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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 29th Sep 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Ban on singing, dancing and loud music vexes operators further as sector is to blame for just 3.2% of covid cases: Operators already finding economic recovery difficult enough now have to stop any singing and dancing at their venues, and music must be kept below 85 decibels. The news seemingly flies in the face of hospitality bosses as their covid-secure measures have ensured just 3.2% of the UK’s positive coronavirus cases originated in pubs and restaurants. Government legislation that was slipped out in the early hours of Monday (28 September) stated venues could be fined £4,000 or shut down for repeat offences if guests sing or dance in groups greater than six people or music is played above the required volume – exceptions are granted for weddings and concerts. British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The cumulative impact of layering restriction upon restriction is making it harder for pubs to survive. We have already seen a total ban on music in pubs in Scotland, which has seen trade plummet there. The sector has not been consulted on the evidence base for these extra restrictions on music. We are acutely aware of our responsibilities as businesses, but the government is in danger of cutting off any chance of a recovery. Instead of placing further restrictions on pubs, we need the government to focus on putting a proper support package in place to help our sector survive the winter.” Public Health statistics revealed just 22 of 532 outbreaks of acute respiratory infections were reported in food outlets in England between September 14 and 20. A total of 17 of these were confirmed to be cases of covid-19, while the others could have been flu or other viral illnesses. The statistics, updated every Friday, provide a snapshot of where coronavirus and other pathogens are spreading across the country. Restaurant and food outlet outbreaks trailed far behind schools and colleges, which accounted for 44% of England’s outbreaks – a total of 341. Care homes recorded 25% of the week’s outbreaks, a total of 195, followed by offices and factories, which saw 16% – a total of 124.

Industry News: 

Sponsored message – stay compliant during covid-19 with ROUND: UKHospitality has reported almost a quarter of hospitality businesses expect to fail by Christmas without adequate government intervention. This is a tragic reality for our industry, which has implemented stringent measures to ensure eating and drinking out-of-home is safer than before. The 10pm curfew and move to table service have placed new burdens on an already troubled sector. Health secretary Matt Hancock’s recent statement to BBC Radio 4 further angered operators as he suggested the industry was responsible for the latest rise in covid-19 cases. Sector leaders countered the claim, pointing to figures from Public Health England that showed of the 729 covid-related incidents reported in the week of 7 September, just 34 were linked to the hospitality industry. Clearly safety is paramount and operators need to ensure teams and customers stay safe to allay fears on both sides, states Ethan Martin, founder and chief executive of ROUND. One of the easiest and quickest ways to organise on-site operations is to adopt an order and payment app such as ROUND, which allows customers to order from their table safely and securely within government guidelines. As the preferred partner for Ei Group and Greene King, ROUND also continues to help hundreds of independent pubs stay compliant during covid-19. It supports the nation’s pubs with the UK’s favourite table service app, enjoying more than 15,000 five-star App Store reviews. Uniquely for operators, the app requires no set-up fee, no monthly fee – simply a small percentage transaction fee. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email

Britain’s publicans call for government support or face ‘mass’ closures: Britain’s publicans have written an open letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, urging him and the government to urgently support pubs or be responsible for mass closures, job losses and hardship. The letter, organised by the Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign group representing pubs, publicans and pub-goers, expresses publicans’ dismay at the “woeful” lack of support from the chancellor in his economic statement, and points out without further help many pubs now face imminent closure under new government-imposed restrictions. The letter said many publicans are now considering whether to close their pubs and either mothball them until after the restrictions end or to simply walk away altogether. It added thousands of pubs that don’t serve food were given no help and support whatsoever, despite the fact the 10pm curfew and table service requirement have both had a drastic impact on the viability of pubs. The letter also pointed out the new Job Support Scheme offers no help at all to most pubs because the move to permit table service only and introduce other covid-secure measures means many sites need more staff, not fewer – and those pubs cannot afford to subsidise staff for not working. The letter calls for an urgent package of support for pubs, including 5% VAT on all pub sales; grants to help cover costs; a business rates holiday extension; and a statutory right to an immediate rent review for all pubs. Campaign for Pubs chairman Paul Crossman, who is licensee of three pubs in York, said: “A huge number of our beloved pubs are now under imminent threat due to the dubious policy choices of this government. If it does not reconsider its position and invest in support for pubs now, the potential loss to our economy, our communities and the character of our towns and cities will be incalculable.”

Westminster City Council extends alfresco dining scheme until end of October: Westminster City Council is extending the temporary measures it put in place to enable alfresco dining and hospitality across the city, including the West End, until the end of October. The scheme had been set to conclude at the end of this month but will now continue in its current form until Saturday, 31 October. The council said measures are a key element of its support for the hospitality sector and the extension followed engagement with almost 1,400 residents and businesses, which showed overwhelming support. Westminster City Council leader Rachael Robathan said: “This popular scheme has been a lifeline for the hospitality sector. We recognise the importance of our business community as being key to the successful economic life of the city. We’re working closely with our residents to support local businesses, the backbone of our communities, and will continue to do all we can to help them. That’s why we have decided to allow the extension of the schemes that we have in place to support alfresco hospitality for all businesses that wish to continue using them until the end of October. We will always put the health of our residents and visitors first while doing everything possible to support our city through these very challenging times. We will keep working with residents, businesses and other key partners to identify local schemes that could benefit specific locations at certain times throughout the year in a safe manner. This could include supporting events such as Christmas fairs or alfresco dining at certain times where it suits an area and enjoys local support.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a branded pub and restaurant operator that is opening a new venue in Leicester. With venues across the Midlands, it offers premium casual dining options to tourists and locals alike. The position will pay between £30,000 and £38,000 depending on experience. The position would suit a creative but operationally focused head chef who is eager to be part of the opening for this flagship multi-outlet venue. They’ll ideally come from a high-volume, fresh branded operation, be confident in getting involved with menu development as well as ensuring all aspects of back of house run as smoothly as possible. They’ll also be confident in training groups of staff and perhaps been a chef trainer in the past. Anyone interested can email their CV to
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Buzzworks increases staff engagement levels as it lays foundations for recovery post-lock-down: Scottish bar and restaurant operator Buzzworks Holdings has increased its staff engagement levels, which is helping lay the foundations for the company’s recovery post-lock-down. Managing director Kenny Blair told Propel the company has seen a 7% rise in it scores based on staff members’ confidence in the leadership skills of the management team and the organisation being run on strong values and principles. He said, during lock-down, the leadership team held a meeting every evening to discuss the next steps and how to keep the team as settled and as informed as possible, with Blair also writing a daily blog to keep employees updated. Blair said: “Without our people we are not really anything and that’s why we thought it was really important we took these steps to look after our teams. We want to capitalise and improve on the great communications work we’ve managed so far. We want to use video calls to have more face-to-face conversations and talk more about our well-being strategy to really get it out there. Our people are an important part of our culture and they are the ones that will help us come out the other side of this.” Blair said the company had traded “positively” since lock-down at its 12 sites that, as food-led, regional locations, had been “reasonably sheltered” from the drop in footfall seen in major cities. However, with further restrictions being placed on the sector, Blair admitted the next few months were “a bit of an unknown”. He said it was imperative further support was given to the sector including extensions to the business rates holiday and the VAT cut.

Alex Dawson steps down from M&B to rejoin Greene King: Alex Dawson has returned to brewer and retailer Greene King, as business unit director for its Premium and Urban Pubs operation, after stepping down from Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), Propel has learned. Dawson, who was previously responsible for overseeing Greene King’s Pub Partners franchise division, spent four years at M&B, first as operations director for Castle Pubs then, more recently, as operations director for All Bar One. He also previously spent a year at Soho House Group, where he was overseeing the growth of its restaurant brands. Propel understands Dave Lewis, operations director for Browns, is covering All Bar One at the moment for M&B.

Ex-Pod CEO joins Princi as new commercial director: Alex Young, the former managing director of healthy eating concept Pod, has joined boutique bakery and cafe concept Princi, as its new commercial director. Young, formerly commercial director at Itsu, was chief executive of Pod from April 2017 to its acquisition by the Azzurri Group last June. He then became managing director of the Pod Food business. When private equity firm TowerBrook Capital Partners acquired the Azzurri Group, the operator of ASK Italian, Zizzi and Coco Di Mama, via a pre-pack administration, earlier this summer, Pod became a delivery-only brand. The business behind the UK operation of Princi was saved via a pre-pack administration, last month. The deal for the Princi sites in London’s Wardour Street and Shaftesbury Avenue saw its holding company, Princi UK, acquire both for a total consideration of £185,000. Meanwhile, a separate transaction saw Angel Capital Management and Pekepan Investments, which each hold a 12.5% shareholding in Princi UK, acquire the 25% shareholding in the business previously held by Starbucks EMEA. Rocco Princi founded the concept, renowned for its bread, made using family recipes, in 1986. Four years ago, Starbucks became global licensee and investor in Princi, which had five locations in Milan and London at the time, stating it would expand the number of stand-alone Princi locations worldwide. 

Lane7 strikes out with three new bowling alley sites, secures Edinburgh site: Lane7, the bowling alley, ping pong and karaoke concept, will launch three new sites in the coming months. Lane7, which opened its first site in Newcastle in 2013 and now has venues across England and Scotland, confirmed it will open a flagship Leicester site imminently, with openings in Manchester and Bristol to follow. Propel understands Lane7 has also secured a site in the St James Quarter scheme in Edinburgh. The company will open a 19,000 square foot, late-night venue on level four of the development. The enforced six-month closure of its six sites between March and August postponed long-term growth plans but Lane7 founder and owner Tim Wilks said: “We’ve experienced the toughest and most painful period imaginable. Openings in Leicester, Manchester and Bristol have been long in the planning for us and, without covid-19, I’m confident most of these sites would have been open by now. We’ve been dealt the toughest hand possible in trying to maintain commitment to these sites during a period without trade on existing sites, so we’re excited to be in a position to now press on. While we know trading conditions will remain challenging, we’re keen to get on the front foot and extend the Lane7 experience to big cities across the UK.” The Leicester site is due to open in October at the city’s old train station and will include a number of independent street food-style shipping containers, as part of a £50m revamp of Great Central Square. Lane7 will take over the All Star Lanes site in Manchester’s Deansgate later this year and will unveil its Bristol venue in the Harbourside leisure district in the new year. Wilks added: “We have to stay cautious and understand there may well be more tough times ahead, but we’re really excited to be oiling the lanes again and bringing our brand of late-night entertainment to more cities across the UK.” Will Biggart, who recently formed retail and leisure consultancy agency Torridon, is the retained agent for Lane7.

Ansell joins Marugame Udon as head of marketing: Hilary Ansell, former marketing director at Carluccio’s, has joined udon noodles and tempura restaurant chain Marugame Udon as its head of marketing, as the brand gears up to launch in the UK next year, Propel has learned. Ansell left Carluccio’s in June after almost a year and a half. She was previously director of marketing and food development at what was formerly known as Casual Dining Group for almost five years. Prior to that, she worked for Levy Restaurants and The Restaurant Group. Capdesia Group, the backer of Wasabi, and Toridoll Holdings Corporation, the backer of Shoryu Ramen and Wok to Walk, announced earlier this summer they had formed a new joint venture to launch Marugame Udon in London early next year. Marugame Udon currently has more than 800 restaurants in Japan and a further 250 across Asia, the US and Russia. The London site will be the first in Europe. Marugame Udon (Europe) will become the master franchisee for the region and the new London restaurant, for which a location is soon to be confirmed. The new joint venture said this debut site will be followed by an “ambitious roll-out plan”, involving a combination of both owned and franchise operations in the UK and Europe, working in partnership with local multi-unit/brand operators. The new company will be led by Keith Bird, the founder of Natural Kitchen, former chief operating officer of GBK, and one of Capdesia’s operating partners. Earlier this month, Propel reported Steve Phillips, formerly operations director at Busaba, has joined Marugame Udon as its head of operations. 

Deliveroo reopens free meals for NHS staff campaign, additional riders and restaurants on board: Deliveroo will resurrect its free meals for the NHS campaign amid rising numbers of coronavirus cases – as it is set to increase its delivery rider numbers by 15,000. The food delivery company will begin delivering free meals for NHS staff and vulnerable groups within a few weeks but has already opened the doors for customers to start giving contributions via its app for its “Supporting the NHS” drive. Meanwhile, the delivery business has soared with the company not only adding more delivery staff, it has brought 11,500 new partners and 16 new grocery brands on board since March. Supporting the NHS, which took place during lock-down, previously raised £2m and saw 750,000 meals delivered. Deliveroo founder and chief executive Will Shu said: “People always rely on the NHS in winter, and this year perhaps more than ever. NHS workers will play an invaluable role in keeping us and our loved ones safe. That’s why we are bringing back our campaign to deliver free meals to healthcare workers and vulnerable people. We want to make this small gesture of our enormous gratitude for all those working in healthcare.” Imperial Health Charity director of development Hayley Pannick said: “The goodwill and generosity we saw towards our NHS staff earlier this year was really heart-warming and we were delighted to be involved in this initiative with Deliveroo to get food to the front line. Delivery of hot meals provided practical support on long shifts, and a much-needed morale boost to our NHS colleagues.” Sites that benefited from having free meals delivered in lock-down included Guys and St Thomas’ London, and Trafford General Hospital in Manchester. Initial deliveries will focus on London and Manchester before expansion across the country.

Ohannes Burger to open third site: Ohannes Burger, the gourmet burger restaurant with 16 restaurants across Turkey, is to open its third site in the UK and in Nottingham. The Mansfield Road opening is slated to open on the weekend beginning on Friday (2 October), reports The Business Desk. It has sites on Long Row and Arnold in Nottingham already, with the new venture expected to create nine jobs. Owner Mehmet Ali Yazicioglu opened the chain in Turkey a decade ago and said previously regional expansion, including sites in Bulwell and Mansfield, plus a larger distribution unit, will create about 80 jobs.

Star Pubs & Bars funds BII membership for leased and tenanted licensees: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is to fund membership of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) for its leased and tenanted licensees. Star Pubs & Bars said the move was designed to give licensees access to additional services, professional impartial advice and sales building support that will help them operate in the “new normal” environment. Licensees from the company’s core leased and tenanted estate will be offered the membership, which represents a £155 value to each member. Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “Licensees are doing a complete 360-degree review of their businesses looking at how they can adapt to the new trading conditions. Operations, marketing and offers are all changing as pubs reinvent themselves to maximise sales and profits. We want to provide licensees with as much help as possible.” BII chief executive Steven Alton added: “Sharing the experiences and innovation of our diverse national members is at the heart of what we do at the BII. As everyone continues to adapt their pubs to trading in this new world, we look forward to supporting all of our members in rebuilding their businesses.”

Greene King gives staff early access to wages: Brewer and retailer Greene King has given its 38,000 team members real-time access to earned pay in its latest move to enhance employee benefits. The company has launched the Wagestream platform, giving its team members access to a percentage of their earned wages any day of the month to help them meet unexpected expenses. Greene King employees will also be able to track their pay and take advantage of Safestream — Wagestream’s micro-savings tool that collects regular, small sums straight from pay packets and on a monthly basis doubles one employee’s savings at random. The move follows Greene King’s launch of its team member support fund in partnership with the Licensed Trade Charity, a fund to financially support its teams during lock-down. Greene King chief people officer Andrew Bush said: “We care about our team members and know some of them will have encountered real financial difficulties due to consequences of the pandemic. While we were able to provide a support fund during lock-down, we know that looking ahead, Wagestream will help to alleviate some of this financial stress by helping those affected meet unexpected expenses.”

Andy Beynon to open Behind restaurant in London Fields: Chef Andy Beynon is opening restaurant Behind in London Fields, east London, in October. The former development chef for Jason Atherton has worked behind the scenes in recent times but has his CV boasts working with Claude Bosi at Hibiscus, Phil Howard at The Square and Michael Wignall at The Latymer, reports Hot Dinners. The site, which is taking the space left by Fold on Sidworth Street, is set to be a chef’s table experience with each of the 18 diners’ seats to overlook all aspects of the kitchen. Customers can expect an eight-course tasting menu with seafood being the star of the show. There will also be a wine bar and bottle shop next door for a pre or post-feed tipple. Benyon said: “I’ve watched the east London food scene develop over the past few years and I’m excited to now be able to bring my classical training to the neighbourhood I live in. For me, the service is as much a part of the meal as the food itself, which is why the entire menu will be served by us – the chefs. This is the chance for our diners to get a look ‘behind’ the scenes of a busy kitchen.”

Gym operator MK Health Club takes second site: Gym operator MK Health Club will invest £1m in equipment when it opens its second site after taking a ten-year lease at an office complex in Birmingham. The basement space, which covers 10,032 square foot, is at the Three Snowhill building and will house a gym, three studios, treatment room and coffee and juice lounge, reports The Business Desk. It is expected to open in January. MK Health Club’s first site is in Solihull. Founder Matt Kendrick said: “We will be a significant asset to the corporate sector. We’ll be the first gym outside London to offer dynamic pilates – a highly popular and energetic workout – and we’ll be introducing high-intensity spin classes in a contemporary and immersive studio. A high-spec clinic will provide treatments such as IV vitamin procedures, cryotherapy, physiotherapy and acupuncture. We will also be offering meditation sessions to help alleviate stress.” Three Snowhill, which is owned by M&G Real Estate and was developed by Ballymore, comprises 420,000 square foot and is the largest speculative office development outside London. Aaron Pope, director – asset management at M&G Real Estate, said: “MK’s arrival will provide a world-class gym facility for our occupiers. Staff well-being is no longer a ‘nice to have’ – employees expect high-quality amenities.”

Caprice Holdings to reopen 34 Mayfair on Thursday: Caprice Holdings, the Richard Caring-backed group, will reopen 34 Mayfair on Thursday (1 October). The reopening of the site in South Audley Street will come complete with a menu featuring dishes from a new rotisserie grill. Weekend brunch at 34 Mayfair will also be making a comeback with diners able to enjoy a number of the restaurant’s comfort dishes and favourites including pancakes with crispy bacon, maple syrup and blueberries; and corn tacos with fried shrimp, spiced mayo, avocado and lime.

Aston Manor invests £6m to help give it greater packaging options: Birmingham-based cider-maker Aston Manor has invested £6m to reconfigure its production site and add a new packaging line. This finance, and £30m during the past five years, means Aston Manor’s portfolio of ciders can be packaged in bag-in-box formats, in mini-kegs, and in different sizes and shapes of cans. Aston Manor chief executive Gordon Johncox said: “We have a track record of being responsive to consumer trends and having the flexibility and agility to deliver great products in different styles and formats. It is vital to our approach and our ambition to offer new products and develop new markets.”

Top Cuvée team opens bricks-and-mortar site for online bottle shop following lock-down success: Brodie Meah and Max Venning, who are behind north London wine bar and bistro Top Cuvée, have launched a bricks-and-mortar site for the online bottle shop they operated during lock-down. The venue has opened just 100 yards from their restaurant in Blackstock Road, Highbury. The online shop began as a way to provide an income for the restaurant when it was forced to close in March, stocking store cupboard essentials and natural wine made available initially for delivery across London by bicycle courier. Responding to the demand, Shop Cuvée went nationwide, delivering next day and alongside its monthly subscription programme. Now with Top Cuvée having reopened, to keep up with demand and make more room in the restaurant, the team has brought Shop Cuvée to life nearby.

Gulliver’s Kingdom gets go-ahead for £5.6m ‘Woodland Retreat’ at Warrington resort: Family-run theme park operator Gulliver’s Kingdom has been given the go-ahead for a £5.6m extension of its Warrington resort. The company has been granted permission by Warrington Borough Council for the “Woodland Retreat”, which would help secure hundreds of jobs, create new opportunities and give a “significant boost” to the local economy. It will offer short breaks, including themed group accommodation, woodland walks, a camping meadow, children’s woodland activity zone, woodland lodges, and a spa and relaxation suite. Also included are a new headquarters for staff training and admin support. Julie Dalton, managing director of Gulliver’s World, told Insider Media: “The permission aligns our Warrington resort with the range of accommodation and activities on offer at our other three resorts and will help secure more than 220 jobs and create 41 jobs in future. The pandemic has been a challenging time for our operations. Social distancing measures look set to be in place for some time yet and being able to provide visiting families with clean self-contained accommodation is a really important part of our business plan going forward.” It is hoped that construction work will start in the spring.

Edyn Group opens third London site for Locke brand: Aparthotel operator Edyn Group has opened the third London site for its Locke brand in Bermondsey. Comprising 143 studio apartments, Bermonds Locke is also home to Robin Gill’s relocated restaurant The Dairy; third-wave coffee shop and all-day dining destination Shaman; a co-working space and wellness studio. Edyn Group chief executive Stephen McCall said: “Locke aims to liberate guests from the confines of a typical hotel room by creating beautiful apartments that are designed to be lived in. The type of guest we’re accommodating wants to explore life as a local, and so the Bermondsey neighbourhood has played a significant role in defining the aesthetic, partners and programming.” The opening comes as the brand continues to expand both within the UK and internationally. With further openings planned in Dublin, Berlin, Lisbon, Munich and Copenhagen, Locke is also slated to open its fourth London outpost in Dalston in late 2020.

Broadland Drinks turnover rises by almost 12%: Norfolk-based wine producer and importer Broadland Drinks has boosted turnover by 11.8%, according to its latest results. The company posted a turnover of close to £79m for its financial year ending 31 March 2020, which was £70.6m in 2019. Profits after tax were £2.4m, a rise of more than £700,000 year-on-year. A statement signed off by directors read: “This was a good performance given the continuing fall in UK wine consumption, the political uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the highly competitive retail sector.” It also cited expansion to US markets as a positive aspect to its success while “the company exports only small volumes to Europe, hence the long-term risks of Brexit are perceived to be low to medium”. Broadland Drinks was established in 1965 and was previously named Broadland Wineries. 

Taylor Shaw wins Southport College contract: Taylor Shaw, the education arm of catering company Eliot UK, has won a new two-year contract with Southport College in Merseyside. The contract will see Taylor Shaw catering for more than 3,000 students, staff and guests across both campuses – managing hospitality, coffee shops and the student restaurant. As part of the offer, Taylor Shaw will be investing in new branding, coffee machines and the company’s click-and-collect app Breaz. 

Irish whiskey distillery closes crowdfunding campaign after raising almost £2.3m: Irish whiskey distillery Sliabh Liag has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising almost £2.3m – more than twice its £1m target. The company was offering 9% equity in return for the investment, giving the business a pre-money valuation of £14.4m. it has now closed the campaign with 1,215 investors having pledged £2,275,135. The funds will support the company’s phased move to Ardara, its new headquarters. Work on the site is already under way, and will increase the business’s production capacity to 500,000 litres of alcohol per annum with room for expansion, as it anticipates growing international demand. Moira Doherty, director of Sliabh Liag, said: “The Ardara Distillery is the natural next step in our journey to revive the Irish whiskey tradition; to bring it back to the communities while taking the name of Donegal to the furthest reaches we can.”

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