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Mon 9th Nov 2020 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Hornby – please give us long enough to know how we ramp back up: Andy Hornby, chief executive of The Restaurant Group, the Wagamama and Brunning & Price owner, has called on the government to give the sector as much notice as possible with regards to reopening next month, and described it as the big difference between this new lockdown and the last one. Speaking at Propel’s final Multi Club event of the year, Hornby said the management of supply would be crucial and could be one of the biggest challenges for the industry over the next two months. He said: “Suppliers on the whole have been absolutely fantastic, the speed at which they have had to respond to us sizing up, then down and up again. I think for the industry that will be the biggest challenge over the next two months, because we just don’t know how much notice we are going to get to turn the lights back on properly in early December. Certainly, as we try as an industry to speak with one voice, that has been our biggest message to the government in the past week – please give us enough notice to know how we ramp back up. The amount of cost you take out is one thing, but being ready to get the sales back in the door the moment we are allowed to restart is key. We all forget now how gradually we all restarted back in July. We all took it very slowly, and that is why we got the ops right and were all in good shape to be ready for Eat Out To Help Out, but this time we will have to be ready from day one. That is going to be the big difference this time.” In terms of what other levers the company could pull to preserve cash, Hornby said there was “relatively little more to be done” but said the use of flexible furlough will be a “much bigger tool”. He said: “We have all done all we can on rents. The big difference this time will be the use of flexible furlough is going to be a much bigger tool and what we will try to do to keep the maximum number of people employed. We are certainly going to use it much more over the next month, when we are focusing on delivery and need a certain amount of colleague hours. I think the industry as a whole will use it quite aggressively as a way of keeping the maximum people employed while keeping our cash burn as low as possible. The most important thing is to be ready for 2 December in whatever guise that needs to be. My reading of the clearly very welcome furlough extension to the end of the first quarter is the government expects us to be in various forms of tiering throughout the winter. That will be the world we will have to live with I suspect for three or four months after we start trading in December. If I was to be glass half full, it is really interesting in Scotland where we are trading again in certain areas, demand is very, very good. And although it is early signs but from conversations with our pubs team, we are already seeing an unbelievable level of bookings in our Welsh pubs before they reopen next week. This is what is so frustrating, every time you get a window, the demand has proven to be there, the problem is the windows keep moving, becoming narrower, and we have to keep pivoting to take advantage of every little window as it opens.” Unlike in the first lockdown, Hornby said the company was keeping open about 20 of its pubs to offer a click and collect menu, offering dishes including deep fried cod in beer batter, crispy buttermilk chicken burger, and chicken, ham and leek pie; plus a selection of cask ale and bottled beer.

Industry News: 

Blanket takeaway permission for hospitality businesses extended as government considers making them permanent: The blanket provisions allowing all pubs, bars and restaurants to serve takeaway food and alcohol will be extended by the government to give the hospitality sector long-term reassurance. Businesses were forced to close across England last week as part of the second national coronavirus lockdown but the new regulations allow takeaway alcohol to be served as long as it is pre-ordered online, via phone or post. The automatic takeaway permissions established during the spring lockdown will be renewed for another year and communities secretary Robert Jenrick said he will look into whether to make them permanent. It means businesses will not need to go through a planning application process to provide takeaway, with the exemption being extended until 23 March 2022. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The ability to provide takeaway services was a valuable lifeline for many hospitality venues, not just during the lockdown but in the days of reduced and restricted trade, too. The extension will undoubtedly help many. For pubs, restaurants and cafes to operate as takeaways gives them a previously untapped revenue stream and a much better chance to survive what will be a tough winter.”

Hospitality bosses fear government U-turn on Job Retention Bonus scheme could impact finances: Hospitality bosses fear the government U-turn on bonuses for retaining furloughed staff could jeopardise financing deals with lenders. Industry chiefs told the Mail on Sunday they believed the Job Retention Bonus – which the government said would pay £1,000 for each furloughed employee retained until the end of January – was “a promise”, and had “baked in” the cash to their projections. After the chancellor last week extended the furlough scheme to 31 March and deferred the bonus payment accordingly, firms will now have to go back to their forecasts, which could have a knock-on effect on their arrangements with lenders. The biggest firms employing thousands of staff were in line to receive millions of pounds. A chief executive of a pub group called the deferral “naïve”. He said: “If we had known in April the bonus wouldn't be paid in February, we would have tackled the issue very differently – we wouldn't have protected every job we did.” A restaurant chain boss called the bonus “a promise we could plan around”. He said he had already spent some of the bonus on keeping as many staff in work as possible. Had he known the bonus would be postponed, it would have made financial sense to make more staff redundant in summer and give the rest full hours. He added: “Now I’m caught between making staff with no viable job redundant now, or contributing to their furlough costs until March.”

Sector trade bodies in Northern Ireland call for clarity as decision on reopening hospitality industry is delayed: Sector trade bodies in Northern Ireland have called for clarity after the executive fudged a decision on whether to postpone the reopening of the hospitality sector this week. First minister Arlene Foster said while covid-19 infection figures were improving, further talks between ministers were needed alongside consultation with bar and restaurant owners. She said: “These discussions will continue and we will intensify our engagement with the hospitality sector representatives as we seek a safe and sustainable way forward.” Foster said executive colleagues had held a “comprehensive discussion” about what to do when current restrictions on hospitality expired and considered a “range of medical and scientific” evidence. She added there has been “significant progress” after three weeks of restrictions, with a drop in the number of cases and the reproductive rate of the virus falling to 0.7 or below in a “majority of council areas”. Hospitality Ulster said: “Extending closure beyond 13 November is extremely concerning, but we continue to engage with the executive to secure a strategy for the sustainable reopening of our entire industry.” Meanwhile, the four-week closure will cost hotels in the country £7m, according to the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation. It estimated businesses have lost out on the sale of about 280,000 bedrooms and more than 200 weddings as a result of the restrictions.

Piano Works founder to focus on new campaign ‘to help rebuild entire hospitality sector’ after being refused Cultural Recovery Fund grant: Alan Lorrimer, founder of dining, drinking and live music concept The Piano Works, is to focus on a new campaign “to help rebuild the entire hospitality sector” after its Farringdon site was unsuccessful in its bid for a Cultural Recovery Fund grant. While the Arts Council recognised the “cultural significance” of The Piano Works and the “vast employment opportunities the organisation provides to musicians and techs in the UK”, it has not awarded any funds. But Lorrimer, who spearheaded the #UKGrandOutDoorCafe campaign in the summer, which called on the government to temporarily ease regulations to allow hospitality operators to use open spaces and public squares alongside their venues to serve food and drink, said he was “down but not out”. He said the new campaign, details of which will be announced shortly, would help rebuild not only The Piano Works but the entire hospitality sector. The Piano Works’ 400 capacity venue in Farringdon has yet to reopen since March. The grant would have allowed it to safely reopen, at a much-reduced capacity, with a new model in a covid safe environment. Before the coronavirus pandemic, The Piano Works played to an audience of 208,000 per year, spending £500,000 per annum in musicians’ wages. Operations director Tristan Moffat said: “It is affirming the Arts Council has recognised the importance of The Piano Works in London’s cultural landscape, but we do not understand why we were refused the grant. As the largest employer of independent musicians, The Piano Works is a huge part of many Londoners’ and visitors’ lives. We want to thank The Music Venue Trust for all its support so far.”

19,000 bars and restaurants in ‘significant distress’, putting 82,000 jobs at risk: Some 19,000 SME bars and restaurants are in “significant distress”, leaving 82,000 jobs at risk, according to RealBusinessRescue.co.uk. The figures represent an 8% increase since the end of the first quarter of 2020 – and a 4% rise since the end of the second quarter. National online business operations director Shaun Barton said: “While some bigger companies are finding their feet, it is smaller companies that are suffering the biggest impact. The backbone of the UK’s economy is suffering and we could soon have a dangerously top-heavy economy.” There are a total of 544,000 UK SMEs in significant financial distress – an increase of 42,000, or 8% from the first quarter to the third quarter 2020. “Significant distress” refers to businesses with minor CCJs (of less than £5,000) filed against them or have been identified Red Flag Alert as having sustained or marked deterioration in key financial aspects. 
 
UberEats extends support for restaurant partners: UberEats has announced a range of initiatives in the UK to support independent restaurant operators as the new national lockdown measures come into force. The updated package includes free delivery on up to 500,000 orders over the four weeks of lockdown to help drive users towards more than 15,000 small and medium businesses. This will apply on orders of £15 or more from Monday to Friday each week throughout November. UberEats will also extend the previous lockdown’s opt-in programme for all restaurants on the platform. This includes offering daily payments free of charge rather than the standard weekly payment in a bid to help with cash flow until the end of the year. The commission fee for restaurant pick-up will also continue to be waived. Toussaint Wattinne, general manager of UberEats in the UK, said: “This is a very tough time for everyone in hospitality, so we are putting in place a range of initiatives to support our local restaurant partners. With everyone relying on food delivery more than ever, we are making it easier for customers to discover and support their local restaurants.” UberEats has introduced a number of measures to help ensure all food deliveries are safe. This includes making all deliveries contact-free by default, distributing more than 800,000 free face coverings and 90,000 hand sanitisers to couriers in the UK, introducing an in-app safety checklist and educational videos, and continuing to provide free “partner protection” coverage through AXA.
  
Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking to appoint a non-executive director for a UK leisure business. The business has multiple sites across the country, offering a variety of fun-filled experiences. It is looking for a non-executive director who will support the executive team as it drives business commerciality, implements a long-term strategic plan and grows its brand marketing. The ideal candidate will put innovation at the forefront of the business and work alongside an established board of directors. An attractions, leisure and guest experience background within the UK market is essential, with preference going to individuals coming from ticket-led businesses. Anyone interested can email their CV or profile to Lucia@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News:

TRG keeping 77 sites in England open for click and collect and delivery: The Restaurant Group (TRG) is keeping 77 of its leisure sites in England open for click and collect and delivery during lockdown. The company is offering the services at 58 of its Frankie & Benny’s sites, 17 Chiquito outlets and its Firejacks venues in Basildon and Stevenage. They are available Monday to Thursday between 4pm and 9pm, and Friday to Sunday from noon to 9pm. It means 32 leisure sites have temporary shut – 25 Frankie & Benny’s, three Chiquito, its Coast to Coast outlets in the Metrocentre in Gateshead and the Trafford Centre in Manchester, Firejacks in Northampton and Est Est Est in the Trafford Centre. The group is also offering a series of ongoing promotions including 20% off all click and collect orders as well as a meal deal bundle for Frankie & Benny’s – pasta meal deal for two for £19.99 and a family feast for £29.99. TRG will also reopen its seven leisure sites in Wales on Monday (9 November) and two in Northern Ireland on Friday (13 November) in line with the lifting of lockdown in those countries. The company’s 16 leisure venues in Scotland remain open for dine-in, click and collect and delivery in line with local restrictions.
 
Tasty continues negotiations with landlords: Wildwood operator Tasty is continuing consensual negotiations with landlords and other creditors in respect of outstanding rents after successfully achieving reductions and lease concessions on a number of sites. The company said it expects this process to be completed by the end of November. Tasty is offering takeaway and delivery from “most” of its sites while its restaurants are closed for dine-in during the lockdown. In addition, free takeaway meals will be offered by the company to NHS workers. The company added it would again be relying on government support for employees’ pay and VAT and business rates holidays.

Buy-out funds circle Deltic Group: Buy-out funds, including Greybull Capital and Aurelius, are weighing up bids for Deltic Group, UK’s biggest nightclub operator, after the pandemic forced the company into an emergency sale. Chief executive Peter Marks told The Telegraph the company had received a number of approaches and was “very pleased by the high level of serious interest”. Munich-based Aurelius has backed a string of companies across Europe, including Ideal Shopping Direct. Greybull Capital, which has a reputation for swooping on under-pressure firms, was linked to a bailout of airline Virgin Atlantic in May. Greybull would not comment on the Deltic sale, but a spokesman said the crisis was “creating significant difficulties for many companies that would otherwise be viable”. Aurelius declined to comment. Propel revealed last week Shoreditch Bar Group, which last year acquired the remainder of London bar and restaurant operator Novus’ late-night business, was one of the parties running the rule over the Deltic. The 52-strong operator of brands including ATIK, Bar & Beyond, Eden and Vinyl, began working with advisers from BDO last month, as it seeks investment to help support it through the extended period of closure. BDO is currently overseeing a sales process for the business, which is thought to have attracted interest from private equity firms and trade buyers. Deltic has also been mulling a company voluntary arrangement.

Nestlé to acquire majority stake in Mindful Chef as Piper exits business: Nestlé has agreed to acquire a majority stake in healthy recipe box service Mindful Chef as it boosts its food offerings in the UK and Ireland. Business for Mindful Chef has soared during lockdown as people have been forced to stay at home. Mindful Chef said it expects sales of more than £50m this year, up from £8m since its series A funding by consumer-focused private equity firm Piper in 2018. Terms of the series B funding deal by Nestlé were not disclosed, though it is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Mindful Chef's three founders – school friends Giles Humphries, Myles Hopper and Rob Grieg-Gran – will remain shareholders and continue to run the brand. Some existing shareholders will retain a stake but Piper, which invested £6m, will exit the business. Mindful Chef is also backed by Sir Andy Murray, Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton and former English rugby player Will Greenwood, having initially gone through two rounds of crowdfunding. Humphries said: “We owe a great deal to these early investors who backed our vision to make healthy eating easy for hundreds of thousands of people across the UK, and it is with great pleasure that we can now reward these investors for their support.” Since being founded in 2015, the start-up has delivered 9.5 million meals. It offers customers 16 recipes per week to choose from, delivered as meal-kits, with a “mission of making healthy eating easy”. Stefano Agostini, chief executive officer of Nestlé UK & Ireland, said: “Nestlé and Mindful Chef share an ambition to increase the availability and convenience of healthy food while paying close attention to how ingredients are sourced and reducing food waste. It means this is an ideal partnership for both parties as Nestlé continues to transform its portfolio and Mindful Chef accelerates its growth plans.” Last week Nestle announced it would buy the rest of New York-based meal subscriptions firm Freshly, having already held a minority 16% stake for three years, in a deal worth up to $1.5bn (£1.14bn).

Cirrus Inns in talks over new finance arrangements: Cirrus Inns, which owns 19 freehold pubs and five long leaseholds, is in talks as it assesses its options for new finance arrangements over its loan facility and overdraft. The company stated: “The group remains in regular dialogue with its lending banks and we have received a waiver of all covenants through to March 2021. However, both the group's main £8.5m loan facility and the £2m overdraft (undrawn as of October 2020) are due for repayment/refinancing with Metro Bank in March 2021. The directors and management team have a number of options that are under consideration, including refinancing with the existing lender; attracting new capital; refinancing of the existing shareholder loan; asset disposals and attracting new lenders. The general expectation is the group will look to put into place sufficient funding to ensure the company remains a going concern and the existing lender has been supportive of the actions and activities undertaken by the group in the light of recent trading conditions. The group has enough liquidity to continue to meet its day-to-day cash flow obligations for the next 12 months.” The company provided the update as it reported turnover for the year ending 30 June 2019 fell to £23.8m, compared with £24.2m the previous year. It saw an operating loss of £3m, compared with a loss of £2.6m the year before. Pre-tax losses increased to £4.3m from £3.7m the previous year. The directors stated: “In the year to 30 June 2019, the group looked at several further acquisitions, including single sites and an acquisition of a multi-site pub group. With the prices being asked by the sellers exceeding (in some cases significantly) the group's valuation of the assets and therefore undermining returns for shareholders, the group has not progressed with any of these.”

Purezza announces global expansion plans after securing £2.4m funding: Brighton-based vegan pizzeria Purezza has announced global expansion plans after securing £2.4m in funding. The company, which operates four sites, raised the funding from multiple investors, including MVK Group and Veg Capital. Purezza has investors from the Middle East, US, Europe, and Asia. It plans to use the cash injection to open branches abroad, as well as develop a retail line of its mozzarella – Purezza has its own vegan cheese factory. MVK Group chief executive Manish Karani told Plant Based News: “Purezza has proven to be one of the pioneers in the vegan food industry. We are proud to be working with it in becoming one of the leading restaurant and retail brands across the world.” Veg Capital managing director Matthew Glover said: “Vegan cheese is the holy grail for the plant-based movement, and the team at Purezza has developed the most realistic alternative to dairy-based mozzarella we have tried. Our investment will help the Purezza team accelerate its move into the retail sector.” Purezza opened its debut outlet in Brighton in 2015 before adding a site in Camden three years later. The company has doubled its restaurant portfolio with launches in Hove and Bristol in the past couple of months. 

Costa Coffee announces customer number restrictions at stores during lockdown: Costa Coffee has set out rules at its stores that will remain open throughout lockdown. Chief executive Jill McDonald explained the rules on Costa’s website. She said: “The number of customers entering a store at one time will be restricted depending on the store size. We’ve designated pick-up points for delivery and mobile order collections and we’re sanitising these pick-up points after every visit. We have clear floor signage to support all social distancing guidelines when queuing both inside and outside the store. Once inside, we ask you continue to use our hand sanitiser stations and only one customer will be allowed to the counter at a time, where we have Perspex screens installed. We have enhanced hygiene procedures in place and teams are washing their hands at least every 30 minutes. We will continue to accept contactless and cash payments, as well as both physical Costa Coffee Club cards and the app, and we are accepting reusable cups in stores and rewarding those customers with a 25p discount on any handcrafted drink.”
 
Papa John’s reports like-for-likes up more than 20% domestically and internationally in third quarter: Papa John’s has reported like-for-like sales were up 23.8% in North America and 20.7% internationally for its third quarter ending 27 September, driven by menu innovations and average transaction growth in a delivery-dominant economy. The changes in consumer behaviour have led to the growth of add-ons such as the Papa John’s Papadias and new menu items including the Shaq-a-Roni pizza, the company said. Speaking in a call following the results, Papa John’s chief executive Rob Lynch said with its strongest balance sheet in three years, much of its success is down to its “innovative menu pipeline” that has been rolling out new items regularly since the pandemic began. Besides menu strategy, one of the other largest contributors to Papa John’s strength is its third-party delivery and digital strategy. Lynch said sales through third-party aggregators have tripled in 2020. He added: “About 70% of our orders are now placed through digital – our fastest growing platform. Aggregators are part of profitability growth story.” With eight million new members added across digital channels in the past quarter, Lynch said it would be using that opportunity to offer customised discounts for members based on their consumption habits. In addition to investing in its menu and e-commerce innovation pipeline, Papa John’s plans to take the opportunity next year to focus on site growth. On the heels of signing its largest development deal in North America in September, which will promote franchised unit growth in the Philadelphia area, Papa John’s also said the company will be opening corporate stores next year for the first time in a while. Lynch said: “The return on investment in capital for new stores is just about as good of a use of capital as we can possibly have. Assuming covid doesn’t shut things down again, we’re prepared to build a lot more restaurants in 2021.” For the third quarter, revenues increased 17.1% to $472.9m, compared with $403.7m the previous year. It opened a net total of 13 stores system-wide during the quarter.
 
Paul restarts The Bread Market for lockdown while 28 stores will remain open: French artisan bakery and patisserie Paul has restarted its lockdown service – The Bread Market – from its central bakery in Acton, west London. The initiative was launched during the UK-wide lockdown and customers can enjoy a buy one, get one free offer on all 400g and 800g loaves, including pain de campagne, multigrain, two olives and cramique brioche. The Bread Market is open daily from 8am to 3pm, with click and collect available and same day delivery via UberEats and Deliveroo. Meanwhile Paul’s 28 London shops will remain open to sell freshly baked products, festive options, hot drinks and premium flour and yeast for takeaway, click and collect and delivery. Unsold bread and freshly baked bread pudding will be donated to The Felix Project charity.
 
Merlin signs agreement to open Legoland resort in Shanghai: Merlin Entertainments has signed an agreement to develop a Legoland resort in the Jinshan district of Shanghai, China. Under the terms of the agreement Merlin Entertainments, the Shanghai Jinshan district government, entertainment content creator CMC and Kirkbi, a company operated by the Danish family that controls Lego, will form a joint venture to fund the $550m project. Expected to open in 2024 with construction starting next year, it will be one of the largest Legoland resorts in the world and incorporate a themed 250-bedroom hotel. Merlin Entertainments chief executive Nick Varney said: “China represents a great opportunity for strong global brands and I am delighted to work with our partners to bring one of the world’s largest Legoland resorts to Shanghai, which builds on the other attractions we have developed in this exciting part of the country.” Last year, Merlin Entertainments, which has returned to private ownership, entered into an agreement to open a Legoland resort in the Sichuan province of western China.
 
Ottolenghi launches variety of dine-in options: Chef Yotam Ottolenghi has launched a variety of dining-in options amid the new lockdown. Signature Nopi and Rovi menus are available to order that can be enjoyed at home, including the twice-cooked chicken with master stock, chilli sauce and lemon myrtle salt that comes with sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf and a smashed cucumber salad. Ottolenghi has also introduced Shakshuka kits that include an Ottolenghi-ready Shakshuka sauce, freshly squeezed orange juice, labneh, coriander cress, Dusty Knuckle focaccia and Clarence Court eggs. There is also an “Ottolenghi Ready Kit”, which includes two Ottolenghi ready meals that can be chosen individually. Available for delivery nationwide, the meals have a shelf life of ten days and can be frozen for up to a month. Pick-up and delivery is still available from all Ottolenghi delis too during lockdown alongside bottled cocktails and a selection of low intervention wine.
 
London-based burger concept Slow Richie’s goes from pop-up to permanent: London-based burger concept Slow Richie’s has gone from pop-up to permanent. Brothers Alex and Richie Calver have been running residencies across the capital for the past six years. Having started as a pop-up in central London, they then moved to Camden Market and, since 2015, have been based at Brick Brewery in Peckham. Now they have launched their own space in Peckham Rye, offering click and collect and takeaway while dine-in is prohibited during lockdown, reports Hot Dinners. The menu includes the Classic Beef topped with honey-glazed pulled pork, cheddar and chilli lime dressing; and the Classic Vegan – Meatless Farm patty in a vegan bun with homemade vegan mayo, glazed mushrooms, vegan cheese and chilli lime dressing.
 
Darwin & Wallace’s The Address to deliver breakfast and feast kits across London: The Address, which is a collection of eight neighbourhood bars, owned by Imbiba-backed Darwin & Wallace and led by Mel Marriott, is delivering breakfast in bed and feasting kits to its London customers. The Address has curated six kits for recipients to put together themselves at home. Kits are available for delivery within a five-mile radius of its No 11 Pimlico Road site. Eco-friendly kits for two start at £25 plus delivery costs and include exclusive access to Spotify music playlists. Kits available include a meat feast house breakfast for two (£25) with bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes with soy and balsamic marinade, sourdough and herbs – there is also a vegan version at £25. A house burger for two package (£25) has four patties, buns, lettuce, tomato, onion, burger relish, Cornish Yarg or Blue Monday cheese and aioli. The feast for two (£55) includes half a house-marinated rotisserie chicken, houmous, caponata, sourdough, butter, charcuterie (fennel salami, venison, chorizo, ’nduja paste and roast ham), grapes, cheese, and dark chocolate mousse with vanilla crème and honeycomb.
 
Palomar Group to launch delicatessen-inspired delivery service for The Barbary: The Palomar Group, owned by siblings Layo and Zoë Paskin, is to launch a delivery service for its restaurant The Barbary in London’s Seven Dials. The Barbary Next Door, which will launch on Wednesday (11 November), is inspired by the “beautiful delicatessens that are a unique feature of European society”. The team has recreated some of its restaurant dishes to suit dining-at-home occasions or add to the larder at home. The menu, which will evolve seasonally, will include dishes such as mushroom and goats’ cheese bourekas and Moroccan chicken tagine. To pair, customers will be able to choose from a range of drinks, including selected organic and natural wine, cocktails and Evelyn’s Table beer. Zoë Paskin said: “I have always loved exploring European delicatessens and wanted to recreate something inspired by my travels and food I love to eat when at home. We hope it can bring some comfort and enjoyment to families over this second lockdown period.” The Barbary Next Door delivery service will be available via Deliveroo or The Barbary Next Door’s website between Wednesday and Sunday from noon to 9pm.
 
New weekend takeaway and deliveries from Smokestak: Barbecue street food concept Smokestak has launched a new weekend takeaway and delivery service. All meat has been sourced from long-standing supplier Philip Warren Butchers, before being smoked over kiln-dried English oak for up to 15 hours in chef and founder David Carter’s wood-fired smoker imported from Missouri, US. For starters, options available include crispy pigtails; smoked cod roe and potato skins; and crispy ox cheek with anchovy mayo. Mains include buns stuffed with native breed pulled pork with ginger slaw; point-end beef brisket with pickled chilli; and smoked pastrami with mustard and dill. Sides feature skin-on chips with aioli; smoked pit beans; and a jacket potato with mustard rarebit. Desserts include sticky toffee pudding with clotted ice cream and plum crumble with custard. For deliveries, customers must be within two miles of the restaurant’s Sclater Street home in east London. For customers outside London, Smokestak at Home will continue to deliver smoked meats and DIY bun kits and, from December, there will be Christmas-style options available. Food is smoked then chilled and vacuum-packed and sent out nationwide.
 
Drinks company 31DOVER raises £2.7m: 31DOVER, the drink company based in London’s Soho, has completed a £2.7m fund-raise. The capital will be used to fund growth across the company’s three business units – online, trade and agency. 31DOVER, which was established in 2012, sells to London’s top restaurants, hotels and bars, as well as direct to consumers via its website. The company said the fund-raise, coupled with the recent appointment of Charlotte Jefferies as chief executive, will strengthen 31DOVER’s position as the “first choice for new and developing brands that are looking to grow their sales online and in the premium trade”. 
 
Wells & Co launches online store: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Wells & Co has launched an online store for its new home, Brewpoint. As well as a variety of beer that can be customised on a can-by-can basis, customers are able to buy branded merchandise including jumpers, scarves and knitted beanies. Tom Foddy, head of retail sales and marketing at Wells & Co, said: “One of Brewpoint’s key strengths is its versatility. Brewpoint marks a return to dynamic, creative brewing for Wells & Co and we’re excited for beer fans to take advantage of this progressive approach via our new online store.”

Craft brewers push malting sales higher: Demand from craft brewers pushed sales at a Norfolk-headquartered malting company to almost £200m last year. Anglia Maltings (Holdings) is behind Crisp Malting Group, which works with craft brewers across the UK, Europe, the US and Japan. In the year to 31 December 2019, Anglia Maltings (Holdings) turned over £194m compared with £181.7m 12 months earlier. Pre-tax profits were steady at £10.2m, although overall profit for the year climbed to £8.2m from £7.7m. The company said Crisp Malt worked at capacity during the period, with sales to craft brewers “buoyant”. Crisp Malt was founded by brothers George and Frederick Smith in 1870.

Celtic Holiday Parks secures six-figure HSBC backing to open 50-plus holiday homes: Luxury holiday park group, Celtic Holidays Parks, has secured a six-figure finance package from HSBC UK to add more than 50 new holiday homes to its portfolio as demand for staycations continues to rise. Celtic Holiday Parks has used the funding to add 54 new holiday home pitches, and is expanding the holiday rental fleet across its three sites: Croft Country Park, Noble Court Holiday Park and Meadow House Holiday Park, as well as new dining and well-being facilities across two sites. The HSBC funding was secured as part of the government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Celtic managing director Huw Pendleton said: “This season has been a very challenging time, made even more challenging with lockdowns. When restrictions were eased before, we saw a huge rise in demand for staycations. In order to meet this demand, we knew we needed to invest in the expansion of our holiday parks now more than ever.” 

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