Story of the Day:
Nightclub bosses to meet business minister to discuss rescue plan: Nightclub bosses are to meet business minister Paul Scully on Monday (7 September) to discuss a rescue plan for the nightclub sector. Britain's biggest nightclub operator The Deltic Group has launched a consultation to slash 402 roles ahead of the crisis talks. The move by the Deltic Group, which runs 53 clubs and late-night bars across the UK, will mean losing 10% of its 4,000 employees. Chief executive Peter Marks warned more redundancies could follow unless the government provides urgent support. “There will be far more job losses if we don't get something material in the next six weeks,” he told the Mail on Sunday. “As an industry, we won't get through November.” Many operators fear bankruptcy after paying fixed costs since closing in March with no date set for reopening. They want the government to confirm a “roadmap” to get the night-life sector back on its feet. They will ask for an extension of the furlough scheme, grants linked to venues' rateable value, or help with commercial rents. The Deltic Group had a £106m annual turnover and £12m profit before the crisis but is forecast to lose £17m this year. The Mail on Sunday reported it is burning through £600,000 per month in fixed costs, plus £1m in rent, which it cannot pay. Meanwhile, Scottish nightclub and festival owners have warned up to 75,000 jobs could be lost without a roadmap for reopening. An online campaign has been launched to highlight the lack of indicative dates for these businesses reopening. The #FreedomtoDance campaign also calls for more funding for the sector. A survey by the Night-Time Industries Association of more than 300 Scottish night-time businesses found 83% would have to make redundancies when the furlough scheme ends next month. More than three-quarters said they expect to lay-off more than half their workforce due to the financial impact of the lock-down.
Sponsored message – S4labour recruits new account managers:
S4labour is a labour management business with products that help support effective labour management in the hospitality industry and extend from onboarding to payroll. In addition it has products to help improve both deployment and productivity, and has a proven track record in helping customers grow sales and save labour costs. Customers include many of the industry’s outstanding operators, including Oakman Inns, Anglian Country Inns, St Austell, City Pub Group, Brat, Kiln, River Cottage, and recent new customers including Mowgli and Tossed. As a result of the growth in the customer base during lock-down, a continued commitment to have an account manager for every customer, and a positive dialogue with all our customers S4labour is looking to recruit two further account managers to join the team. Candidates may have account management experience with other software providers or have product expertise in labour management either as suppliers or operators in this space. Candidates will need to exhibit all the right behaviours to excel in account management, with being able to establish great rapport, act quickly and decisively, and be able to ensure both the company’s and the client’s needs are met effectively. Candidates who are interested should apply directly to Sarah@S4labour.co.uk
. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email email@example.com
Jamie Rollo – Eat Out To Help Out has ‘revived the sector’ but tough times still lie ahead: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has argued the Eat Out To Help Out scheme has “revived the sector” but warned there is still likely to be tough times ahead. Rollo said: “At the end of July the UK was tracking down 32%, following the reopening of restaurants on 4 July. The UK government introduced the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, which ran throughout August. The radical improvement in the data suggests the scheme successfully revived the UK hospitality sector. The scheme exceeded the UK Treasury’s estimates, with 100 million meals eaten at a taxpayer cost of £522m. During the first week of the scheme, ten million meals were eaten using the discounts, but by the fourth week 35 million claims were submitted to the government. On the August bank holiday, the last day of the scheme, restaurant bookings were 216% higher than on the equivalent Monday a year ago. This was corroborated in a recent survey we conducted, in which the proportion of respondents in the UK that intend to continue to eat at home rather than eat out in restaurants fell significantly versus a few weeks ago. A recent survey conducted by Barclaycard suggests some 20% of customers plan to continue dining out more often, and a similar number saying they will return to restaurants they would not have visited otherwise. Indeed, the OpenTable data suggests in the first two days after the Eat Out To Help Out scheme ended, bookings were 2% higher than on equivalent days a year ago, compared with annual falls of 30% to 40% on equivalent days of the week in late July. Under our coverage there is a positive read across for hotel and restaurant operator Whitbread and pub companies Mitchells & Butlers and JD Wetherspoon. However, while this is encouraging we are wary the scheme was only live for 13 trading days; with summer almost over the ‘staycation’ benefit will lessen; and there have been a number of covid-19 outbreaks linked to pubs and restaurants in many countries including the UK, and it seems likely the industry will be one of the first to suffer if cases spike as authorities prioritise getting education and business back to normal.”
Six-in-ten of customers want simplicity when dining out: Six-in ten of customers want simplicity when dining out, according to new research by restaurant intelligence platform Yumpingo. The insight, which stems from analysis of tens of thousands of pieces of customer feedback, also revealed two-thirds of diners felt their experience was negatively impacted by the new covid-19 safety procedures, but clear communication of safety measures is important to them. In recognition of this insight, as well as the increasingly complicated digital journey for customers, Yumpingo has launched Yumpingo Central, a new guest engagement platform that connects all front of house digital services on to one personalised, fully branded mobile web portal, accessed by a single QR code. Through this businesses can personalise their own mobile web portals to include information on menus; test and trace solutions; order and payment technology; and a guest review portal that delivers real-time actionable customer insight. Yumpingo chief executive Gary Goodman said: “Adapting to the new normal has accelerated the way guests use their smartphones to consume information in venues. We can see from our data customers have tended to be more forgiving during these exceptional times, but they are increasingly looking for a simple, streamlined experience. Our new product meets this demand and concisely signposts customers to vital information that not only streamlines their experience, but crucially, gathers actionable insight that will drive loyalty, something which is going to be more important than ever as the industry navigates the autumn months.” In recognition of the ongoing pandemic, Yumpingo is offering Yumpingo Central for free.
Yumpingo is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
CVAs for year to date already top 2019 total: The number of company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) so far this year already exceeds the total for 2019 as some insolvency experts say they have seen their “highest ever” number of enquiries. Data from the British Property Federation (BPF) revealed there have been 16 CVAs so far this year compared with 13 for the whole of 2019. Sector companies that have embarked on CVAs include YO!, the global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group; Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe; and The Restaurant Group for its leisure division. Meanwhile, Wasabi, the sushi and bento chain led by Henry Birts and backed by Capdesia, is set to undergo a CVA while Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca is exploring the possibility. BPF chief executive Melanie Leech told Property Week: “The change process retail is going through will continue. And if you layer on top of that the impact of coronavirus, you can only see the number of CVAs increasing throughout the rest of the year.” The findings come as advisers report a sharp increase in CVA enquiries. Katie James, head of business support and insolvency at Blake Morgan, said she had been asked to advise on four potential CVAs in the past six weeks alone. Blair Nimmo, UK head of restructuring at KPMG, predicted the fourth quarter could be “even busier” for CVAs than the third quarter. Nimmo said he did not believe CVAs were being misused. He added: “We’re choosing CVAs because we think they’re the best tool for the company and its stakeholders relative to what you might get in an administration.”
A week of two halves for sales as Eat Out To Help Out draws to close: The Eat Out To Help Out scheme gave food and drink sales another major lift in the first half of the final week of August though they fell away in line with dropping temperatures towards the weekend, according to new CGA research. Figures from its volume pool of 7,000 managed outlets showed food sales on Tuesday, 25 August and Wednesday, 26 August were more than double those of the same days in 2019 – up 107% and 103% respectively. Sales on Monday, 24 August were distorted by the comparison with a bank holiday in 2019, but were nevertheless 40% higher year-on-year. As in previous weeks, food sales comparisons struggled later in the week. They were down 20% year-on-year on Thursday, 27 August, and by 19% on both Friday, 28 August and Saturday, 29 August. But across the whole of the week, food sales were 17% higher than in the equivalent period in 2019, despite the tough comparative. It represents a steady increase from a 9% drop in year-on-year sales in the first week of the scheme, a 3% rise in the second week and a 15% rise in the third week. The deal also had another significant impact on drinks. CGA’s Drinks Recovery Tracker showed year-on-year sales were up 11% and 29% on Tuesday, 25 August and Wednesday, 26 August respectively. Across the seven days to Saturday, 29 August, the Tracker recorded a 27% fall in sales versus the same week in 2019, when figures were inflated by the bank holiday weekend. Soft drinks’ eligibility for the Eat Out To Help Out offer meant their sales were down only 7% year-on-year. Wine continued to benefit from sales with meals, having its best week since the end of lock-down with a 15% drop. With cooler weather across the week, sales of beer (down 27%), cider (down 39%) and spirits (down 40%) all fell back. As with food, drinks sales were weaker in the second half of the week, with total sales down more than 30% on each of Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
UK hotel occupancy hits highest level since March: UK hotel occupancy hit its highest level over the bank holiday weekend since before lock-down, according to the latest data from STR. Occupancy reached 70% on Saturday, 29 August – the highest figure since 4 March. While regional areas continue to show the best performance – reaching a 75% occupancy level on 29 August – hotels in London also saw a boost from the bank holiday weekend, with occupancy reaching 50% on that Saturday. For the week ending 30 August, Plymouth saw the highest occupancy level for the week (96%), followed by Exeter (94%) and Brighton (93%). London again saw the lowest occupancy level (37%) but that was an improvement on the 27% from a fortnight ago. The declines in average daily rate and revpar continued to soften with average daily rate down 19% year-on-year while revpar was down between 18% and 50% during the seven-day period. Research from STR also showed while there has been a slight shift towards self-catering, the benefits of larger hotel brands have also been recognised as “these companies have more capability in making sure the health and safety guidelines are being followed”. The findings also showed travellers’ interpretation of leisure has been “disrupted”, so businesses “need to focus on the experience itself”. They added “transparency with safety and hygiene and associated costs, a warm welcome and a positive experience” will help build reassurance and trust.
Brewhouse & Kitchen to raise further funds for working capital and continue expansion plans: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the 22-strong brewpub group, is to raise further funds to provide working capital and continue with its expansion plans. The company, which has 13 company-owned sites and nine that it operates under a franchise and management agreement with Puma investments, has launched a limited rights issue to raise circa £2.5m from existing shareholders only, with which – alongside additional current cash reserves – the company intends to continue to invest into the current estate to develop its first brewpub with rooms in Worthing, as well as a further 24 rooms in Bristol and Bournemouth. Chief executive Kris Gumbrell told Propel: “The uptake has been excellent and we are on course to be oversubscribed. We aim to continue to improve the estate, have sufficient reserves to manage through the current uncertainty, and also look to acquire again should the right sites become available.” Given the social distancing measures in place, the group estimated its brewpubs , which were gradually reopened from 6 July, are operating at 86% of original internal cover levels. The business has traded “well ahead” of expectations and has demonstrated real term like-for-like growth outside of the Eat Out To Help Out trading sessions. Gumbrell said: “We worked hard to develop our gardens, executed a number of minor redecorations and create a covid safe but relaxed guest experience for the new trading environment. We delivered a considerable amount of training, welfare support and interaction with our teams during lock-down. They have hit the ground running and we have been delighted with the results so far.” The company said it expects to return to sustained, pre-pandemic turnover levels within a year. To support the business through an expected suppressed period of sales, the company is introducing new revenue streams. These include a national mini-keg delivery service, with a new Brewhouse & Kitchen gift shop on the website, which will be expanded with further offerings. The company has completed a click and collect pilot that is being rolled out while it is trialling takeaway food as well as food and beer local delivery schemes. The company said it was looking to continue developing its franchise model, which “increases our revenue mix, reduces our capital at risk while increasing revenue and leverages the growth of our estate”. Brewhouse & Kitchen’s accounts filed at Companies House showed turnover increased 7% to £15.2m for the year ending 28 September 2019, compared with £14.1m the previous year. Pre-tax losses increased to £976,000, compared with £761,000 the previous year. During the year the company raised £1.7m in new equity to enable further development of the estate. Gumbrell added: “We continued our progress to develop a market-leading pub and brewing model within the UK market, innovation has seen further investment last year and continued into this year. Lock-down was a particularly fertile period for concept development and we are cautiously optimistic for the future.”
Busaba and Thai Leisure Group restructure: Thai restaurant chain Busaba is set to close one site – and keep five shut for the time being, The Sunday Times has reported. It added: “Busaba, which has 13 restaurants and 350 staff, has hired consultants from Duff & Phelps to thrash out a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), the insolvency process used to cut rents. In a letter to employees this weekend, Terry Harrison, managing director, said he had managed to reduce the number of redundancies necessary from 200 to 40, after staff agreed to reduce their hours and be more flexible about where and when they worked. ‘By everyone being so supportive and flexible and with the support of our new owners, we have a fighting chance to ensure the business is around to celebrate another 20 years, by us continuing to focus on what makes Busaba great,’ the letter said. Thai Leisure Group, which has 18 restaurants, has hired advisers from RSM to push through a CVA of its own.” A total of 180 staff will be made redundant. Thai Leisure Group managing director Ian Leigh told The Sunday Times: “There’s no way we could get through this without a CVA. It’s our lifeline.”
Thwaites considers extending banking facilities, initiates redundancy programme: Brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has said it is considering extending its banking facilities further and has initiated a programme of redundancies. In an update, executive chairman Rick Bailey said all its sites have reopened and trade “has built steadily”. However, the company will not be paying a dividend for the year ending 31 March 2020 as the preservation of cash “continues to be an absolute priority”. Future dividends will be reviewed “when normal trading levels resume”. The company renewed its banking facilities in the first quarter of 2020 and, at 31 March 2020, had net debt of £65.4m with total facilities of £82m giving it liquidity headroom of more than £16m. At the end of June, net debt had increased to £71.8m. Bailey said: “While this was an increase of £6.4m during the period of closure, £12m of headroom remained against the company’s existing facilities and, with the support of its banks, its banking covenants were relaxed. The company is currently giving consideration as to whether it is necessary to increase facilities further as a prudent measure to ensure it has sufficient facilities to deal with the ongoing uncertainties that might arise over the winter period. What has become very clear in reopening is the visibility we had last year on forward bookings has been greatly shortened, and we see no sign this will change as we enter the winter. Against this background, we have taken the unwelcome decision to initiate a programme of redundancies to ensure our cost base reflects the environment we expect to operate in over the coming months and protect the business against significant ongoing uncertainty.” Bailey said the company benefits from the fact it owns the freeholds of all its properties and is, therefore, not under pressure to pay third-party landlords rent but it does have financing obligations in the form of interest payments to its funders. He added: “Our initial experience upon reopening has been better than we had at first hoped, however, the coming months are likely to test us again. The company has been through troubled times before and has a strong asset base and an experienced management team to assist in finding a pathway through the challenges we face.”
Laine Pub Company – ‘better than expected start’ since reopening but ‘trade below last year’: Multiple pub operator and brewer The Laine Pub Company has reported trading has “exceeded expectations” since reopening after lock-down. The company said while levels remain short of last year, trading patterns suggest “a quicker recovery than initially modelled”. It stated: “The directors have considered the effect of the covid-19 pandemic on the group with the information available to it, and do not believe it will affect the group's ability to continue to trade for the foreseeable future.” Chief executive Gavin George told Propel: “The positive impact of the good weather, staycations and the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, gave us a better than expected start in July and August, but trade remains well below last year, particularly in our more centrally located sites. There are parts of our London estate that desperately need to see the return of tourists and office workers and we have therefore joined other UKHospitality members in calling on the prime minister and the mayor to provide a joined-up plan for getting the capital up and running again. As the cooler weather draws in, the impact of distancing on pub activities and capacities will have a marked effect on trade levels, so we hope conditions allow for further relaxations of the guidance in the months to come.” Laine Pub Company provided the update in accounts filed at Companies House that showed turnover stood at £43m for the year ending 18 August 2019 against £50.5m in the previous period, which spanned 60 weeks. The previous accounting period was extended to allow the company to bring its financial year in line with its backer, Vine Acquisitions, which bought the business in May 2018. The company operates more than 60 pubs and its Laine Brew Co business produces a portfolio of craft beer at its production brewery in Sussex. The group also operates five pubs in its Mash Inns partnership with Ei Group.
Trust Inns reports ‘robust’ trading since reopening: Trust Inns, the north west-based pub company, has told Propel trading has been “robust and above expectations” since reopening. Managing director Mark Brown said this was despite some of its sites being unable to reopen due to local lock-down restrictions, such as in Leicester, Aberdeen, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. It comes as Trust Inns reported turnover fell to £39.6m for the year ending 31 March 2020, compared with £41.1m the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £5.6m, compared with £7.3m the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The directors paid a dividend of £1m during the year. No dividend was paid the previous year. The company said in response to covid-19 and the closure of its pubs, management had taken action to mitigate the impact on profit and cash flow. Brown told Propel this included sizeable reductions in capital and repair budgets while the majority of employees were furloughed until reopening. However, importantly, regular contact was maintained with tenants through non-furloughed members of the operations team who ensured the closure period was used as productively as possible and that sites were risk assessed and thoroughly prepared for reopening. Founded in 1995, Trust Inns owns 350 pubs across the UK and is owned by the family interests of Trevor Hemmings.
All Star Lanes permanently closes Manchester site: All Star Lanes, the boutique bowling alley operator backed by sector investor Luke Johnson, is permanently closing its Manchester site, Propel has learned. The venue at the Great Northern Warehouse opened in 2013 and was the company’s only outlet outside the capital. Chief executive Graham Cook said: “Due to recent events, we have decided to close Manchester Deansgate and will no longer be operating the venue. We love Manchester and are sad to be leaving. However, this is a head-over-heart decision made in the best interests of our wider team and business, longer term. For now, we will be concentrating on our leading bowling businesses in London.” All Star Lanes will continue to operate its four London venues – Brick Lane, Holborn, Westfield Stratford and Westfield White City.
New home for The Dairy restaurant: Chef-entrepreneur Robin Gill and wife Sarah will reopen The Dairy at a site in Bermondsey on Thursday (10 September). Following the closure of the original site in Clapham, the restaurant will open in Bermonds Locke. Robin Gill said: “Closing the original Clapham site of The Dairy was a very difficult decision for me and Sarah, but finding a brilliant site so quickly means we are able to retain our staff and bring them over to Bermondsey. The Dairy was, and will always be, a family-run restaurant led by nature. Our goal was to create an experience as close to dinning by a farm or coastline in central London with direct relationships to our beloved purveyors from the land and sea.” The Dairy Bermondsey will follow much of the same produce-led focus as its predecessor. Among its new menu items are: Willie’s mackerel, dilled fresh gherkins, sea purslane, dashi; grilled radicchio, broad bean purée, pickled tropea onions; and wood-roasted lamb, hayonnaise, charred lettuce and mint oil. The Dairy was launched in 2012.
Stonegate reignites training programme following lock-down: Stonegate Pub Company has reignited its Albert’s Theory of Progression (ATOP) training programme, opening its courses to more than 800 delegates-in-waiting, with much of the learning going virtual. After lock-down forced the cancellation of more than 60 workshops, Stonegate’s learning and development team began redesigning many of the training programmes to facilitate online learning. ATOP has been rebuilt with virtual classrooms, videos, on job, online, one-to-one coaching, as well as face-to-face workshops, which the learning and development team hopes can recommence in November. The career pathway will continue to embrace the new learning practices adopted during lock-down, with shared online whiteboards, working in virtual groups, recording all workshops to watch again and collaborating online on tasks, such as business plans and charity events, all becoming part of the core of study. Stonegate also reported despite staff being furloughed, it had 100% engagement from its team leaders currently enrolled on the Accolade programme that prepares staff for deputy manager roles, and similar figures for Albert’s Award, aimed at team members wanting to progress to team leaders. Stonegate also saw its apprentices on Albert’s Evolution continue their studies during lock-down, with more than 200 partaking in online learning. ATOP saw a flurry of sign-offs post lock-down, as delegates could quickly finish off their last pub-based modules once they had reopened. Albert’s Award as already broken the 500 barrier this year, the highest number of sign-offs in a single year to date.
Conrad Hotels & Resorts transforms rooms in St James property into private workspaces: Conrad Hotels & Resorts has transformed some of the rooms and suites at its Conrad London St James property into private workspaces. The company has introduced The Perfect Address “to cater for and align with a new market of customer”. The office spaces, which start from 26 square metres, can be booked for up to one hour to a month at a time. The air-conditioned spaces include a large desk; complimentary high-speed internet access; Chromecast with 42-inch satellite HDTV; and two desk phones. Each office features a Nespresso machine and hospitality tray, small lounge area and en-suite bathroom. Guests will have access to the business centre and printing facilities, 24-hour concierge service, private gym and bicycle storage while users will receive exclusive discounts on food and beverage, laundry services, larger meeting room bookings and room rates. Each room and workspace will also receive stringent cleaning while digital key check-in allows contactless office access by using a mobile phone.
Fullers’ to reopen flagship The Parcel Yard on Monday: London-based pub and hotel operator Fuller’s will reopen its flagship site The Parcel Yard at London King’s Cross railway station on Monday (7 September). The company has been undertaking a phased reopening of its estate having started to welcome customers back to its pubs when lock-down restrictions were lifted on the sector in July. The Parcel Yard was launched in March 2012.
Ottolenghi to reopen trio of sites, takes ready meal service nationwide: Chef Yotam Ottolenghi will continue the reopening of his restaurants this week while he is taking his ready meal service nationwide. Ottolenghi Spitalfields will reopen on Thursday (10 September), with Nopi following suit the next day and Ottolenghi in Belgravia offering takeaway from Monday, 14 September. The Ottolenghi delis in Notting Hill and Islington, along with Rovi, welcomed customers back in July. Meanwhile, Ottolenghi’s ready meals service is now available nationwide. Ottolenghi Ready offers six recipes that the team said would keep in the fridge for up to ten days and would only require reheating in a saucepan. The meals can also be frozen for up to one month. Recipes have been adapted from Ottolenghi’s test kitchen and cookbooks, alongside new dishes. The range includes braised spinach and herbs with paneer and lime; spiced lamb ragu with harissa, apricots and green olives; and shakshuka with red peppers and tomatoes. Ottolenghi also offers pick-up and delivery from all sites, ordered online.
Selfridges wins fight to stop gentleman’s club opening opposite new £300m entrance: Selfridges has won its fight to stop a gentleman’s club opening opposite its new £300m entrance after Westminster Council agreed the venue would be “seriously detrimental” to the area. Electshow, which previously ran the Mayfair Club, had applied to turn the existing Blush club in Duke Street into a gentleman’s bar. But the authority denied the venue a licence calling it “inappropriate” and its application “not fit for purpose”, reports the Evening Standard. Selfridges had told the council’s licensing committee it was building a 20,000 square foot toy shop and a cinema in Duke Street to make the area more “family orientated” until late into the night. The store's Brasserie of Light would also directly overlook the proposed gentleman’s club. Philip Kolvin QC, for Selfridges, said: “My client has spent five years and £300m on a redevelopment of the Duke Street facade to transform it from the rather modest services side of the building to a fine piece of architecture in its own right. With its triple-storey customer entrance, key welcoming and drop off point for visitors – the place where people meet before and after visiting Selfridges. That entrance is directly opposite the application site.” The New West End Company, residents and the Met Police were also among the objectors. Craig Baylis, speaking for Electshow director Wahid Mekhaiel, said the club would be discreet, had already been operating as a standard nightclub without incident and would not affect Selfridges.
Christie Group announces Venners management changes with MD retirement: Professional services company Christie Group has announced Steve Mayne will retire as managing director of stocktaking and audit expert Venners on 31 December. The succession plan sees Scott Hulme, Venners deputy managing director, step up to managing director after a brief transition period. Mayne joined Venners in London as the office junior and post boy in 1975. He has been promoted through the ranks and formally took over as managing director at the beginning of 2018. Meanwhile, Chris Day has agreed to continue as a non-executive director until the company’s annual general meeting next year.
Venners is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member