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Wed 9th Dec 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

SBPA brands the revised coronavirus restrictions ‘bitter-sweet’ as only 42% of pubs and bars allowed to open: Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) chief executive Emma McClarkin has branded the revised coronavirus restrictions announced by Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, beginning on Friday (11 December), as “bitter-sweet” because only 42% of pubs and bars will be allowed to operate. Despite every one of Scotland’s 32 local councils either remaining at their current level or dropping to a more relaxed tier, the trade body said just 1,913 pubs (42%) will be allowed to operate. McClarkin said: “This announcement is bitter-sweet for Scotland’s pubs and bars. While the news that further economic support for the sector will be outlined [on Wednesday, 9 December] is hugely welcome and long overdue, the unwillingness of the government to review the time restrictions on hospitality and lack of progress on the levels in certain areas like Edinburgh, is hugely disappointing. Only 42% of Scotland’s pubs and bars will be able open under these restrictions, leaving the majority on life support. The Christmas and new year period is critically important to businesses in the hospitality sector and the news that many will be unable to trade as they had hoped and expected will, sadly, mean some tough business decisions being made over the next few days. In order to save jobs and hundreds of Scottish businesses, the Scottish government must now ensure the financial support package at least matches those on offer to pubs, bars and their supply chains in Wales. Currently, the average Welsh pub will receive four times more in financial support than the average Scottish pub over the Christmas period. The cabinet secretary needs to fix that.” Sturgeon announced Glasgow and ten neighbouring areas have been moved from the stricter level four rules to level three, which means pubs and bars can open until 6pm but are not allowed to serve alcohol. The rule changes come into effect from 6pm on Friday (11 December) but retail stores currently in level four will be allowed to start operating at 6am. SBPA analysis suggested the number of pubs expected to be open on 11 December is 1,913 (42%), which is up from 1,357 (30%) before the changes were outlined.

Industry News:

Renewed confidence in eating and drinking out forecast for end of February as vaccination of over-70s completes: A renewed confidence in eating and drinking out could be seen towards the end of February as the over-70s should have been vaccinated and the death rate tumbles, according to George Davidson, former interim head of insights and analytics at Greene King. Davidson, who founded The Lantern, a research and insights consultancy with a focus on the hospitality industry, has updated his timeline forecasting how the coronavirus will play out in the UK. With vaccinations of the Pfizer vaccine having started on Tuesday (8 December) and the Oxford vaccine set for approval imminently, he argued: “The government’s winter flu and MMR vaccination model suggests it should be able to quickly start vaccinating millions of people. In about ten weeks, the NHS should have vaccinated the 6.6 million people aged 70 and over. As this group accounts for about 90% to 95% of deaths and hospital admissions, this may possibly mean we see a dramatic fall in deaths and hospital admissions leading to renewed confidence. If deaths fall from 400 to 500 now to 40 to 50 then the UK may choose to respond in different ways. If someone’s grandparent is vaccinated then they may feel freer to go out. Some people will want to (or have to) wait until they have been personally vaccinated until they feel safe enough to venture out. Groups that happily come out now in tier two locations may be more willing. The last customers to leave last March will likely be the first to return.” But despite the vaccination programme getting under way, Davidson still anticipates another lockdown in January due to families getting together during the Christmas period. As previously reported, he predicts between ten million and 20 million will be vaccinated successfully by May, and London could be close to herd immunity a month later. Davidson said life may return to a new normal in July and the UK could have the virus under control by September. However, foreign travel will still be limited because global immunity will not have been possible yet, meaning staycations continue to remain popular. 
 
Hospitality job losses hit 650,000, furlough scheme prevents further pain: The hospitality sector has now lost 650,000 jobs versus November 2019 but the extension of the furlough scheme has prevented more job losses, according to software provider Fourth. Research from Fourth also indicates that while the number of job leavers continues to outweigh the number of new starters, this was a trend seen before the outbreak of the pandemic in March. Figures show there has been a 26% drop in overall staff headcount compared to November 2019; the hospitality workforce shrunk by 4% in November, compared with 7% in October; the number of hours worked across the sector was 75% lower compared with November 2019; and sector recruitment remains in a downturn, dropping by 59% compared to October 2020. Fourth’s data, which has been aggregated from analysis of more than 700 companies across the restaurant, pub, bar and quick service restaurant (QSR) sectors reveals a further 9,845 hospitality workers lost their jobs in November, representing 4% of the total workforce. The pub, restaurant and QSR sectors recorded a 3% drop in workforce, while the hotel sector was more greatly impacted with a drop of 5%. However, this is the smallest decline in workforce numbers since June, suggesting the government’s decision to extend the furlough scheme until March 2021 is protecting some sector jobs. Sebastien Sepierre, managing director – EMEA, Fourth, said: “While these figures continue to make for bleak reading, it is encouraging to see hospitality businesses are continuing to battle on through the pandemic, with the data suggesting the sector was perhaps better prepared for the second national lockdown. This time of year usually brings with it a mammoth recruitment drive as operators gear up for the busy festive schedule. While the data indicates recruitment is continuing to drop, what is encouraging is the continuation of the furlough scheme is seemingly protecting sector jobs and significantly reducing the number of redundancies. The coming months are going to remain tough but there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel and, with effective planning, coupled with a suitable level of top-line support and appropriate compensation for restrictions that are harming operators’ ability to trade, the sector can, and will, bounce back.”
 
China’s recovery shows ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for UK hospitality: New research in China has provided further insight into a market that is ahead of the UK on its recovery curve—and shows there is “light at the end of the tunnel” of covid-19 for hospitality businesses. The China On-Premise User research by CGA revealed nine in ten consumers have now returned to bars, restaurants and karaoke bars – a steady rise from the half (48%) who went back in the weeks after lockdown ended in May. While the pandemic has reduced disposable income for half (50%) of consumers in China, on-premise users have been drinking out as frequently as they did before covid-19, though the frequency of eating-out visits has fallen. Two in five (42%) consumers plan to visit more often in 2021 than they did in 2019. Many returning consumers are making up for lost visits by trading up and increasing spend but others are keeping a close eye on spending. With similar numbers saying they will spend more (41%) and spend less (33%), CGA said the market has polarised and brought challenges for brands playing in the middle ground. Guests now expect more from their experiences, while almost three quarters (72%) said their drinks choice is influenced by the desire to impress others. Although safety concerns remain, consumers have settled into a “new normal” behaviour with a renewed appreciation of the value of bars and restaurants and fresh attitudes towards issues such as health and alcohol consumption. Confidence about visiting big venues and events has grown. Two thirds (64%) of consumers are now confident enough to visit large-capacity venues, and almost half (47%) have visited karaoke bars. Three in five (59%) said healthy drinks choices are more important to them than pre-covid. As in other countries, delivery and takeaway markets boomed during China’s lockdown – and those habits are here to stay said CGA. 
 
UK footfall sees 20% boost after England exits lockdown but new Welsh rules having impact: UK footfall increased by about 20% at the weekend compared with the previous week after England came out of lockdown but new rules in Wales had an impact, according to data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. However, overall levels on Saturday (5 December) were still down 45% on those seen in February. Tier two cities in England, where pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen if they serve a “substantial” meal with alcohol, saw an immediate boost in levels. In Liverpool, footfall on Saturday was up 46% on the previous weekend while London saw a 23% rise. In tier three areas where non-essential retail reopened, footfall was also up on the previous weekend with Manchester increasing 19% and Leeds 23%. However, both cities are still down more than 60% on February’s levels. In Wales, new rules came into place on Friday (4 December), forcing pubs and restaurants into a 6pm curfew and banning the sale of alcohol at any time. This has impacted the footfall seen Cardiff that, on Saturday, dropped 25% compared with the previous week and is at minus 56% of that seen in February. In Scotland, footfall in Glasgow, which was subject to level four restrictions where pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops were forced to close, again remained similar but that is likely to change for the better as the city has been placed into level three now. There was also no noticeable change in Edinburgh’s footfall, where the city remains subject to level three restrictions, which means cafes, pubs and restaurants are allowed to open until 6pm to serve food and non-alcoholic drinks. Both cities are at circa 60% below February’s footfall levels.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 
Dedicated social media campaign launches to push for a minister for hospitality: A dedicated social media campaign has been launched under the heading a Seat At The Table, to push for a minister for hospitality. The campaign, which has been founded by Robin Hutson, chairman and chief executive of Home Grown Hotels and the Lime Wood Group, stated the sector “needs a seat at the highest table of government because so many enjoy a seat at the tables of hundreds of restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars throughout the UK”. It said: “There is talk of a January reshuffle in government and we see no reason why a minister for hospitality should not take a much-needed seat at the table.” Hutson said: “If 2020 has shown us anything it’s how little government understands the complexities and the power of the hospitality sector and, importantly, how vital the hospitality sector is not only to the economy but also for employment and to the nation’s happiness and overall mental health. This industry must have a powerful voice within government and we intend to dedicate the next 30 days to a social media campaign of some magnitude. Currently, there are 42,000 signatures on the petition yet we must get to 100,000 for this to even be debated in parliament, let alone have someone sitting at the top table.” Chefs including Angela Hartnett, Tom Kerridge, Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver have lent their support to the campaign. Kerridge said: “Hundreds of young people are employed by the hospitality sector and are carving out exciting and fulfilling careers for themselves. If pubs and restaurants aren’t given more of a voice then the future of them as entities are in jeopardy, which will naturally lead to job losses.” To sign the petition click here

More than 500,000 US restaurants at risk of closure as NRA urges Congress to deliver further relief package: More than 500,000 US restaurants are at risk of closing amid the “economic freefall” caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has warned. In a letter to congressional leaders urging them to deliver a further relief package, the body also said more than 110,000 restaurants have closed since the beginning of the pandemic. “In short, the restaurant industry simply cannot wait for relief any longer,” NRA executive Sean Kennedy wrote in the letter. “Efforts in Washington to find the ‘perfect’ solution are laudable but the lack of progress in the meantime has led too many operators to give up on the government and close down for good. Since our last update to you, less than three months ago, an additional 10,000 restaurants have closed nationwide.” A survey by the NRA showed almost half of restaurant operators anticipate laying off workers in the coming months, and 37% said it was “unlikely their restaurant will still be in business six months from now” without government relief. The package being asked for by the NRA includes a 20% to 25% revenue loss threshold to allow more than 400,000 “suffering” restaurants to take out a second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan; the ability for PPP borrowers to deduct “ordinary and necessary” expenses; streamlined forgiveness of loans under $150,000; and the removal of a limit on PPP funding for restaurants that are majority-owned by a “common parent”.

Startle partners with industry partners for free report into consumer behaviour and perceived gaps in customer experience: Interactive music provider Startle has launched a free-to-access industry report that provides insight into consumer behaviour and the perceived gaps in customer experience and atmosphere in hospitality post-lockdown, with a blueprint for resurgence. Having carried out extensive consumer research post-lockdown, Startle has combined its findings with insight from an ensemble of industry partners and experts – including Ann Elliott and Amber Taverns operations director Gary Roberts – to show how it is still possible to create great hospitality experiences even in a time of enormous challenge. Bringing in research into how consumers feel about returning to pubs, restaurants and cafes, along with what they perceive as a positive or negative experience and what their drivers are for choosing a venue, the Mind The Gap report covers the needs of customers from a variety of angles, with an added focus on optimising music, technology and entertainment to create a memorable, enjoyable and relaxing experience. Startle chief executive Adam Castleton said: “The challenge for operators will be to deliver the great experience customers expect so that they keep coming back now the skies have opened, nights are longer and the financial stimulus has passed. We’ve yet to understand the impact lockdown 2.0 will have on customer attitude but what we do know is that providing experiences people want to leave the house for is key.” The report can be downloaded from Startle’s website. It access it please CLICK HERE
Startle is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an established, premium hospitality group that is looking for a personal assistant to the managing director. The role will require the individual to work from home as well as from a London-based office. The position will pay up to £35,000 and requires a minimum of two years’ experience in a similar position. As the remit for this position is extensive, it would suit a creative individual who is also happy to be involved in business development and business improvement strategy. Experience in a business development position as well as fantastic administrative skills would be ideal. The company is looking to appoint as soon as possible, so anyone interested can send their CV to Tyron@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Pheby Food Concepts Group plans expansion drive to create more than 1,000 jobs: Pheby Food Concepts Group, which is behind the Wok&Go and Dough Dough brands, has set out plans to open circa 130 sites, creating more than 1,000 jobs over the next five years. The company said despite a challenging year, it is set to add quick-service pizza, noodle and pancake outlets to its portfolio. The group said its plans include launching 100 Wok&Go outlets, creating 800 jobs. Wok&Go was launched more than ten years ago and now has more than 15 sites in the UK, as well as outlets in Portugal and Bahrain. Alongside that, the company plans to open 25 new Crepe Delicious sites, employing 200 British workers, over the next seven years. It signed a deal to bring Crepe Delicious across the pond earlier this year, which will see the first store open in 2021. Come the end of 2020, Pheby Food Concepts will have opened a further three Dough Dough eateries, employing an additional 60 staff. Its site in Liverpool will be officially open on Friday, 18 December after much delay over the prior few months, while further openings in Warrington and Derby sites “continue to progress”. Des Pheby, the founder of Pheby Food Concepts Group, said: “This year has been tough for so many businesses, with hospitality among the sectors worst hit. It’s therefore exciting for us, as a hospitality group, to be ending 2020 on such a high, with job creation and expansion on the horizon both short and long term.” The company said all three brands, alongside its virtual brands – The Ramen Co, Jack Burrito, Go Pho and The Artisan Wrap Co – are available for franchise. Pheby said: “Now, more than ever, it is important to offer takeaway options. Creating a situation for your customers where they can order, collect and enjoy their food with the minimal amount of human contact possible is a vital selling point at this moment in time. Lockdown is an ever-present threat to the foodservice industry and delivery and click and collect is the perfect counter to it.”
 
Stonegate provides additional support for leased and tenanted businesses: Stonegate Pub Company has provided additional business support within its leased and tenanted business, Ei Publican Partnerships, in response to the government’s new restrictive covid-19 tier system. The support, which will apply until further notice, includes credits of 90% for rent, tie release fees and fixtures and fittings rental charges for all tied publicans operating substantive agreements in England, in tier three. For pubs in tier two, the support will increase from the previously committed tiered credit of 50% to 65% for rent, tie release fees and fixtures and fittings rental charges. For pubs in tier one, support will remain at the previously communicated tiered credit of 20% for rent, tie release fees and fixtures and fittings rental charges. Nick Light, managing director of Ei Publican Partnerships, said: “Despite the growing concerns across hospitality, our sector continues to be subject to disproportionate government restrictions, we remain immensely proud of our publicans’ efforts to quickly adapt their businesses in order to provide a safe and welcoming environment for their customers. It also makes it all the more frustrating so many of them remain unable to trade at the most important time of the year. Standing by our publicans, securing and protecting their futures, therefore remains our main priority, which is demonstrated by the continuous financial support we have provided since the first lockdown in March.” To date, Stonegate Pub Company has supported its publicans with rent reductions and trade credits since pubs were forced to close for the first time earlier this year. The company also suspended its annual price review last month meaning publicans continue to operate on tied drinks prices that were last increased in April 2019. Stonegate said it continues to lobby government for further business support in its response to the pandemic and the retraction of the current “business-stifling” restrictions in place.

McDonald’s to remove Happy Meal subsidy to franchisees and increase tech bills: McDonald’s has revealed it will end subsidies valued at $50m per year to help keep Happy Meals affordable at franchises and will also collect more money for the implementation and use of its technology. However, the Chicago-based chain plans to relocate funds to help pay for other programmes including the support of restaurant employees. For at least two decades, McDonald’s has paid owner-operators about $300 a month per restaurant to keep Happy Meal prices affordable in the US. The subsidy was created to keep the price of a Happy Meal at $1.99. With the average Happy Meal now about $3.50, investing in the subsidy is “outdated at this point”, the company said. A memo seen by Nation’s Restaurant News read: “We recognise this subsidy has been in place for many years. However, it is no longer fuelling growth in the way it once was. We believe there is an opportunity to instead invest in other areas such as making bold moves to support our restaurant employees.” The subsidy will end on 1 January. It is also reducing financial support for Archways to Opportunity, a programme that helps employees meet education goals such as improving English skills, earning a high-school diploma or graduating from college. It will pay 100% until 31 March then a joint funding model will be introduced. For technology fees, the change will occur over 12 months and will see a temporary technology expense increase for franchises of $423 per month in March. The increase will make up for a six-month lag in payments totalling about $70m, which occurred when the company began billing operators monthly instead of every six months in July 2017. The technology fund pays for upkeep and investments tied to everything from EPOS systems to digital menu boards to Wi-Fi in restaurants. 
 
Camile Thai secures former ASK Italian in Twickenham for seventh London site: Dublin-based healthy food delivery company Camile Thai is to strengthen its London portfolio with an opening in Twickenham. The company has secured the former ASK Italian in The Green, which is being refitted for its seventh site in the capital. In 2021, Camile plans to introduce its community yoga classes and healthy cookery demonstrations at the site. UK general manager Jonathan Dockrell said: “The new franchised branch will add to our growing chain in the south west London area. The pandemic has accelerated people’s adoption of food delivery and with more than ten years’ experience in the sector, we have hit an inflection point and are strongly positioned to scale.” Camile, which operates about 35 sites, said it has ambitious plans to develop its franchise further in the south east of England, with some branches in its network exceeding €2m in sales per annum.
 
Former Papa John’s franchise business manager eyes further growth as he takes store portfolio to eight: Former Papa John’s franchise business manager, Iain Heron, has taken his store portfolio to eight with a new opening in Dundee – and is eyeing further growth. Heron gave up his job as a franchise business manager at the end of last year, moved from Durham to central Scotland with his family and opened three franchised Papa John’s of his own – in Dundee, Livingston and Stirling. Having also launched further sites in Livingston and Stirling, taken over Ayr and opened in Hamilton, Heron has added another Dundee site to his collection. He said: “I’ve got a long history in the pizza industry. As well as working for Papa John’s as a franchise business manager helping franchisees develop, previously, I also oversaw more than 30 pizza stores for a franchisee for a rival firm for more than six years. I was even a pizza delivery driver when I was a student. My goal now is to keep the stores turning over well and to improve sales and then grow year-on-year. I will continue to develop my multi-unit portfolio, aiming to acquire more Papa John’s stores as and when they become available.” Papa John’s has more than 450 sites in the UK, and 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.
 
Mildreds launches virtual chicken burger delivery brand: Vegetarian restaurant group Mildreds has launched a virtual delivery brand called Molly Loves Chick’n, Propel has learned. Available through its four sites across the capital, in Soho, Dalston, Camden and King’s Cross, Molly’s Loves Chick’n focuses on plant-based burgers. The new virtual brand states: “It all starts with our irresistible, vegan southern fried buttermilk chick’n, loaded up with game-changing toppings and house-made sauces, inspired by our adventures around the world. We stuff it all into a pillowy, soft vegan brioche bun and get it straight to your gob… quick smart!” Earlier this year, the Sam Anstey-led business launched a crowdfunding campaign to enable it to provide 400 meals each week to four London hospitals. 
 
BrewDog to offer doggy bags in bid to reduce food waste: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is to offer doggy bags with all sit-down meals in its bars in a bid to reduce food waste. The company said it would allow customers “to take their leftovers home or give to someone in need”. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “I’m very proud of our teams for this initiative to help reduce food waste. Food production is the single biggest contributor to climate change, yet a third of all food is wasted. We are doing all we can to reduce all waste across our business at BrewDog.”
 
Bodega Rita’s to open in pop-up in Soho, full restaurant to follow in new year: Deli and sandwich store Bodega Rita’s, owned by Missy Flynn and Gabriel Pryce, will open a pop-up in Soho to be followed by a full restaurant early next year. The Bodega Rita’s site in Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross, closed this year but the new venue – Bodega Rita’s Bottle Shop – in Lexington Street, will open on Thursday (10 December) and run until Christmas Eve. The site will concentrate on low intervention and biodynamic wines, deli items, Christmas hampers, pre-mixed cocktails and gifts. The Sandwich King hamper is described as a “bodega starter pack for aspiring deli Dons and Donnas”, which contains The Grinch jalapeno relish, house giardiniera, sliced dill pickles, spiced mayo, Mexican crisps, “Hot Water”, a sample size of house-made chilli oil, sandwich spreader tool and a Bodega Rita’s tote bag. The pair operated Rita’s in Hackney for four years and ran the dining room at Redchurch Brewery in Cambridge Heath before opening in King’s Cross in 2018.
 
Marston’s hits 100-pub milestone for rollout of rapid EV chargers: Marston’s has completed the installation of rapid EV chargers across 100 of its pubs. The company said the rollout, in partnership with Osprey Charging, would pave the way for mass EV adoption ahead of the UK’s 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars. The partnership between Marston’s and Osprey began in 2018, with the aim to create a private network of 400 rapid EV chargers across 200 pubs. Marston’s head of property Andy Kershaw said: “Sustainability is becoming a key consideration in day-to-day life, with the demand for EV chargers only increasing. The Marston’s 100th rapid charging site installation represents a significant milestone towards our goal to become the UK’s most environmentally efficient pub business.” The 50kW rapid charging stations across 100 Marston’s pubs enable drivers to fully charge within as little as half an hour with contactless payment – no membership is necessary. Each charge point is powered using 100% renewable electricity and compatible with every EV on the market. Since the rollout began, more than 180 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions have been prevented and more than 20,000 user sessions have taken place. The full rollout is due to be completed by 2022. 

The Burger Priest opens restaurant in Durham, takes ten-year lease at further site: The Burger Priest, the church-themed burger restaurant concept, has opened a site at the Arnison Retail Park in Durham. The venue is currently serving takeaways and deliveries while the area remains under tier three restrictions. Meanwhile, The Burger Priest has signed a ten-year lease at The Riverwalk, also in Durham, and plans to open in spring next year. Stewart Forsyth, development director of Clearbell Capital, which operates The Riverwalk leisure and retail space and has let units to The Burger Priest and Durham Bed & Furniture Centre, said: “We are pleased to be welcoming two exciting new tenants to The Riverwalk in 2021. While the pandemic continues to create uncertainty around trading, we are confident that The Riverwalk offers a safe environment for visitors to eat, drink and shop.”
 
Oodles Chinese opens 21st site, in Milton Keynes: Indo-Chinese concept Oodles Chinese has opened its 21st site, in Milton Keynes. The company has opened the venue in Garrick Walk in line with covid-19 government guidelines. It offers the brand’s signature dishes such as Malaysian chicken, Chinese lamb curry and crispy prawns. Sides include vegetable spring rolls, Chinese fried wings and prawn crackers. The brand is certificated halal and also offers vegetarian options. Franchise owners Mansoor and Adam Khan told MKFM: “Diners will encounter an open-plan kitchen and watch live cooking as their food is prepared with all fresh ingredients.” Oodles opened its first site in 2010.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park recovers ‘significant’ amount of profit from increased visitor demand, renegotiates banking facility: Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster has reported it has managed to recover a “significant” amount of profit following the first lockdown and has renegotiated its banking facility to support the business through any further forced closures. The attraction said it saw a “clear increase in demand” from visitors when it was allowed to first reopen in mid-June. Earlier this year, Yorkshire Wildlife Park secured £15m from BGF that has allowed it to add additional facilities including the Himalayan Pass and Experience Ethiopia, where visitors can see hyenas, red pandas and smooth-coated otters. Further improvements are planned, including an experiential-themed restaurant with a giant children’s play barn, two other restaurants, a new wildlife-themed hotel, a lifestyle retail offering and a flexible venue for conferences and events. It stated: “Since the business reopened and started trading again on 15 June, there has been a clear increase in demand, and we have recovered a significant amount of profit. Based on current cash reserves, investor support and available banking facilities – the terms of which have been amended post-covid-19 to provide the business with additional cash and covenant headroom – the company has adequate financial resources to continue to trade beyond the current financial period end, even in the event of a further lockdown and forced closure of the business. Furthermore, the ability to control and flex the timing of our planned capital development plan provides an additional lever to preserve cash headroom should this be required.” The update was provided in its full-year accounts as Yorkshire Wildlife Park reported turnover increased to £13.5m for the year ending 30 November 2019, compared with £12.9m the year before. Pre-tax profit was down slightly to £2.9m from £3m the previous year. The park was founded 80 years ago and employs about 300 people. 
 
Italian seafood restaurant Baccalà reopens offering festive feasts: Italian seafood restaurant Baccalà has reopened in London’s Bermondsey, offering “seafood feasts” to mark the festive season. The restaurant in Bermondsey Street is known for its namesake – salted cod – brought straight from Italy and served in various ways. Along with its seasonal menus, Baccalà has a rotation of daily specials. To mark the festive season following lockdown, Baccalà’s Italian seafood feasts are paired with olive oil and wine “taking guests on a multi-course journey through all 20 regions of Italy”. Ilanit Ovadya and Fabio de Nicola joined forces with Elif and Moreno Polverini to open the venue last year. Moreno Polverini said: “We’ve been completely battered but our customers have given us the strength to carry on.”
 
Vianet reports business in good shape despite seeing sales slashed in half: Vianet Group, the international provider of actionable data and business insight, has said the business is in good shape for when the pandemic ends as it reported sales were slashed in half after many of its customers were forced to close by government restrictions. The company reduced rates for its Smart Zone pub, bar and restaurant customers at the start of the pandemic and “without exception” they all signed up. Chairman James Dickson said: “We have been pretty proactive. Two weeks before the first national lockdown, we went to customers and convinced them to continue to use our services during lockdown. We gave them pricing support during that period because it was a much more economic idea than to restart it all again with those costs. Without exception they all signed up for the reduced terms under the mandatory closures.” Turnover came in at £4.1m for the six months ending 30 September, down from £8.4m the previous year. The business also made an operating loss of £519,000 during the six-month period, compared with an operating profit of £2.6m the year before. Despite this, the company said it was optimistic about the future and believes the business is in good shape for when the pandemic ends. It said this is largely because of the steps the company took to mitigate the effects of lockdown and the pandemic but also its decision to continue to invest after borrowing £3.5m through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Much of this investment has gone into hiring new staff members, including putting more “commercial foot soldiers on the ground”, as well as investing in its “tech road map” while moving some of its customers on to its new cloud platform. Vianet also announced chief executive Stewart Darling would be stepping down. Darling, who joined the company in 2008 and has been leading the business since 2013, will leave at the end of March but will continue to work as a consultant with the business until the end of 2021.

Brew York receives £1.5m investment: York-based brewer Brew York has revealed it will use a £1.5m investment to expand after securing a new site and creating 16 new jobs. Jobs from junior apprentice brewers up to senior management positions will be made “despite the challenging times”. The new brewery site in Osbaldwick will focus on the production of the company’s canned beer, following the launch earlier in the year of a new canning line. Money will also be spent on new equipment and technology to improve efficiency, quality and consistency. There will be a cold store, a grain silo and mill, as well as a reverse osmosis machine to strip minerals from water. The new kit will improve beer quality and allow for new styles to be made including a Pilsner-style beer. Production capacity will increase from 880,000 pints per year at the current Walmgate brewery to almost four million at the new brewery. The expansion has been funded through the reinvestment of profits, loans and grant funding, which included £200,000 from Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Head brewer Lee Grabham, said: “Despite the challenging times, Brew York are proud to be expanding in their home city of York and bringing new employment to the area. With our expansion, we hope to build on our reputation for innovative and exceptional beers by creating a brewing legacy that the city of York can be proud of.” Brew York was supported in the finance and grant fund-raising by Phil Dibbs of Hawkmoor Associates, Dave Catling of Customer Business Finance, and SME growth manager, Simon Middleton. The site is expected to be operating fully later this month.
 
Birmingham-based steakhouse closes following ‘catastrophic’ flood: Birmingham-based Anderson’s Bar and Grill has permanently closed due to a “catastrophic” flood in the summer. The steakhouse restaurant, owned by Dan Anderson, had been based in St Paul’s Square for 11 years. He said: “We suffered catastrophic flooding in June, and due to circumstances that were out of our control, it became clear we were not going to be in a position to re-occupy by the start of December, we have been forced to permanently move out of the premises. May I make this clear, it has had nothing to do with the current covid-19 pandemic. I would like to give thanks to all of our staff, past and present, for all of the years of hard work and dedication that made Anderson’s what it was, and a huge thank you to all of our customers, your support and loyalty to our restaurant has been magical. We are devastated that it has had to come to an end.”

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