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Fri 6th Nov 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Extension to business rates holiday and VAT cut ‘bare minimum’ still required despite continuation of furlough: An extension of the business rates holiday and the VAT cut is the “bare minimum” still required to ensure businesses survive the next six months despite the continuation of furlough, sector trade bodies have warned. While UKHospitality and the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) have welcomed the extension of furlough in its current form until the end of March, they said a broader package of support would still be needed. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Extending the furlough scheme is a big boost and will help secure hospitality jobs in the medium term across the whole of the UK. Hospitality is facing a tough winter ahead, though, and businesses will need additional support if they are to survive. We will need enhanced grant support to keep venues alive and a solution to the ongoing rent debt problem that continues to linger over the sector. These must come alongside a clear roadmap for a return to business. Without these, the extended furlough scheme alone is not enough to keep hospitality alive and will have been a wasted investment of public funds. Surviving the winter is just the first step, too. Beyond that, we need action to ensure that businesses can be revived and the sector can play its part in rebuilding the economy. Extending the VAT cut and business rates holiday, coupled with extensive government promotion of tourism and hospitality, will be the bare minimum required.” BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “We will need to use the time in lockdown to review the current restrictions within the tiering system to ensure they are effective, proportionate and fair. We also need a longer-term stimulus package for our sector that enables it to play a leading role in the social and economic recovery. This requires an extension of the VAT cut and the business rates holiday, as well as a significant beer duty cut. If such a stimulus package is forthcoming, we will begin to see the light is at the end of the tunnel for our sector in this immensely difficult period.” Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill said: “The furlough scheme will absolutely help preserve jobs within the sector, but the challenge still remains, where there is still a considerable void in financial support for night-time economy businesses, will there be jobs to go back to? We appreciate safety is paramount but, at some point, we've got to consider the human element here and the immense pressure individuals, venues owners, staff and freelancers are under at the moment given the current financial, economic, cultural and social well-being environments that are being presented by government, particularly around our sector.” Hospitality Professionals Association chief executive Jane Pendlebury added: “Does this mean lockdown will be extended beyond 2 December? I suspect so. So, while we welcome the latest round of measures as a good thing, if lockdown is extended again there will inevitably be many more businesses that go under. Hundreds of thousands of people’s livelihoods hinge on hospitality, and there is only so long that they can hold on.” 

Industry News:

Propel Friday Wrap video series continues with guest Tortilla founder Brandon Stephens: Propel continues its new Friday Wrap video series on Friday (6 November) at 3pm. The new series, sponsored by leading payment app OrderPay, 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 Brandon Stephens, co-founder of Tortilla, to discuss dealing with another lockdown, continuing talks with landlords, fighting the industry’s corner and the presidential election in the US.
Mark Wingett to look at sector mood and fallout from latest government interventions in latest Premium Opinion: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at the mood across the sector and the fallout from the latest government interventions while Abokado co-founder Mark Lilley explains how drawing on previously unknown reserves is vital to survival, in this week’s Premium Opinion, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (6 November) at 5pm. 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
Sector sales surge as customers flock for one last visit before lockdown in complete contrast to March shutdown: Sector sales surged this week as customers flocked for a last visit before lockdown – a complete contrast from what happened ahead of the shutdown in March. Analysis from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, showed sales each day from Monday (2 November) to Wednesday (4 November) were up 3.1%, 35.3% and 39.1% respectively on last week. Sites in tier one sites saw sales down 9.1% on Monday but then rose 18.1% and 25.8% compared with the previous week for the next two days. Venues in tiers two and three saw even higher increases – at 25.1%, 63.4% and 59.3% respectively. By comparison in the March lockdown, sales dropped by 13.2%, followed by drops of 45%, 60%, 65% and 75% in the days running up to lockdown on 20 March when comparing with the week before. Alastair Scott, chief executive of S4labour and managing director of Malvern Inns, said: “I find the psychology of the second lockdown fascinating. Whereas in the first lockdown everyone wanted to follow government advice ahead of the lockdown this time the consumer reaction has been the complete opposite. This seems to demonstrate a lack of public support for the government actions. I suspect, or hope, therefore when the industry opens up again it will be with immediate pent up demand rather than the rather timid excursions after lockdown number one.” Meanwhile, analysis from order and pay app OrderPay showed a 125% jump in sales in pubs and bars on Wednesday compared with the previous week. This followed an 82% jump in sales on Tuesday and 58% increase on Monday. Taken across the three days, the average growth in sales processed via the OrderPay app was a huge 94% higher than the previous week. In total, across Monday to Wednesday, average spend was up 20% as drinkers made the most of the final few days trading.
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
‘Draconian lockdown’ would not have happened in north west says Loungers chief, calls for hospitality minister: Loungers co-founder Alex Reilley has branded the lockdown “draconian” and added if the low number of positive covid-19 cases in the south west were actually in the north west, the area would not have been shut down. The cafe bar brand was founded in Bristol and has 168 Lounge and Cosy Clubs sites across England and Wales – with a quarter of them in the south west that were under tier one restrictions at the start of the week. Reilley said: “The government had the opportunity to, at least, keep the economy going in some of the regions, including the south west. There are a lot of people in the south west – at 5.6 million, it’s bigger than the population of Wales and Northern Ireland combined. You have Salisbury, Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Plymouth and large towns such as Swindon. It just seems ridiculous the south west has been plunged into a draconian lockdown when there is clearly an argument for keeping it open.” Reilley told Business Live if the south west and north west were switched in terms of case numbers, the north would be “screaming” about it. He added: “The south west has suffered from the lack of having a voice. No one is fighting our corner. Andy Burnham has managed to lobby government for his region, who is doing it for us?” Reilley also joined calls for the government to appoint a hospitality minister. He said: “Our economies are being punished and, frankly, we could remain active and generate tax receipts and help pay for the NHS. The industry has been undervalued and under-represented at government level for years – although, I would credit chancellor Rishi Sunak for recognising [the sector’s contribution] this year. We should have better representation – our trade body has put in the hard yards but having a permanent seat in Westminster would be good.”
Just Eat announces support package for independent restaurants: Just Eat has introduced measures to support independent restaurants in England during the lockdown period until 2 December. The delivery service has started a 25% discount on commission for independent restaurants that use Just Eat’s courier service; removed commission on collection orders for all independent restaurant partners; and will provide merchandising and supplies packages, with choices including personal protective equipment, to all independent restaurant partners. The move also coincides with a UK-wide pledge to remove sign-up fees for independent restaurants; remove commission fees for the first month for new independent restaurants joining the Just Eat platform; and give additional support, including the provision of dedicated food safety, tax and legal support for all restaurant partners. These measures are in addition to the £12m support package the delivery service released in March. Just Eat UK managing director Andrew Kenny said: “While many traditional takeaway businesses have seen significant growth across recent months, dine-in-focused restaurants facing mandatory closure in England for the second time will be hard hit by a second national lockdown. That’s why we have extended our recently announced support initiatives to restaurants in England facing tier four dine-in closure.”
PGB says annual audit report is ‘very encouraging’ but ‘will be watching’ BDM training: The Pub Governing Body (PGB) has published its fourth annual audit report on companies that operate between one and 499 tied pubs, involving the codes of practice for tenanted and leased set-ups in England and Wales plus the first audit of tied pubs in Scotland – and says it is “very encouraging”. The PGB, the organisation responsible for promoting the advancement and improvement of landlord and tied tenant relationships in the licensed retail sector, reviewed all businesses involved for the period between 1 August 2019 and 31 July 2020. On England and Wales, PGB chairman Sir Peter Luff said: “The compliance of companies governed by our codes is, again, very encouraging. The disruption caused by the covid-19 pandemic has caused immense commercial challenges for all pubs, leading the board to agree a temporary suspension of rent reviews. Apart from the resulting rise in the number of rent reviews still in negotiation and the short-term impact of the epidemic on training of new BDMs, all the other results in this survey show high levels of compliance for the fourth successive year. We do not take these excellent results for granted, though, and the training of BDMs is an area we will be watching carefully this year.” The audit found 2,716 tied pubs are covered by the codes of practice for fewer than 500 companies and, of these, 2,344 are tenancies while 372 are leases. Some 93 BDMs were employed by companies involved with 76 (81%) trained to BIIAB Level 4 versus 97% in the previous audit. The remaining 17 have recently joined the companies or waiting to go on courses. Meanwhile, Scotland has its own PGB, Scottish Pubs Independent Conciliation and Arbitration Service (PICA Service) as well as its own panel and surveyors for the Pub Independent Rent Review Scheme (PIRRS). The board said: “Figures are mainly in line with the three reports that proceeded under the auspice of the England and Wales board and shows there remains a high level of compliance in Scotland. Once again, there was full compliance regarding business plans, and the number of rent reviews settled within the audit period outside of those delayed by Covid 19.” Of the 383 tied pubs covered by the codes, 240 are tenancies and 143 are leases. 
‘Lack of government guidance’ during pandemic leads to cancellation of PUB21 event: PUB21, the only dedicated show for the UK pub industry, has been cancelled. After discussions with industry stakeholders and key partners, Montgomery Group has taken the decision to postpone PUB21 until 28 February 2022, when it will be PUB22. PUB21 event manager Harry Keeble said: “Despite introducing ‘All Secure Standard’, a risk-assessment based framework for covid-19, and planning for the highest standards of hygiene and cleanliness, ultimately, the lack of guidance and clarity from government on when business events can restart has meant that we have had to take the painful decision to postpone The Pub Show until 2022. Despite the current climate, we felt extremely confident we could deliver a safe and secure live event for the thousands of publicans that look forward to the show each year.” PUB21 was due to take place 22-24 March 2021 at ExCeL London alongside Hotel, Restaurant & Catering (HRC), International Food & Drink Event (IFE), IFE Manufacturing Solutions (IMS), The European Tea, Coffee and Soft Drinks Expo, The London Produce Show and the Festival of Enterprise.

Interest in running pubs ‘hits all-time high’: Interest in running pubs has hit an all-time high, according to industry recruitment company Despite a decline in both web visitors and applications during the first three months of lockdown, which included the removal of a quarter of the pubs from the company’s platform, the conversion of applicants to leads processed has grown. The company has seen significant growth in both interest and enquiries from people wanting to operate tenanted pubs. In August, it experienced the most visitors to the website in the company’s 11-year history. During the month there was 24.86% growth in users year-on-year, peaking at 60,000 unique visitors. A total of 80% of those were new users. Meanwhile, in September, the company saw the largest volume of pub applications sent to its clients in one single day. 

Extend ‘winter-proof cafe culture’ in Liverpool says 94%: Respondents to a survey on whether to retain Liverpool Without Walls’ winter-proof cafe culture by Liverpool authorities has resulted in a resounding 94% in favour. Liverpool Without Walls is a project to create European-style outdoor areas for bars and restaurants. Liverpool BID Company and Liverpool City Council are behind the project and said plans for the pilot, which was launched in July as hospitality sites began to reopen after lockdown, will be extended because 94% of hospitality operators and retailers want the pedestrianisation of Bold Street and Castle Street to be permanent. Authorities allowed businesses on pedestrianised areas to add semi-permanent structures and electric heaters to outdoor seating during summer to kick-start the project. Liverpool BID is leading consultation on a plan that allows a balance of outdoor hospitality, pedestrianisation and access for deliveries. Liverpool BID Company chief executive Bill Addy told Business Live: “The first phase of Liverpool Without Walls allowed us to give the hospitality sector, so integral to Liverpool’s visitor economy, a much-needed boost. As winter approaches, we have to be prepared for whatever the Liverpool weather has in store. Our strategy is to have a European cafe culture that’s prepared for a northern England climate. Heaters and covers will allow venues to continue to use the pavement and outdoor space, allowing them to operate safely without a loss in covers, whatever the weather.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking for an operations manager to work with a dedicated managing director of a new fitness studio group. The position, based in the High Wycombe area, will oversee all fitness studios at an operational level and work alongside the managing director on a strategic level. The incoming operations manager will oversee all special projects, new studio openings, development of an operations manual and system, and structural implementation. This is a soon-to-launch business and it is looking for a fitness enthusiast who will be an ambassador for the brand and a great operational and team leader. As well as industry experience, knowledge of franchising would be a bonus. Salaries up to £60,000 are being considered. Anyone interested can send their CV to
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

BrewDog appoints Niall McCallum as chief financial officer: Scottish craft brewer BrewDog has appointed Niall McCallum as its chief financial officer, Propel has learned. McCallum brings a raft of experience at the cutting edge of international and private equity-backed businesses. He held both chief financial officer and finance director positions at Element where he spent the past three years. Prior to that, he worked at KPMG, Caird Capital and Capita. McCallum is passionate about helping BrewDog build on the company’s success and continue to evolve its finance function as the business’ global business evolves. Neil Simpson, who had been holding the interim chief financial officer position, will move into the business development director role, which he previously held, to focus on international expansion across BrewDog’s key export markets.

TGI Friday’s and Turtle Bay to offer takeaway and deliveries: TGI Friday’s, led by Robert Cook, will offer click and collect and home deliveries while its restaurants are shut in England until 2 December. It confirmed sites in Scotland and Jersey will stay open and will reopen in Wales on Monday (9 November) when the 17-day “firebreaker” ends. Deliveries in England will be available through the company’s Fridays Delivered app and Deliveroo and Just Eat. Meanwhile, Caribbean restaurant brand Turtle Bay will offer its Turtle Bay At Home services from nine sites. Those accepting takeaway (via UberEats) and delivery (via Deliveroo) orders on Wednesday to Sunday are Bristol Broad Quay, Chelmsford, Crawley, Ealing, Milton Keynes, Nottingham and Southampton. Its restaurants in Cardiff and Swansea will operate every day. Scott Collins-led concept MeatLiquor will also operate all its sites – except Croydon – for takeaway and delivery.  

Big Mamma Group takes Napoli Gang delivery-only pizza concept south of the river, two more kitchens set to follow: Big Mamma Group, the operator behind the London-based restaurants Gloria and Circolo Popolare, is taking its delivery-only pizza restaurant Napoli Gang south of the river – with two more kitchens set to follow before Christmas. Napoli Gang will launch its Wandsworth kitchen on Monday (9 November) with delivery within a 2km radius. Napoli Gang, which was launched in the capital in September, also has locations in Kentish Town, Bethnal Green as well as a click and collect and delivery service from Gloria and Circolo Popolare.

Admiral Taverns sells Liverpool pub: Admiral Taverns has sold the George Hotel in Liverpool for an undisclosed sum. The two-storey pub in Saint Mary’s Road has been bought by an undisclosed purchaser in a deal brokered by agents Fleurets. An Admiral Taverns spokesman told Propel: “We can confirm we have secured a sale for the George Hotel with completion in early November. The pub had been on the market since before the onset of covid-19. While our focus is always on helping our licensees to run sustainable pub businesses, in this instance, we felt the George Hotel did not have a long-term future and, therefore, took the decision to sell the pub.”
Pub operator adds to portfolio with purchase of The Old Cock: Pub operator Mark Gledhill has added to his portfolio with the purchase of The Old Cock in Halifax, West Yorkshire. The 16th century pub with a rich historical heritage has been sold through the Leeds office of leisure property specialists Fleurets. Gledhill, who has acquired the grade II-listed building has refurbishment plans for the pub that he said “will give the place a fresh, clean feel but being sympathetic to its age and character”. Gledhill currently runs The White Horse, also in Halifax. The Old Cock, which stands in Old Cock Yard, was the location in 1852 of meetings that led to the formation of the Halifax Permanent Building & Investment Society, which became the Halifax Building Society. Fleurets’ Nick Thomas, who handled the sale, said: “It is really good to hear The Old Cock will continue its long history as a town centre inn. I am pleased to hear of Mark’s investment plans.” The Old Cock Inn was sold for an undisclosed price off a freehold asking price of £295,000.
Hastings Hotels secures £10m loan to help navigate coronavirus pandemic: Hastings Hotels, which owns and operates seven venues across Northern Ireland, has secured a £10m loan to help it navigate the coronavirus pandemic. The funds have been provided by the Bank of Ireland, and Hastings Hotels said it should give the business “sufficient cash resources for the foreseeable future”. The company stated: “Following solid performance in the first four months of the 31 October 2020 financial year, occupancy dropped to historic lows in March 2020 as the covid-19 global pandemic caused travel restrictions and social distancing measures to come into effect. Immediate action was taken to reduce costs and preserve cash, and an additional £10m bank loan facility was secured that we expect to provide us with sufficient cash resources for the foreseeable future. We remain focused on managing the business appropriately through this challenging period while also ensuring we are positioned to emerge strongly as our markets recover. We anticipate continued disruption to travel in the months ahead, and forward visibility on the timing and shape of improvements in demand remains limited. We continue to take advantage of all of the government schemes that have been made available to support our industry through this difficult period.” The company provided the update as it reported turnover for the year ending 31 October 2019 increased 20% to £49.4m, compared with £41.2m the previous year. Operating profit was up to £6.6m, compared with £3.7m the year before. Pre-tax profit rose to £5.8m compared with £3.2m the previous year. Gross margin remained at 86%. Hastings Hotels had net assets of £50.3m at the end of the period, compared with £46.4m the year before. The group’s hotels include the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast, while it also owns a 50% stake in Dublin’s Merrion Hotel.
Dishoom Covent Garden confirms official reopening date after revamp, soft launch bookings open: Indian restaurant Dishoom will open its renovated site in Covent Garden on 4 December, having taken over the neighbouring Jamie’s Italian to aid expansion in July 2019. The restaurant, Dishoom’s first, opened in July 2010 and drew on the influences of the Irani cafes of Bombay. The Upper St Martin’s Lane site closed in January 2020 to undergo a tenth anniversary redesign. “New” Dishoom Covent Garden will also tell the story of Bombay’s theatrical journey from Parsi theatre to silent films and the talkies era. Dishoom said: “In the 1930s and 1940s, many of Bombay’s foremost theatres were reincarnated as state-of-the-art cinemas. Dishoom Covent Garden’s new story and design will draw on this heritage.” Additionally, for every meal served at Dishoom, a meal will be donated for children at one of the two charities the business has worked with for a long period – Magic Breakfast and Akshaya Patra.
Al Manal Group adds to portfolio with juice bar Organico: Al Manal Group founders Otto Mellouki and Amine El Gueddar have opened a juice bar and restaurant Organico. The duo has more than 40 years’ experience in hospitality, having opened sites across the north west of England including Bakchich, Kasbah and Koop. Organico, which opened in Bold Street, Liverpool, serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and an early evening menu alongside fresh counter produce including vegan cakes and grab-and-go options. Mellouki said: “We began our journey with Organico back in the summer and despite the obstacles due to covid-19, we were determined to open and show the region just how resilient we are along with the rest of the hospitality scene in Liverpool. As restaurant owners already, we know first-hand how hard it’s been for businesses these past few months and we must remain focused and vigilant. Having said that, we are confident in our team and have put steps in place to ensure that we can still give customers the experience they deserve while keeping them and our staff safe.” 
Leon to launch limited-edition recipe box: Natural fast food brand Leon is launching a limited-edition recipe box. Leon has partnered with healthy recipe box service Mindful Chef for the offer, which will be available from Sunday (8 November) for two weeks. Delivered to customers’ doors nationwide, the recipe box contains everything needed to make Leon’s Moroccan meatballs and Sicilian-style meatless meatballs. Each box includes pre-portioned ingredients, step-by-step instructions, plus a jar of Leon’s vegan garlic aioli. Mindful Chef’s partnership with Leon follows on from the recipe box service working with Nando’s this summer. Charlotte Di Cello, Leon chief commercial officer and managing director of Leon Grocery, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Mindful Chef and sharing some of our most loved Leon classics with people to enjoy at home. Like us, it cares about natural, well-sourced, food that tastes good and does you good.”
Caribbean street food brand to take first bricks and mortar site: A Caribbean street food brand is to open its first bricks and mortar site. Sarah and Conroy Robinson own Coral Bay Caribbean Takeaway at Norwich and Great Yarmouth markets, and have built up a huge following over the past three years. But now they plan to open a fully fledged restaurant in Gorleston in January, with the aim of creating a “totally different” dining experience. Sarah Robinson said: “We got the keys to the site, which is a former St John Ambulance training building on Baker Street, on 4 March. Lockdown turned out to be a blessing in disguise because although we had to shut our takeaways, we could put all our energy into this new project.”
The Coconut Tree bids to ‘put Sri Lankan food on map’ with 50% discount offer: Sri Lankan bar and restaurant group The Coconut Tree has announced it will offer 50% off all click and collect orders on Monday to Wednesday until the end of the second lockdown in England. The six-strong group that has sites in Cheltenham, Oxford, Cardiff, Bournemouth and two in Bristol, explained it was keen to use the basis of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and “put Sri Lankan food on the map”. Brand director Anna Garrod said: “In the UK, Sri Lankan food is not as widely available or understood as say, Indian or Chinese cuisine, and we want to help change that. Eat Out To Help Out gave people the confidence to try new things, and we met so many new customers as a result – 60% of the people who used the scheme were brand new to us, and many rebooked.” 
Rick Stein team adds two new menu boxes to relaunch Stein’s at Home range: The Rick Stein group has added two new menu boxes to Stein’s at Home as it relaunches its lockdown food delivery service. Chef-director Jack Stein has worked with the core chef team to add the two new menus to the range – sea bass (£50) and coq au riesling (£45) – and has added seasonal tweaks to three existing customer favourites, which are Indonesian curry (£55), hake (£40) and lobster (£100). Included in the new fish-based box, inspired by Rick’s favourite flavours of Asia, is a starter of mussels with black beans, garlic and ginger, main course of pan-fried sea bass with a Thai-inspired hot, sweet and sour sauce with rice and bok choi and a dessert of mango fool with mango puree and cardamom shortbread. The new meat-based box begins with Rick’s smoked salmon paté with sourdough and leaves from Padstow Kitchen Garden, a main of coq au riesling, served with fresh parsley and buttered potatoes, rounded off with chocolate torte and Cornish clotted cream. Jack Stein said: “The Stein’s at Home boxes were born in lockdown with us needing to create a new revenue stream and fast. We were in a position where we had to move quickly into a new space. We were completely overwhelmed by the demand, selling more than 600 boxes in week one. It enabled us to retain several jobs in our business as well as recruiting for new roles to support our online shop and boxes. It means our customers can still enjoy our restaurant dishes from home while our restaurants are temporarily closed, and it will hopefully give our suppliers some income.”
Paul UK launches festive sandwich range: French bakery and cafe brand Paul UK has launched its festive sandwich range. The 38-strong group has included its award-winning Dinde de Noël sandwich, which is a sage, onion and cranberry baguette filled with sliced turkey, smoky bacon and spinach, topped with a cream cheese and horseradish sauce at £4.75. It is joined by two new offerings in the form of The Festive Fromage (£4.30) and The Vegan Sprout (£4.45). The Festive Fromage is rich camembert, smoky cherry tomato chutney and batavia lettuce in a sesame baguette while The Vegan Sprout is roasted Brussels sprouts, spinach, sliced beetroot with balsamic vinegar and thyme, and a crispy potato rösti, topped with vegan mayo and sweet onion marmalade, served in a classic white baguette. Deliveries are available from Uber Eats and Deliveroo.
Skye Gyngell to launch temporary farm shop: Chef Skye Gyngell is to launch a temporary farm shop, in Shoreditch. The Spring-to-Go shop, which will open in Redchurch Street on Saturday, 14 November, will feature produce from her partnerships with various suppliers. The spacious site will be designed with a farmers’ market aesthetic in mind where customers can select seasonal vegetables from the biodynamic farms as well as other goods such as milk, eggs, bread and preserves. Elsewhere, there will be a counter from which guests can get hot chocolate with a ginger caramel cream, coffee, tea, pastries and buns to takeaway. Spring-to-Go will also be available online and will deliver within a 12km radius of Gyngell’s restaurant at Somerset House.
Sri Lankan restaurant Kolamba goes nationwide with food deliveries: Sri Lankan concept Kolamba has launched nationwide delivery of its food from its Soho base. Owners Eroshen and Aushi Meewella, who grew up in Colombo, opened Kolamba in October 2019. Dishes are pre-cooked and delivered in an insulated box with ice packs to retain freshness and the company added “all you have to do is heat them up, crack open a beer and enjoy”. The company said: “Expect a vibrant blend of Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor, Dutch and Malay tastes and textures. A creative combo of iconic dishes, generous sharers and legendary food made with love.” The Ceylon chicken curry feast costs £40 for two to share or £75 for four. It includes chicken curry, basmati rice, dhal, beetroot curry, green bean curry, toasted pol sambol (coconut chilli), seeni sambol and date and lime chutney.
Trio of sweet retailers move in at Colchester shopping destination: Red Lion Yard and Lion Walk has announced the dessert-led trio of retailers Victoria Yum, Choccy Heaven and Minerva Chocolates have moved in at the Essex shopping destination. Victoria Yum is a boutique cake specialist that has relocated from Hackney, east London, to launch an 820 square foot bakery and cafe that is set to open with 26 covers. Choccy Heaven opened its 340 square foot unit in September and focuses on fresh cream truffles plus personalised and homemade chocolates, plus chocolate-infused spirits. A vegan chocolate selection is lined up for the store too. Meanwhile, Minerva Chocolates has opened as a recurring pop-up for the Christmas period.
Smith & Wollensky launches at-home box for lockdown: American steak restaurant chain Smith & Wollensky has launched its “At Home Boxes” so customers can enjoy steak and sides at home. Lockdown has triggered the move by Smith & Wollensky’s executive chef Tom Cook. Customers can choose from the 28-day dry-aged, grass-fed, Irish tomahawk steak or the 28-day dry-aged USDA signature bone-in-rib-eye or USDA fillet box. Each box comes with the steaks, whipped potatoes, creamed spinach and peppercorn sauce, which can be cooked/reheated in diners’ own kitchens. All boxes will be delivered by DPD before noon to the UK mainland. For delivery on Tuesdays, customers are asked to place their orders by noon on Sunday, and for delivery on Fridays, customers must place their orders by noon on Wednesday. 
Crieff Hydro adds first associated hotel to portfolio: Crieff Hydro, the seven-strong Scottish hotel operator led by Stephen Leckie, has added its first associated hotel to its portfolio. The Taypark House Hotel in Dundee is to be operated by Glenn Roach and his business partner William Salve. Crieff Hydro will primarily support the hotel’s sales and marketing. This marks the first partnership of its kind for the group with more expected to follow. Roach built his career as a chef with Carnival Cruiseline UK, and a number of restaurants including Michelin-starred Pied à Terre in London, before making his mark as head chef of the three AA rosette Rocca Restaurant at the Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, St Andrews. He will run the Taypark House Hotel not only as executive head chef but also as general manager. Salve, also formerly from the Rusacks Hotel, will be leading the front-of-house team. The Taypark House Hotel, which dates to 1863, features ten bedrooms and is set to reopen in the next few weeks – government restrictions permitting. Leckie said: “We are delighted to welcome Taypark House Hotel as our first associated hotel with more in the pipeline. We will support Glenn and William with sales and marketing assistance for both the accommodation and the restaurant as they establish themselves in their new roles.”

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