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Wed 4th Nov 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Trade bodies demand government support to secure future of pubs, hospitality and supply chains: Trade bodies representing UK hospitality, pubs and supply chain businesses have called on the government to provide a six-month investment plan to secure the future of those sectors. In a letter to the chancellor, UKHospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association, British Institute of Innkeeping, Campaign for Real Ale, Society of Independent Brewers and Pub is the Hub have outlined details of the necessary support plan. Without this support, the letter states, many viable businesses will fail with significant job losses and impact the long-term prospects of the UK’s economy. The letter calls for employment support, guaranteeing 80% of wages to continue for businesses beyond the national lockdown, with flexible support available throughout the next six-months; a more sustainable round of grants in line with the first lockdown to adequately cover ongoing fixed costs, with payment as soon as possible, which must allow access to the full State Aid allowance of €3m per business – and potentially more once the UK is no longer subject to EU rules; an extension to the rent enforcement moratorium to June 2021 to protect businesses and bring partners to the table; a reduced rate of VAT for hospitality through the whole of 2021 and a business rates holiday for 2021/22; and investment in British brewing via beer duty support and a compensation scheme for brewers for unsold beer and returned stock. In a joint statement, the trade bodies said: “Hospitality businesses and pubs were the first hit by this crisis, and they have been the hardest hit. They have existed through nine months of forced closures or severe restrictions. The government has recognised the unique challenges facing our sector and we are grateful of the support it has provided. It is not enough, though. Our sector has been hit with job losses and venue closures, with the pain being felt across the entire breadth of the industry down to supply chain businesses, which are also suffering. We are still on a knife-edge. More than 90% of fully covid-secure, hospitality and pub businesses are operating at a loss, thousands of otherwise viable businesses in tier three and tier two areas had already closed. Debt continues to build to unsustainable levels and turnover is at a fraction of normal trading. We are entering this next phase of national lockdown in a critically vulnerable position. It is crucial the government provides long-term financial support that goes well beyond what has already been announced. These are viable businesses that, if kept secure, can lead the revival of the economy in 2021. It is a sector that, prior to covid, directly provided 3.2 million jobs across every part of the UK, and a further one million in dependent supply chains, with vital economic and social hubs in every region. By every conceivable measure, it makes sense for the government to support hospitality and pub businesses as well as their supply chain partners. We can be in the vanguard of economic recovery next year, driving growth, creating jobs and providing billions in vital tax revenues into the future, but only if we survive this perilous moment.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – there’s a new butcher in town with no bull: Many consumers concerned about the environmental, ethical and health impacts of eating meat have chosen to cut down their intake in recent years, leading to a huge increase in people identifying as flexitarian. For caterers, this is both an opportunity and a challenge – the need to satisfy consumers and add diversity to their menus, while cooking vegan dishes without adding complications to the flow of their kitchen. There is therefore a growing demand for products that can deliver both, which is where the meat replacements market is thriving. The Vegetarian Butcher offers a range of meat replacement products that cook like meat, taste like meat and have the texture of meat. We believe delivering “all the wow without the cow” when it comes to the flavours and textures of meat helps to satisfy flexitarian consumer cravings, at the same time addressing the concerns that drive them to cut down their intake in the first place. With The Vegetarian Butcher, chefs can easily switch out centre of plate ingredients in some of their most popular dishes to deliver the same level of appeal, but without the meat. Find out more here. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com

Almost 400 operators register for Propel Multi Club free live digital webinar focusing on ‘navigating the new normal’, two free places for operators: Almost 400 operators have registered for the Propel Multi Club Conference, taking place on Thursday (5 November), which takes the form of a day-long digital live webinar and focuses on navigating the new normal. The event, which starts at 10am, is free for operators, who can claim two places by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com. Speakers include Stephen Owens, managing director of pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, who will provide an overview of the effect of covid-19 on the pub, restaurant and hotel property market – and where it goes from here. Tim Shield, of John Gaunt & Partners, will talk about the opportunities and challenges that face the sector as it adapts to the covid era – and emerges from it. Andrew Ball, partner at hospitality specialist haysmacintyre, which has 140 clients in the sector, will provide insights on the key accountancy issues all operators need to be aware of, generated by covid-19. Robert Cook, chief executive of TGI Friday’s, will talk to Propel insights editor Mark Wingett about how the business has navigated lockdown with a new management team and new ideas. Richard Hodgson, chief executive of YO!, will discuss how the company used the crisis to evolve into a fast casual operator. Simon Potts, chief executive of The Alchemist, will talk to Mark Wingett about navigating the crisis, opening new sites, listening to its teams and evolving its culture. BrewDog chief operating officer David McDowall will talk about how the company fought back against the crisis and lessons it learned from its international businesses. The NPD Group’s Dominic Allport will talk about the impact of covid-19 on consumer behaviour and trading, and looks forward to highlight the likely winners and losers from the market rebound over the next 12 to 18 months. Andy Hornby, chief executive of The Restaurant Group, will talk to Mark Wingett about how the Wagamama owner approached the crisis, the restructuring of the business and the lessons learned. There will also be two panel sessions. Mark Wingett will talk to Kevin Charity, founder of Coaching Inn Group; Andy Laurillard, founder of Giggling Squid; Peter Borg-Neal, founder of Oakman Inns; and Prue Freeman, founder of Daisy Green about how covid-19 changed their businesses, their leadership style and the sector for the better and the worse. Meanwhile, sector investor Luke Johnson, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, Robin Rowland and London Union founder Jonathan Downey will talk to Mark Wingett about what comes next for the sector.
 
Karen Jones – partnership and communication with supply chains key to functioning hospitality sector: Prezzo executive chair Karen Jones has championed partnerships and communication with supply chains as key to making sure the hospitality industry remains functioning. Speaking shortly before the announcement by the government of a national lockdown, Jones explained what Italian restaurant group Prezzo is doing to get through these times via a webinar, hosted by supply chain specialist Prestige Purchasing, which focused on how to protect the bottom line in a perfect storm. She told webinar host David Read, Prestige Purchasing chairman: “There wouldn’t be any restaurants without supply chains. What we saw in those [first] lockdown times was the utterly crucial nature of relationships with our suppliers and robustness of supply chains. They had people on furlough themselves but good supply chains come together and make sure restaurants have what they need, when they need it. Great supply chains, when they work well, are almost invisible.” She also explained in the webinar, the difficulties being faced by the sector, the priorities for Prezzo, a look back at the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and what the future holds. Jones said: “There’s been years in hospitality that have been very difficult such as the Brexit vote, incredibly poor weather and now is the problem of uncertainty and people are not ready for uncertainty. Trading in tough times is very good for you and you make decisions that you wouldn’t have otherwise made. I’ve learned you need to be prepared to make decisions very fast and that a leader must be a leader. We aim to make sure every customer returns to Prezzo and having a ‘one team’ value is like having guide rails and it has helped us make good decisions.” She told Read Prezzo was fast to adapt to a delivery-only model by simplifying its menu for staff and customers but the basis is to make products with fewer stages yet retain, or even improve, the quality. On the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, Jones said: “Be careful what you wish for. It was an enormous success and showed hospitality lights up our high streets and our communities. It was an enormous ask of supply chains – there was nothing for four months then August suddenly put all systems under pressure. Next year, we will look to combine prices, in terms of value, and increased quality and service with supply chains. We don’t want to overcomplicate things and want to be consistently great. Working with Prestige Purchasing has been a meeting of minds and ambition, and I’ve always felt we would face the bumps in the road together. We were optimistic about what would happen in the future despite the barriers – and we will achieve that.” If you are an operator and would like access to Prestige Purchasing’s webinar, which has lots more interesting content from Karen Jones and Prestige Purchasing experts on how you can protect and improve your bottom line, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com
Prestige Purchasing is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 
King – sector needs more protection from government to help long-term recovery: Dermot King, chief executive of Oakman Inns, has said that as the largest employer of young people, the hospitality industry needs more protection from government. Writing in inews, King said: “The hospitality industry accounts for nearly 10% of the UK workforce and is, by far, the largest employer of young people. At Oakman Inns, for example, 62% of our team are under 25. Depending on which measure you use, hospitality is the fifth largest export earner for the UK. For many people, it is hospitality where they learned to transition from school to work. Industries where young people tend to be employed have taken the brunt of this government’s shutdown strategy, yet in terms of traceable infections outside the home, per Public Health England, less than 3% of cases can be attributed to restaurants and pubs. The strategy for this second wave seems to be to keep cases down until a vaccine is developed by restricting freedoms and shutting down economic activity. But it is the safest industries that are suffering the most. While employees are guaranteed a salary, the businesses themselves have only a £3,000 grant on which to survive. There needs to be a support package for rents, bank interest and other fixed overheads. The tiered solution, when it returns, is correct but the treatment for falling into a higher tier is wrong because the implications destroys jobs, the economy and the long-term health of people. The treatment for falling into tier two should be more expansive testing. In tier three, that testing should be ramped up to every two days. Positive cases should be made to isolate away from home to reduce the risk of spreading – there is hotel space. The new furlough scheme should be targeted at workers in tier two and three, paying 80% of their pay while isolated – significantly cheaper than the national scheme. The rest of the economy should carry on, saving jobs and long-term health. While the furlough scheme was an undoubted success, it will be measured on whether long-term jobs are preserved and that relies on an effective test, trace and isolate system and a functioning economy. The long-term health of our young workers depends on it.”

CAMRA welcomes the decision to allow beer and cider takeaway sales during lockdown: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has welcomed  the decision by government to allow alcohol to be sold as takeaway or delivery if it is pre-ordered by phone or online. CAMRA national chairman Nik Antona said: “I am delighted the government has listened to the concerns of thousands of CAMRA members, concerned pub-goers, and beer lovers who have e-mailed their MPs in the past 48 hours urging the government to allow pubs and breweries to sell alcohol as takeaway during the second lockdown. This is a vital lifeline for local pubs and breweries across England over the coming four weeks, giving them a lifeline of income and allowing people to support local businesses. CAMRA continues to call on the government to bring in a comprehensive, long-term financial support package to support all pubs and breweries through the lockdown and the tough months that will follow this winter. Without a sector-specific support package, we risk seeing thousands of pubs and breweries closing their doors for good.”

Leisure market sees net units decline by more than 1,200 in first half of 2020, independents more resilient than chains: The leisure and hospitality market declined by a net 1,263 units in the first half of 2020 compared with 352 the previous year – an increase of 259%, according to research by the Local Data Company. The findings showed the independent retail and leisure market was much more resilient than chains. The net change in the number of occupied units was less than a third (minus 1,833) of the figure for chains (minus 6,001). A total of 64% of the retail and leisure market is comprised of independent businesses. Therefore, the scale of this variance is even greater in percentage terms with independent businesses declining by 0.54% compared with 2.77% for the chain units. In total, the retail and leisure market declined by 7,834 units in the first half of the year – a 115% increase from the decline seen in the previous year (minus 3,647). Openings increased compared with the previous year, at 23,305 – up from 22,115. However, this was not enough to balance out the closures, which increased by 5,377 compared with 2019 (31,139 closures). This equates to a 21% increase in the total number of closures as businesses struggled to survive in the face of the covid-19 pandemic. Comparison goods retail accounted for 64% of all lost units in the first half of 2020 – a net loss of 4,975 stores. The only sector to see an improvement in net decline compared with the previous year was convenience with a net loss of 768 in the first half of 2020 compared with 787 the year before. Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at the Local Data Company, said: “While there is no denying the impact of the pandemic on these sectors, this likely represents the inevitable structural change required albeit more painful as a result of the velocity and abruptness. With independents adapting well, new entrants still acquiring stores and sectors such as personal grooming continuing to thrive, there is no doubt we will eventually get to a more condensed yet diverse and exciting retail and hospitality landscape as businesses and places acclimatise.”

Up to four people can meet in pubs and restaurants after Wales lockdown ends: Groups of four people from up to four different households will be allowed to meet in a cafe, restaurant, bar or pub from Monday (9 November), the Welsh government has said. The move is part of a new set of national rules, which will replace the current “fire-break” restrictions. Children under the age of 11 do not count towards the four-person limit while people who share the same household or “bubble” can also have more than four sitting together – but they will have to prove they share an address. First minister Mark Drakeford said: “We have listened to those young people and single people who told us how important it is for them to meet some friends and other family members. But this will be subject to strict protections discussed with the hospitality sector, including advanced booking, time-limited slots and verified identification. Its success depends on the actions of the sector and each of us to use this permission responsibly and sparingly.” The 10pm curfew on alcohol sales will remain in place when hospitality businesses reopen from Monday. UKHospitality Cymru executive director David Chapman said: “It is good to see hospitality businesses in Wales will be reopening, albeit under much more severe restrictions than are being applied in other parts of the economy. For the time being, businesses will have to engage with the new rules and make the best possible success of them before, hopefully, moving towards a better arrangement.”
 
Halloween sees 3% UK footfall increase from previous Saturday, Wales still hit hardest: The UK saw a 3% increase in footfall on Halloween night (Saturday, 31 October) compared with the previous Saturday (24 October), according to data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. This improvement was still minus 46% versus the average UK footfall seen in February. On Sunday (1 November), footfall also increased 3% from the previous Sunday (25 October) but was still 42% down on the February figure. The city that enjoyed the most footfall traffic last weekend was Birmingham, with Sunday (1 November) at just 25% lower than that seen in February. In its second weekend of tier three restrictions, Manchester’s footfall increased 9% on Saturday (31 October) compared with the previous Saturday (24 October). However, the footfall on both the Saturday and Sunday last weekend was still a drop of 57% from footfall in February. Other UK cities where footfall remains below minus 40% of footfall compared to February include: Glasgow – Saturday (31 October) was at minus 65% of February’s levels and Sunday (1 November) down by 62%; Newcastle was at minus 46% and minus 48% respectively; York figures were down 51% and 54%; levels in Liverpool dropped by 59% and 51%. Cardiff, which is still under 17-day “firebreaker” restrictions, suffered the worst in the UK with statistics showing footfall was 86% and 81% down for the Halloween weekend versus February averages.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Deliveroo and restaurant partners commit to delivering hundreds of free meals to NHS staff: Deliveroo has relaunched its Supporting the NHS campaign with its restaurant partners to commit to deliver hundreds of thousands of free, hot meals to front-line NHS staff. Deliveroo has been delivering meals to staff at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and is now delivering free food to NHS workers in London, Liverpool and Birmingham. The company will then expand deliveries to other cities and hospitals across the UK. Restaurant partners supporting the campaign include Pizza Hut and Rosa’s Thai Cafe, which will be donating 500 meals per week. This latest commitment means more than one million meals will be delivered to NHS staff working on the covid-19 frontline this year, with in excess of 750,000 meals having been delivered during the first national lockdown. Deliveroo is also working with partners to deliver to vulnerable families this Christmas. The company is working with Pret A Manger and Co-Op to deliver food to Felix Project and FareShare, which will distribute the food to food banks and community groups. Deliveroo founder Will Shu said: “NHS workers will play an invaluable role in keeping us and our loved ones safe. That’s why we are relaunching 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. As a British business, we feel duty-bound to use our network and partners to support the NHS and vulnerable groups who will be impacted by this crisis.”
 
Government issues guidance to PCA after raising areas of concern in statutory review: The government has raised some areas of concern in its statutory review of the performance of the pubs code adjudicator (PCA). Statutory guidance has been issued by small business minister Paul Scully following the review in two areas – the PCA’s functions in the arbitration of disputes and regulatory functions: enforcing compliance with the code. In relation to the use of external arbitrators, Scully agreed this was a “sensible approach” and timely and appropriate regulatory interventions should help prevent cases reaching the arbitration stage. However, concerns were raised by tenants and pub-owning businesses about the level of understanding required by external arbitrators of the complexities of the code. Scully said the PCA should have in mind whether there is sufficient availability of individuals with suitable experience and knowledge of the statutory framework for dispute resolution under the code; and if there are any additional training requirements. The review also found stakeholders would like a better understanding of the position the PCA takes on managing issues of alleged non-compliance with the code that are reported to the PCA. Scully said stakeholders were not always aware of what the PCA’s regulatory interventions might entail and when they have successfully been used. He said the PCA might wish to consider making more public statements in order to announce the outcome of successful interventions or other instances where the PCA has worked successfully with pub-owning businesses to resolve issues. The review also identified some concerns about whether tenants were receiving and understanding information from their pub-owning business as required by the code. It noted awareness of code rights has reduced in the most recent tenant survey despite a larger proportion of respondents having taken up tied tenancies since the code came into operation. Scully said the PCA should have in mind the importance of new tenants fully understanding their code rights and how they can learn about and access their rights.
  
UKHospitality’s Kate Nicholls honoured by AA: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has been presented with the Outstanding Contribution to the Industry Award from AA Hotel & Hospitality Services. The honour, which has been given as part of the AA’s Red Star awards for the UK’s top hotels, is in recognition of her work supporting the industry and lobbying on its behalf to government throughout the pandemic. AA managing director Simon Numphud said: “Kate has worked tirelessly to ensure the hospitality industry has a clear and unified voice, and that its concerns are heard at government level. Through her leadership, UKHospitality has been instrumental in facilitating many of the essential guidelines and safety measures that we have also incorporated in our own AA Covid Confident Scheme.” Nicholls added: “I’m hugely honoured to receive this award and would like to thank the AA for the recognition of the tireless work, dedication and devotion that’s been taken by the whole UKHospitality team, because this is really an award for my whole team. I hope we can look forward to a better 2021.” The top hotels AA honoured were 11 Cadogan Gardens (London), which was awarded the maximum five Red Stars; four Red Stars were given to Forest Side (Grasmere, Cumbria), Linthwaite House (Windermere, Cumbria) and The Swan (Southwold, Suffolk) and three Red Stars were awarded to The Pig at Bridge Place (Canterbury, Kent).
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking for a financial director for a hospitality business based in Hampshire. The finance director will have the overall responsibility for financial management, business analysis and reporting, with a focus on ensuring ongoing viability, financial planning and a secure financial future. The finance director will also be ensuring senior teams have simple, regular and easy-to-understand reflection of commercial elements of sales and costs to enable them to manage business effectively. The position allows remote working but access to head office is required. It is essential the individual is ACA or ACCA qualified as well as having experience in the multi-site retail, hospitality or restaurant environment. Anyone interested can send their CV to oliwia@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News:

Greggs to remain open during lockdown but expects losses: Food-to-go operator Greggs has confirmed it will remain open for business during lockdown but the period is likely to result in losses. In an update to employees, the company said while sales had recovered to circa 76% of prior year levels during the month of September, the latest restrictions imposed in the UK are likely to see a reduction in demand across its store network. Goodbody leisure analyst Jason Molins said: “Greggs has not provided any guidance around potential losses, however, we estimate that assuming sales fall to 50% of prior year levels during the month of November, this would see profits impacted by circa £10m to £15m. Similar to Wales, which went into full lockdown last week, Greggs expects footfall in stores to decline but expects continued demand from people who cannot work from home. We would also highlight the delivery service through Just Eat is being rolled out across the country, supported by television advertising. Greggs announced the extension of the furlough scheme will help protect critical jobs that will be impacted in the short term by lower demand, but will be needed later in the year when lockdown ends. Furlough pay will be supported by government up to 80% of average pay and Greggs will continue to provide support similar to July when shops reopened, which likely implies pay will not be topped up to 100%. But Greggs cannot utilise the furlough scheme for roles at risk of redundancy. A number of employees were let go at the end of last week and the process is expected to be concluded by the end of this week. For stores that see lower demand during this lockdown, Greggs expects to reduce trading hours and range, and use furlough support for unused contract hours.”
 
Marston’s to cut rent to 10% for tied tenants and leaseholders during lockdown: Marston’s tied tenants and leaseholders in England will have their headline rent reduced to 10% from Thursday (5 November) until Wednesday, 2 December, as the country goes back into lockdown. In a letter to tenants, operations director Ed Hancock said: “Clearly no one wanted to be back in this position, I know how hard our pubs have worked to make sure they remain safe and enjoyable places for their customers to visit. I also know the determination and creativity our pubs have demonstrated over the past nine months and I have no doubt that our business will bounce back from this most recent enforced closure.” Since the beginning of the pandemic Marston’s has worked on a pub-by-pub basis understanding what help individual tied tenants and leased partners needed. This has included rent holidays, restocking allowance, reopening marketing spend and more recently regional tier support when needed.
 
Shepherd Neame cuts 10% of staff: Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has cut 10% of its staff as it prepares to shut all 319 of its pub and hotels for lockdown. In an update on the company’s website, chief executive Jonathan Neame outlined the steps the business was taking to support licensees with commercial rent again being waived. He said: “The ongoing restrictions due to covid continue to impact the business, making it difficult, or in some cases impossible, to perform certain functions. The restrictions have also had a significant impact on the operation of our pubs and hotels, resulting in reduced trading levels. It is with great regret, therefore, I can confirm that we have had to let about 10% of our workforce go. We did everything possible to keep this number to a minimum and will continue to look after our teams to the best of our ability. We will also be making some temporary change to our staffing structure and salary levels. We are requesting more than 90% of our people step aside from their current roles on a temporary basis. We will be accessing the latest Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, whereby the government will pay 80% of the wages of those affected up to £30,000 per annum. On top of this, we will fund the wages of all those affected earning above £30,000 per annum so that they continue to receive 80% of their normal pay. Our company’s directors have again volunteered to take a temporary 20% reduction in salary. Our brewery team will continue working to produce beer in a covid-secure environment. The measures will be in place until 2 December, and will remain under review as the situation evolves.” Neame also praised licensees and team members for their “ingenuity and spirit” since the pandemic began.  

Friska undergoes CVA, closes Manchester sites: Healthy eating brand Friska has undergone a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which has seen the business close its three sites in Manchester, Propel has learned. The business, which is backed by YFM Equity Partners, is understood to have received 100% approval for the CVA, which has seen it close its sites at Manchester’s University Green, St Peter’s Square and Manchester Science Park. The process leaves the group with nine sites spread across Bristol and a franchise site in Luton Airport. Co-founder Griff Holland told Propel the CVA was a route the business had to go down to make sure it had a future going into 2021. He said: “We are very sad that after building up a good following and brand presence in Manchester over the past three years that we have had to exit the city, especially as, at the start of this year, we were looking to add a further two sites there. What is even sadder is the fact that we have to lose more than 20 of our colleagues, who worked across those sites. We were made to feel very welcome in Manchester and hope to return to the city one day. We hope by taking these steps we have put the business in a position to get through to March next year and push forward from there.” Holland said that the company would open its remaining sites on Thursday and Friday this week for takeaway to gauge levels of trade and whether they would remain open further into the latest lockdown. Friska was founded by Holland and Ed Brown in 2009.

Stonegate announces further support for leased and tenanted business: Stonegate Pub Company has announced further business support within its leased and tenanted business, Ei Publican Partnerships, in response to the new lockdown. The additional support includes rent credits of 90% for rent, tie release fees and fixtures and fittings rental charges for all tied publicans operating substantive agreements in England, during the four-week period. This financial support has created an overall package from the company worth in excess of £42.5m. To further support its businesses, Stonegate Pub Company has also suspended its annual price review meaning publicans continue to operate on tied supply prices that were last increased in April 2019. Ei Publican Partnerships managing director Nick Light said: “We continue to stand by our publicans, and we are taking the responsibility of supporting our businesses very seriously as the trading landscape continues to change.”

Camile Thai reports 50% increase in London sales as it opens cloud kitchen in Canary Wharf: Dublin-based healthy food delivery company Camile Thai has reported a 50% increase in sales in London as it launches a new cloud kitchen in the capital, in Canary Wharf. The company is in the process of raising €10m as part of an aggressive technology-driven strategy, which, in addition to cloud kitchens, includes plans for drone delivery, as well as the automation of some of its operations with kitchen robotics. The new kitchen will allow Camile Thai to deliver to the Isle of Dogs and the north of Canary Wharf, but plans to expand into Poplar and Limehouse in the coming weeks. Founder Brody Sweeney said: “2020 has been a milestone year for Camile. With many restaurants suffering the consequences of pandemic restrictions, we were very fortunate to see a 50% increase in sales in London. We owe this to our largely suburban, delivery-focused business model. This growth has enabled us to proceed ahead of time with our drone and robotics-focused tech strategy.” Due to the pandemic, Camile also decided to adapt its franchising strategy earlier this year, offering flexible options for business owners with underused commercial in regional towns. The first such premises recently opened in Sligo, Ireland, and Camile aims to open five or six such outlets in the medium term. Camile Thai operates 35 outlets, six of which are in London.
  
German Doner Kebab owner launches healthy eating restaurant Choppaluna: Hero Brands, which operates German Doner Kebab, has opened its debut Choppaluna restaurant in Bloomsbury, central London. The fast, fresh, food-to-go and dine-in brand also plans to open its next store in Berlin by January 2021, before embarking on further growth in London followed by UK growth throughout the next 12 months. Championing healthy eating, Choppaluna is bidding to show salads don’t have to be boring and offers a guilt-free indulgent menu of vegetarian and vegan options, and a huge choice of superfoods morning, noon and night, including delivery. The Choppaluna experience allows customers to choose from more than 60 fresh toppings before watching the brand’s talented team chop live in front of their eyes. The breakfast menu brings low-carb, high-energy options like Breggfast Rolls – scrambled egg wraps – and smoothie bowls. Other menu items include the more filling Big-Rolls where salad meets burrito for lunch and dinner. Co-founder and chief executive Nikras Agha, who conceived the idea in Berlin with co-founder Bijan Azadfard, said: “It’s very exciting to be launching our first restaurant in Bloomsbury. Choppaluna will truly revolutionise the healthy eating space in the UK, bringing customers indulgent healthy options that fit with a fast-paced, on-the-go lifestyle. The opportunity is truly resonating with our franchise network within the Hero Brands group and we will work with them to explore opportunities for growth throughout the UK.” Hero Brands chief executive Athif Sarwar said: “Eating out is changing and younger consumers are demanding a shorter dwell time, great-tasting healthier food and an aspirational-experience that is shareable on their social channels – Choppaluna responds to this trend.” 
 
Zizzi branch shut as police investigate claims staff awaiting covid-19 test results told to attend work: Zizzi, the Azzurri Group-owned brand, was forced to shut its restaurant in Clifton, Bristol, while police investigated reports of staff being ordered to work while awaiting coronavirus test results. One staff member was also allegedly warned, incorrectly, they would not receive statutory sick pay of £92 a week if they stayed home after they expressed anxiety over working due to the suspected cases. The Italian chain restaurant reopened on Monday (2 November) after deep cleaning following its closure on Thursday (29 October), after staff had raised the alarm to police. A source familiar with the matter told The Guardian: “A manager told staff to go to work while awaiting test results. One staff member was also told if they didn’t go to work they wouldn’t receive statutory sick pay. One asymptomatic staff member received a positive test result text while they were at work and didn’t go home.” A spokesperson for Zizzi said: “We acted decisively to voluntarily close the restaurant, with all team members self-isolating, and there is an ongoing internal investigation into the mistakes that were made.” 
 
Pret offers first festive hot food range as part of Christmas menu launch: Pret A Manger is offering its first festive hot food range as part of its Christmas menu launch. The menu will also for the first time be available for delivery as well as takeaway. Veggie Pret has launched two exclusive vegan recipes – the Vegan Christmas Lunch Baguette and the Vegan Christmas Lunch Hot Roll. Pret has unveiled its first hot Christmas range of pigs in blankets. The Christmas Lunch – slices of British turkey with port and orange cranberry sauce, herby pork stuffing and baby spinach leaves, topped off with free-range mayo and crispy onions – has made a return. This year’s meat-free offering includes a new Vegan Christmas Nut Roast, featuring butternut squash, peppery rocket and Christmas pesto, served with a spoonful of vegan sage mayo, crispy onions and caramelised pecans. The Christmas Tiffin and Melvin and Pret’s Melting Gingerbread Snowman are also back alongside Pret’s mince pie which will be an exclusively vegan product this year. Christmas hot drinks will be served in limited edition festive takeaway cups and will include three new offerings – the gingerbread latte, salted caramel latte and the S’mores hot chocolate. Pret and Veggie Pret shops will remain open during lockdown for takeaway and delivery, in line with official government guidance.
 
Fortnum & Mason appoints new chief executive: Fortnum & Mason, the London department store that has expanded to operate branches in travel hubs such as St Pancras and Heathrow, has appointed Tom Athron as chief executive. Athron will join the business at the start of December, allowing for a month’s handover with Ewan Venters, who leaves Fortnum’s in January. Athron joins Fortnum’s from matchesfashion.com, a global fashion retailer for luxury brands, where he has served as chief operating officer since May 2018. He also spent 12 years at the John Lewis Partnership after working in structured finance and strategic consulting. Fortnum’s chairman Kate Hobhouse said: “A versatile and highly experienced business leader, Tom has extensive leadership experience in digital and physical retail across food, luxury and designer fashion. He is a great fit with the multichannel business that Fortnum’s has become.” Athron added: “Fortnum & Mason is a traditional British business with a truly global outlook, a strong purpose and increasingly desired around the world. I am looking forward to working with the Fortnum’s team on realising its further potential and contributing to the next exciting phase in its long and illustrious history.”

JD Wetherspoon to appoint non-executive director: JD Wetherspoon has announced it intends to appoint Ben Thorne as a non-executive director. The appointment will take effect from 17 December, subject to election as a director on that date at the company’s annual general meeting. Thorne will also join the audit, remuneration and nomination committees of the board. Thorne, who is managing director at WH Ireland, qualified as a solicitor in 1985 specialising in corporate law. He subsequently moved into investment banking in 1987 and has more than 30 years’ experience advising corporates, including, while at Kleinwort Benson, Wetherspoon on a range of capital markets and corporate finance issues. He has subsequently held senior advisory roles at GCA Altium and Panmure Gordon.

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