commodity. Regan said: “I have nothing but positive things to say about Eat Out To Help Out. It’s put a lot of pressure on operators but it has been reassuring to see our streets and restaurants busy again. However, operators have taken it upon themselves to extend Eat Out To Help Out at their own expense... and, potentially, the expense of the future of many independent restaurants. Extending Eat Out To Help Out is a terrible idea. For starters, running a restaurant is really bloody expensive. We have to pay rent, business rates, staff and for food. How do we cover these costs? By fairly pricing the food on our menu. It’s all well and good for the big brands but for small restaurant businesses, covering the costs of a 50% discount isn’t viable. But my main issue with extending the scheme is diners are going to forget the real value of food. On pretty much any high street in the UK, we can eat a burger for 99p or fried chicken and chips for a fiver. But the truth is that food simply cannot be a cheap commodity. Something’s gotta give. Whether it’s the quality of the cow’s life, the farmer who reared it, or the soil used to grow the crops to feed the cow. We should expect to pay a fair price for the food on our plate. I appreciate we’re in the middle of a recession and many people are struggling financially but entering into a culture of discounted meals isn’t going to solve this.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Cheerfy Shop solution takes back control from delivery companies: Cheerfy, the CRM, loyalty and e-commerce solution dedicated to the hospitality industry, has launched Cheerfy Shop, to help operators turn their website into an e-commerce platform and also provide order-at-table and payment technology. The innovation, which launches while the hospitality industry steadily reopens, gives operators full autonomy over their customers’ data and allows them to take back control from third-party delivery providers without the burden of hefty commissions. The easy-to-use solution transforms existing websites into e-commerce platforms that are able to sell products directly to customers. It also gives businesses flexibility to offer a range of menus – for delivery, sit in or collection – all under their existing website. This capability allows businesses to offer a direct delivery service, which can integrate with cost-effective delivery platforms, such as Stuart. It also provides a click-and-collect service for customers, as well as an order-and-pay solution for in-venue customers via bespoke QR codes, which also collect test and trace customer data. The platform integrates with POS as well as with Cheerfy’s loyalty solution, creating a frictionless and personalised process for the customer, automatically updating their loyalty card or voucher with each purchase. Find out more here. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com 
 
Last chance to book this week for Social Media for Profit, being held virtually: This week is the last chance to book for this year’s Social Media for Profit event, which will be held virtually on the afternoon of Tuesday, 15 September. Mark McCulloch, who has more than 20 years’ brand, marketing digital and social media experience including senior positions at Pret A Manger and YO!, will host the social media boot camp. The event will provide insights into how to build sales and brands using social media to help operators bounce back following lock-down. McCulloch will be joined by Alison Battisby, founder and director of social media consultancy Avocado Social. With almost ten years of social media experience, Battisby is a Facebook-accredited trainer and will bring the latest algorithm-busting insights. For the full agenda, click here. Tickets are £99 plus VAT for Propel Premium members, £149 plus VAT for operators and £199 plus VAT for suppliers. To book, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Dine Local initiative launches, more operators extend discounts: OpenTable and Mastercard have launched a Dine Local campaign that gives special offers to customers at more than 200 restaurants during the next month. Restaurant booking service OpenTable and credit card company Mastercard will also pay the entire bill for lucky diners at 30 OpenTable restaurants taking part in the scheme as part of its “Priceless Surprise”. The first Priceless Surprise took place in Hertfordshire on Tuesday (1 September), before moving to London then across the country. A recent survey by OpenTable claimed 62% of respondents said they planned to eat out more or at least as often as before the lock-down. Meanwhile, more operators are offering discounts into September as they extend the Eat Out To Help Out scheme from their own pockets. YO!, the global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group, is offering a set menu that is available on weekdays from 6pm at 50% off. The company is also bringing back its beef teriyaki that, alongside gyozas, will be half price all day on weekdays. Brasserie Bar Co is continuing the scheme across its two businesses – Brasserie Blanc and White Brasserie Company – on the same terms the government initiative ran, as is Three Cheers Pub Co, led by Tom Peake, Mark Reynolds and Nick Fox. Spanish restaurant group Iberica is also joining in to finance the offer itself. Also following on from the same terms as the government scheme is Imbiba-backed wine bar business Vagabond and Latin American restaurant and bar Zuaya in Kensington, west London. Camino, the London operator led by Richard Bigg and backed by BGF, is offering the 50% discount – up to £10 per person – between Monday and Thursday. This is available at each of its four sites – in Bankside, Monument, King’s Cross and Shoreditch. Meanwhile, Chuck Burger, which runs the food operations at both Big Chill branches in Brick Lane and King’s Cross, is offering 50% off any burger Monday to Wednesday.
 
Peter Backman – pricing is one factor all operators have control over but intelligence is necessary to make the most of it: Sector analyst Peter Backman has argued operators must look to the future and, although delivery is likely here to stay, some models cannot flex that way and should focus on pricing to make ends meet. Backman said: “As the future becomes ever so slightly clearer, high street operators – restaurants, quick service, takeaways, pubs – are engaged in a rapid process of reviewing what their business will look like in the future. Some are pivoting to delivery because that seems to be an important component of the future. But it doesn’t suit all. Perhaps they are in the wrong part of the country or the wrong location or sell the wrong range. I doubt whether there is enough demand for delivery to allow all operators to pivot in that direction. Other operators are downsizing to focus on those sites that are profitable or are likely to be profitable when the dust settles. And while this process of changing the profile of their business is engaging many operators, there is perhaps another process that is closer to home that can yield dividends – in more than one sense of the word. Customer pricing has not got much attention when operators have been talking about their business over the past few years. Yet it is one area over which they have control. And the way pricing can be used depends on perceptions about how the customer decides what to pay. There is, for example, ‘the lump of spend’ hypothesis. This says that when a customer walks into any establishment, he or she has some idea of how much they want to spend. And this means that the operator’s job is twofold. One: steer the customer towards spending their money on high-margin lines – beer rather than steak. An approach that achieves these objectives is to price low-margin products quite low (the margin should still allow you to do this) and steer the customer towards the high-margin products. Some pub operators do this well. Two: get the customer willingly to spend more than they thought they would. This requires attention to knowing what the customer wants to spend and getting them to spend more. How many restaurant operators put this into practice? Focusing on price should not mean lowest prices and discounts. It should mean knowledge of the customer and using that intelligence to price strategically.”
 
Hunger for healthy diet remains post-covid: Consumers still want to eat more healthy and sustainable food despite the impact of coronavirus. Retail analysis company IGD claimed more than half of consumers (57%) surveyed are already changing their diets or are considering making changes to be healthier and more sustainable – even though this is down from 66% in 2019. However, 38% of respondents fear eating more healthy food will increase their food bills. IGD head of nutrition and scientific affairs Hannah Pearse said: “We faced significant health and environmental challenges before covid-19 and the global pandemic has brought these issues into the spotlight. Not only has covid-19 highlighted our reliance on an effective and efficient food supply chain, it has reinforced that our diets are inextricably linked with our health. Evidence has shown that people living with obesity are 50% more likely to die from covid-19.” IGD claimed health is now an even bigger motivator for consumers to improve their diet in the wake of coronavirus, with almost two thirds (63%) of people citing health as their primary driver up from 58% in 2019.
 
Service scores decline as guests take advantage of Eat Out To Help Out: Week-on-week service scores declined across the board in the final full week of Eat Out To Help Out, according to the latest Customer Sentiment Tracker from Feed It Back and KAM Media. The survey of 22,617 consumers across 914 venues showed a 3% rise for service being the reason guests would not return. However, concerns about inadequate social distancing remained the number one factor preventing revisits (19%). Looking at value for money, the 5% of guests who rated value poorly said they would not be prepared to pay for the food without the Eat Out To Help Out offer in place. Portion size increased as a reason for a low value score compared with last week, from 13% to 15%. Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia said: “Eat Out To Help Out has been a great success in terms of getting more people through the door and it’s great to see more key household budget holders (aged 35-plus) come through to leave feedback versus the Mondays to Wednesdays in July. However, the expectation of a smooth, safe service, and a feeling across a large number of guests that prices have increased and portion sizes have reduced means bringing these guests back in will present a challenge.” 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, email allears@feeditback.com
Feed It Back and KAM Media are Propel BeatTheVirus campaign members

Crackdown on Birmingham restaurant linked to five coronavirus cases: Birmingham City Council has invoked new powers to control a restaurant that has at least five confirmed covid-19 cases linked to it. The Direction Order has been implemented at Tipu Sultan, in Moseley, after it was found to be breaching coronavirus guidelines. The order stipulates the restaurant, which serves Indian food, must restrict entry into the premises; not allow bookings of more than 30 people, ensuring large parties are given a separate dining area; implement a booking system to prevent people from queuing outside; and use the booking system to allow time for tables to be thoroughly cleansed. Birmingham City Council head of environmental health Mark Croxford said: “Numerous reports have been made to the council, the police and local councillors that events are being held at Tipu Sultan with significantly more people than the government guidance of a maximum of 30 in any one party. As a result, at least five confirmed cases of coronavirus have been linked to the premises over a period of four weeks. A Direction Order was necessary in order to protect against the spread of coronavirus.” The inspection also found safety measures detailed within the restaurant’s risk assessment had not been implemented all of the time and social distancing in the queue for entry and in waiting areas of the restaurant had not being maintained or controlled in an acceptable manner. A statement on Tipu Sultan’s website read: “We endeavour to provide a safe dining environment and would ask you to comply with social distancing measures of a minimum of one metre with other dining guests. Look after yourselves and each other.”
  
Angela Hartnett and José Pizarro launch Bermondsey Street hospitality campaign: Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett and Spanish chef José Pizarro have joined forces to launch a community-wide initiative in London’s Bermondsey Street during September. “Shop, Eat and Drink” sees many of the area’s restaurants, cafes, bars and shops supporting each other on the street “as one big family”. Businesses involved include Hartnett’s Cafe Murano Bermondsey; Pizzaro’s restaurant Pizarro and tapas bar, José; French bistro Casse-Croûte; ramen specialist Hakata; and Italian seafood restaurant, Baccalà, will continue the 50% discount from Monday to Wednesday on the days they are open. A number of retailers will also be offering a 20% discount on purchases as the area seeks to get footfall back up to pre-lock-down levels. Hartnett said: “Bermondsey Street has been a hub of activity for many months, with locals loyally supporting all the Bermondsey restaurants and independent businesses via takeaway and, more recently, through the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. We’re proud to be a part of this community spirit and hope by all joining together during September, we can keep momentum going and the street buzzing.”

Cobra partners with restaurants for Eat Out To Help Out promotion: Cobra Beer, owned by Molson Coors, has worked with thousands of partner restaurants to design a version of the Eat Out To Help Out promotion to run during September. Restaurants have the option of offering discounts of up to 20%, 25% or 30% on eat-in food only, along with a free Cobra drink with any Cobra drink purchased, limited to one per visit. The food discount will be supported by restaurants and the beer discount will be supported by Cobra. The promotion, which excludes Cobra 750ml, will run throughout September on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at all participating restaurants. Lord Karan Bilimoria, founder and chairman of Cobra Beer, said: “We are delighted to support this Eat Out To Help Out-style promotion throughout September, which will be of great benefit to restaurants and consumers across the country.”

John Gaunt & Partners moves publican training course online: Licensing solicitor John Gaunt & Partners has moved its publican training course online as a result of covid-19. The licensing firm has teamed-up with a production company to offer pub operators and managers an “interactive and dynamic” online course, providing a socially distanced way to achieve the Award for Personal Licence Holders (APLH) qualification. Individuals, pubcos and multiple operators can sign up to the course via an online portal. John Gaunt & Partners intends to retain the online version in the future once restrictions on meetings ease further, but will also reintroduce face-to-face training for those who prefer it. The video presentation-based course is supported with a hard or digital copy of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) APLH handbook. It runs over nine modules, each with a series of questions at the end, with trainees given two attempts to answer them correctly. If the candidate is unable to answer the questions they cannot proceed further, and are directed to contact John Gaunt & Partners, where, via a phone or video call, a solicitor will give them direct tuition to ensure they understand that part of the course. Almost 11,000 people have completed John Gaunt & Partners’ publican training courses since 2006, with an overall pass rate of 97%.
John Gaunt & Partners is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 
Lees-Jones elected president at charity Forever Manchester: William Lees-Jones, managing director of north west brewer and retailer JW Lees has been appointed president of charity Forever Manchester. The brewing boss has taken on a three-year tenure from former Auto Trader chief executive Trevor Mather. Forever Manchester funds and supports community activity across Greater Manchester. It has delivered more than £39m community funding across the ten boroughs in the past 30 years. Lees-Jones said: “Now, more than ever, is a time we need to help our communities in need and I believe the most efficient way of doing this is through the light touch that Forever Manchester delivers locally.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a fast-growing, quick service restaurant company as it looks to appoint a head of people. This London-based position is paying between £40,000 and £45,000 and presents a great opportunity to join a business at a time of growth. This brand is fun, forward thinking and has an outstanding reputation in the market place. It has a strong people culture and wants to enhance this further with the appointment of a passionate head of people. The individual must be Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development-qualified, have the ability to think entrepreneurially and be ready to grow, and restaurants or food retail is essential. Anyone interested can email their CV to Gemma@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News:

Byron to reopen majority of its estate over the next week: Better burger brand Byron, which earlier this month was sold via pre-pack administration to investment vehicle Calveton UK under newly formed company Famously Proper for £4m, will reopen the majority of its estate over the next week. The Simon Wilkinson-led group will have 18 of the 20 sites it acquired out of administration by 9 September. Last week, the company reopened its sites in Waterloo and Old Brompton Road. On Tuesday (1 September), it opened its two sites in Edinburgh, plus restaurants in Manchester, and Bury St Edmunds. This week, it will also open restaurants in locations including Oxford, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Leeds, Liverpool and Milton Keynes. Propel reported last month that the company would initially focus on reopening its circa 20-strong estate but would also examine consolidation possibilities, which could include long-time rival Gourmet Burger Kitchen. It’s thought to be currently in negotiations regarding a handful of sites, which would make up its final estate. At the same time, the new company is expected to ramp up its delivery strategy. To mark its reopening plans, the company has brought back one of its favourite specials of all time – the B-Rex – and is donating £1 from every one sold to NHS Charities Together. It is also offering bottomless fries with every burger sold.
 
Leon launches fries delivery brand: Natural fast food brand Leon has launched Loaded Leon, a new fries delivery brand out of a handful of its London-based sites. The brand is described as “Leon’s late-night fries shop, delivering your favourite waffle-cut fries loaded with toppings. 100% gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options”. The brand is currently available to postcodes around the company’s sites in Wimbledon, Notting Hill, London Bridge and Spitalfields through Deliveroo. Leon appointed consultancy firm Quantuma in early June to help it engage with its landlords and push to change to a turnover-based rent model. Leon co-founder and chief executive John Vincent has told Propel, at the time, the brand has agreed new rental terms with many of its landlords but, “given the uncertainty of what is going on”, it needed to “keep all options open”.
 
McDonald’s faces $1bn discrimination lawsuit from black ex-franchise owners: McDonald’s is being sued for up to $1bn by more than 50 black former franchise owners, who claim the company systematically placed them in “substandard locations”. The lawsuit alleges the move hindered profitability and growth for franchisees, saddling them with high insurance costs and leaving their restaurants performing below the national norm. The lawsuit comes weeks after McDonald's was among dozens of corporations to release a statement in support of Black Lives Matter and condemn racism following George Floyd’s death and nationwide anti-racism protests. In June, chief executive Chris Kempczinski acknowledged McDonald’s had more work to do to improve racial equality and diversity within the company, after two executives filed a lawsuit against the company for allegedly pushing out black managers and franchisees. Despite this, Kempczinski claimed the company had created more millionaires in the black community than any other company. But the latest lawsuit, filed by 52 black former franchise owners in a Chicago federal court, said their average sales of $2m a year between 2011 and 2016 were $700,000 below the national average, often leading them to bankruptcy. The claims include more than 200 stores with compensatory damages that average between $4m and $5m per store, exclusive of punitive damages. Jim Ferraro, representing the plaintiffs, said the number of black franchise owners has halved to 186 during the past two decades, while a lawsuit earlier this year claimed almost a third of black franchisees left under ex-chief executive Steve Easterbrook’s tenure between 2015 and 2019.
 
Tortilla reports 50% jump in sales from Eat Out To Help Out, launches two September offers: Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed fast casual Mexican concept, has reported a 50% jump in sales between Monday and Wednesday during August, compared with the previous month. The company is looking to carry on the success of Eat Out To Help Out with two offers in September. Every Monday this month, the company will be offering two burritos for the price of one while, on Thursdays, customers can enjoy tacos at £1 a pop. Both offers are available after 5pm for dine-in customers only. Managing director Richard Morris said the brand “plans to keep the good times rolling” after a strong August. He added: “It’s fantastic to see so many people back in our restaurants, making the most of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. While our new house rules and procedures mean our restaurants look and feel different, crew have been excited to return to work and it appears our customers are happy to have us back.” Following full closure in March, Tortilla started reopening in May for online ordering only. The company has reopened 33 of its 42 sites with its Victoria station outlet having welcomed customers back on Tuesday (1 September). The group will reopen its Southwark restaurant on Tuesday, 8 September, and is also offering takeaway, click and collect and delivery. 
 
Greene King buys riverside pub near Shrewsbury: Brewer and retailer Greene King has bought The Riverside Inn, in Cound, near Shrewsbury, and plans to reopen it as a Chef & Brewer site in 2021. The Shropshire Star reported the venue will have “undergone a fantastic refit and refurbishment and will be under new management” before it reopens. The pub closed on 20 March in response to the coronavirus lock-down. A Greene King spokesman told Propel the deal had been put in place prior to lock-down.

BrewDog confirms Plymouth site plans: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has confirmed it will open a 4,000 square foot bar at The Barcode, the new leisure and entertainment development, located next to Drake Circus in Plymouth’s city centre. The company will join a range of restaurants and leisure brands at the new development, including Five Guys, Nando’s, Cosy Club, Zizzi and Paradise Golf. A BrewDog spokesman said: “We are delighted to be bringing awesome craft beer and food to the people of Plymouth and look forward to opening our doors.” Alice Keown, leasing director – Restaurants and Leisure, British Land, said: “We’re really excited to welcome BrewDog to Drake Circus. It is a fantastic brand, which complements The Barcode’s restaurant and bar offering and will enhance the overall appeal of the new leisure development for our customers. Their decision to commit to Drake Circus, amid uncertainties in the retail market and covid-19, is a strong endorsement of the centre.” Cushman and Wakefield and Smith Young acted on behalf of British Land. Propel reported yesterday that BrewDog had lined up 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.
 
Cake Box to repay furlough funds after ‘very strong’ trading since reopening: Cake Box, the specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, is to repay all the money it claimed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) after seeing “very strong” trading since reopening in June. In the past three months, Cake Box saw like-for-like sales grow 14.1% in franchise stores, while online sales continued to grow, up roughly 74% year-on-year. As a result, the group said it would repay the £156,000 it received under the CJRS and did not plan to make any claims under the government’s Job Retention Bonus. The company said it was now also benefiting from “the increasing appeal” of its delivery service through Deliveroo, Just Eat and UberEats. With a month left in Cake Box’s first trading half, the group stated the encouraging trading since reopening would see it pay a special dividend of 3.2p. Cake Box operates circa 115 sites.
 
Fierce Beer to make England debut with Manchester site opening: Fierce Beer, the Aberdeen-based brewer and bar operator, is to make its debut in England, with the opening later this week of a site in Manchester. The business, which was founded in 2015 by Dave Grant and David McHardy, has taken on the site formerly occupied by Marble Beers at 57 Thomas Street, in the city’s Northern Quarter. The new bar will open this Friday (4 September). The company already operates bars in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. 
 
Black and White Hospitality reports in excess of 30,000 covers served in August with ‘strong’ week-on-week growth: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White, has reported it served in excess of 30,000 covers in the 21 sites that were open during August. The company said it had seen “strong” week-on-week growth since the launch of Eat Out To Help Out and was looking to carry the momentum that had been generated into the autumn. Dave Daniels-Ekarte, operations director at Black and White Hospitality, said: “Once we were able to reopen, there was naturally a little trepidation to eat out. However, what Eat Out To Help Out helped dissipate was customers’ concerns regarding dining in a safe environment. This then transcended into weekend covers, which have also increased week-on-week throughout August and is really encouraging to see. It has also helped significantly with the mood of all the teams involved, which can be best described as being buoyant. We are now looking to continue this momentum into September and the autumn.” Black and White Hospitality operates almost 50 restaurants under various Marco Pierre White brands. The company will reopen a further four restaurants this month and five in October, with the remainder set to welcome back guests before Christmas. 
 
Costa Coffee launches ‘mini’ cup size and food deals: Costa Coffee has introduced a new “mini” cup size and reduced its meal deal price to £4. The mini cup size means customers can choose from four different size beverages, with the newcomer costing as little as £1.41, if taking advantage of the reusable cup 25p discount. The 8oz (227ml) drink is joined on the menu by the lower priced meal deal, which is a small coffee (one size larger than the mini) or cold drink and a savoury item for £4 between 11am and 3pm daily. Costa also has a new premium meal deal that includes new menu items such as a hoisin duck wrap and creamy mushroom risotto. Both sweet and savoury options have been expanded too such as a new sausage roll on the breakfast menu, and caramel Bramley apple tart and chocolate torte. Commercial marketing director Eric Tavoukdjian said: “Our new mini 8oz cup is the perfect choice for coffee lovers at a smaller price point. We know choice and value are important to our customers and we’re thrilled to launch the mini and refreshed meal deals.”
  
Dalata raises €94.4m to fuel UK growth: Irish hotel operator Dalata has raised €94.4m (£84.1m) to take advantage of opportunities arising from covid-19 disruption, particularly in the UK. The funds were raised through the placing of 37 million shares at a price of €2.55 each, representing about 19.9% of the company’s issued share capital immediately prior to the placing, Dalata said. The funds would help secure leases at competitive terms in London, regional parts of Britain and Dublin where “growth opportunities remain compelling”. The placing will also help mitigate any possible prolonged covid-19 impact, it added. Dalata had €110m in cash and €111m in undrawn committed debt facilities at the end of August. The company has also signed lease agreements for hotels in Brighton and Manchester. It said it has a pipeline of almost 3,300 rooms in “excellent locations”. Dalata, which owns or leases 12 of its 44 hotels in the UK, said it operated at 30% occupancy across the group in July upon reopening from lock-down and projected that to have risen to 40% in August, boosted by staycations. All its hotels have reopened. It reported a €70.9m loss for the six months to 30 June 2020, down 287.7% compared with the previous year, mainly because of property revaluations and impairments on other assets significantly impacted by the pandemic. Revenue was down 60% to €80.8m. The company said it was also looking at new ways to shore up demand, including offering students deals to stay in its hotels when they may only need to be in university one week a month due to covid-19 restrictions.

Michelin-starred Harwood Arms among London operators reopening: Sally Abé, head chef at The Harwood Arms, has been perfecting the menu for the reopening of the capital’s only Michelin-starred gastro-pub. On opening its doors on Wednesday, 2 September, for the first time since lock-down began, Abé said everything, bar its venison Scotch eggs and Sunday roast, will be new while co-owner Brett Graham has refurbished the bar and dining areas. The restaurant will be open for dinner on Tuesdays to Fridays, and for lunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday. Bocca di Lupo will reopen on Wednesday (2 September) with Sicilian dishes as menu highlights. The Italian restaurant, which is located in Soho and was founded by Jacob Kenedy in 2008, will alter its stand-out meals by using recipes from across Italy as the months change. For the time-poor, Bocca di Lupo will also offer a worker’s lunch of two courses for £12. Food experience brand and events caterer Rhubarb will reopen its Fenchurch restaurant in London’s Sky Garden on Friday (4 September). The company has also appointed Michael Carr as the restaurant’s new head chef. Clarette has reopened with a seasonal menu under the guidance of new chef Pierre Mirepoix. The wine bar in Blandford Street, central London, welcomed customers on Tuesday (1 September) after the lock-down.

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