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Fri 30th Oct 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny writes to PM calling for a review on sector restrictions: Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller’s, has written a letter to the prime minister Boris Johnson urging him to review restrictions, including allowing customers to socialise safely indoors, and pointing out their impact on the sector’s and the country’s finances. Propel understands that in the letter, Emeny makes the point that since September, and despite only under 3% of new covid infections originating from hospitality, extra restrictions applied have “created a sense that pubs and restaurants are being blamed for the spread of the virus”, and that this has been “hugely damaging for the sector, for jobs and for the economy and tax revenues”. Emeny points out that with the introduction of the rule of six, the 10pm curfew and London moving into tier two, “many previously very successful pubs have been rendered temporarily commercially unviable”. He wrote: “I, like many, am now struggling to understand the government strategy in dealing with this virus, while also balancing the economic needs of the population. There is no evidence that the additional restrictions imposed are targeting the right place to control the spread. In fact, some policies, like the 10pm curfew, only serve to move customers from a regulated safe environment to an unregulated and, potentially, less safe place to socialise. In the meantime, these restrictions must be destroying the nation’s finances.” Emeny goes on to point out that, taking his own business into account, the Treasury is facing a deficit of over £100m through a fall in corporation tax, national insurance contributions, VAT and other taxes, on top of the support it has received through the crisis, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. He calls for the government to consider, specifically, removing the 10pm curfew, and allowing customers to socialise safely indoors (sitting down) with friends and colleagues while respecting the rule of six. He added: “This would allow the hospitality sector to maintain enough viability to continue to provide safe, regulated environments where customers can socialise responsibly and Treasury income can be generated. My colleagues in hospitality and I believe this sector has already proved not only that it can operate safely, but that when restrictions are removed, it can quickly generate employment and tax revenues as we did in the summer.” Emeny is the latest guest on Propel’s Friday Wrap video series, which airs on Friday (30 October) at 3pm. The new series sees Mark Stretton, former sector journalist and now head of sector PR firm Fleet Street Communications, and Propel’s insights editor Mark Wingett discussing that week’s key issues facing the UK’s hospitality sector, with a leading sector operator or expert. This week, they are joined by Emeny to discuss how the company and the sector has continued to adapt to the ever-changing restrictions placed on it, his frustrations with government, how it has impacted his leadership and putting across the sector’s case to the prime minister.

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at whether landlords will follow Grosvenor Estate lead as part of Propel Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett looks at the latest issues to impact the sector this week, including whether more landlords could follow the Grosvenor Estate in investing in their tenants. There will also be the latest sector rumblings from Premium Diary. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular columns from Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,600 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Deadline extended for sector training NITAs, three new categories for 2020: The deadline for the National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs), run by the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), has been extended until Friday, 6 November. The event, organised in partnership with Propel, highlights individuals and businesses in the sector who put their people first. Recent challenges surrounding the support and retention of hospitality teams through the pandemic have hugely increased the focus on wellbeing as a unique and important part of their development. The BII said, therefore, the NITAs this year will be a platform to recognise not only those who have continued with their existing training programmes, but also those who have developed and created new ways to support their staff and colleagues, despite the unprecedented challenges facing them. Three new categories have been added this year – The BII Heart of the Community Award; Staff Wellbeing Award; and Hospitality Support Programme Award. They join the other categories of Best Managed Training Programme Companies under 50 outlets; Best Managed Training Programme Companies 50 outlets and over; Best Training Programme – Leased & Tenanted Companies; Best Apprenticeship Training Programme; Best Individual Operator Training Programme; Training Professional of the Year; HR Manager of the Year; and the Franca Knowles Lifetime Achievement Award, which is an industry recognition award. The winner of the Franca Knowles Lifetime Achievement Award will be chosen by a panel led by Keith Knowles, chief executive and founder of Beds and Bars. The award will identify and recognise an individual who leads by example and can demonstrate people are at the core of what they do. The award is in memory of the late Franca Knowles, who was a multiple winner of NITA awards and passionate about people and training. Entrants now have until Friday, 6 November, to complete their entries and can enter more than one category. Criteria for each award and registration forms can be found on the NITAs page at www.bii.org. Each category will have a judging panel consisting of industry experts and the winners will be announced at the end of November.

Sadiq Khan fears ‘devastation’ for London as furlough scheme ends: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said London is facing “devastation” as the furlough scheme ends and has demanded a “comprehensive package of financial aid”. He said: “With the government’s furlough scheme coming to an end this weekend, it will increase the huge anxieties faced by many workers across the capital. I welcomed the changes to the flawed Job Support Scheme the chancellor announced last week. But for many businesses facing acute financial problems in London’s retail, hospitality and cultural sectors, this won’t be enough to prevent further closures and the devastation of more unemployment. The collapse of tourism has left these sectors without any prospect of returning to normal levels of business for many months to come. We urgently need a more comprehensive package of financial aid from the government that reaches all of the businesses now facing the real prospect of having to close their doors as a result of covid-19. This includes the same level of support for job retention as the original furlough scheme. It is low-paid Londoners from the most deprived parts of the capital who have been most reliant on the furlough scheme, and are at most risk of falling into greater financial hardship. If the government fails to get a grip on this virus with a functioning test-and-trace system, it will be those already struggling to make ends meet who will suffer most from the ongoing economic fallout.” Khan has also called for the current 10pm curfew to be scrapped and added: “Immediately scrapping the 10pm curfew would allow more sittings of single households in restaurants throughout the evening, helping with cash flow at a time when venues need all the support they can get.” Greater London Authority’s analysis of HMRC statistics showed West Ham continued to be at the forefront of furlough statistics with 15,300 people currently on the scheme.

KFC reports UK like-for-like sales rise best in the world, up 16%, in third quarter: KFC has reported like-for-like sales rose 16% in the UK in its third quarter to 30 September – the best result in the world. Like-for-like sales were down 4% globally with India down 37% and Latin America down 19%. Chief executive of parent Yum! Brands David Gibbs said: “During the quarter, markets with robust, off-premises, and/or digital capabilities excelled, including strength in the US (up 9% in like-for-like terms), the UK, Australia (up 7%), Japan and Canada (up 7%). Many of these markets delivered sales performance above their pre-covid levels, and collectively represent about 30% of the KFC global portfolio. KFC US had another fantastic quarter with 9% same-store sales growth owing to the continued strength of our group occasion business and digital. Our KFC US drive-thru sales grew about 60% year-on-year with our largest daypart growth occurring at midday and continued strength during the dinner daypart. We also hit a delivery milestone with about 80% of KFCs in the US now delivering many through multiple aggregator partners.” Of overall performance, he said: “Third quarter results were encouraging, demonstrating the resilience of the Yum! portfolio as Yum! generated year-on-year core operating profit growth, continued to reopen temporarily closed restaurants and achieved global same-store sales growth of approximately flat, in aggregate, for our open store base. For the second consecutive quarter, digital sales increased by more than $1bn over the prior year and set a single quarter record of $4bn.”

BBPA demands better business rates system, calls for new digital tax too: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has demanded a “much-improved business rates system” if pubs are to survive covid-19 and thrive afterwards – and it wants the introduction of a digital sales tax. The statement came as the Treasury called for evidence on current business rates. The BBPA said a digital sales tax must be implemented to ensure companies that primarily or exclusively operate online are paying their fair share in tax too and to enable the business rates multiplier to be reduced. The trade association has also stated several other measures the Treasury must take to enhance the current rates system, which included extending the 100% business rates holiday beyond March 2021, a lower business rates multiplier for pubs, investment relief to boost growth, extending small business rates relief and more regular revaluations of business rates by the Valuation Office Agency. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “A fair and sustainable business rates system is critical to support our sector both now and into a strong recovery. Pubs overpay on business rates by some £500m. Given the current circumstances they find themselves in over covid-19, and the fact they are a vital community hub, it is simply not right or fair. Companies that operate overwhelmingly online businesses must also pay their fair share, which is why we are calling for a digital sales tax that levels the playing field with more bricks and mortar-based businesses. A much-improved business rates system is required too. It is on an unsustainable path for our sector right now and must change if pubs are to survive covid-19 and thrive after it. We are also calling on the government to give a firm indication soon that they will extend the current rates holiday and other rates relief to the sector.”
 
Government closes social club alcohol loophole: Social clubs say they are “bitterly disappointed” after the government closed an apparent loophole allowing them to serve alcohol in the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions. Pubs and bars in tier three must close unless they serve substantial meals. But some social clubs were continuing to serve alcohol without food after their local councils told them this was permitted. A club in Preston said its business would now “slowly die”. Alan Hamilton from St Gregory’s Catholic and Social Club said he now faced an “uncertain future” after “a confusing message”. Councils in Wirral, Preston and Fylde had all advised social clubs that the discrepancy exists because they hold club premises certificates and not premises licences. But the government has since clarified that social clubs cannot sell alcohol on the premises unless they serve substantial meals.
 
Pret A Manger distances itself from founder’s comments on lock-down: Food chain Pret A Manger has given a tetchy response to its founder’s comments on the possibility of another national lock-down in the UK. Julian Metcalfe, who founded Pret as well as Itsu, told the Daily Mail a tightening of nationwide restrictions would be “impossible”, and said: “Society will not recover if we do it again to save a few thousand lives of very old or vulnerable people.” Metcalfe added young people in Britain would face the impact of the virus for “the next 20 to 30 years” and that just because France is soon to begin a second national lock-down it “doesn’t mean we have to”. Pret distanced itself from Metcalfe’s words on Twitter. The company, which announced 400 further redundancies and the closure of six sites earlier this month, wrote: “He has not run the business for over ten years and we do not agree with his opinion. We at Pret strongly believe we must take steps to stop the spread of the virus and tackle the new wave of infections.”

Casual Dining Show organiser secures £7m loan package: Casual Dining Show organiser Diversified Business Communications has secured a £7m package from HSBC UK via the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan (CLBILS), safeguarding 88 jobs. The funding will allow the business to continue trading throughout the covid-19 pandemic and will support cash flow while it works on its 2021 exhibitions calendar. Diversified has been impacted by cancellations in 2020, while two of its largest venue partners, the Excel London and NEC in Birmingham, were also converted into NHS Nightingale hospitals. Paul Warren, UK finance director at Diversified, said: “We’re delighted with the proactive support HSBC UK has given us as this time, not only during the initial lock-down period, but to help our long-term recovery. The loan enabled us to protect the jobs of our talented staff and provided the security that we needed to focus on the planning of our 2021 events programme.”

BBPA calls for tier three lock-down support as 13,500 jobs at risk: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has said pubs, brewers and suppliers in Nottinghamshire face “a very worrying time” as tier three restrictions loom. The local lock-down will “severely impact 823 pubs and put at risk 13,500 sector jobs worth £268m to the local economy”. As part of the tier three restrictions in the county, off-licence sales of alcohol will also be banned after 9pm. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “This is a very worrying time for pubs, brewers and their wider supply chain in Nottinghamshire. 548 pubs that don’t serve substantial meals will be forced to close. 275 food-led pubs will be able to remain open if they choose, but their trade will be decimated. 13,500 livelihoods are dependent on pubs in Nottinghamshire. Government financial support now needs to be delivered to them as quickly as possible to help their cash flow and cover their immediate costs. The 9pm curfew on off-licence alcohol sales is also greatly concerning. It will severely impact brewers whose ability to sell through retail outlets is vital to their survival while so many pubs are closed. It is hugely worrying to see this additional alcohol curfew put into place with absolutely no evidence to show how it will fight the spread of the virus. Sage itself has already called into question the effectiveness of the 10pm curfew on hospitality and this 9pm cut-off for off-licence alcohol sales in Nottinghamshire is yet another example of layer-upon-layer of restriction with no proper evidence for its effectiveness in the first place. Grants must also be made available to the brewers supplying pubs and off-licences, who will lose a big proportion of their business overnight from this. We urge the government to review these restrictions as soon as possible. Pubs are the heart of their communities and are safe and regulated environments to both eat and drink in. Beer is quintessentially British and a low-alcohol option. Government investment in them now will preserve them for generations to come.”

Scottish five-tier coronavirus system will lead to ‘chaos and failure’ and will be ‘too much’ say trade bodies: The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) has claimed the country’s new five-level covid-19 alert system will lead to “chaos and failure”. Meanwhile, UKHospitality has said the restrictions will be “too much” for some businesses. First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the measures on Thursday (29 October) but did not place any areas or cities into the strictest level four or five tiers. Most have been placed in level three. However, SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “The Scottish government’s tiered covid-19 alert system will only lead to chaos and failure. This approach is neither ‘proportionate’ or ‘sustainable’. We put together a detailed, workable plan for how hospitality could operate safely and viably in each tier. The Scottish government did not take on board one single recommendation that we put forward to save jobs. This is yet another example of government talking to industry but not listening. Saving jobs is key to protecting people’s livelihoods and the economy. It’s not rocket science – too few hours and too many staff exclude many businesses from claiming the Job Retention Scheme. The government must acknowledge that the new restrictions will end in hundreds, if not thousands of job losses. From Monday (2 November), more than 70% of the country’s population will be living indefinitely under tier three restrictions. Allowing restaurants to open for two more hours in this tier would enable them to serve another course and would result in saving 100 jobs for one of our members alone. UKHospitality executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod added: “The majority of hospitality businesses are going to find themselves in level three and will be badly affected by the restrictions. Businesses in level two areas will also feel the hit due to the restrictions to all but essential travel. It will also be a blow to accommodation businesses in level two as they might have expected some business from level three areas and will now not get it. The reality is that, for some businesses, these restrictions will be too much. Businesses will be closing their doors and, for some, they will remain closed permanently with the associated job losses.”

Grubhub sued for adding 150,000 restaurants in the US without permission: US food delivery firm Grubhub is being sued for allegedly adding tens of thousands of restaurants to its platform without permission. The accusations come in a class-action lawsuit filed Monday (26 October) in federal court by two restaurants on behalf of the 150,000 others that say have been listed on the delivery company’s app and website without consent. It says the practice hurt restaurants by co-opting their dining experience and online presence, leading to confusion for diners, who blame the restaurant for problems with a Grubhub order. And it alleges that Grubhub violated federal trademark law by using restaurants’ names and logos without their permission. It also alleges that Grubhub instructed drivers to pretend to be customers when picking up an order from a non-partner restaurant to conceal the fact the restaurant had been surreptitiously listed. A driver quoted in the suit called the process “sketchy”. Grubhub declined to comment on the lawsuit. Grubhub and other third-party delivery services in the US openly admit to adding non-partner restaurants to their marketplaces. Grubhub started doing it last year, writing in a shareholder letter last October that it believed the practice was the “wrong long-term answer,” but was necessary to compete with other delivery companies that had been doing the same thing for years.
 
Edinburgh restaurateur stages unusual protest at Holyrood over lock-down rules: An Edinburgh restaurateur Pierre Levicky, who owns Chez Jules, has staged two days of protest outside Holyrood over the Scottish Government’s latest round of lock-down restrictions. Levicky, owner of the Hanover Street restaurant, ate at a table from Chez Jules with his venue manager outside the Scottish parliament for two afternoons stating that if they “can’t dine inside, they can dine outside”. Levicky said his business will continue to lose £2,000 a week even with new restrictions for hospitality in the central belt coming into action on Monday (2 November). From next week, central belt restaurants and pubs will be able to open for just food from 6am to 6pm daily – with alcohol sales prohibited. Levicky said that the sale of alcohol makes up to 35% of his venue’s income – and although his business is not in danger of closing, he says that the restrictions will be “catastrophic” for others. He told Edinburgh Live: “The rules just need tweaking so that businesses can survive – I am happy to open until 6pm at night but we need to be able to serve alcohol. The government is allowing shops and bars to sell alcohol to take away but we can’t serve a glass of wine with dinner. Even in tier three we’ll still be losing £2,000 a week due to the lack of alcohol sales – and that’s without paying myself or my partner and even having some of my staff on furlough.”
 
Peckham nightclub loses licence after flouting lock-down rules: A Peckham nightclub that repeatedly flouted coronavirus rules with illicit late-night parties has been shut down. Met officers found punters ignoring social distancing rules by dancing and drinking together at Afrikiko, while bosses desperately tried to hide customers in the basement during one police raid. The Old Kent Road venue, set up as a nightclub and restaurant, was reported to Southwark Council and this week stripped of its operating licence. “We don’t want to take away people’s livelihoods – we would far rather they engaged with us and operated in a safe way for everyone”, said Sergeant Keith Dempster from Scotland Yard’s South Central Command Unit. “However, by repeatedly operating as a nightclub, staff and patrons were exposed to a real risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus, which would have affected London’s communities.”
 
Just Eat to recruit 700 couriers as new restrictions bite in Ireland: Just Eat has announced plans to recruit 700 couriers as delivery demand is expected to soar during the Ireland’s level five restrictions. The introduction of level five on Wednesday, 21 October, means tougher restrictions that include bars, cafes, restaurants and wet-led pubs can provide takeaways and delivery services only. The new couriers will support anticipated growth in online ordering, enabling restaurant owners across the country to deliver food to more people, in more areas. Just Eat has also announced this growing fleet will service expanded delivery areas in some key urban locations where independent restaurants have been most impacted by the latest set of restrictions. In addition, all restaurants that sign up to the platform in the next two weeks will enjoy a period of waived commission for their first 30 days on the platform. Just Eat Ireland managing director Amanda Roche-Kelly said: “This year has been an incredibly challenging year for everyone, but few have been hit harder than our partners in the restaurant sector, with these latest restrictions bringing huge uncertainty and worry for so many local independent business owners across Ireland. We are delighted to be in a position to build our courier network at a time when many people have had to temporarily or permanently leave their jobs. We anticipate increased demand during the lock-down period and want to ramp up in order to ensure that we capture all those orders on behalf of our restaurant partners.”
 

Company News:

Gordon Ramsay to launch third Street Pizza site: Gordon Ramsay has announced he will open a third site in London under his £15 all-you-can-eat Street Pizza brand next month, in Southwark. The new site will open on Thursday (5 November) under the chef’s Union Street Cafe site in Great Suffolk Street. He also operates Street Pizza sites in St Paul’s and at his York & Albany site in Camden. Ramsay said: “This project has been in the pipeline for the past 12 months. You may think it is crazy to open a restaurant across these torrid times, but we are going to bounce back, and we have to get this economy kick-started and back to where it was.” In August, accounts for Ramsay’s restaurant business showed it made a profit of more than £15m last year and was still planning to open 50 venues across the UK. The chef is also planning a major expansion into Asia with 200 sites in the next five years. His ambitions to “create a billion-dollar dining proposition” are unaffected by the covid-19 pandemic. Ramsay believes the restaurants will create around 2,000 jobs in the UK including some in head office. “We have big dreams, big plans and a global strategy so ambitious it takes my breath away,” he told The Daily Mail.

Brindisa founder Ratnesh Bagdai and chef Steve Ellis acquire first pub for new venture: Ratnesh Bagdai, the founder and co-owner of the Brindisa Restaurant Group, and award-winning chef Steve Ellis have secured the first pub for their new venture Dining Etc Ltd. Propel has learned that the pair have acquired The Bailiwick Englefield Green in Surrey, which used to be operated by Brunning & Price, through property advisers Davis Coffer Lyons (DCL). Bagdai, is the founder and co-owner of the Brindisa Restaurant Group, which operates six sites across central London, while Ellis was previously chef-patron of The Oxford Blue, Windsor, and was a protege of Gordon Ramsay and Clare Smyth. Dining Etc Ltd has taken a new 20-year, free-of-tie lease with a rent of £80,000, which includes the Bailiwick Pub and adjacent Cheeseman’s Cottage manager’s accommodation, which dates back to the 1790s. Once a Victorian shop, The Bailiwick comprises substantial accommodation and includes a terraced beer garden overlooking the neighbouring woodland. The menu on offer at The Bailiwick will be the “finest of British cuisine with the best of locally sourced produce including the Windsor Great Park and local suppliers”. DCL acted on behalf of the landlord, Havenchoice Limited. Paul Tallentyre, head of Pubs and Bars at DCL, said: “The Bailiwick is in an exceptionally popular rural location in an idyllic setting, with immediate access to the park. The new tenants know the location well and intend to carry out a full refit and provide all day service to a high standard.”

Gideon Joffe acquires two Laurel Canyon Ventures sites out of administration: Gideon Joffe has acquired out of administration two of the sites previously operated by his family’s Laurel Canyon Ventures business, Propel has learned. Asher Miller and Henry Lan, of David Rubin & Partners, were appointed joint administrators of the four-strong business, which operates the Chez Bob, Bob’s Cafe and Monkeynuts concepts, earlier this summer. The company operated Chez Bob in Belsize Park, Monkeynuts in Crouch End, and sites under the Bob’s Cafe name in Muswell Hill, and Salusbury Road in NW6. The business was run by Gideon Joffe, son of Giraffe co-founder Russell Joffe, who sadly passed away earlier this year aged 62. Propel understands that Gideon Joffe has acquired back and reopened the sites under the all-day bistro concept, Bob’s Cafe.

Papa John’s franchisee adds seating after alleged Eat Out To Help Out scam investigation: A Papa John’s takeaway pizza boss under investigation for an alleged Eat Out To Help Out scam has suddenly added extra seating in his stores. Millionaire Raheel Choudhary, who owns 61 UK Papa John’s franchises, made the changes after the Daily Mail exposed how he claimed taxpayers’ cash on thousands of eat-in meals despite most of his stores being collection and delivery only. He has also switched Google review searches to say “dining in” is available in most of his stores. Previously, this was listed as forbidden in all but one of his franchises. Papa John’s head office, which had told him not to take part in the Eat Out To Help Out initiative, said: “We are conducting a thorough investigation into all allegations made. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time but, clearly, any attempt to distort or obstruct the truth would be unacceptable.” Under the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, which ran on Mondays to Wednesdays from 3 August until the end of the month, diners got up to half their meal free up to £10 per customer if they ate at participating restaurants. Takeaways and deliveries were excluded. Mr Choudhary has confirmed he claimed £185,000 in the offer, but says all were from customers who ate in at 40 of his stores that took part in it. Papa John’s head office had told franchisees not to sign up for the scheme because most stores were collection and delivery only and, therefore, ineligible. To stop the spread of coronavirus, the company had also instructed Mr Choudhary to only allow one customer at a time to enter his stores and to make them wait outside for collections. Mr Choudhary told the Daily Mail he is “co-operating fully” with the Papa John’s investigation but has abruptly made a number of changes since being told of the allegations on 5 October. In his branch in Norbury, south London, where there was previously a single chair and small table, there are now five extra chairs.

Deliveroo teams up with Pret and others to feed thousands of poorer families: Deliveroo has teamed up with Co-op, Pret A Manger, FareShare and the Felix Project to deliver food to thousands of families in need this Christmas. The campaign will see hundreds of thousands of healthy snacks, pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables – via companies such as Sheringhams – sandwiches and supermarket items delivered to poorer families in the coming weeks and months, with the first deliveries taking place during this half term school holiday. Deliveroo’s “family food delivery unit” signals the company’s long-term commitment to supporting families in need. The business has joined charity FareShare and Co-op as members of the Marcus Rashford Child Food Poverty Taskforce, supporting his campaign to end child food poverty. Food will be distributed through front-line charities, food banks and families. Deliveroo has been collecting unsold food from Co-op stores, unsold sandwiches from Pret and delivering them to the Felix Project. This will expand across London and other parts of the country in the coming weeks. Felix Project is delivering this food to schools, holiday clubs, youth organisations, food banks, local charities, and covid-19 emergency food hubs across London. Deliveroo chief executive and founder Will Shu said: “We want to play our part in supporting families in need and are committed to working with our partners to provide food to families between now and Christmas, and beyond.” Pret A Manger UK managing director Clare Clough added: “No family should ever go hungry, which is why we’re pleased to join Deliveroo in this new scheme. Every day, unsold food is distributed to those who need it most and we are pleased that through our new delivery partnership with Deliveroo and the Felix Project, we can extend this to even more families and vulnerable children.”

Dutch restaurant brand looks to make UK debut in Edinburgh: A Dutch restaurant brand is set to take over the former site of the Wee Restaurant on Frederick Street in Edinburgh city centre to make its UK debut. The plans also include a mock-up of the building exterior, with the Greenwoods branding and the tagline Amsterdam – Edinburgh. Greenwoods is a popular tearoom on the Singel canal in Amsterdam that serves classic breakfast menu items like full English breakfasts, Eggs Benedict and their speciality Eggs Greenwoods: two poached eggs on soda bread with cottage cheese and almonds – as well as a three-pancake banoffee stack. Lunch options include a shredded duck burger, and a cajun melt with cheese and bacon and an “Angus burger”.

Indian restaurant boss launches spice business: The restaurateur behind one of the only Indian restaurants in Yorkshire last year to receive a Michelin Plate is behind a new business that is aiming to turn up the heat in the spice market and meet the rising demand from top chefs and ambitious amateurs who are tackling covid-19 by cooking at home. The team behind Tapasya Spices said it is drawing on its contacts throughout India to import around 50 varieties of spices plus basmati rice, lentils and other pulses to support the rise in home cooking and demand in other areas, while creating 50 jobs, with the potential to increase that to 200 roles in the longer term. Mukesh Tirkoti, chief executive of Tapasya Spices, said: “Indian spices are in demand at fine-dining restaurants for various cuisines, not just Indian. They are also important to other sectors, such as the expanding craft gin market, but it is not easy to source the best quality and that is what we will bring. Tirkoti has a long history of running Indian fine-dining restaurants including launching the award-winning Tapasya in Hull in 2013 and Tapasya@Marina in 2016. The new business, Tapasya Spices, is a separate venture and sees Tirkoti joined by lifelong friends and fellow directors Meghdut (Bobby) Biswas and Soumen Hajra, both based in Chelmsford. The team is completed by renowned chef KK Anand, whose career started at the five-star hotel Sofitel in Delhi before he progressed to similarly luxurious establishments in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the US and London. Anand will lead the drive to showcase the products of Tapasya Spices with cooking demonstrations online and on social media. He said: “Every product has been carefully selected to bring something new and different to the UK market, all tested and endorsed by some of the most celebrated Indian chefs in the world.”
 
Hakkasan Group to open 11th Hakkasan site, this time in Muscat: Hakkasan Group is opening a Hakkasan restaurant in Oman’s capital of Muscat, making it the Cantonese restaurant’s 11th location around the world. The new restaurant will sit inside the St Regis Al Mouj Muscat, and will officially open its doors at the same time as the hotel does in 2022. There are currently two Hakkasan sites, one in UAE restaurants, one in Dubai and the other in Abu Dhabi. The Hakkasan Group will also open a new concept called Kamasaka. The restaurant aims to channel Japanese ceremonial cuisine and create contemporary Japanese food. “Between the arrival of our flagship restaurant, Hakkasan, and the grand opening of our newest culinary masterpiece, Kamasaka, the possibilities to treat yourself at the exquisite St Regis hotel are endless,” said Angela Lester, executive vice-president of business development for Hakkasan Group.
 
Giant gym to open in Staffordshire: The biggest gym, spa and fitness centre to be built in Staffordshire opens its doors in Stoke-on-Trent this weekend. The three-storey gym, M Club, is housed in a 70,000 square foot expansion of the Waterworld leisure resort at Festival Park in Stoke-on-Trent. The centre has more than 300 pieces of equipment and will open its doors at 8am on Saturday. “I can confidently say that this gym boasts the biggest range of fitness equipment you’ll find in any other gym in the UK,” said M Club owner and founder Mo Chaudry. The spa area includes a swimming pool, plus sauna, steam room, plunge pool, hydrotherapy pool and heated seating. There are also two rooms for physiotherapy and sports massage, a large yoga studio, ladies-only gym area, spinning studio and another large studio area that will be used for fitness classes. The opening of the new M Club comes just days after the official launch of a new 36-hole indoor Adventure Mini Golf attraction at Waterworld leisure resort. The water park has also been expanded, and is now home to some of the largest and fastest water rides in the UK.

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