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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 10th Sep 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Propel Multi Club returns with live digital webinar focusing on delivery opportunity, open for bookings for operators: The next Propel Multi Club Conference, taking place on Thursday, 8 October, will take the form of a day-long digital live webinar and will focus on the opportunity offered to operators by delivery. The event, which starts at 10am, is free for operators, who can claim two places by emailing Speakers include NPD Group foodservice director Dominic Allport talking about the growth of the delivery market, the key trends that are developing and where the sector goes from here. Elton Gray, commercial and operations director at Creams, will discuss the challenges and considerations of delivery working within a franchised business model. Thom Elliot, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims, will discuss the evolution of the concept’s delivery strategy, plus the development and success of its pizza at home offer. Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK, will talk to Propel insights editor Mark Wingett about being an early adopter of delivery during his time at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, the challenges and opportunities, and how delivery is working for Burger King. Just Eat managing director UK Andrew Kenny will discuss the key trends Just Eat is currently seeing; the key things it has learned since setting up its delivery operation; and how it is using data and insights to help operators improve the delivery experience. AlixPartners director Steve Braude will talk about the delivery market across the Pond and the differences with our own here. Susan Martindale, group HR director at Mitchells & Butlers, will look at building a delivery strategy for pubs, the company’s use of virtual brands and a possible move into dark kitchens. Andre Johnstone, the former Wagamama executive and founder of Delivery Insider, will give his views on how business can navigate through the confusing world of food delivery, from menu set-up to aggregator management. Richard Morris, chief executive of Tortilla, will explain how delivery has forced an evolution of the business for the better. Deliveroo’s director of national accounts Matt Ring will talk to Mark Wingett about how the business continues to innovate, its use of data to create virtual brands and the challenges it faces to stay ahead in terms of growing its consumer base. There will also be a panel session involving JP Then, founder of Crosstown Doughnuts; and Johnnie Tate, founder of Yard Sale Pizza on launching, operating and growing in a delivery-focused world.

Industry News: 

Sponsored message – free test and trace software from Wireless Social and Purple: Due to a recent spike in covid-19 cases across the UK, the government has made it compulsory for hospitality venues to take customers' details for the NHS Test and Trace programme. Wireless Social, together with Purple, recently launched its free test and trace software – enabling businesses to seamlessly log visitor information from a centralised digital hub. Visitors are asked to register their name and phone number when logging on to the venue’s Wi-Fi. Their data is then stored securely for 21 days and is only passed over to the NHS Test and Trace service if a case is reported within the venue. Already, the test and trace software is successfully being used in more than 2,200 venues across the UK, with more than 1.6 million users to date. The new test and trace product is an add-on to current technology, which, through the power of Wi-Fi, allows brands to have ongoing behaviour tracking to understand loyalty and run proof of marketing campaigns. All data is automatically linked to all intelligence programmes enabling brands to have a holistic view of their guests, build detailed customer profiles and gives an opportunity to understand customer behaviour, frequency, dwell time and marketing campaign success. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Landlords ask for chance to pursue debts: A clash between retailers and landlords has escalated as Britain’s biggest property owners call on the government to end a ban on aggressive collection of rent, The Times reports. It added: “The British Property Federation (BPF) has written to Alok Sharma, the business secretary, urging him to end a moratorium introduced at the start of the pandemic. It said the ban was ‘undermining the UK’s attractiveness’ as a place to invest in property and development, which could undermine the recovery. The plea is backed by the chief executives of property companies including David Atkins, of Hammerson, owner of Birmingham’s Bullring; Neil Slater, global head of real estate at Aberdeen Standard Investments; and David Partridge, managing partner of Argent, the developer behind the regeneration of King’s Cross in London. Ministers are understood to be planning to decide, this week, whether to extend moratoriums that restrict property owners’ rights to pursue tenants for unpaid rent. The present ban ends on 30 September. Billions of pounds of rental payments have been deferred or waived since it was introduced. Melanie Leech, chief executive of the BPF, accused ‘large, financially sophisticated and well-capitalised businesses’ of abusing the moratorium by withholding rent to improve their liquidity. ‘This behaviour has undermined the ability of property owners to support those businesses in genuine need, as income from more robust occupiers is critical to cover the cost of providing rent holidays to more vulnerable ones,’ she wrote to Sharma.”

UK footfall continues to grow, Saturday figures up 3% on last week: Footfall on UK streets was down by 39% compared with averages in February before lock-down, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provide Wireless Social. However, these statistics represent the highest number of shoppers on UK streets in the past six months. Sunday’s footfall was down by 38% versus February’s numbers, which was a fall from last week – but bank holiday Monday at the end of August may mean last week’s good news is somewhat misleading. Regionally, Liverpool saw its biggest decline in footfall for weeks on Saturday, dropping back by 11% but this could be a potential impact of the local lock-downs in place in the north west. The picture was bleaker in Edinburgh as footfall declined for the third Sunday in a row, it is now down 45% against February averages but had recovered to a drop of just 29% three weeks ago. London is now tracking at 40% behind February’s footfall, however it is the capital’s suburbs propping up the figures while central London still struggles. London’s West End is 56% down on February’s footfall, City is 62% back on those averages while Canary Wharf sits 68% down.

Irish wet-led pubs ready for 21 September reopening: Ireland’s government has given wet-led pubs the green light for reopening on Monday, 21 September. The move was ratified on Tuesday (8 September). At the weekend, leaked documents detailing reopening measures for wet-led venues caused frustration because they were the same as those governing restaurants and cafes, which are already open. The reopening date is the fourth attempt at kick starting wet-led pubs after dates scheduled for 20 July, 10 August and 31 August failed. The Licensed Vintners Association chief executive Donall O’Keeffe said: “If all pubs are following social distancing, they should all have had the opportunity to get their doors open long before now. The vast majority of pubs have acted incredibly responsibly during this crisis and the pubs still closed have taken a real hit for the good of public health. It is about time that this contribution was acknowledged by the government. We look forward to raising a glass once these pubs do get to open their doors again after six long months.” Despite the relief at being able to open, proposals are subject to local restrictions, with both Dublin and Limerick potentially about to go into a temporary lock-down as coronavirus cases rise in both cities. Trade body Drinks Ireland has vowed to help licensees with supplying products and beer line cleaning in time for reopening but has warned the government cannot take a “stop and start” approach because the two-week process is costly.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking to speak to operations directors or operations managers from the quick service/fast casual food sector who are keen to join an ambitious small business. This senior position will support a business with six restaurants, which has investment to start a roll-out plan. The executive team is hoping to speak to passionate senior leaders who have excellent knowledge of implementing systems and procedures, brand development and structure and have strong openings experience. The ideal individual will love the London food scene, have great quick service food experience and a combination of large company knowledge and small growth brand experience. The position is London based and a salary between £60,000 and £90,000 will be considered. Anyone interested can email
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campign member

Company News:

Loungers thanks employees for EOTHO efforts with ‘Eat Out Because You Missed Out’ initiative: Cafe bar operator Loungers has moved to thank its employees across both its Lounge and Cosy Club brands for their efforts in making the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme a success by launching a “Eat Out Because You Missed Out” reward, Propel has learned. Under the initiative, every “Lounger or Cosy Clubber” who worked a shift in August is entitled to £50 off food and drink (including alcohol) in any Lounge or Cosy Club, free of charge. The £50 voucher is for every one of the group’s employees who worked a shift in August and can be used on one occasion on Mondays to Thursdays between 15 September and 22 October. The group has brought in the initiative for its circa 5,000 employees, to recognise their hard work and that they were unable to benefit fully from the EOTHO scheme while working.

Chop’d begins gradual reopening of its estate: Chop’d, the Eddie Holmes-led salad bar chain, has begun the gradual reopening of its 18-strong estate, with the opening of five sites in London. The group has, this week, reopened its sites in St Paul’s, Curzon Street, Long Acre, City Point and Spitafields. The sites are open for a limited time, and between 11am and 2.30pm, and offer a pared back menu. It is thought the company will assess the success of these sites before looking at opening further units. Holmes told Propel: “It is great to be opening up again, and the restrictions we have placed on the opening hours and limited menu will allow us to see how we may adapt our model going forward. We are grateful to the support of our suppliers and a number of our landlords in being able to take this step.”

Incipio Group praises landlords’ support during lock-down, operating at almost 70% of 2019 turnover: Incipio Group, which is backed by Edition Capital, has thanked its landlords after the successful reopening of its six London sites. Before lock-down, the group was on track to turn over more than £20m in 2020. Since reopening on 4 July, 105,000 customers have visited and even though it has operated at reduced capacity of 52%, Incipio has seen turnover at almost 70% year-on-year by adjusting its operating model. The company participated in the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and witnessed an uplift of 40% in revenue across its sites on Monday to Wednesday during August. Incipio chief executive Ed Devenport said: “During the most challenging months the industry has probably ever seen, like many others, we were in fight mode in order to protect the business, our staff and our future. One of the first things we did was proactively turn to each of our landlords to discuss solutions to safeguard the venues and our teams. There has been a lot of negative press recently regarding how landlords have treated their tenants during the pandemic. From our perspective, we have always worked incredibly hard on our relationships with our landlords and their approach towards us has been exceptional. They have given us support that has underpinned our ability to retain the majority of our team, reopen and bounce back strongly.” The group’s sites are Pergola Paddington, Pergola Olympia, Lost in Brixton, Bloom, The Prince and W12 Studios. And its landlords include British Land (Pergola Paddington), Stanhope Capital (W12 Studios), Yoo Capital (Pergola Olympia), Delancey (The Prince), Hondo Enterprises (Lost in Brixton) and The Royal Garden Hotel (Bloom). The group has secured a variety of rental agreements including rent-free periods during lock-down as well as turnover and capacity-based rents.
Out Of The Woods acquired out of administration for £563,000, report shows: Out Of The Woods Restaurant Group, which operates four pubs in London, was acquired out of administration last month by newly formed company – Racon Investments – for £659,408. A statement of administrators’ proposal by Chris Farrington and Simon Jagger, of ReSolve, showed £96,265 was paid on completion with the remaining £563,143 settled by way of rollover of secured creditor FAP’s assets of each of the group’s four subsidiary companies – Woodys Inns, Hillmaster, Willow Inns (UK) and Forest Inns (UK) – to the purchaser. Racon Investments, which invests in restaurants and bars, comprises a number of directors who were also formerly directors of Out Of The Woods Restaurant Group, plus Martin Swindon, formerly finance director for Laine Pub Company. Swindon left Laine last year after 12 years with the pub company to pursue his own business interests. Propel revealed earlier this summer that Chris Farrington and Simon Jagger, of ReSolve Advisory, had been appointed joint administrators of the four subsidiary companies and founder Jasper Gorst had left the business. Gorst opened The Oak W2 in Notting Hill in 2001 followed by The Bird In Hand in Brook Green in 2011 and The Oak W12 in Goldhawk Road two years later. Last year, he opened The Oak SW11 in Battersea having transformed the former Butcher & Grill in Parkgate Road. All four sites have recently reopened. The report showed despite “significant” interest during the marketing campaign only four offers were received for the company, which was “struggling severely as a result of the lock-down”. However, three of those offers were for only one or two of the sites. Racon’s offer was, therefore, the only one put forward for recommendation, with the sale preserving 83 jobs. Unsecured creditors across the four companies are owed more than £1.5m and the administrators said there would not be a distribution.
McDonald’s to trial reusable cup for hot drinks in UK: McDonald’s has announced a global partnership with TerraCycle’s circular packaging service, Loop, to test a new reusable cup model for hot drinks. The initiative will first be trialled in 2021 across select McDonald’s restaurants in the UK. McDonald’s said the partnership will “conveniently allow customers to reduce waste” by choosing a durable Loop-created cup, for a small deposit. The deposit can then be redeemed by returning the cup to participating McDonald’s UK restaurants in order to be safely washed through the Loop system and reused again in McDonald’s restaurants. Jenny McColloch, vice president, global sustainability at McDonald’s, said: “We’re on a journey to rethink how we package products to give customers options that reduce waste, maintain the highest safety standards, and enhance the McDonald’s experience they expect and enjoy. That’s an innovation challenge, and it’s one we think the Loop model has potential to help us solve. We’re excited to assess how new reusable packaging models could work within our system as we accelerate circular packaging solutions with our partners around the globe.” McDonald’s said this builds on progress it has already made to recycle paper cups in multiple markets. Almost all of McDonald’s restaurants across the UK now have recycling units for hot and cold paper cups. 

Tampopo to open pop-up in former Byron site: Pan-Asian restaurant business Tampopo is to open a pop-up under its East Street brand in the former Byron unit in London’s Clapham. The pop-up on Northcote Road will run till the end of the year, but there is a possibility that it could be extended. It is thought that the David Fox-led business will use the pop-up to test the neighbourhood for delivery trade. From its original site at Manchester’s Albert Square, the group has expanded to open restaurants in the Corn Exchange and the Trafford Centre in the city, and Fitzrovia in central London. Dishes come from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and beyond, and include sharing platters, noodles and curries. East Street aims to reflect the relaxed “grab-and-graze” style of street markets and shopping centres in Bangkok and Singapore. In 2018, East Street took over the former Rice site in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, adding an “on-the-go” element to its pan-Asian food offer.

Sushisamba to open rooftop site in Edinburgh’s St James Quarter: Sushisamba has lined up an opening in Edinburgh, at the city’s St James Quarter, for 2022. The international restaurant brand will occupy the rooftop at the W Edinburgh hotel, located on levels 10 and 11 of the scheme, and be part of its final phase. The restaurant will be the brand’s third UK location and its first outside of London, joining Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Dubai and two London sites – Heron Tower and Covent Garden. The restaurant will feature a main dining room with unparalleled views of Edinburgh’s skyline, a bar and lounge, chef’s table, and outdoor terraces. Ed Webb, director of Development Management at St James Quarter, said: “From the start, we’ve focused on ensuring St James Quarter attracts world-leading brands and securing Sushisamba for the rooftop of W Edinburgh matches this ambition. The Sushisamba brand and offer is a perfect fit for our vision and is a fantastic addition to the existing food line-up at St James Quarter. Sushisamba will bring a new level of energy and excitement to Edinburgh, showcasing a joint vision and innovative concepts not yet seen in the Scottish capital.” Omar Gutierrez, chief operating officer of Sushisamba, said: “Edinburgh and its international appeal make it a natural fit for Sushisamba’s third UK location as we continue to expand our brand globally. We look forward to unveiling our cutting-edge plans and are honoured to join the growing list of pedigree brands that make up St James Quarter’s iconic estate.” Everyman Cinema, a new food hall from Bonnie & Wild, @Pizza, Five Guys, and The Alchemist have already signed up for the scheme.

Homeslice fired up for Neal’s Yard site reopening with guest chefs: London-based better pizza brand Homeslice will host a monthly series of dinners hosted by guest chefs to celebrate the reopening of its Neal’s Yard site in Covent Garden. Michelin-starred chef Lee Westcott will cook for three nights from Thursday, 24 September, at the venue’s Fire & Friends programme but the venue will be open for regular service from Monday (14 September). Neil Rankin (Symplicity Foods) will take the reins for a period during October with further chefs to be announced. Westcott has put a four-course menu together to make full use of the restaurant’s wood-fired oven. On the menu will be grilled Carlingford oyster, jalapeno salsa and fermented wild garlic; IPA sourdough served with whipped Marmite butter and roasted yeast; wood-fired beetroot, blackberry, smoked cream and fennel pollen; roasted spatchcock quail, grilled courgettes, tomatoes and camomile, and seasonal greens; damson, Sichuan pepper, rapeseed and fig leaf. The Fire & Friends events will be ticketed. Meanwhile, the venue will continue to offer the Eat Out To Help Out scheme throughout September from its own pocket as per the government scheme. 
Tipjar closes crowdfunding campaign after raising £700,000: Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising £700,000. Tipjar founder James Brown, who is retail director of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, and Rosa’s Thai Café co-founder Alex Moore, who invested in Tipjar a year ago, aimed to raise £300,000 as it looks to grow. Tipjar was offering 6.25% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £4.5m. It has now closed the campaign with 1,194 investors pledging £699,999. The pitch stated: “Tipjar set out to solve three problems – tipped workers are earning less each year as cash transactions reduce; businesses are struggling under the administration burden, tax compliance and levels of transparency needed to manage tips; and consumer confidence in tipping is at an all-time low. We’ve used tech to allow customers to tip staff directly. This transparency gives consumers confidence the money goes to who it was intended. By facilitating the direct payment of tips between customers and staff, we remove the business from the equation, removing its liabilities, the burden of complying with tax legislation and reducing the cost of running a compliant tronc system. We’ve already appointed a chief executive in the US with the aim of having live clients by November and have plans to expand across the EU and Australia.” Last month, Propel reported Tipjar had received significant investment from Simon Bocca, the former chief operating officer at Fourth, and four other Fourth senior leadership alumni.
Robinsons reopens The Pooley Bridge Inn after £1m investment: North west-based brewer and retailer Robinsons has teamed up with new licensee Mat Cooper to plough £1m into the revamp and reopening of The Pooley Bridge Inn. The tenanted site near Ullswater in the Lake District was set to reopen in late March but lock-down forced its postponement. Since opening its doors, it has proved a popular spot for staycations and offers food and drinks. Pooley Bridge operations director Kyle McGregor said: “The place looks stunning and, after months of worry and the disappointment of missing out on our original opening day in March, trade has taken off like a rocket. August sales were up by 70% on last year. We’ve recruited a fantastic team and the guest experience is now on a completely new level. Our covid-friendly spacing gives us 397 covers inside and out.” Among the renovation work is an extension to the rear, refreshed paintwork outside, a rear and front external courtyard with covered seated booths, festoon lighting and an external bar. Upstairs, the 12 bedrooms have been refurbished. Robinsons business development manager Simon Taylor added: “The Pooley Bridge now certainly meets the expectations of today’s tourists and visitors. The village was left isolated after Storm Desmond of 2015 (the new bridge is due to reopen in late October 2020), and we wanted to give the village a new lease of life. The bedrooms are rich in heritage and cosy with feature floral walls and sandblasted oak beams, perfect for guests ranging from single travellers to families or couples. The Pooley Bridge offers a delicious brand new menu, embracing scrumptious pub classics, hearty pies and local steaks.”
Hyper Reality gaming complex reopens with covid-safe rules: Computer gaming venue Hyper Reality has reopened under covid-safe initiatives. The Mile End Road, east London, gaming site that combines “nostalgic gaming experiences with futuristic virtual reality” had only been open for a few months before lock-down. Along with safety edicts such as special cloth facemasks beneath the virtual reality masks and ultraviolet wand scans of the venue every two hours, there is a bar serving non-alcoholic drinks and private karaoke room. Hyper Reality founder YJ Chen said: “We’ve created a space with influences from the cyberpunk genre, including Blade Runner and Akira, and we want customers to feel a sense of awe and ‘futuristic nostalgia’. We are delighted to be back, delivering experiences that people love. Our dedicated covid-19 strategy is in place to keep our staff and customers safe, and free to enjoy themselves.” 
Turnover boost for Shorefield Holidays: Shorefield Holidays has revealed a turnover rise from £26.4m in 2018 to £28.8m in 2019. The Hampshire-based, family-owned holiday and leisure park operator, which runs eight holiday parks, revealed the boost in its financial statement for the year ending October 2019 but recorded a drop in profits after tax from £3.7m to £2.4m. Ebitda was £5.8m compared with £6.1m in 2018. The business said holiday homes sales increased by 21.7% versus 2018 and had made changes in its senior management team and its marketing strategy. Food and beverage sales had increased by 8.3% while net profit decreased by 15.6% due to more costly overheads, including salaries, advertising, prior year costs, computer costs and a full year in ownership of Wilksworth Caravan Park in Dorset. It also stated the main risk it faces is a second local wave of coronaviruses cases if they were to force another closure of its parks.
Webb Hotel Group encouraged by business since reopening: Family-owned Webb Hotel Group claimed the early signs since reopening after lock-down are “very encouraging”. However, the West Midlands-based outfit added in its latest accounts submission that coronavirus will have a “big effect” on FY20 statistics. For the year ended 31 December 2019, turnover was up to £10.7m from £10.5m while profit after tax dropped by £466 from £561,759 (FY18) to £561,293. A statement on the document read: “2019 was a mixed year. The challenges continue to be controlling wages, costs and margins. The rise again in the minimum wage has a knock-on effect across the whole team in each property with the most challenging area being the kitchen as good-quality chefs are hard to recruit. There was a good start to 2020. Unfortunately, these steps have since been overtaken by the coronavirus pandemic, which will have a big effect on the year’s figures though since reopening early signs are very encouraging.”
Folie reopens with new seasonal dishes and a weekend brunch offer: Folie, the restaurant and bar in London’s Soho, has reopened to bring a taste of France and Italy to the capital. Founder Guillaume Depoix and executive chef Christophe Marleix have refreshed the menu to include a selection of new seasonal ingredients, alongside Folie’s classic recipes. À la carte dishes include courgettes farçies, tuna sashimi Riviera-style and octopus with citrus, avocado and herbs, as well as fresh fish sourced from day boats in Cornwall and Devon. Signatures meals have also returned – these include chickpea panisses, wagyu burger with Comté cheese and confit lamb shoulder with confit garlic, cooked over 12 hours. The weekend brunch runs from 11.30am to 5pm, on both Saturdays and Sundays, and includes cocktails such as the Bloody Maria – a mix of Don Julio Blanco, tomato, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces while the brunch food includes poached eggs with avocado, rocket and sourdough. There is also a home delivery service available.
£15m plans to create hotel and revamp golf courses get go-ahead: Liverpool City Council has given the go-ahead for a £15m overhaul of Allerton Manor to create a 31-bed boutique hotel and golfing facilities. The council, which owns the property, has developed plans with Green Circle and will be funded by private investment. The grade II-listed property is said to be dilapidated and at risk while the current 18-hole golf course and nine-hole par three course will both be reconfigured. Plans include adding a driving range, putting area, pavilion and golf simulators. Green Circle managing director Yvonne Jackson said: “These plans are the culmination of a five-year investment programme and will realise our vision to provide first-class public golf facilities, expand opportunities for participation and restore the heritage and fabric of this historic site.” Up to 150 jobs could be created by the scheme.

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