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Fri 22nd Jan 2021 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Kate Nicholls – ‘very little hospitality industry left’ if government waits until May before reopening economy: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has warned there will be “very little of the industry left” if the government follows the lead of scientists and waits until May before reopening the economy. Researchers from Imperial College London and the Universities of Edinburgh and Warwick have said there could be a surge of cases if restrictions are lifted too soon. They said even after everyone aged 50 and above has been offered a vaccine, covid cases could go up again if restrictions such as the closures of pubs, restaurants and shops end too soon. But Nicholls said it had to be “a balance of risk”. The scientists’ modelling suggested it would not be safe to relax restrictions fully until 80% of the population has been vaccinated. The government's decisions have previously been heavily influenced by such research. Scientists said while the easing of some restrictions, such as reopening schools, would need to be prioritised, it might still be months before it was safe to do so. They said pubs and restaurants were unlikely to be safe to open until at least May while Irish taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned they might stay closed until the end of May. Under government plans, everyone over the age of 70 should be offered the vaccine by 15 February, with all over-50s offered it by the end of April – but researchers said even after that point relaxing the rules could see a surge in cases that could put “very bad” pressure on the NHS. Asked when pubs and restaurants might safely open, Dr Marc Baguelin, a lecturer in infectious disease modelling at Imperial College London, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “If it was to happen earlier than May it would generate a bump [in cases] that is really, really bad – so you will have a lot of pressure on hospitals. You will have a new kind of wave of some extent.” Matt Keeling, professor of populations and disease at the University of Warwick, said: “I would be worried about any early opening of any bars and restaurants or just reducing the controls. I mean, at the moment we're in an unsustainable position. And we can't do anything until we've really got the numbers of cases down.” Nicholls said: “If we are pushed back to reopening in May that will be seven months the sector has been closed without revenue and we would really struggle to survive through this. If we are to be closed for that much longer, we will need a significant additional injection of cash support from the government to get us through this because the support at the moment is just not sufficient to sustain and maintain businesses and jobs.” Meanwhile, Nicholls has called on the government to delay repayments by 12 months and extend the terms on covid loans to avoid crippling sector businesses. Nicholls pointed out the government-backed loans will start to have to be repaid in just a couple of months – and many businesses have been closed without revenue for some considerable time. 

Industry News: 

Propel Premium to feature access to exclusive video interview with MeatLiquor co-founder Scott Collins and long-term investor David Page: This week’s Propel Premium, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (22 January) at 5pm, will feature access to an exclusive interview with MeatLiquor co-founder Scott Collins, and long-term investor in the business David Page, the current chairman of Fulham Shore, operator of the Franco Manca and The Real Greek brands, as they discuss ten years of MeatLiquor. Meanwhile, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett looks at the proposed return of some pub sector heavyweights, and back on what this week has thrown up for the industry. There will also be the latest whispers via Premium Diary. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular columns from Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,600 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Loss of almost 6,000 licensed premises in 2020 will be ‘tip of the iceberg if we continue on current course’, warns UKHospitality: The number of licensed premises fell by a net figure of almost 6,000 in 2020 – a 5.1% contraction of the market versus 2019 – but it is “going to be the tip of the iceberg if we continue on our current course”, UKHospitality has warned. Research from the latest Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners showed there were 9,930 permanent closures and 3,955 openings, which represented a 175% increase on the 2,171 drop in the number of sites that shut in 2019. The Market Recovery Monitor measures the scale of the damage wrought by the pandemic on hospitality businesses, and forecasts many more closures in 2021. It highlighted the significant impact on the casual dining sector, where total site numbers dropped 9.7% in 2020, and 3.8 permanent closures for every new opening. The community, food and high-street pub segments all saw numbers fall between 3.9% and 5.1%. The sports and social club sector, which has suffered from bans on events and socialising, recorded a decline of 6.2%. Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “With stop-start trading for much of 2020 and a widespread shutdown during what should have been a bumper Christmas, almost 10,000 licensed venues have not been able to make it through, and it is sadly inevitable thousands more casualties will follow. After such a bleak Christmas, it is difficult to be optimistic about the market. But consumers are desperate to get back to eating and drinking out, and we can be confident footfall and sales will return when the sector can finally reopen. There are better days to come, but the sector will be in survival mode for some time yet.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The loss of 6,000 premises is a dreadful blow to this country’s hospitality sector, but it is going to be the tip of the iceberg if we continue on our current course. One-in-five businesses say they do not have enough cash to last beyond February. If we have the right support in place now, it will make the job of recovery much more achievable once we are in a position to reopen again. The forthcoming Budget must be a one that delivers a bold, wide-ranging package of financial support to ensure as many businesses as possible are saved. The VAT cut and business rates holiday extensions must be top of the menu.”

Hawthorn boss – Budget ‘more important than ever’ this time around, sector will be ‘banging down the door’ if further support not forthcoming: Mark Davies, chief executive of Hawthorn, the community pub arm of NewRiver, has told Propel the Budget in March will be “more important than ever” this time around if the sector is to emerge from the pandemic. And he warned the government the industry will be “banging down the door” if further support was not forthcoming. Speaking following NewRiver’s third-quarter trading update, Davies said while Hawthorn had remained “cash flow positive or neutral”, many businesses were barely holding on and believes between 3,000 and 5,000 pubs will not reopen. And while the reduction in market capacity will present plenty of opportunities for Hawthorn, and other companies, to add to their estate in 2021, Davies said it would leave a lasting scar on the industry. “We need more support, especially on business rates and VAT,” Davies said. “The government has to find ways to tax the digital economy and needs to address the discrepancy in VAT between supermarkets and pubs. The current package of support finishes at the end of March so we need the Budget to produce something and if not we will be banging down the door to get our voice heard. This is a wonderful industry and something people want to invest in. You can see that with people like Rooney Anand coming back into the sector. There will definitely be deals this year. We’re also keen to expand in certain geographies – we’re keen to do more in the Midlands and we’d also like to have a presence in the south west of England, but we’ll still avoid London.” Davies said it was clear the working from home trend “was here to stay” after the pandemic ends. He added: “The community and suburban location of our portfolio is well placed to benefit from consumers working from home and using their local services and facilities. This was clearly evident in the summer of 2020 when Hawthorn outperformed the UK pub sector and we believe this can be achieved again when restrictions are relaxed later this year.” In the meantime the company is continuing to support its teams and pub partners – both financially and emotionally. Davies said: “We’re holding well-being sessions and making sure we talk to them as often as we can. I’m a marathon runner and I liken the situation to the 20th mile where you hit the wall and need some help and encouragement to get over the line. That’s what we’re trying to do. We are convinced we will bounce back but we will need our teams and pub partners’ help to do that.” 

UKHospitality – securing support to offer pathways for young people into employment will be ‘more vital than ever’ following pandemic: Securing support to offer pathways for young people into employment will be “more vital than ever” following the pandemic, UKHospitality has said. It comes as the government published its Skills for Jobs white paper, providing a blueprint for the UK’s post-16 education system. The trade body has reiterated the importance of providing pathways for young people into employment to secure the future of the hospitality sector and help boost economic regeneration post-covid. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Encouraging more people into careers in hospitality was a priority for the sector even before the devastation of the pandemic. As we emerge from the crisis, securing support to offer pathways for young people into employment will be more vital than ever. Giving employers more input into the qualifications delivered and encouraging collaboration with further education institutions is extremely welcome. There is an opportunity for the hospitality industry to drive the economic recovery of the UK after this crisis has passed. We are in arguably the best position to offer employment and provide investment in town centres and high streets in every region. Providing people with the knowledge, skills and desire to embark on a rewarding and exciting career will be crucial to filling hard-to-fill vacancies, ensuring the hospitality sector bounces back stronger from the crisis, and supporting the regeneration of the country’s economy.”

Fewer than one-in-ten policies impacted by business interruption insurance ruling as sector broker calls for more government support for hospitality industry: Hospitality insurance broker Sector Associates has said fewer than one-in-ten policies are impacted by the business interruption insurance ruling and has called on the government to provide further support to the industry. Last week the Supreme Court “substantially allowed” an appeal brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in a landmark legal battle over businesses ability to claim on insurance for losses incurred due to covid-related disruption. The Supreme Court’s decision could potentially impact 700 policies, 60 insurers and 370,000 businesses with estimated claims costs being £1.2bn. However, not all policies were included in the court case and Hiscox, one of the insurers affected by the ruling, has written to brokers stating fewer than one third of its business interruption policies will provide cover. Steven Swift, of Sector Associates, said: “The hospitality industry is in a critical condition and needs more government support. Please don’t look at the media headlines and think everybody is getting paid. It simply isn’t the case.” Some hospitality operators that closed dine-in areas but remained open for takeaway had been unable to claim under “inability to use” clauses, but the court ruled insurers should pay out for the part of the business that was lost. The FCA will publish a list of business interruption policy types that potentially respond to the pandemic based on data they have collected from insurers.

Northern Ireland extends lockdown to 5 March: Northern Ireland’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions will be extended to 5 March. Stormont health minister Robin Swann proposed the step to help drive down case numbers. Ministerial colleagues at the executive in Belfast agreed the move and there are suggestions the curbs could ultimately continue until Easter. An extended lockdown closing pubs, restaurants and non-essential retailers, keeping schools shut to most pupils and encouraging employees to work from home began after Christmas. Family gatherings are prohibited and police enforcement has been stepped up. Stormont first minister Arlene Foster said: “Following a detailed outline from health highlighting continuing pressures on hospitals and intensive care units and the emergence of highly-transmissible variants the executive has agreed the restrictions will be extended for four weeks.” Foster said restrictions would only be kept in place as long as they were strictly necessary. Ministers will review the measures on Thursday, 18 February.

Confidence high for dining out and staycations in 2021: Almost half of Brits plan to dine out more in 2021 than they did last year and nearly three quarters are planning a staycation, according to a survey by TripAdvisor. The survey found people are confident in the idea of eating out and domestic and international travel once travel restrictions are lifted and many see the covid-19 vaccine as a game-changer. According to the survey, “consumers can’t wait to dine out again, but their taste for takeaway will still endure”. It found 49% of Brits plan to dine out at restaurants more often than last year and 22% plan to order more takeaway meals this year. It also discovered while international tourism is likely to receive a boost this year, domestic travel won’t “take a back seat in 2021”. Data showed 73% of Brits are planning future domestic trips of at least one night away from home and two thirds of those have yet to book so “there is still an opportunity for businesses to capture that demand”. In the UK, almost a third (29%) of travellers said they were “much more likely” to take an international trip in 2021 once they have received the vaccine with 86% of all people surveyed saying they would travel domestically after receiving the vaccine.

Loyalty in focus when market reopens: Post-lockdown reopenings could give brands new chances to generate guest loyalty, the latest edition of the GO Technology report from CGA and Zonal has suggested. It revealed half (49%) of consumers in Britain now think loyalty schemes are important to them when choosing restaurants, pubs and bars to visit—and that rises to almost two thirds (63%) of 18 to 24-year-olds. Almost half (47%) of all consumers said they use a scheme every or almost every time they visit a venue. Almost half (48%) of consumers said they want schemes to provide discounts—the most wanted benefit ahead of perks such as preferential booking and exclusive experiences. But there is a gap between demand for loyalty programmes and their availability. Almost two thirds (64%) of businesses do not yet offer a loyalty scheme as part of their marketing strategy. The “Loyalty and technology in 2021” report from CGA and Zonal also highlighted the growing preference for smartphone-based loyalty programmes. Use of apps has risen during the pandemic as consumers seek to browse menus, order and pay via their mobile devices, and the emphasis on safety is likely to increase take-up again in 2021. Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “The covid-19 pandemic has changed consumers’ attitudes to many aspects of eating and drinking-out, and the dramatic shift towards technology solutions provides a golden opportunity to turn people on to digital loyalty schemes. There are development and margin costs to consider, but in such a difficult and competitive trading environment, generating repeat visits and targeted marketing are going to be more important than ever before—and well-run loyalty programmes could help to unlock both.”

Essex restaurant popular with celebrities accused of hosting illegal lockdown parties: An Essex restaurant that is popular with TV celebrities could face closure after being accused of hosting illegal lockdown parties. Metropolitan Police have called for Redbridge Council to remove the restaurant licence of Melin, in Chigwell, after “at least five rule-breaking events” took place at the venue, according to MyLondon. The restaurant is famed for its clientele, which includes stars of TV show The Only Way Is Essex. Redbridge councillors are expected to decide the bar’s fate next week after a meeting took place on Tuesday (19 January). In documents on Redbridge Council’s website, PC Mick Neal said the venue has been visited by both police and enforcement officers on multiple occasions since May and several breaches had been recorded. One such breach allegedly took place on Friday, 28 August, when officers from the council visited and upon arrival, they observed a bustling restaurant with little to no compliance with covid-19 guidelines. Councillors heard more than 40 people were standing on a congested and sticky dance floor next to a DJ playing music and, upon leaving the venue. Large groups of people were also found gathered in the car park with no social distancing being observed. The venue was flagged by police on at least another five occasions. The report stated the bar owner later admitted to council officers he had failed to adhere to the legislative guidelines to keep people safe during the pandemic.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking to speak to sales experts that are interested in joining a hospitality and travel business. The telesales advisers are based in Birmingham and the position pays up to £25,000 plus an excellent bonus scheme. Anyone interested can email their CV to tyron@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Cote appoints Lisa Buckley as new managing director: Cote, the circa 90-strong French brasserie chain backed by the Partners Group, has appointed Lisa Buckley, formerly of Wagamama, as its new managing director, Propel has learned. Buckley joins the Jane Holbrook-chaired business, after almost five years at Wagamama, where she was most recently UK operations director. Previous to that she spent nine years at the Casual Dining Group (now The Big Table Group), including a stint as operations director for Bella Italia. Buckley is reunited with former Wagamama chief executive Holbrook, who took over as Cote’s executive chairman in September, replacing ex-The Restaurant Group chief executive Andrew Page. Holbrook’s appointment coincided with global private markets investment manager Partners Group acquiring the French brasserie chain via a pre-pack administration. Alex Scrimgreour, who stepped down as Cote chief executive in October after 12 years of leading the business, took up the role of chief executive at cinema operator Everyman this week.

Papa John’s introduces new flexible franchising formats in UK: Papa John’s is introducing new flexible franchising formats in the UK. Following the continued success of its franchised high street stores, Papa John’s is now aiming to expand its reach by providing even more convenience for customers, by opening in new locations such as holiday parks, stadiums, leisure attractions and other “non-traditional” venues. Justin Gilbert, director of business development Papa John’s UK, said: “As Papa John’s grows in popularity, we want to ensure our customers can relax and enjoy their favourite treat in even more locations that suit them. Therefore, we are adding further flexible franchise options relevant for a variety of operators who align with our brand values. They will already have a complementary business with an existing customer base and will be looking to add a quality hot food option through an established, proven global brand. Papa John’s has been able to provide a year-round revenue stream at successful franchised outlets already located on holiday parks in the UK for example. Non-traditional franchised outlets generally have a slightly different business model compared with our high-street retail stores. Just like our pizza, we aim to ensure we have the right ingredients for everyone and so now, we can offer flexible franchise options to suit a bespoke development plan.” 

Bao to take over from Andina in Shoreditch: London-based operator Bao, which was founded by Shing Tat Chung, Erchen Chang and Wai Ting Chung, is to open a further site in the capital, after securing the former Andina site in Shoreditch. The business, which is backed by JKS Restaurants, will open what will be its sixth site overall, later this year at 65-66 Shoreditch High Street, on the corner of Redchurch Street. Andina in Shoreditch, which was part of the three-strong business acquired out of administration by Rosa’s Thai Cafe founders Alex and Saiphin Moore in 2019, was closed for good in July last year, after the new owners were unable to come to an agreement with the site’s landlord. The Moores, which sold a majority stake in Rosa’s to private equity firm TriSpan, acquired the original Ceviche site in Frith Street in Soho, Andina in Shoreditch and Casita Andina in Great Windmill Street, also in Soho, in November 2019. The company is currently seeking a new Shoreditch location for Andina. Bao opened its first restaurant in Soho in April 2015, following a successful period trading at Netil Market in Hackney. Its second restaurant opened in Fitzrovia in July 2016. A third restaurant, Bao Borough, opened in May 2019, while the company opened its latest site, Cafe Bao, in King’s Cross at the start of December last year. Rob Meadows, at Davis Coffer Lyons, was marketing the Andina Shoreditch site. 

Black Sheep Brewery secures £3.1m CBILS, trading in current financial year ‘exceeding expectations’: Yorkshire-based Black Sheep Brewery has obtained £3.1m through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to secure its long-term future while trading in its current financial year has “exceeded expectations”. The company, based in Masham, brewed its first beer in 1992 after being built up by Paul Theakston, whose family had operated in the area for six generations. It also runs four pubs, following the purchase of York Brewery's assets in 2018, and a visitor centre at the brewery. During the pandemic, Black Sheep Brewery achieved 35% growth in supermarket sales, and was boosted by its mail order, food delivery service and home beer and trade delivery services. The development of the brewery's packaging line, led by Rob Theakston, continued throughout lockdown. The production of mini kegs has now begun in Masham, with further assets being progressively brought into use. The company provided the update as it reported turnover of £19.5m for the year ending 31 March 2020, up from £19.4m the previous year. However, a pre-tax loss of £1.8m was recorded, compared with a £14,000 profit the year before. The loss was put down to exceptional costs of £600,000, including those related to an aborted acquisition, and depreciation of £500,000, as well as the loss of about £200,000 of gross margin due to the pandemic in March. The business would have made an adjusted operating profit of £400,000 without the impact of covid-19. Writing in the accounts, chief executive Charlene Lyons said: “The pub and brewing industry has been equally affected but disproportionately supported by the government throughout the pandemic, but we have remained agile, innovative and developed new services and products that have proven to be popular. When it is safe, we are optimistic 2021 will see the lifting of restrictions alongside the roll out of the vaccines, which will lead to the reopening of pubs, benefiting communities.”

Rose Thirteen plans ramen restaurant opening: Leeds-based operator Rose Thirteen plans to open a ramen restaurant and bar concept called House of Fu later this year in the city. The company, which is behind Leeds’ Belgrave Music Hall, Headrow House and Ox Club, plans to launch the new concept in the city’s Briggate area. After beginning life in 2014 as a pop-up at Belgrave Music Hall, House of Fu was awarded the title “Best of the Best” at that year’s British Street Food awards. The concept's first permanent site will comprise a 50-cover, ground-floor restaurant, five first-floor karaoke rooms and a second-floor cocktail and listening bar. The restaurant will focus on traditional ramen, poké bowls and home-made dumplings, including an extensive plant-based range, all paired with specially selected cocktails, sake and wine. The company, which is led by Ash Kollakowski and Simon Stevens, also own the Beck & Call, a former Mitchells & Butlers pub, in the city’s Meanwood area. 

EG Group appoints Lord Rose as new chairman: The EG Group, owner of Euro Garages, the forecourt and roadside operator, has appointed Lord Stuart Rose, the former chief executive of Marks & Spencer, as its new chairman, with immediate effect. The company, which is backed by TDR Capital and run by the billionaire Issa brothers, who last year made a bid for Caffe Nero, said the appointment of Lord Rose would “help provide insight and support” as the company looks to move forward with its development plans. Lord Rose, who was previously an investor in and chairman of Coco di Mama, said: “I am delighted to chair the board of EG Group and I look forward to working with the board and management, including fellow non-executive John Carey, in the next stage of the development of a world-class, global scale retail business. The Issa brothers are great British entrepreneurs of enormous drive, vision and ambition. EG’s board has asked me to develop appropriate governance structures for a business of this scale. The business has exciting development plans and exceptional prospects in the years to come.” Lord Rose was named chief executive of Marks & Spencer in May 2004 and became chairman in 2008, standing down in January 2011. He was chairman of The British Fashion Council from 2004 to 2008, chairman of Business in the Community between 2008 and 2010, a non-executive director of Land Securities from 2003 to 2013 and chairman of Fat Face between 2013 and-2020. He currently serves as chairman of Ocado, a role he will stand down from in May 2021.

Essex-based cafe concept Toast to double up with Chelmsford launch: Essex-based cafe concept Toast is to double up, with an opening in Chelmsford. Founders Rob Ely, Louis McNamee and Dan Pearson are launching the venue in the former Thomas Cook premises in Moulsham Street, reports Essex Live. The cafe offers customers toast alongside more than 100 different spreads and toppings. Hot and cold drinks and milkshakes are also available. The trio launched Toast in Braintree in February last year. Ely also owns the Chophouse restaurant in the town.
 
Cheltenham-based gourmet burger concept launches virtual vegan restaurant: Cheltenham-based gourmet burger concept Holee Cow has launched a virtual vegan restaurant, Holee Cowless. Burgers on the menu include its namesake Holee Cowless, with a plant-based patty, dairy free cheese, burger sauce and relish; Veege in the Middle, with a plant-based patty, barbecue jackfruit and dairy-free cheese; and the Falafel Burger, with a spinach and chickpea patty, crispy courgette, roasted red pepper hummus and tahini dressing. Vegan sides include crispy cauliflower “wings”, cheesy chipotle fries and Thai nuggets, reports So Glos. The menu is only available to order and collect from the restaurant in Winchcombe Street.
 
Inn Collection Group to expand flagship site, 20 jobs to be created: Alnwick-based pub company The Inn Collection Group will expand its flagship Bamburgh Castle Inn site in Seahouses after acquiring adjoining properties. The move will also create 20 jobs. The Northumberland business has taken a self-catering property plus other buildings, and outlined plans to develop 18 additional bedrooms. The scheme envisages rooms with multiple configuration options, with bedrooms and linked rooms to accommodate multi-generational families in response to demand for support bubble groups looking to holiday together. The Inn Collection Group managing director Sean Donkin said: “This investment will generate much-needed jobs and valuable trading opportunities in these difficult times. Expanding our offering will be a real boost in terms of job creation but also through increased trading for partners including food and drink producers and suppliers, to tourism operators and local retailers – not just in the busy summer months but, critically, out of season.” The Inn Collection Group made a number of acquisitions last year, ending 2020 by adding The Angel Inn in Bowness in the Lake District, bringing the business’ estate of freehold sites to 19.

Talash Hotels puts Mercure Birmingham Barons Court hotel on sale for £2.85m: Talash Hotels has placed the Mercure Birmingham Barons Court on the market with a guide price of £2.85m. The “stylish and contemporary mid-range hotel”, which is located in Walsall Wood, to the north of Birmingham, dates to 1901 and comprises 98 modern en-suite bedrooms, an in-house bar and restaurant, and conference and event space for up to 700 guests. Under the management of the Talash Hotels, as part of its portfolio of 12 hotels, the group is looking to sell the business to pursue other property interests. Talash Hotels said: “We have deployed a significant amount of capital expenditure in recent years to bring the hotel up to brand standards. As such, very little additional investment is required so it’s a great opportunity for a new owner to take on the business and build on its existing success.” Charles Jones, associate director in property agent Christie & Co’s hospitality team who is handling the sale, added: “Branded hotel opportunities remain very much in high demand, with our team achieving in excess of 360 offers accepted. We’ve seen similar demand levels in the first few weeks of 2021.”

Starwood Capital Group’s £200m plans for newly acquired Renaissance Manchester hotel: Starwood Capital Group, which launched hotel groups such as Starwood Hotels and Treehouse Hotels, will convert the newly acquired Renaissance Manchester hotel into a £200m mixed-use development including a new hotel, offices, a car park and residential units. Starwood Capital Group, with developer Property Alliance Group, purchased the hotel for an undisclosed sum from Urban & Civic. Located in Deansgate and next to Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Manchester Cathedral, the prime city centre site currently includes a 206-bedroom hotel, car park and office building. The joint venture is now drawing up plans to redevelop the site. Timothy Abram, vice-president at private investment firm Starwood Capital, said: “We have made several major investments in Manchester over the past decade and, following on from these successes, we are excited to have another opportunity to invest in the city. The redevelopment of this prime site has the potential to generate many economic benefits for Manchester.” CBRE acted for Starwood Capital and Alliance on the acquisition. JLL and Savills advised Urban & Civic on the sale. Alliance was advised on legal matters by Shoosmiths and law firm Paul Hastings acted for Starwood.
 
QHotels announces £16m investment to renovate Leeds city centre hotel: QHotels Group has announced a £16m investment will be made to renovate The Queens Hotel in Leeds city centre. The group, which has a 21-strong nationwide portfolio, has already started building work with the official unveiling set for summer this year although the hotel will be open for business in March. The work will include adding 16 bedrooms to bring the hotel up to a total of 232 bedrooms, a complete renovation of the ground floor and a transformation of the retail food and beverage offer, which will be explained nearer to the time of opening. However, “guests can expect what is set to be the best cocktail and dining experience in Leeds, with a vibrant wine bar, outdoor terrace, coffee space and central restaurant”. QHotels Group chief executive Richard Moore said: “We’re very fortunate to have supportive shareholders who, despite the current economic conditions, remain passionate and continue to share our vision for the hotel.”
 
World of Zing sells more than 650,000 cocktails in five months after pivoting business: Bottled cocktail company World of Zing has reported it sold more than 650,000 cocktails in five months after pivoting its business following the closure of the on-trade. The company changed direction after seeing sales take a massive hit at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with 85% of its revenue attributed to pubs, bars and restaurants. From April until July, sales were “negligible” with fewer than 50,000 cocktails bought. After pivoting their business to offer handcrafted cocktails directly to consumers and support restaurants with delivery cocktails, the company sold more than 650,000 by the year end. The company said it also saw strong sales with more innovative flavour combinations, such as the Yuzu Whiskey Sour.

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