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Tue 10th Nov 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Wendy’s chief executive – we have a strong pipeline of UK locations including drive-thrus: Todd Penegor, chief executive of Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, has said the company had a strong pipeline of locations in place in the UK, including some drive-thrus. In an update to investors, Penegor said the company was also engaging with potential franchise candidates to “build out the market with us”. He reiterated the business was also continuing to make progress toward its plan to expand into Europe and remained on track to open restaurants in the UK in the first half of 2021. Penegor said: “We have been building a top talent team on the ground, have a strong pipeline of locations, including some with drive-thrus and are engaging with potential franchise candidates to build out the market with us. International expansion remains one of our three growth pillars and we are excited to continue to grow our Wendy's footprint around the world. We are still committed to opening restaurants in the UK in the first half of next year.” In reply to a question about design of the group’s first UK site, which is earmarked to open in Reading, Penegor said: “Although there are more restrictions going on in that market today, construction is exempted. So, we'll have the opportunity to continue to build for the future. As we've looked at the site and we do have a combination of traditional in line, but we also have some drive-thru sites. But, as we looked at the design of that restaurant, it really is technology-enabled. It does allow for a mobile experience to get easily in and out, and is set up quite nicely for delivery experiences. So, all of those things have already been contemplated in the design, and we feel good that we’ll have a good mix of locations, both traditional free-standing with drive-thrus, as well as in line that are technology-enabled and operationally efficient to support the consumer and the drivers.” The company, which operates more than 6,000 sites worldwide, has submitted plans to open a site in an empty unit in Station Road, Reading. Earlier this summer, Propel revealed the company had started building its team ahead of a proposed UK launch. It has appointed Michael Clarke, formerly of Pizza Hut Restaurants and Firezza, as UK director of operations.

Industry News: 

Sponsored message – host of operators turn to Toggle to take advantage of online Christmas sales surge: A host of operators have launched online stores with Toggle, the gifting initiative from sector technology specialist Airship, in recent weeks. North west brewer and retailer JW Lees, Revolution Bars Group, ramen restaurant group Tonkotsu, Danish baker Ole & Steen, Sourced Market and Duck and Rice are among those using the platform selling at-home experiences, gift cards and retail products to boost pre-Christmas sales during lockdown. Toggle is an e-commerce platform that integrates with a dozen different hospitality platforms and EPOS providers – to create a transactional website for businesses to easily sell gift cards, products and experiences directly to customers. It is free for the first £1,000 worth of sales and its fixed-rate package is half-price for businesses that sign-up before the end of November. Chief executive Dan Brookman said: “Closed physical spaces mean businesses are now relying entirely on their online channels to drive sales at this crucial time of the year. Now is the time to get creative, to keep pushing your brand to customers. There’s going to be a massive shift towards shared experiences.” If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com
Toggle is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 
Scrapping of Job Retention Bonus must be reversed to save businesses: The Job Retention Bonus must be restored “because businesses are relying on it”, according to Deep Blue Restaurants’ James Low. The founder and chief executive of Deep Blue Restaurants, which owns Deep Blue and Harry Ramsden’s brands, told Propel there have been surprisingly few, if any, objections to government plans to scrap the Job Retention Bonus, which pledged to give companies £1,000 per employee they furloughed and kept continuously employed with claims being accepted from February 2021. Low questioned: “Why would [Rishi Sunak] be extending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CRJS) until March 2021? It might be because the government intends to extend the lockdown beyond 2 December or possibly because the government intends to introduce a new tier system that would, like a lockdown, force many businesses to close. If so, the extended CJRS will not help because businesses that have been forced to close will need much more than furlough support to help them survive after months of little or no revenue. If these businesses fail they will not be claiming furlough support.” Low suggested an alternative scenario is lockdown may not be extended beyond 2 December, and a new tier system introduced that may not be as punitive as the previous one. Businesses can, therefore, open again so they will take staff out of furlough and will not be claiming furlough support. He added: “Many businesses continued to employ staff and based financial projections to banks in order to qualify for debt through the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme based on the government’s commitment the Job Retention Bonus would be paid in February. On 5 November, when the same businesses were worrying about surviving another lockdown, the chancellor announced the Job Retention Bonus, possibly their only lifeline, would cease to exist.” Low questioned whether banks would accept such businesses’ reassurance an “alternative retention scheme will be put in place at the appropriate time”? Low said: “According to press reports, if an alternative scheme is not introduced, the government will save circa £9bn.” The Deep Blue boss said the CJRS offers employees some protection but not the businesses that employ them. He added: “The JRS bonus needs to be restored because businesses are relying on it. The government’s generous short-term supportive measures have allowed many businesses to survive to this point but it must announce long-term measures such as an extension to the VAT reduction for an indefinite period.”
 
250,000 staff to receive pay boost, hospitality has largest percentage of underpaid staff: More than a quarter of a million people who work for an employer that has voluntarily signed up to the “real living wage” will receive a wage rise to at least £9.50 per hour. However, research has revealed the hospitality sector has the largest percentage of staff (70.8%) paid below the real living wage. The boost to £9.50 represents a 20p increase in hourly rates while those working in London will receive a 10p increase to £10.85. The real living wage differs from the national living wage, which currently ensures anyone working, aged 25 and over, earns £8.72 per hour. The increase is designed to help workers and families through the pandemic. There are about 8,000 companies in the Living Wage Foundation across the UK that are already paying this recommended rate to ensure all staff earn a wage that meets the real cost of living and covers everyday needs. Research by the Living Wage Foundation shows there are still 5.5 million jobs – 20% of all UK employees – still paying less than the real living wage. Northern Ireland had the highest proportion of jobs paying below the real living wage of 25.3%, while Scotland had the lowest at 15.2%. Jobs held by women were more likely to be paid below the real living wage in April 2020 than those held by men. This gap has narrowed slightly since 2012 and continued to narrow in 2019-2020, but 60% of jobs paying below the real living wage – 3.3 million jobs – were held by women in April 2020. The hospitality sector had the highest proportion of jobs paid below the real living wage at 70.8%, followed by the arts, entertainment and recreation sector at 36.8%. The highest numbers of jobs paid below the real living wage are in the wholesale and retail sectors with 1.3 million jobs, but these sectors are much larger than hospitality, arts, entertainment and recreation.

Sector shares rise on positive vaccine progress: Shares in the majority of listed pub and restaurant companies climbed on Monday (9 November) on the back of news that positive progress has been made on a Pfizer vaccine for covid-19. In the late afternoon, trading shares in pub companies – Marston’s, Mitchells & Butlers, JD Wetherspoon, Young’s, Fuller’s and City Pub Group – had climbed 22%, 25.7%, 19.6%, 24.9%, 7.5% and 24.5%, respectively. At the same time, Loungers saw its shares climb 20.6% and shares in The Restaurant Group increased 31%. City Pub Group’s chairman Clive Watson told the Evening Standard: “The covid fog is beginning to lift – it’s not back to the races, and normality is still a long way off, but the pub sector now has hope and that has been in short supply in the past nine months.” Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis said: “This is the first bit of good news since March. It is huge, a real game-changer and should give us all hope that the ‘old normal’ is not yet a lost cause.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer demands review on 10pm curfew when lockdown ends: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for an urgent review into the 10pm curfew on the hospitality sector when the lockdown ends. Sir Keir also took aim at a number of U-turns made by the government over coronavirus rulings, including the second back down over meals for poorer children during school holidays. The Labour leader said on a phone-in show on LBC radio: “I do think we should get a chance to look again at the 10pm curfew. I can understand what the government was trying to achieve but it didn’t work. We saw people crowding out at 10pm. There’s a smarter way of doing this and I think that if you were to stagger that time differently so people left at different times, it would be far better.” Sir Keir blasted the government over the “15 U-turns” it has made since the start of the pandemic, following the latest surrender to footballer Marcus Rashford on child hunger. He said: “Marcus Rashford scores another. I think it’s Rashford 2, government 0. Another U-turn. In a pandemic, nobody expects the government to get everything right. To have U-turns or corrections, if there are one or two of them you might well say, ‘fair enough’. I think we are on 15 and counting and that, for me, smacks of incompetence.”
 
No alcohol sales permitted as Northern Ireland’s planned reopening stutters: Wet-led pubs in Northern Ireland will stay closed for a further fortnight after the country had planned to loosen restrictions for reopening on Thursday (12 November). The executive has proposed the reopening of restaurants and cafes but no alcohol sales will be allowed. Pubs, restaurants and cafes across Northern Ireland closed their doors to sit-in customers on Friday, 17 October under stricter covid-19 restrictions for four weeks. First minister Michelle O’Neill had said the current coronavirus restrictions would end at midnight on Thursday (12 November), but a compromise appears to have been reached. On Sunday (8 November), O’Neill suggested cafes and restaurants could be allowed to reopen but not pubs. She said the sale of alcohol was a factor in reaching a decision because “defences come down when alcohol is taken”. Chef-restaurateur Michael Deane told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster his business has lost close to £2m. He said: “It cost us £20,000 to reopen and this is not viable for us going forward. They should just tell us to close until this is all over, fund the hospitality business and leave it at that. We can’t just keep opening and closing with 150 to 200 staff running around not knowing what to do.”

Consumer spending suffers slight decline, Brits show support for local businesses: Consumer spending declined 0.1% year-on-year in October, as further restrictions were introduced and autumnal weather encouraged Brits to stay at home and turn to online shopping, according to a report by Barclaycard. However, purchases from food and drink specialist stores such as butchers and greengrocers soared by 50.7%, as many (48%) turned to supporting local businesses. Spending on essential items grew 4.2%, bolstered by continued growth in supermarket spend as the category saw an online uplift of 94.4%. This comes as a third (33%) of Brits say they are stockpiling essentials. Clothing sales fell 2.7% overall, though a 20.6% growth was seen in online clothing as the nation chose to shop from home instead of on the high street. Binge watching boxsets on darker evenings helped push digital content and subscriptions to its highest uplift since July (32.3%). However, household confidence dropped to 67% – a level not seen since May (also 67%) and down from 70% last month. Barclaycard head of consumer products Raheel Ahmed said: “As Brits once again adjust to tighter restrictions, it’s no surprise the digital habits adopted earlier this year are enduring. As we enter another period of lockdown in England and further restrictions across the UK, this stay-at-home mentality is likely to persist, as is the popularity of takeaways and digital subscriptions – helped along by the colder weather and darker evenings. As the country prepares for a winter under potentially tighter restrictions, and we turn to online for our Christmas shopping, the resilience of bricks-and-mortar retailers will be tested as we wait to see what the rest of the year brings.” 
 
Coffer Corporate sees uptick in transactions as investors look beyond current crisis: Leading advisory firm Coffer Corporate has said it is observing an uptick in investment transactions as some investors begin to look beyond the current crisis. Jack Silvani, director at Coffer Corporate Leisure (CCL), said: “Although the ongoing covid-19 crisis has, undoubtedly, had an adverse effect on investor confidence, we are definitely observing an uptick in transactions as some investors begin to look beyond the current crisis. Assets that are underpinned by strong real estate fundamentals, such as the subject property, remain attractive to investors. We see value in the current market for investors willing to take a long-term view.” Silvani was speaking after CCL completed the acquisition of 21 Romilly Street, Soho – a restaurant investment in London’s West End on behalf of a private investor. The property, which trades as French fine-dining restaurant Gauthier, is single-let to the current tenant on a long lease. The purchase price of £2.5m reflected a net initial yield of 3.46%. Knight Frank acted for the vendor, a private investor. 
 
Bar loses licence over covid-19 breaches: Wolverhampton bar Blossoms has had its licence revoked after it displayed a “severe and flagrant disregard” for covid-19 regulations on multiple occasions. Customers at Blossoms, based in North Street, were “needlessly exposed to unnecessary risk during a health pandemic”, a meeting of the council’s licensing sub-committee heard this week. The committee was told of multiple breaches of licensing requirements and covid-19 regulations has been witnessed at the bar in August and September by the council and police officers.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking for a marketing director for a unique coffee brand. The position, based in London and paying up to £80,000, will be responsible for the implementation and development of the marketing, PR and digital plan in order to support future UK growth. This is an extremely exciting opportunity for the right candidate. With an ambitious growth plan, the business seeks a marketing professional who has the experience and vision to grow the brand. They must be a proven senior level marketer with excellent experience and a passion for the hospitality retail industry. Anyone interested can their CV or profile to to Gemma@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News:

McDonald’s to test loyalty programme as part of new ‘Accelerating the Arches’ strategy: McDonald’s is to test a loyalty programme for customers and launch a new crispy chicken sandwich next year as it refocuses its long-term strategy after the coronavirus pandemic. The company plans to prioritise marketing next year as part of its “Accelerating the Arches” strategy, including new packaging globally with a “modern, refreshing feel and playful touches to unify branding in markets all over the world,” it said in a statement. McDonald’s will focus on core products such as burgers, coffee and chicken, including a new crispy chicken sandwich – something some franchisees have long sought in order to compete with the success of similar products at Popeyes and Chick-fil-A. It will also soon include another growth driver that other companies have long had – loyalty programmes. “My McDonald’s” digital programme will allow customers who sign up to get tailored offers, the company said. A loyalty programme using the My McDonald’s programme will start as a pilot in coming weeks in Phoenix in the US. McDonald’s will also accelerate technology innovation its customers have a “fast, easy experience”. Its global sales fell 2.2% in the third quarter – an improvement over the previous quarter’s drop, as McDonald’s had already announced in an October update. McDonald’s beat revenue and profit estimates for the quarter as customers in the US ordered more hamburgers and fries in drive-thru outlets and on delivery apps to avoid dining out during the pandemic. The company’s limited-time promotional deal with rapper Travis Scott, which caused shortages of some ingredients, and other marketing investments also helped sales bounce back from pandemic lows. Despite some sales recovery and better-than-forecast margins, the company is still pressured in key markets outside the US, including France, Germany and Britain by new lockdown restrictions due to a spike in coronavirus cases. McDonald’s total revenue fell about 2% to $5.42bn in the three months ended 30 September, largely recovering from the over 30% plunge posted in the second quarter. McDonald’s has released details of its UK Christmas menu, which includes a double Big Mac and a festive Celebrations McFlurry. The company has also added a Jamaican Jerk Chicken Sandwich (£5.69 meal) to the menu for the first time. The double Big Mac has four patties rather than the usual two, wedged between three slices of bread and garnished with cheese, lettuce, onions and Big Mac sauce. The burger will be available from Wednesday, 18 November. Meanwhile, KFC’s Christmas menu includes a burger customers can pour gravy over. The new burger features a layer of gravy mayonnaise, an Original Recipe chicken fillet, a slice of melted cheese and a hash brown “gravy boat” that diners pour gravy onto. It will only be available as part of a meal for £6.99. The festive menu will begin on Monday, 16 November and run until Sunday, 3 January.
 
Pret launches retail coffee range in Waitrose: Pret A Manger has announced the launch of its retail coffee range into Waitrose stores as part of its ongoing transformation plan. The range, which launched on Amazon and in Pret’s shops in May, will now be available in supermarkets for the first time. Available online, via the app or in store, the range includes Pret’s two core coffees used in its own stores: Pret’s Organic Classic Blend Ground Coffee (200g), which is used for its filter coffee, and Pret’s Organic Espresso Beans (450g), the base of all its espresso-based coffees such as its flat whites and lattes. The new Waitrose partnership marks the expansion of Pret’s retail offering following the range’s launch on Amazon earlier this year. The company said retail was a key tenet of its wider transformation programme to bring the brand to more people, following the “highly successful” launch of the UK’s first in-shop coffee subscription in September. Clare Clough, Pret UK managing director, said: “Throughout this year, our customers have made it clear just how much they love and miss our organic coffee. This new partnership with Waitrose means more of our customers will be able to play the role of Pret Barista and brew their own at home. While this continues to be a challenging year, our aspiration is to bring Pret to more people, in innovative new ways and via new channels. This partnership means our carefully sourced, much-loved coffee will now be even more readily available for customers to enjoy at home.” Pret shops remain open across London and the UK for takeaway and delivery through third-party partners with new social distancing and safety measures in place.
 
Kevin Todd appointed chairman of Upham Inns, Dunstall joins board: Kevin Todd, the group managing director of Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), has been appointed as executive chairman of Upham Inns, the Hampshire-based operator, Propel has learned. At the same time, Ian Dunstall, former director of marketing at M&B, has joined the board of Upham, which operates 15 pubs in Hampshire and the south, as a non-executive director. Todd, who joined the Upham board as a director last year, currently chairman and investor in a range of hospitality businesses in both the UK and Europe, with portfolio interests including fast casual, full service restaurants, boutique hotels and pubs. These include being a non-executive director of Farmer J and chairman of Which Wich’s UK operation. Dunstall, who has held senior marketing leadership roles in both corporate and consultancy roles, will focus on marketing and development at Upham. He was previously with M&B for 16 years, and was also senior vice-president marketing at Rosinter Restaurants, the leading casual dining restaurant group in Russia. Todd said: “Upham already has a strong team and I am excited to have the opportunity to lead Upham to focus on the next stage of its development. The existing portfolio of inns offer excellent growth opportunities, and we have already shown the potential for significant business improvement, despite the challenges of the current pandemic. We believe Upham has further opportunity for continued business turnaround, and that we have the resource in place with the potential to take advantage of any expansionary opportunities that arise in the coming months.” David Butcher, managing director of Upham Inns, said: “This is an exciting moment for Upham Inns. Our business is performing relatively strongly and I believe that with the support of our new board directors, this will give us increased momentum for growth in the coming months.” Last year, Upham completed the sale and leaseback of 14 sites with CBRE Global Investors, which generated net proceeds of £18.7m.
 
Pho makes dark kitchens debut: Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho, which is backed by Gresham House Ventures, has made its dark kitchens debut with two openings through Deliveroo Editions, Propel has learned. The 30-strong company has launched delivery-only sites in London’s Crouch End and Swiss Cottage. The group is currently offering delivery and takeaway in 22 of its 30 sites in addition to the Editions units. It reopened its site in Cardiff for dine on Monday (9 November), as Wales came out of its “firebreak” lockdown. On the move into dark kitchens, co-founder Stephen Wall told Propel: “It’s a natural next step for us on the back of an increasingly successful delivery operation with Deliveroo over the past couple of years, and we’re looking forward to assessing further opportunities.”
 
German Doner Kebab appoints new head of project management from Nando’s: German Doner Kebab (GDK), the flagship concept of Hero Brands, has appointed Rich Collie as head of project management to support its ambitious growth strategy. Collie joins from Nando’s and will manage the build-out of GDK’s expansion plans throughout the UK. GDK recently announced it will have opened 12 new restaurants in the UK by the end of 2020, creating in the region of 480 jobs. The brand also plans to open 40 restaurants during 2021 and boasts a development pipeline of 350 franchise units over the next seven years. Collie will be responsible for the delivery of new restaurant fit-outs, liaising with contractors and consultants to meet brand standards and launch schedules. He will also be charged with building and maintaining close relationships with GDK’s multi-unit franchise partners as they build their respective restaurant portfolios. GDK chief executive Imran Sayeed said: “Rich strengthens our team and will be a key asset for us as we expand our restaurant footprint and develop the relationships with our multi-unit franchise partners as we forge ahead with our ambitions for growth.” Collie has 18 years’ experience in the UK leisure and hospitality industry. During the past eight years, he has worked with Nando’s new restaurant expansion during its busiest period of growth, including its first sustainable restaurant. He said: “GDK’s growth ambitions are second to none and I look forward to contributing to the success of the business as it matures and brings the GDK experience to even more people across the UK.” Based in Glasgow, the brand is growing at great pace with 70 restaurants in UK, Europe and Middle East, and now rapidly expanding in the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Ireland. Further international growth in 2020 includes two new sites in Canada, two in Sweden and one in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The brand’s first site in North America opened in Canada’s Ottawa at the start of September, with a further restaurant opening recently in Surrey, Vancouver.

MeatLiquor to open in the Brunswick Centre: Scott Collins-led concept MeatLiquor is to open a new restaurant in the Brunswick Centre in London’s Bloomsbury at the end of the month. The company has secured the former Las Iguanas site at the centre for what will take its estate back up to 11 sites. The site, which has around 110 covers internally and a further 110 outdoors, will open for takeaway and delivery in the last week of November. It will see staff retained from the group’s recently closed King’s Cross site move across to the new opening.

Former Deltic chief operating officer Jason Thorndycraft takes up same role at security staffing company: Jason Thorndycraft, former chief operating officer of bar and nightclub company The Deltic Group, taken taken up the same role at national security staffing business, Professional Security, which is based in Leeds. Thorndycraft also worked at Drake & Morgan and Novus. Professional Security chief executive Dave Fullerton said: “We are hugely excited to have Jason join the team. We are growing rapidly as a business and entering many new markets, and Jason brings with him a wealth of experience in running large teams and working in growing businesses. He will be invaluable in helping us to reach our future growth ambitions.” New chief operating officer Thorndycraft added: “I am delighted to be joining Professional Security at such a dynamic time for the business. The opportunities are varied and plentiful, and I look forward to playing my part in the growth and future success of this exciting business over the coming years.”

The Breakfast Group secures new bar near London Bridge: The Breakfast Group, the Eric Yu-founded restaurant bar group, has secured a new site for a cocktail bar and Asian grill concept near London Bridge. The company opened the Last Talisman at the start of November in Bermondsey Street in the days before the latest lockdown. The new site says it offers “expertly crafted cocktails and a sizzling Asian grill”. The Breakfast Group, founded in 1991 by Yu and Connie O’Donovan, operates five sites in central London, including the Salvador & Amanda sites in Covent Garden and Burlock in Marylebone. It also operates Gas Street Social restaurant and bar in The Mailbox scheme in Birmingham. Last year, the company appointed Ross Palmer, formerly of Novus, as its new managing director.
 
Fife Arms owners confirmed as taking on The Audley in Mayfair: Iwan and Manuela Wirth, the Swiss owners of the Fife Arms, in Braemar, Scotland, have confirmed they are to take on The Audley pub in Mayfair, which closed last year. Propel revealed in January the Wirths, who are considered to be two of the world’s most powerful art dealers, owning the Hauser + Wirth galleries business, were working with then Fortnum & Mason chief executive Ewan Venters on the new venture in Mayfair’s Mount Street. In September, Ewan Venters, who has been chief executive at Fortnum & Mason since 2012, left the role to take the same position at Hauser & Wirth. The Wirths’ hospitality company Artfarm has taken on the lease for The Audley and plans to transform the site and relaunch it in 2022. The renovation of the grade II-listed, five-storey building is provisionally set to be completed in autumn 2022, with the addition of a restaurant and rooms and the restoration of many of its original historic features lost due to bomb damage in World War II. Artfarm, which was founded in 2014, also operates the Roth Bar & Grill in Somerset. Jonathon Cornaby, chief financial officer at Artfarm, said: “We are delighted to be bringing this historic pub back to its former glory with Grosvenor and to make it the heart of the local community for years to come.” The Sunday Times named the Fife Arms its hotel of the year for 2019.
 
Brasserie Bar Co launches ‘Voila At Home’ offer: Brasserie Bar Co, the Richard Ferrier-led operator of the Brasserie Blanc and White Brasserie Company, has become the latest sector business to explore the “at home” route to market. Propel understands the company has launched Voila At Home, with the new service allowing consumers to “create and serve restaurant-quality food and drink at home”. The company has so far launched the new offer out of its Beaconsfield Brasserie Blanc site, although it is thought that, if successful, it will be introduced to more of the group’s restaurants.
 
Hickory’s launches ‘at home’ UK-wide delivery service: American-style smokehouse and barbecue brand Hickory’s Smokehouse, which is backed by Piper, has launched UK-wide delivery of its food. The 12-strong chain is offering Hickory’s At Home from its website. Diners choose from a range of smokehouse meals, desserts, sides, drinks and even gift sets comprising hot sauces and marinade rubs. Food is cooked and chilled then sent out, ready for reheating and eating. Hickory’s managing director John Welsh said: “We’ve been working on the Hickory’s At Home offering for some time now and obviously, with ongoing restrictions across the UK, it seems like an obvious time to launch it. Our aim is to offer people a real, authentic, Hickory’s experience, albeit at home, so we can’t wait to see what guests old and new think of it.”
 
Pub operator pivots to pies: Pub operator Farika Holden has pivoted to pies in the face of her premises being shut by the coronavirus pandemic. Holden, who owns The Cock Tavern in Kennington, south London, has launched Grateful Pies, which are available for nationwide delivery. Inspired by the classic French-Canadian tourtière, the plant-based pie is made with a light olive oil crust and a filling of green lentils flavoured with Bramley apple, onion, celery, mushroom, potato and seasoned with aromatic spices. Born from her desire to share and bring people together, Holden has been making these pies, which evolved over time from a dish discovered in the pages of the family recipe book of her grandmother, Milly Pearl O’Shea, and giving them out to friends and loved ones every winter and festive season for more than 20 years. As praise and requests for pies gathered momentum so did Holden’s enthusiasm to launch Grateful Pies as a business. She told Propel: “Grateful Pies is the culmination of my previous experience, my entrepreneurial spirit and my personal philosophy about friendship and food. I really, deeply believe that sharing food is a vital way to show love and friendship. It’s about nurturing and caring and communality. With the pub closed now for seven months, it’s shown me how important pubs and meeting places really are. It’s a strange and difficult time to be launching a new business. But, with all that’s happening in the world right now, I feel we need to find a way to stay together and not lose our sense of community. Grateful Pies really makes sense to me as a product and as an ethos.” 
 
Arabica to launch deliveries of Middle Eastern food: Levantine bar and kitchen concept Arabica will launch Fest for Beirut meals kits on Friday, 13 November. Arabica, which has sites in Borough Market and King’s Cross, will launch the kits for delivery across the UK while raising money for Lebanese charities following its successful Bake For Beirut cake sale in Borough Market. Kits include a selection of meze, larger dishes and dessert. Arabica is also launching a ready-to-bake range including filled pastries and a cheesy dessert, which will also be available for delivery. Food comes frozen, ready to cook. The company’s DIY falafel kits will also have an extended delivery range. 
 
Local restaurant and bar concept Boujee to debut at Liverpool ONE: Grosvenor Europe, owner of shopping, hospitality and leisure complex Liverpool ONE, has announced the signing of Boujee Restaurant & Bar for its debut site. Boujee is scheduled to open on Thursday, 3 December at Liverpool ONE’s Kenyon Steps, subject to the lifting of lockdown restrictions. It will span 9,600 square foot across two floors and transform from a “family-friendly environment during the day to a buzzing, experiential atmosphere in the evening”. Sharing plates, sushi, signature cocktails, champagne and signature drinks will be available plus a VIP and private dining space on the upper floor for up to 20 people. The site will have 250 covers, and promises Instagrammable opportunities through its convertible pink car, giant candy area, “pool party” and “Alice in Boujeeland” spaces. Boujee has financial and profile support from entrepreneur and reality TV star Lystra Adams. Alison Clegg, director, asset management, Grosvenor Europe, said: “As a new local concept, Boujee will certainly be one that draws in visitors from all across the north west as well as further afield.”

Meat distribution group loses hospitality site sales but increases at retail butchers: Northamptonshire-based meat distribution group Randall Parker Food Group has made up for lost sales to the hospitality sector with an increase in demand to retail butchers, it said in its latest business update. Randall Parker was formed in 1995 with the acquisition of Weddel Swift, a Towcester-headquartered meat distributor that has been operating for more than 130 years. It has 14 depots across England and Wales, and also owns a hotel in Antigua, West Indies. Its newly filed documents for its financial year up ending 30 September 2019 were delayed because of the pandemic. The business said the group’s depots division “more than made up” the loss from its hospitality supply customers stopping trading by an increase in demand from retail butchers. As a result, the division said sales and volumes for the year exceeded the previous year’s levels. Its trading division made “several staff” redundant and closed its office in South Africa “in order that we could invest in resources in the UK”. The Caribbean hotel was forced to close in March 2020 with all staff losing their jobs, at a cost of $1.2m but it reopened on 1 October with the aim of re-employing former staff members in a phased manner. The documents also confirmed the company secured a Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme loan of £2.5m in August for an 18-month term. For the financial year to 30 September 2019, the group’s turnover went from £185.8m to £159.4m, while its pre-tax profits fell from £1.1m to £734,000.
 
Top Cuvée launches lockdown meal deliveries again: Brodie Meah and Max Venning, who are behind north London wine bar and bistro Top Cuvée, have relaunched their lockdown meal delivery service, Take Cuvée. The menus, from head chef Will Blank, will change daily. Although the service has already been running in the Highbury area, same-day deliveries will expand across London – with natural wine pairings available too. Dishes that can be reheated at home include cheese scones with cultured butter, celeriac and Bramley apple soup, roast chicken and tarragon pot pie and pumpkin, lentil and Devon blue pot pie. Also included is a Spotify music playlist as would be likely playing at Top Cuvée.

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