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Tue 22nd Dec 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Des Gunewardena – government must consider covid tax to help struggling restaurants: Des Gunewardena, chief executive and co-founder of restaurant group D&D London, has asked the government to consider a covid tax to help struggling restaurants and said the past week “may have been the worst so far” with the capital going into tier three – and then four. But, he said, however it is funded, it was vital restaurants were “properly compensated” as they are in other countries such as France and Germany. Writing in City AM, Gunewardena said: “This was a sickening blow to lose trading in the busiest two weeks of our year. We, like many restaurant groups, make some 30% of our annual profits in December. This year, we will all lose money. And we face going into the traditionally bleak winter months of January and February not with our coffers full of cash but with increased bank debt. Fortunately, we at D&D have strong and supportive shareholders and banks. Others are not so lucky. We have already seen some high-profile casualties, particularly in casual dining. And a lot more will surely follow in the new year. After the catastrophe of December trading, we also need to address, with the government, the question of compensation and financial support for the industry. In a normal month, we will make a profit of 10%. But in any month we are closed, we lose 20%. And we’ve had five months closed in 2020, with perhaps more to come in 2021. We need to be compensated. How should this be funded? For a start by withdrawing reliefs or introducing a covid tax on the businesses that have benefited from the miseries of 2020 – supermarkets, online retailers, delivery companies, personal protective distributors. However it is funded, it is vital restaurants are properly compensated as they are in other countries such as France and Germany. The hospitality sector is a powerful engine for driving economic recovery and employment post-covid. Pubs and restaurants are also vital to the social fabric of the UK. They need to be properly supported. That needs to be our agenda for 2021 as we say goodbye to the fiasco that was 2020.”

Industry News:

Sales down 64.3% year-on-year in tier two areas: Sales are down 64.3% year-on-year for tier two venues, for December to date, according to analysis by S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. As a result of the restrictions placed on hospitality, food sales are down 55.3% and drink is down a significant 72.5%. S4labour said given tier one is a tiny percentage of the country, these tier two figures are the best-case scenario for the majority of the hospitality industry, most of which is now in tier three or four, and down more than 90% year-on-year. London has fared worse, down 71.1% year-on-year, while the rest of the country is down 61.9%. These figures in the capital are set to drop even further given the recent announcements regarding further restrictions on people’s movement, S4labour said. Chief product officer Richard Hartley said: “The ever-changing covid restrictions continue to have a damaging effect on the industry as expected, and Christmas this year is now set to look even more uncertain than previously expected.”
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus member

Peter Backman – delivery only could be killing hospitality culture, be truthful about reasons to shut sites: Sector analyst Peter Backman has said the culture of hospitality is dying and it could be down to businesses having to use delivery-only models or the immense pressure operators are being put under. Backman said: “Last week, a little bit of hospitality died. At the end of my road, there is a small, husband and wife-run burger restaurant. I’ve been going there for several years. Last week, I needed to have a word with the owners. The door was closed so I knocked and they looked up – she shook her head as if to say ‘go away’. I knocked again, and he got up, walked over to the door and pointed to a handwritten sign saying ‘Deliveroo, UberEats, Just Eat deliveries only’. And he shook his head. That is when the little piece of hospitality died – killed by covid, or delivery, or a dreadful combination of both. I shall be reluctant to return. And also last week, there was an anguished article in the Financial Times written by co-founder of Peach Pub Company, Jo Eames. She rustled up an image of pub life with a “bishop talking to a groundworker” at the bar. And then she railed against the collateral damage caused by the government’s imposition of regulations designed to cope with covid that forbid such conversations and lead to the death of hospitality. But these images of the death of hospitality are at odds with the many, genuine stories of care. From the supply of free food to NHS workers to practical help for colleagues – consideration for others lies at the heart of hospitality. So, the lesson isn’t that covid (or delivery) is killing hospitality. It is that it will be allowed to do so, so long as we don’t do anything about it.” Backman also noted although there have been plenty of people saying restaurants are safe places to eat, there must also be good reasons for their closure. He said: “Sir Patrick Vallance told a meeting on 9 December: ‘If you look at the data around hospitality, there is a series of environmental factors, such as the fact people cannot, by definition, wear masks; you are meeting lots of people you would not normally mix with; you are in an indoor environment; and ventilation may not be adequate’. In other words, the conditions in which we enjoy hospitality are ripe for the spread of covid. It seems to me the reasons why restaurants are locked down are not articulated clearly or at all by those imposing the lockdowns. I would ask politicians to be clear and open so grown-ups can understand why the hospitality sector is locked down. And if there is no hard evidence but a great deal of well-argued and well-supported, but nevertheless, circumstantial evidence, then we should all be treated as sufficiently grown up to understand that.”

Jeremy King – we are still not accorded the recognition nor respect we deserve: Jeremy King, co-founder of London restaurant operator Corbin & King, has said the hospitality sector is still not accorded the recognition nor respect “we deserve as one of the top three revenue generators in this country”. Speaking in support for the creation of a minister for hospitality and the Seat At The Table campaign, King said: “I am just incredulous that after some 45 years in the hospitality industry I am still witnessing my colleagues and I treated as second-class citizens. We are still not accorded the recognition nor respect that we deserve as one of the top three revenue generators in this country. The fundamental omission is that of representation in parliament. How many other industries with three million direct employees and another indirect 1.6 million are so badly represented? We have patiently awaited ministerial representation but now our patience is exhausted and we are forced to demand it.” The Seat At The Table campaign, which has been founded by Robin Hutson, chairman and chief executive of Home Grown Hotels and the Lime Wood Group, has so far generated circa 160,000 signatures on a petition asking for the creation of a minister for hospitality. Parliament will debate the petition on Monday, 11 January.

SBPA welcomes further financial help for sector but warns payments must be fast to save pubs and staff: The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) has welcomed news of further government support for the country’s pubs and bars but has warned payments must be processed quickly to save businesses and jobs. The Scottish government announced a financial package worth £104.3m to help hospitality and tourism businesses in the new year in response to recommendations by the Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce. Areas set to benefit include £19.2m to provide one-off grants for hospitality businesses and £50.8m for businesses with a rateable value of more than £51,000 that have not received support from the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund or Hotel Support Programme. SBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “These funds will provide a real boost, ensuring that jobs are protected, and businesses survive. The support still has to get to operators though, and it is imperative that local authorities are able to process these payments as quickly and efficiently as possible. This news, of course, comes against the backdrop of further restrictions, which will impact the trade for a long time. The UK and Scottish governments must now look at an additional support package for hospitality to cover these further restrictions because it is a long way back to profitability for our members. The levels must also be amended to extend operating hours and loosen restrictions on alcohol sales to allow pubs and bars a chance of viability in the new year.” The funding is part of the £185m package previously announced by finance secretary Kate Forbes. Further work will be undertaken to establish what additional support is needed in light of the announcement to move mainland Scotland to level 4 and the Scottish islands to level 3 from Boxing Day. Scottish businesses required to close by law are currently able to claim up to £3,000 every four weeks through the Strategic Framework Business Fund.
Tamatanga restaurants owner says ‘hospitality has been destroyed’ by lockdowns and tier restrictions: Aman Kular, multi-site operator of Indian restaurant brand Tamatanga said “hospitality has been destroyed” by “complicated” lockdowns and tier restrictions after the business was named as a finalist for a Deliveroo award for best delivery service. Kular, who has sites in Leicester, Nottingham and Birmingham, also fears the long-term effect of Brexit will make the impact worse. Kular said: “It has been a nightmare for us. Hospitality has been destroyed and a southern bias is unfair, especially when you see the level of infections in London now. We have been unable to trade during our busiest three months of the year in the lead-up to Christmas. In Leicester, we have been impacted massively. The impact of lockdown is all in the momentum, closing and opening again, the impact on equipment and supply chains. It’s not easy closing down and then opening back up again, there is a cost incurred in doing so. Yet, there is no support from central government so we can’t bounce back. I am worried about the long-lasting impact and what happens when a lot of the support passes away. What then? That’s when the real impact will be felt. We now have the threat of Brexit and the impact on our supply chain and prices – we rely on imported ingredients and will be impacted by supply chain shortages and price increases.”
Black Sheep – vaccine will help unlock areas of society the nation has missed: Yorkshire-based Black Sheep Brewery chief executive Charlene Lyons said the “vaccine breakthrough will help unlock areas of society that the nation has missed” – meaning people must come back to pubs when restrictions are lifted so friends and families can begin socialising again. She explained pubs have been the “hub for community activity” for generations and must be again “in a post-covid era”. Lyons said: “We all love to head to the pub, not just for the beer and food, but for the social experience that we have all so desperately missed this year. The development of vaccines will not only help save lives, we also hope they will be key to unlocking so many other parts of our society that we have previously taken for granted. As we step out of the shadow of covid in 2021, it will be the perfect opportunity to, once again, place the pub at the centre of our communities. We have all found that being separated from friends and family, or even just socially distanced from them, has made us realise what we have missed in the past year. We have created communities throughout history, and across the generations they have centred around a location that can bring people together, which has often been the pub. Our nation’s pubs have faced a real battle to survive this year but, with the public’s support, they can reclaim their place at the heart of the country and we can rediscover the joys of socialising with our nearest and dearest.” The Masham-based brewery has increased online sales by 1,500% year-on-year as pubs suffered tier restrictions and lockdowns.
More than £1.5m raised for London independent businesses through ‘Pay It Forward’ scheme: More than £1.5m has been raised for small and independent businesses in London through an innovative scheme designed to support them during the pandemic. London mayor Sadiq Khan launched Pay It Forward London in April – at the height of the first national lockdown – to allow people to buy goods and services in advance, which would then be delivered when businesses return to normal or near-normal operation. Bakeries, cafes, music venues, pottery studios and historical walking tours are among the more than 420 small businesses that have benefited from more than 20,000 contributions made through the scheme, which is delivered in partnership with crowdfunding platform Crowdfunder. Building on the success of the scheme, Khan launched his £1m Back To Business Fund in July, which matches money raised through Pay It Forward London to help small businesses adapt during the pandemic. This is helping businesses invest in developing their online presence, for example, on physical measures such as Perspex screens and contactless payment systems to facilitate socially distanced trading. Khan said: “I want to thank Londoners for the incredible, life-changing support they have shown for their much-loved small and independent businesses – reaching this latest milestone really is something. Hospitality, leisure and culture, in particular, have really struggled this year and many livelihoods depend on the trade they normally do over the Christmas period. That’s why I’ve called on the government to provide compensation for lost trade over the festive period. By working together, we can reduce the spread of the virus – and help our city and its economy come through these difficult times.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is recruiting a head of brand, based in London, paying up to £60,000. The head of brand will be a self-starter and will play a key role within a growing restaurant business, expanding across the UK. They will be creative, innovative and agile in their approach, ensuring the proposition is always seen as exciting and relevant to customers. The ideal candidate will have experience leading a brand and marketing function in a hospitality business. It is looking for somebody with the experience and ability to successfully develop a brand strategy built around core values and ethics of the business. They will understand and love food brands and embrace building a brand to all corners of the UK market. Anyone interested can email their CV to
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Pure secures £3m CBILS, CVA links majority of rent costs to sales over a two-year period: Healthy food-to-go concept Pure has secured £3m from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) with Lloyds Bank to help it through the crisis, Propel has learned. The 21-strong company, which launched a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) in September, said it entered into the agreement on 7 October with its creditors, which has linked the majority of rent costs to sales over a two-year period. On 23 March, in response to UK government guidance to close all hospitality and shops, the company announced it would temporarily close all of its 21 sites in London. It began a phased reopening of shops beginning in July and by September, 20 shops were trading. However, turnover was only at 30% of pre-pandemic levels. On launching the CVA, co-founder Spencer Craig told Propel: “We really did not want to do a CVA. It was the last option we considered. We took every other possible measure but, in the end, the lack of people in central London has led to an unsustainable position for us.” News of the CBILS came as the business saw its full-year turnover break through the £25m mark for the first time, in the 12 months to 26 December 2019. Full-year turnover stood at £25.7m, up from £19.1m in 2018, with four new sites opened during the period. The company stated: “2019 was the third year of a four-year growth strategy to triple the size of Pure from £11m sales in FY16 to £33m-plus of sales in FY20. We are delighted to report 2019 sales were on track to meet this target with sales growth of 34% and total sales in excess of £25m for the first time.”
Mowgli lines up Glasgow opening: Indian street food concept Mowgli has lined up its second site in Scotland, in Glasgow. Propel understands the 11-strong company, which recently confirmed it will open in Edinburgh, in the former Clydesdale Bank branch in Hanover Street, has secured the ex-Handmade Burger Co site in St Vincent Street in Glasgow. It is thought the company, which is backed by Foresight and led by Nisha Katona, has secured a new lease on the site. Last week, Mowgli founder Katona confirmed plans to open a site in Edinburgh on 22 January. She wrote on Instagram: “All being well, Cheshire Oaks (will open in) February and Bristol late spring, Edinburgh (on) 22 January. But I’m looking at whether to go to Glasgow, Brighton and Cheltenham in the next couple of years too.” At the start of November, the group, which is chaired by Karen Jones, secured a site in the McArthurGlen Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet, with the opening scheduled for spring 2021.

Egg-based fast casual concept EggRun to open first permanent sites, eyes 15 in next three years: Egg-based fast casual concept EggRun is preparing to open its first permanent site – and is eyeing a portfolio of 15 by the end of 2023. Laurent Manuel and Asher Grant launched the venture during the pandemic offering delivery only. Now the first permanent store will open at Monument, in Fish Street Hill, in early March. Manuel and Grant plan to open an initial three sites in the next 12 months and up to 15 in the next three years. Primarily grab-and-go, the Monument site will have just ten seats with a menu that will offer dishes such as scrambled eggs with caramelised onions, cheddar, chives and EggRun’s secret sauce; and the TacoRun with scrambled eggs, feta cheese, onion and lettuce – both served in a brioche bun and with the option of vegan eggs and cheese. Burgers will feature the New Yolker – a beef patty topped with a fried egg, crispy and caramelised onions, gherkins, tomato and secret sauce. 
Spaghetti House operator developing delicatessen offer and attempting to expand takeaway business: London restaurant company Lavval Group, owned by the Lavarini family and operating the Spaghetti House brand, is developing a delicatessen offer and attempting to expand its takeaway business in a bid to increase revenue during the pandemic. The group, which operates ten sites, said the additional restrictions placed on the hospitality industry, along with its exposure to central London, has created “significant uncertainty”. However, the directors said the company has adequate resources to continue meeting its liabilities. The update was provided as Lavval Group reported turnover fell to £10.6m for the year ending 29 March 2020, compared with £11.3m the previous year. It reported a pre-tax profit of £1.3m, compared with a loss of £708,000 the year before.
High five for Over Under Coffee: Over Under Coffee will open its fifth site in February, in Clapham. The London-based brand said it is: “Buzzing to be bringing another coffee-till-cocktails site to the Over Under community. Our brand new site in Clapham Old Town will be the fifth Over Under site.” Customers can expect to find “seriously comfy sofas” when the site opens. Plans also incorporate “pumping tunes” and food that is “finger lickin’ good”. Over Under will be located at 25 The Pavement in Clapham. Its other coffee shops are in Earl’s Court, West Brompton, Wandsworth Town and Ladbroke Grove.
Lunar to double up with new Belgravia site: Pub company Lunar is to double up, with an opening in London’s Belgravia. Founders Hubert Beatson-Hird and Oliver Marlowe are building on their launch of The Hunter’s Moon in South Kensington with the opening of Ganymede. The 30-cover bar and 46-cover dining room is set to launch in Ebury Street in April. Named after the largest moon of Jupiter and the third largest celestial being in the solar system, Ganymede will offer modern-European cuisine. Dishes will include a foie gras parfait and scallop ceviche, and a sharing fillet of beef wellington alongside daily changing menus. Ganymede will also offer brunch on Saturdays and roasts on Sundays. Marlowe held executive chef positions at a number of pub groups as well as Michelin-starred restaurants The Glasshouse and Chez Bruce.
Aramark appoints new UK managing director: Catering company Aramark has appointed Helen Milligan-Smith as UK managing director. Her tenure will begin on Monday, 4 January, taking over from Lawrence Shirazian, who is leaving the business this week to pursue other interests. Milligan-Smith joins from Marks & Spencer, where she was head of Simply Foods. She has also worked for Brakes/Sysco and is a former head of retail at food-to-go operator Greggs. Aramark Northern Europe chief executive Frank Gleeson said: “We’re not just excited about the skillset, expertise and experience Helen will bring, but the character and personality we know will galvanise our entire business for the year ahead. She is a dynamic, and people-focused, leader, who gets culture, who delivers growth, who drives innovation, and who, notably, brings a wealth of experience in organisational strategy.” Milligan-Smith added: “I couldn’t be happier with the challenge and opportunity ahead with Aramark. I was really impressed with its growth agenda, innovation and the business aspirations for the year ahead. We know the consumer and industry has changed immensely in the past 12 months and I look forward to bringing my foodservice and food retail perspective to lead the next phase of the company’s UK growth.”
Cut The Mustard doubles up in Tooting: London-based independent cafe Cut The Mustard has doubled up in Tooting. The company has launched the venue in Franciscan Road, which is offering takeaway as a result of the tier three restrictions in the capital. The site is part-bakery, part-cafe. Its sourdough is at the heart of the bakery – with porridge, whole wheat and rosemary and polenta options all available. There are also daily made pastries and cakes while a brunch menu like at the original cafe will be offered when dine-in is allowed, reports Hot Dinners. Cut the Mustard opened its debut site in 2014 in nearby Moyser Road. 
Signature Living launches football striker-inspired hotel, its second site opening in two weeks: Signature Living has opened its second hotel within a fortnight and has also launched The Pillow Club for safe party nights in. The Dixie Dean hotel in Liverpool city centre is now fully open following delays caused by the uncertainty of Brexit and the impact of the pandemic, according to Lawrence Kenwright, co-founder and chief executive of the hotel and events group Signature Living. The luxury hotel has been completed after its conversion from being an office building. The grade II-listed former Jerome and Carlisle building, is themed around the legendary Everton football club goal scorer and is opposite sister hotel, The Shankly, named after Liverpool’s former manager. Meanwhile, Kenwright has also reopened another of his hotels in the city, The Arthouse, just a week after completing the multimillion-pound conversion of Rainhill Hall in St Helens as a wedding and events venue. The Dixie Dean’s 160-cover restaurant and bar, No.9, named after the striker’s shirt number, was opened in July 2019 and is now again also open to the public. As part of the hotel opening, an initiative has been launched to help it operate successfully called The Pillow Club. Signature Living dubs the club as being “the best night out, but in” for adult social bubbles that offers a live DJ feed to hotel rooms, allowing guests to enjoy a covid-safe night of entertainment. Kenwright said: “Completing a long ongoing project like the Dixie Dean hotel, especially after already opening Rainhill Hall this month is nothing short of amazing. With The Pillow Club, we are answering a need – our prospective guests are looking for unique, safe experiences and this gives us all a flag in the sand that we can look forward to that helps us all regain that feeling of living life.” 

Tom Aikens to launch Instagram cookery channel in new year: Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens, who operates Muse restaurant in Belgravia, will launch an online cookery school with a six-lesson course beginning in January. Called “Cooking with Tom Aikens”, the virtual lessons will be available via a members-only Instagram channel and will range from essential knife skills to making “show-stopping” dishes. The first course is Meat Free Mondays, which will take place on Monday evenings throughout January, February and March. It focuses on reducing meat consumption and learning new skills in plant-based cooking. The dishes being taught in the first series include salt baked beetroot Wellington (vegan); oven baked cabbage cannelloni; cauliflower tabbouleh and cauliflower pizza (vegan); roasted savoy cabbage, stilton, pear and pecan; and chia seed and red berry pudding, cardamom, cashew cream (vegan). Aikens said: “It has been an incredibly difficult time for our industry, but one positive that has come out of this is the interest in cooking and growth in the number of people wanting to learn new skills in the kitchen. We’re hoping to offer people the opportunity to cook good, healthy meals at home – something I feel really passionately about. I’m looking forward to meeting all our new members over Instagram in the coming weeks.” Further courses are planned throughout 2021.
Gulliver’s Kingdom reports turnover boost before pandemic hit: Family-run, four-strong theme park operator Gulliver’s Kingdom has reported turnover increased to £6m for the year ending 31 December 2019, compared with £5.5m the year before. Pre-tax profit fell slightly to £613,000 from £732,000 the year before. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Turnover has increased due to the continued increase in the trading of the hotel, together with the continued popularity of the Adventurers Village and Explorers Retreat accommodation. The park turnover picked up to a similar level as 2017, however, this was matched by a drop in the Splashzone and Nerfzone attractions.” On the ongoing pandemic, the company added: “As an operator of accommodation facilities, linked to our group holding of theme parks, we are heavily reliant on public attendance at our venues. This has been severely hampered by the lockdown restrictions in place. We have utilised government schemes where possible to enable us to continue trading, control cash flow and retain staff. We have also made our accommodation facilities available to NHS staff.” Ray Phillips opened Gulliver’s Kingdom in Derbyshire in 1978, with sister sites in Warrington and Milton Keynes opening in 1989 and 1999 respectively. It then opened a venue in Rotherham earlier this year.
Nando’s opens third Coventry site: Nando’s has opened its third site in Coventry. The company has opened the restaurant at Arena Park, although it is only offering takeaway and delivery due to current coronavirus restrictions. It joins other brands at the complex including Burger King, food-to-go retailer Greggs, Pizza Hut and Subway, reports Coventry Live. Nando’s other branches in Coventry are in the city centre and Cross Point.
Ottolenghi pop-up wine shop open until Christmas Eve: Chef Yotam Ottolenghi has turned his Belgravia deli into a pop-up wine shop until Christmas Eve. Pierre Malouf, who is general manager of Nopi – Ottolenghi’s all-day brasserie in Soho – is behind the move because, according to Hot Dinners, he is a “complete wine guru and extremely dedicated to celebrating low intervention, natural wines”. The all-natural wine store is stocking a wide variety of sparkling wines including lambrusco, cremant, prosecco, champagne alongside artisanal digestifs, dessert wines and bottled cocktails like the Nopi Negroni and Rovi 75 – Ottolenghi’s twists on the Negroni and French 75. The wine shop is located at 13 Motcomb Street.

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