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Mon 11th Jan 2021 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Leading chefs and 200,000-plus more back hospitality ahead of vital debate in parliament: TV chef Angela Hartnett is spearheading a new campaign to help champion millions of hospitality workers hard hit by the pandemic. Alongside fellow chefs like Tom Kerridge and Jason Atherton, the Murano chef-owner is campaigning for hospitality to be given a proper seat at the government table. The chefs are among more than 200,000 people that have signed a petition #SeatAtTheTable calling for PM Boris Johnson to appoint a hospitality minister. The issue will be debated in parliament on Monday (11 January) at 4.30pm. Leading chefs, owners and hospitality workers argue a top government minister can help the UK bounce back strongly by harnessing the economic power of British pubs and restaurants when they reopen. Unlike other leading industries such as manufacturing, retail and aviation, hospitality does not have a dedicated minister. Before the pandemic, more than three million people worked in hospitality, which pays more than £40bn in tax each year, but has been ravaged by the coronavirus crisis. Hartnett said: “Hospitality is the third biggest employer in the UK and deserves a seat at the top table. We need a hospitality hero in government to speak up for the local pubs, coffee shops and restaurants. Someone who understands our businesses and how we work. This is about helping us to help the country get back on its feet. We can’t wait to welcome people back to our bars and dining rooms but we need the government to protect our businesses and these jobs to ensure we are there when this is over. The pandemic has shown hospitality is a major economic and social force and we need proper representation in government to fight our corner. Industries like manufacturing, retail and aviation all have a dedicated minister and we need that seat at the table. It’s wrong that we don’t have our own minister given the size and scale of hospitality and how important it is in providing jobs and public funding for vital services. Now the vaccine is here, we want to help the country come roaring back and also to get our venues open to do what we do best and look after people, and give them a great time. And in doing so, this industry will generate millions in tax to repair the public coffers and pay for vital services like the NHS and social care. But we need help to do it.” 
 

Industry News:

May bank holiday touted as likely date for reopening of pubs: Pubs and bars in England could be closed until the start of May. No10 is said to be privately gloomy about the prospects of an end to the third lockdown next month. However, 23 March – the year anniversary of the start of the first lockdown – is being touted as a more realistic end date. The Daily Mail reported: “Boris Johnson has already warned lockdown measures are unlikely to all be lifted at once, in favour of a gradual lifting of restrictions as rising numbers of vaccinations take place. But, it was suggested the bank holiday on 3 May, is a more likely date for pubs to reopen their doors.” “The May Day bank holiday is more likely the moment you see pubs reopening,” a source told the Sunday Times. It came as health secretary Matt Hancock refused to deny stricter lockdown measures could be introduced if the current stay-at-home messages are ignored. Asked if ministers would consider curfews, closing nurseries, banning support bubbles, limiting exercise to an hour a day or enforcing the wearing of masks outside, he said: “I don’t want to speculate because the most important message is not whether the government will further strengthen the rules, the most important thing is that people stay at home and follow the rules that we’ve got.” On the possibility of the sector being closed until May, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls tweeted: “If pubs, bars and restaurants are not able to open until May, they will have actually been closed for seven months. With one in five running out of cash by March, even with government support, that is simply unsustainable.”
 
Report forecasts £30bn decline in sector revenues in 2021: The hospitality and foodservice sector will lose £30bn of revenues through 2021, achieving only 70% of 2019 income levels, according to a new report. The “Rebuilding of Hospitality 2021 to 2025” report that has been produced by Simon Stenning, leading sector analyst and founder of FutureFoodservice, forecasts for the industry in 2021 to only achieve £69bn – 70% of 2019 revenues. Calculations for 2020 are that the industry dropped to only £51bn in total revenues, down from £98bn in 2019. The 100-plus page report says that for 2022 to 2025, the report forecasts the industry will rebuild slowly, with 2022 regaining 93% of 2019 sales to reach £91bn. It states during the course of 2020 to 2025, the total hospitality industry lost £132.9bn of expected revenue if covid hadn’t happened. Analysis of the branded restaurant/casual dining market showed a 21% fall in the number of sites that were able to trade in 2020, with the top 50 largest brands dropping site numbers permanently, from 3,706 to 2,935, through restructurings and CVAs. Looking at 2021, with this significant capacity coming out of the market, the report expects there will be a rebalancing of the previous scenario of excess supply chasing insufficient demand, part of a “great reset”. Stenning said: “The hospitality industry faces enormous challenges at the start of 2021 and requires substantial further government support. There are still significant property debts that are outstanding, and business rates are set to be reinstated from April. VAT is a significant factor for the industry for 2021, and our forecasts are built on VAT remaining at 5% for the rest of 2021. If the government pushes VAT back towards 20% from April, the danger is operators will be forced to implement price rises, which would, in turn, impact inflation, which is something the government needs to avoid. No operator could comfortably accept a 10 or 15 percentage point drop in revenues from their food sales from April onwards, without pushing prices up and have the risk of stifling consumer demand.” Other economic impacts built into the forecasts for 2021 include unemployment rising to 8% to 9% from April when the furlough scheme is expected to end. Stenning said: “The forecasts for 2021 are the industry slowly rebuilds through the second, third and fourth quarters, but still ends the year £30bn down on 2019 levels, with a total value of £68bn, taking into account all the impacts and changes. If VAT reverts back towards 20% this forecast will drop further.” The report outlines that 2021 will end with 2,800 fewer pubs trading than in 2019, and 1,200 fewer trading restaurants. The forecasts are that fast food will end 2021 with 96% of 2019 sales levels, compared with only 63% for the pub sector. Stenning added: “Hope remains that locked-up consumer savings from 2020, which have been estimated at circa £100bn, will feed through into boosting 2021 and beyond but, historically, it has taken circa seven years for built-up savings to be spent. As we go through into 2022 and beyond, life and the economy ought to regain their shape, and hospitality will continue to grow and thrive, but it will look different.” The report is available to purchase, with details at www.FutureFoodservice.com

Half of businesses in accommodation and food services have less than three months’ cash left: More than three quarters of businesses in the accommodation and foodservice sectors, including hotels and restaurants, experienced a drop in profits and turnover during the past few weeks compared with expectations in normal times, new data suggests. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found half of businesses in the accommodation and foodservice sectors that took part in the latest poll had less than three months’ worth of cash reserves left. Some 28% of surveyed accommodation and food firms said they had no or low confidence that they would survive the next three months, the ONS’ latest voluntary fortnightly business survey covering the period from 14 to 23 December said. In the latest survey period covered, 41% of businesses in the accommodation and foodservice sectors were temporarily closed or paused trading, compared with 13% across all industries. The ONS said: “When splitting the industry into finer detail, the accommodation industry had 28% of its businesses temporarily closed or paused trading, compared with 43% in the food and beverage service activities industry.”
 
Operators accuse local council of hoarding essential funding: Local councils are accused of hoarding and tying up in red tape hundreds of millions of pounds intended to help businesses survive the coronavirus crisis. Rishi Sunak told businesses in November that £2.2bn in grants would be distributed by local authorities to companies that had been forced to shut or been severely impacted due to local restrictions, with the funding largely aimed at the hospitality, leisure and non-essential retail sectors. But operators told The Telegraph they are still waiting to receive the bulk of the money they are eligible for, and that some local authorities are yet to open the application process for November grants. David Page, chairman of Fulham Shore which owns Franco Manca and The Real Greek, branded the situation “ridiculous” with councils demanding lots of forms to be filled in alongside requests for bank statements and sales info. Only four of his 70 sites have received payments from councils, equivalent to £12,000 of the £160,000 in grants his business is entitled to, he said. Rob Pitcher, chief executive of Revolution Bars, said: “The most frustrating fact is the complete disparity between each local authority and their different application processes.” It comes days after Rishi Sunak announced £4.6bn in new grants to support businesses affected by the latest lockdown, worth up to £9,000 per property. Page said he was “not confident” businesses would be able to access the latest funding with the urgency that was required.
 
Gunewardena – latest support is “wholly inadequate”, government should follow French lead and properly compensate closed businesses: Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive of D&D London, has written to the chancellor Rishi Sunak calling his latest support for the sector “wholly inadequate” and laying out five proposals, including increasing the property grant to 50% of rateable value with no cap. In the letter seen by Propel, which has been sent ahead of Monday’s (11 January) parliamentary debate on support for the hospitality industry, Gunewardena said: “D&D London owns and operates some 40 restaurants in major cities in the UK (London, Manchester, Leeds) and overseas (New York, Paris). Our UK restaurants include Bluebird, Quaglino’s and German Gymnasium. All our restaurants are currently compulsorily closed due to covid. Our venues are not small pubs and cafes. They are significant businesses, many of which each employ more than 100 staff and occupy properties with rateable values above £1m. Your announcement of additional support of £9,000 per venue during the current lockdown was, therefore, wholly inadequate. The cost of operating our UK businesses while closed is circa £1.5m per month compared with average pre-covid profits of £1m per month. Covid has, therefore, cost our business £2.5m per month of closure even after the benefit of business rates relief and rent reductions negotiated with our landlords. Your compensation proposal, including existing grants, is the equivalent of circa £150,000 per month, ie, less than 10% of our losses. The financial support offered by the French government to our restaurant in Paris has been substantially better. We are receiving compensation of 20% of pre-covid revenues for the period of closure. This effectively fully compensates our business for the financial impact of closure and is four times more support than provided in the UK, including the benefit of business rates relief. The government should accept an obligation as clearly the French government does, to properly compensate businesses. I would urge you to consider the following proposals: increasing the property grant to 50% of rateable value with no cap. Removing the required employer contribution to cover pensions and national insurance. Reinstatement of the job retention bonus of £1,000 per member of staff. Extension of the VAT and business rates relief for a further 12 months. Inclusion of tips and service charge earnings in the calculations of restaurant staff furlough pay – a deeply unfair anomaly that means many of our UK staff are actually only being paid 40% to 50%, not 80% of earnings during the current lockdown. The French, German and other governments have stepped up to the plate to properly support their hospitality businesses. I urge the UK government to do the same.”
 
UKHospitality welcomes international travel requirements as part of securing future of hospitality: UKHospitality has welcomed the announcement international arrivals to the UK must present a negative covid-19 test as part securing the future of the hospitality sector. The government now requires people entering the UK to have a negative test that has been taken within 72 hours of their departure time. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “If we want to instil confidence in travellers and gradually encourage international visits then common international standards for pre-departure testing around the world are vital. It is encouraging to see the government addressing the issue and looking to restore confidence among the public. In due course, as travel resumes, restrictions are lifted and travellers’ confidence is restored, this pre-departure testing must replace quarantine. This can boost confidence as well as ensuring safety remains a priority. Sections of the hospitality sector draw a substantial amount of their business from international visitors, be they tourists or business travellers. Getting these visits back up and running safely and smoothly will be key to securing the future of the hospitality sector and, therefore, the whole economy.”
 
HVS – financial support must be given to hotel sector as job losses and insolvencies are expected: The government must extend the moratorium on business rates and keep VAT at 5% for a further 12 months while banks need to permit a continued breach in banking covenants until March 2022, according to global hotel consultancy HVS. The consultancy stated insolvencies and job losses in the UK’s hotel sector caused by the pandemic are likely to increase through 2021 as businesses face a very tough year ahead. HVS London chairman Russell Kett said: “While strong gains in top-line revenues – when they come – will be cause for celebration, operating profits will be anaemic and less than half of 2019 levels in the provinces and around a third of 2019 levels for London hotels. When fixed costs are then deducted many operations will be loss-making and will experience negative cash flow until further strong revenue gains can be made in the second half of 2021 and beyond.” HVS added independent hotel businesses with constrained financial resources or liquidity are expected to be the “hardest hit”, while larger groups and owners with capacity to inject additional funds will be less at risk. He said: “The hotel and wider hospitality sector has been the biggest generator of employment over recent years and it is the only sector with the capacity to rapidly boost employment on the recovery out of this. For this to happen though, the sector needs support to see it through the first half of 2021 and not be exacerbating the employment problem through a lack of support now. The UK hotel sector will not be ready to welcome back many of the furloughed staff until well into 2021 and possibly. Extending the furlough scheme to the hotel and wider hospitality sector by a further year beyond April 2021 will prevent many of these employees from being made redundant.”
 
CMA begins investigation of Diageo acquisition of Chase Distillery: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has begun its investigation into Diageo’s acquisition of Chase Distillery, which was announced in October last year. The first phase of the investigation will end on 4 March. On the gov.uk website, the CMA said: “The CMA is considering whether it is or may be the case that this transaction, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the UK for goods or services. To assist it with this assessment, the CMA invites comments on the transaction from any interested party.” When the deal was announced in October, Diageo Great Britain managing director Dayalan Nayager said: “We are excited about the growth opportunity within the premium-plus segment and are very much looking forward to working with the Chase team to build on the portfolio’s considerable potential.” Chase Distillery founder and chairman William Chase added: “It’s inspiring to have Diageo invest in Chase Distillery’s future.” Chase Distillery makes seven gins, four vodkas and an elderflower liqueur.
 
Restaurateur banned for six years after failing to pay £130,000 in tax: A Brighton restaurant owner has been banned from being a company director for six years for deliberately under declaring tax resulting in liabilities of more than £130,000. Byron Swales, 56, from Hove, East Sussex, was director of Indian Summer UK, which traded as the Indian Summer restaurant on East Street in Brighton. Indian Summer UK was incorporated in September 2003 but inspections carried out by the tax authorities in 2016 found the company owed £130,174 in tax, including interest and penalties. The company entered into creditors voluntary liquidation in May 2019 and Indian Summer UK was referred to the Insolvency Service for investigation. Investigators were able to establish Swales had under declared the restaurant’s orders and had failed to accurately account for tax owed from December 2011 until February 2018. It was found Indian Summer UK owed more than £130,000 in tax, interest and penalties and the restaurant owner has now been banned from being a company director for six years. Deputy head of investigations for the Insolvency Service David Argyle said: “Byron Swales concealed transactions from company books for over seven years to avoid tax obligations and keep money destined for the public purse. As a result of our investigations, Byron Swales will be banned from the business environment for six years, severely curtailing his activities.”
 
Christmas and new year weekends produce lowest UK footfall of 2020: Footfall at cities in the UK during the weekends of Christmas and new year were the quietest of the year, according to data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. With the majority of the UK under strict lockdown rules, Boxing Day (Saturday, 26 December) saw average UK footfall was at minus 79% versus the average seen in February before the pandemic, and that figure only to minus 76% on Saturday, 2 January. All of the major UK cities showed similar levels of with the majority showing a fall of at least 70% against February’s footfall. Manchester fell by 79% on Saturday, 26 December, and was down by 86% on Saturday, 2 January. London saw a drop of 77% on February’s footfall on Boxing Day but improved marginally to minus 69% on 2 January. Cardiff registered a footfall loss on 26 December of 91% on the February figure and was minus 89% on 2 January. Glasgow was the quietest city on Boxing Day as 92% fewer people hit the streets versus February, with the same 92% drop for the first weekend of the new year.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 
Hospitality gift card platform Toggle reports digital sales increase of 39% as in-venue sales slump: Hospitality gift card platform Toggle has reported a 39% increase in digital sales while in-venue sales accounted for just 8% of overall sales (versus 28% in December 2019) – with total sales of £1.3m being comparable with December 2019. Toggle, which allows hospitality businesses to set up online shops quickly and sell items such as gift cards, retail products and at-home experiences, said, during December, the average transaction value for each gift card sale was £38.39; sales peaked on Christmas Eve with £82,000 spent – plus more than £25,000 of sales on Christmas Day; women aged between 21 and 30 were the demographic most likely to purchase gift cards; and Christmas accounted for 29% of 2020 sales. Toggle chief executive Dan Brookman said: “We quadrupled the number of operators on Toggle over the past 12 months. There were some noticeable winners as far as revenue, and what we recognise is that consumers are still trusting the brands that they love. Retail and experiences will continue to drive up revenue growth. We now have licensed distribution for operators who are looking to package and sell alcohol.”
Toggle is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News:

Gravity to debut in London with ‘future of the high street offer’: Experiential leisure operator Gravity is make its London debut at Southside Shopping Centre, Wandsworth, for an 80,000 square foot entertainment venue set to launch in the former Debenhams in summer 2021. Gravity started as a trampoline park company in 2015 and has since expanded into innovative entertainment concepts, helping to revitalise shopping centres and the high street across the UK. The Southside site will feature gaming experiences such as e-karting, augmented reality bowling, crazy golf, pool, ping-pong and shuffleboards. It will also offer an array of dining and drinking options, including a noodle kitchen, American diner and cocktail bar. The Southside joint venture (a joint venture between Landsec and Invesco Real Estate) and Gravity are investing £4m to redevelop the former Debenhams department store unit as part of a combined strategy to reimagine the destination and incorporate new and innovative concepts. David Heaford, managing director, development, at Landsec, said: “Leisure is an increasingly important component of a complete destination and Gravity is a significant addition that complements Southside’s existing offer. Southside is designed to offer everything the community needs, and this signing, at a challenging time for the industry, is a testament to the strength of our customer base and the centre’s appeal. Gravity’s exciting concept will inspire locals and draw people from across London, so we are excited to see this prominent site come to life later this year.” Harvey Jenkinson, co-founder and chief executive at Gravity, added: “This is a huge milestone for Gravity as we look to not just grow our business, but also the types of venues we are creating. We believe concepts like this will be the future of the high street and shopping centres, offering a solution for landlords who are looking to diversify and secure the future of their assets. This exciting entertainment hub will showcase Gravity’s ability to create venues that cater to a varied audience, which is so immersive they will feel like they could be in a completely different place in the world.”

The Breakfast Club appoints Be At One co-founder as interim MD: All-day concept The Breakfast Club has appointed Steve Locke, co-founder of the Be At One cocktail chain, as its interim managing director, Propel has learned. Locke, who remains committed to Lockes, the bar he launched in 2019 in Covent Garden, left Be At One in 2018 after the 33-strong chain’s circa £50m sale to Stonegate Pub Company. Locke formed Be At One with Rhys Oldfield and Leigh Miller in 1998. Propel revealed The Breakfast Club had begun the search for a managing director last November as it looks to grow the Charlie McVeigh-chaired, 12-strong business to 30-plus sites. Co-founder Jonathan Arana-Morton told Propel: “In November, I signed up to a LinkedIn premium account and made my first ever LinkedIn post, a speculative job advert for a managing director. The response (more than 3,000 views and 70 applicants) from people in and outside this industry was phenomenal and completely unexpected. I had the pleasure of spending most of December meeting some wonderfully talented people. This industry is in good hands. A process like this leads you to a solution you weren’t necessarily expecting. We are delighted to announce the appointment of Steve Locke as managing director of The Breakfast Club. The appointment is initially on an interim, part-time basis, to help set the business on a course to fly out of the post-pandemic traps. Steve comes from a background that puts ‘arms wide open’ hospitality front and centre. I’ve always maintained great hospitality will be the key driver as we move out of a covid eat-at-home, delivery-driven world. Steve is also one of only a handful of people in our sector who has made the exact journey we’re embarking on. His experience in scaling a business our size is priceless and as I said to him after our first meeting ‘you had me at Be At One’ – I’m a huge fan. Steve will be tasked with building the structure to enable The Breakfast Club to scale over the next five years. But this is not just about the next five years, he is also here to help us build a vision for a business we can be proud of 30 years from now. This is about building a legacy brand – we want to be the nation’s best-loved ‘caf’ and we hope these are the next steps on that journey.” Locke said: “Jonathan’s post really resonated with me as it had so many parallels with the Be At One journey. Everything I have ever done has been about working with great people and building personal relationships and Jonathan evidently sees things the same way. Together, we see plenty of opportunities in the hospitality industry as we move into 2021.” McVeigh added: “Our great challenge for 2021 is to remake The Breakfast Club into a business that is ready to grow to 30-plus sites when we bounce out of this crisis. Steve’s job is to get us ‘set for success’ on people, systems and mindset as we prepare to navigate the new normal that awaits.”
 
Kitchen space provider Foodstars sees losses increase on the back of expansion: Foodstars, which provides kitchen space for food companies and is backed by former Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick, saw losses increase from £420,000 to just under £2m last year on the back of the expansion of its estate in the capital. Filings released by the company revealed it had incurred losses of almost £2m for 2019, compared with just £420,000 for the prior period, which ran from 1 April 2018 to 31 December 2018. This comes despite revenues increasing slightly to £175,000 from £129,000. The company said administrative expenses had spiked between the two periods. The company, which operates nine kitchens in London, opened a site in Mitcham Lane, Streatham, last month. It will follow this with an opening in Greenock Road, Chiswick Park, this month, which will take its kitchen estate to 15 sites. Propel revealed last year the company was to increase its regional presence with openings in Leeds and Manchester. The business, which was founded by William Beresford, Daniel Abrahams and Roy Shaby in Bethnal Green in 2015, launched a site in the Burley area of Leeds last month. It followed this with an opening in Manchester’s Dark Lane. Both new kitchens are based close to busy student districts. Last year, the company made its regional debut with the opening of a kitchen in Manchester Street, Birmingham. The company leases kitchen space to restaurants that sell food through delivery apps. City Storage Systems, which trades as Cloud Kitchens in the US, quietly invested in Foodstars in 2019, according to documents filed at Companies House. The investment marked Kalanick’s first expansion outside the US.

Goodbody – Marston’s update confirms sufficient liquidity to trade through the latest lockdown: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has expressed satisfaction at Marston’s liquidity level even though it is likely to have zero revenue for at least two months this year. He said: “Marston’s issued a first quarter update for the 13 weeks to 2 January. Revenue for the quarter was £54m. We do not have a revenue figure for this period last year, but it appears to be down circa 70% year-on-year. It notes all its pubs are currently closed and anticipates this will be the case until March at the earliest, with some restrictions remaining in place post-reopening. The vast majority of its staff are now on furlough, and it will apply for the recently announced grant aid (up to £9,000 per unit), subject to state aid rules. Importantly on liquidity, bank drawings net of cash were £104m of a £280m facility, so it has £176m of bank facility headroom post the receipt of the £233m from the brewing JV disposal. Cash burn in a full lockdown is £3m to £4m weekly before securitised debt service of circa £1.5m, so cash burn is £18m to £22m per four-weekly period. It also notes that there is sufficient cash within the securitisation scheme to pay scheduled debt repayments of £18m in mid-January. Within the securitisation, there is only £10m drawn of the £120m facility. The group is confident of achieving continued waivers and amendments to covenants when necessary. Having sufficient liquidity to survive the latest lockdown is a positive for Marston’s. We believe last week’s statement is likely in response to Mitchells & Butlers update that highlighted it is likely to embark on an equity raise to solve for liquidity during the lockdown. The statement also highlights that there is no near-term refinancing requirements. We continue to have concerns about the level of net debt/Ebitda (circa 7x FY22). We will reduce forecasts for the current year to reflect the highly disrupted first quarter and a second quarter that, at this point, looks like will be zero revenue for at least two months.”
 
Malhatra Group saw turnover near £40m prior to start of the pandemic: Turnover has edged closer to the £40m milestone at Malhotra Group, with pre-tax profits also rising, newly filed financial results have revealed. Malhotra was incorporated as UGC Holdings in 1991. It now operates a specialised healthcare group, a national property portfolio and a leisure arm incorporating restaurants, bars and hotels. Accounts for the year to 31 March 2020 revealed Malhotra Group turned over £38.1m, up from £34.8m 12 months earlier. Pre-tax profits also climbed to £5.4m from £4.8m. A statement accompanying the figures said all three Malhotra divisions “contributed positively” to the group’s overall performance, with a “significant capital expansion programme” in its care and leisure businesses. The division saw turnover drop £500,000 to £8.4m and Ebitda reduce to £100,000 from £1.2m the year before, after divestment of non-core venues. The company reported it had made improvements to the quality of its Three Mile and Great North Hotel, a 64-bedroom hotel that will open once covid-19 restrictions are lifted. 
 
Boom: Battle Bar to start work on five sites this month, 15 in pipeline: Boom: Battle Bar, the adventure bar concept from the team behind trampoline park business Flip Out, has announced it is to start work at five new sites this month with a further six planned for February and March, and nine more throughout 2021. Its bars combine food and drink with unique games and are typically about 10,000 square foot spaces that consist of six to ten games, a central bar and street food-style offerings. Work will start this month on sites at The O2, London; Lakeside Shopping Centre, Essex; Aldgate East, City of London; Oxford; and Eastbourne. Boom: Battle Bars co-owner Richard Beese said: “The pandemic has created unthinkable problems for many industries and none more so than hospitality, leisure and retail. Boom: Battle Bar has looked to leverage its unique offering to continue its rollout in some of the biggest retail schemes in the UK, which are helping to reshape the landscape of experience-led retailing. With 20 bars being rolled out in 2021 – 16 of them franchised – we anticipate more than 1,000 jobs will be created, which makes us very proud to be pioneers in this sector at a time of crises.” The bars have a total of 21 different games to choose from; some concepts can be seen in alternative venues, like axe throwing, electric darts, shuffleboard. Other games are proprietary, such as Boom Ball, Indoor Curling, Rage Rooms, Escape Rooms, Marble Tarble, Hammerschlagen, Augmented Bowling and Crazier Golf.

Neat Burger secures Canary Wharf site, eyes regional launch: Neat Burger, the Lewis Hamilton-backed, plant-based concept, has secured its fourth site in the UK, in Canary Wharf, as it looks to have ten sites open in the UK before the end of this year. Propel understands the company has exchanged on a split of the former PizzaExpress in Cabot Place, Canary Wharf and is in legals on a further three sites, including one in Victoria. The company, which opened its third London site in Soho’s Old Compton Street, is aiming to open further sites both within London and also outside including in Brighton, Manchester, Liverpool, major airports and train stations. Marc Rogers at MKR Property has been appointed as sole agent for Neat Burger, to aid in the expansion and securing key locations. Neat Burger’s co-founder and head of operations, Stasi Nychas, said: “Neat Burger has plans for rapid expansion throughout the UK and abroad, we have had a great launch and look to continue expansion in high footfall locations throughout the UK. We have shown adaptability and resilience through the pandemic, opening a further two locations (Camden and Soho) as well as two dark kitchens, donating burgers to the NHS as well becoming official sponsors of Extreme E”. The brand opened its first site in September 2019, just off Regent Street in London. It operates Deliveroo Edition sites in Battersea and Whitechapel.

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