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Fri 5th Feb 2021 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Yum! Brands reports KFC UK sales up 14% in fourth quarter, only down 2% for 2020 despite coronavirus: Yum! Brands has reported KFC’s system sales in the UK rose 14% for the fourth quarter ended 31 December 2020, compared with the previous year – the biggest rise in all its markets. For the full year, system sales in the UK were only down 2% on the previous year despite the coronavirus pandemic. The UK accounts for 6% of KFC’s system sales worldwide. Globally, KFC like-for-like sales were down 2% in the quarter and 9% in the full year. US like-for-like sales were up 2% in the quarter and 4% in the full year. Globally, system sales were up 1% in the quarter and down 6% for the full year. Operating margin fell 1.4 percentage points in the quarter and 1.6 percentage points for the year driven by like-for-like sales declines, partially offset by the impact of net unit development. KFC opened 587 gross new restaurants in the quarter and 1,512 restaurants in 88 countries in the year. Operating profit was down 6% in the quarter to $267m and 12% for the year, at $922m. Meanwhile, Pizza Hut system sales in Europe, including the UK, were down 22% in the fourth quarter and 17% in the year – the continent accounts for 8% of Pizza Hut’s system sales globally. Pizza Hut sales were down 5% globally in the fourth quarter and 7% for the full year. US system sales, which account for 45% of global sales, were down 6% in the quarter and 2% in the full year. Pizza Hut opened 337 gross new restaurants and shut 540 sites during the quarter. For the year, Pizza Hut Division opened 682 gross new restaurants in 58 countries and closed 1,745 outlets. For the fourth quarter, operating margin fell 1.5 percentage points driven by higher general and administrative expenses, international like-for-like sales declines, and net new unit declines, partially offset by US franchise bad debt recoveries. For the year, operating margin decreased 2.4 percentage points driven by international like-for-like sales declines and higher general and administrative expenses, partially offset by US franchise bad debt recoveries. Operating profit was down 8% in the quarter, to $83m, and by 9% for the full year, at $335m. Taco Bell like-for-like sales increased 1% in the fourth quarter and were down 1% for the full year. System sales were down 3% in the quarter and flat in the year. Operating profit fell 5% in the quarter to $212m. Taco Bell opened 93 gross new restaurants in the quarter and 215 gross new sites in 21 countries during 2020. Yum! Brands’ total revenue in the quarter increased 3% to $1,743m and was up 1% for the full year, at $5,652m.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – the change In Kickstart rules and what it means for your business: A Harri spokesman said: “Last week, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced there would be no minimum number of roles for Kickstart applications, and no more Kickstart Gateways can be created, meaning there are just over 600 established Gateways for businesses to choose from. The announcement of the lifting of minimum numbers for job roles still means Gateway employers can add value to businesses looking to apply for Kickstart. Harri will guide employers through a successful application, as they have done for the past 14 recent Kickstart hospitality employers. Harri’s Kickstart partner Springboard, hospitality’s Gateway employer, will provide all the training these young Kickstart employees will need to build their careers in hospitality, leisure and tourism. The DWP emphasised in its recent press release ‘Gateways can help provide a local connection and the necessary wraparound support, which is a hallmark of the Kickstart scheme’. Now is the time to apply for your young Kickstart recruits who are going to be crucial to rebuild our industry post-covid. Apply here or contact our Kickstart project manager at” Harri will also be holding a Kickstarter webinar on Tuesday, 23 February at 11am. To register for the Why Kickstart Is Good For Hospitality, Leisure & Tourism webinar, in partnership with Springboard and The Youth Group, click here. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email

Propel's flagship conference series expands to four events in 2021: Propel's flagship conference series, Propel Multi Club, will expand to offer four full-day events in 2021 – the events are all free for operators to attend. The first full-day conference in March has attracted more than 270 companies to register in the two days since booking was launched. See here for the full schedule of speakers. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “The information requirements for operators has only increased during the pandemic. Our Multi Club series will provide operators with access to inspirational insight and expertise as the sector emerges from the pandemic. I am enormously grateful to our amazing sponsors who are supporting this extended conference series, which means it is free for operators to attend.” If other commercial suppliers would like to get involved in this series of events as sponsors, they should email

Charlie McVeigh puts his founders hat on and looks at what the crisis means for building a brand from scratch as part of latest Premium Opinion column: In this week’s Premium Opinion column, Draft House founder and The Breakfast Club chairman Charlie McVeigh looks at the different channels available, opportunities and the hurdles facing a new entrant into today’s covid-impacted market. This week’s Premium Opinion, which will be sent to subscribers at 5pm on Friday (5 February), also includes access to an exclusive interview with JKS Restaurants co-founder Jyotin Sethi, who talks to Propel insights editor Mark Wingett about how the business has evolved during the crisis, including its further move into delivery and launch of e-commerce channels; the group’s relationship with landlords; frustrations over the inability to plan ahead; and his hopes for the year ahead. There will also be the latest sector rumours and rumblings 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

Government urges councils to delay issuing business rates: The government has urged councils not to issue business rates bills until after next month's Budget, raising the prospect rates relief could be extended. The business rates holiday in England is currently due to end on 31 March. In a written ministerial statement, Treasury minister Jesse Norman said local authorities should consider “issuing business rates bills after the chancellor has set out his plan at the Budget”. He said: “The government recognises the crucial work local authorities continue to do to support the pandemic response; by their taking this action, it believes it is in the public interest to avoid any potential confusion for businesses and to avoid the cost of having to re-bill businesses in light of any measures that may be included in the Budget.” Real estate adviser Altus Group said the Treasury is attempting to negate the economic impact of the pandemic, and has written off business rates bills for the current financial year, which runs from 1April 2020 to 31 March 2021, to the tune of £10.13bn – fully exempting 358,264 occupied retail, leisure and hospitality properties in England.

Koh Thai founder urges operators to sign petition to extend 5% VAT rate until 2022: Koh Thai founder Andy Lennox, who is behind southern African-inspired restaurant Zim Braai, is encouraging operators to sign a petition to extend the VAT cut to 5% for hospitality until “at least March 2022”. Lennox launched the petition, which can be signed online at In the petition, he said: “This is an essential lifeline for the hospitality industry’s recovery – and perhaps the single biggest covid-19 relief measure and must be extended if the industry hopes to have any meaningful recovery.” The petition, which needs to be signed by 10,000 people to gain a government response and 100,000 to be considered for parliamentary debate, had almost 3,000 signatures on Thursday afternoon (4 February). The petition stated: “The VAT at 5% was the single biggest recovery mechanism from the past two lockdowns and helped us re-build our businesses; it will help keep rising inflation and costs down; encourage reinvestment and investment into the industry; help our industry return to profitability – helping pay more corporation tax; and help save hundreds of thousands of jobs in the industry where, without this essential recovery mechanism, many will now not reopen.”

Zahawi – economy will be unlocked ‘gradually’ after schools reopen: England's economy will be unlocked gradually after schools hopefully return at the start of March, the vaccines minister has told Sky News. Nadhim Zahawi gave an insight into what prime minister Boris Johnson's promised roadmap out of lockdown, earmarked to be announced on Monday, 22 February, will look like. He confirmed the government intends to start reopening schools in England on Monday, 8 March, to allow immunity against covid-19 to build up among the top four groups prioritised for a jab. And in a suggestion the government wants to get the economy moving as soon as possible, he added more restrictions could then be lifted. He said: “Mid-February, if you add another three weeks to that when the vaccine protection really does begin to kick in, you're in the first week of March. So that's when we will begin to first of all open schools and then begin a gradual reopening of the economy, if we continue to see good data.” He added lockdown being eased is “predicated on really high-quality data” of hospitalisation rates coming down and the falling of deaths. It comes as The Telegraph reported chancellor Rishi Sunak is worried scientists were shifting their advice on when lockdown should end. The paper quoted one source who said: "Rishi is concerned the scientists have been moving the goalposts in recent weeks. It's no longer just about hospitalisations and protecting the NHS but cases and case numbers. Now the target seems to be that we need to keep cases down overall, which wasn't the original aim of the lockdown. The talk has switched to becoming covid-free.”

Scottish Hospitality Group calls for improved and extended furlough scheme ‘with members paying more than double what they receive in support’: The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) has called on the UK government to improve the furlough scheme after it said its members were – on average – paying about £150,000 per week in national insurance contributions while receiving just £66,000 a week in financial support. The call from the trade body comes after research from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, showed the hospitality sector was forking out £542m a month in support of the furlough scheme. SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “If you think of furlough as being the roof of a house, unless there is a secure foundation below, the roof will collapse. With hospitality shut since the end of December, businesses are running out of cash to plug the gap and sooner rather than later they are going to have some difficult decisions to make. It would be far more efficient and beneficial to waive national insurance contributions and for the government to develop a sensible and long-term sector-specific furlough scheme.” The group, whose members employ more than 6,000 people, has also finalised its manifesto for how the government and industry can work together. It calls for immediate support to allow viable businesses to survive and sets out the measures required to restore jobs and keep the industry alive to lead the economic recovery. Key demands include waiving business rates until at least March 2022; supporting a permanent reduction in the VAT rate to 5% on foodservice business and accommodation; and introducing specific grant schemes to help the hardest-hit sectors especially drink-led outlets, nightclubs, and wedding venues. 

Deliveroo adds family-focused offer to ‘Plus’ subscription service: Deliveroo has launched a new unlimited free delivery subscription offer for £3.49 a month, as part of the company’s “Plus” service. The new “Plus for a family” subscription, which is aimed at families, couples and group households ordering more regular and larger orders, gives free delivery on all Deliveroo orders in excess of £25. Deliveroo launched its first monthly subscription service, Plus, in the UK in 2017. Carlo Mocci, chief business officer at Deliveroo UK & Ireland said: “We know our customers are ordering more frequently and ordering larger baskets. We’re excited about introducing this new tier of Deliveroo’s Plus subscription service – so families, couples and groups households can benefit from unlimited free delivery from restaurants and grocery shops, at a cheaper price, and get access to even more exclusive deals than before.”

Company News:

Five Guys appoints Rob Murray as new finance director: Five Guys, the fast-growing burger concept backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, has appointed Rob Murray, formerly of MOD Pizza and Carphone Warehouse, as its new finance director, Propel understands. Murray previously spent five years as finance director of MOD Pizza UK, which went into liquidation last year and was also backed by Dunstone. Murray was also previously head of finance at Carphone Warehouse. Propel revealed last month Holly Elliott had stepped down as group finance director of Five Guys. The better burger brand has strengthened its 2021 UK openings pipeline, with the recent addition of a number of leisure park-based sites. The circa 100-strong brand has secured the former Frankie & Benny’s sites in Crest Road, High Wycombe, and at the Gate Leisure Park, Chichester, for openings later this year. The company has also taken on the ex-Pizza Hut site at Stevenage Leisure Park, Hertfordshire. It is also believed to have taken the former Chiquito site at Teesside Park, Stockton-on-Tees. Last month, Propel revealed Five Guys had secured a site in London’s Brixton. It has also secured a site at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet West Midlands, which is due to open in the first quarter of this year, alongside Starbucks and Wagamama. As previously reported, it will also open in the Edinburgh St James development this summer.

Ex-TRG chief executive joins Camile Thai board as chairman: Dublin-based healthy food delivery company Camile Thai has appointed former chief executive of The Restaurant Group (TRG), Andy McCue, as non-executive chairman. It has also added serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist and angel investor Brian Caulfield as non-executive director. The company also plans to make more hires as it opens up further locations in Ireland and abroad, which will be announced in the next few weeks. McCue previously launched a new growth strategy, which led to record revenues and profits as chief executive of Paddy Power. McCue was also key to the Irish bookmaker’s merger with betting exchange Betfair. He then joined TRG as chief executive where he was responsible for purchasing Wagamama. McCue said: “Camile provides a very exciting tech-focused hospitality business model and I look forward to being given the opportunity to help Camile grow further.” Camile chief executive Brody Sweeney said: “We are really pleased to have attracted directors of the calibre of Brian and Andy to our board. It shows our serious ambitions for Camile and its future growth. [In 2020], we were very fortunate to see a 59% increase in systems sales in the UK and a 40% increase in Ireland. We owe this to our largely suburban, delivery-focused business model.” Camile operates 36 outlets with six of those in London. The company’s strategy is tech-centric with investments in drone delivery, kitchen robotics and cloud kitchens and is creating a new convenience dining sector based on health, sustainability and speed.

Dowling overseeing former Harcourt Inns sites, The KPH brought to market: Frank Dowling, the entrepreneur who previously operated a number of venues at the O2 arena and across the country under the banner of the Inc Group, is operating the London-based pubs sites that formerly came under the Harcourt Inns umbrella. The six sites, which include the Hero of Maida in Maida Vale; The Three Cranes in the City of London; the Coach & Horses in Clerkenwell; and The Crown in Chiswick; are each held in individual entities, with Dowling assisting the existing management teams for their respective shareholders. Propel also understands the freehold of The KPH in Notting Hill, which was the last site to open under the Harcourt Inns umbrella in 2019, has been placed on the market through property advisory firm Fleurets, with a guide price thought to be about £5.5m. Henry Harris stepped down as chef-director of Harcourt Inns last year. Dowling, who was brought up in New York, started his working life in construction then went on to London working on the property development project at Canary Wharf. His first bar was opened in Greenwich in 2003 and he became the first restaurateur to sign a lease for a venue at the O2 Arena and subsequently built up a portfolio of venues under the banner of the Inc Group, which grew to 23 restaurants, pubs and bars across the capital, Leeds and Bristol.

Hummingbird Bakery files intention to appoint administrators: US-style cupcake concept Hummingbird Bakery, founded in London in 2004, has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators. According to The Telegraph, insolvency firm BM Advisory is understood to have been lined up as administrators to Hummingbird. Sources close to the company said BM Advisory was working with a number of potential suitors, with a view to rescuing the business. The company was founded in Notting Hill by Tarek Malouf and currently operates five sites across London and two franchise sites in Dubai. 

Shake Shack to make Cambridge debut as it expands delivery-only kitchen portfolio: Shake Shack is to make its debut in Cambridge as it expands its portfolio of delivery-only kitchens. The Cambridge kitchen will open on Tuesday (9 February) and operate daily between noon and 10.45pm, with customers placing orders directly through Deliveroo. The American burger brand’s offering includes the signature ShackBurger, crinkle-cut fries and classic drinks. Shake Shack launched its debut Deliveroo Editions site, in Battersea, in May last year, followed by further London sites in Swiss Cottage and Bermondsey. It also operates delivery-only sites in Brighton and Reading. Meanwhile, Shake Shack will offer its workers a total of six hours of paid time off to get covid-19 vaccinations when they become available. The company said the paid-time policy – three hours per vaccination – will be for all team members, hourly and salaried.

Greene King supported more than 1,000 apprentices in 2020: Brewer and retailer Greene King said it supported more than 1,000 apprentices on its award-winning programme since March 2020, either through starting or completing an apprenticeship, despite the challenges of a pandemic. Announcing the achievement ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, Greene King also confirmed it maintained more than 2,300 learners on its programmes, highlighting many of those furloughed made the most of the opportunity to learn when not being able to work. Andrew Bush, chief people officer at Greene King, said: “Despite the heavy restrictions placed on the hospitality industry and the constant closing and opening of our pubs, our team members have remained really engaged, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to our apprenticeship programme. We worked hard to keep delivering our programmes during lockdowns and kept the apprenticeship opportunities open for our furloughed teams so we’re really pleased so many have started or achieved their apprenticeship during 2020.” The company said it was also set to expand its programme to offer 30 different apprenticeships to support its 40,000 team members. Alongside its Level 2 to 7 retail and management career pathways, it will now introduce new apprenticeships including associate project manager, coaching professional and accountancy/taxation professional.

Chapati Man eyes further expansion, launches first ghost kitchen site: London-based street food Indian wraps concept Chapati Man is to launch its first ghost kitchen site later this month and has begun working with US franchise expert Brett Larrabee on further expansion plans. Founded by husband-and-wife Chris and Andrea Rai in 2007, the concept will launch the new ghost kitchen site in Camden, north London in mid-February. It said the site would be the first of many new sites launching in London and the UK, working in partnership with Jacuna kitchens. It said that to drive its expansion plans forward, it has begun working with Larrabee to assist with the development of the Chapati Man brand and franchise model. Larrabee has a 35-year-track record in the franchise industry working with a number of leading food brands, including Five Guys and more recently Little Caesars Pizza. Andrea Rai said “We’ve had an incredible year with lots of franchise interest from all over the world. With Brett's help, we hope to push to the next level with a streamlined and very attractive franchise offer.”

Experienced operator sells former Michelin Pub of the Year in off-market deal: Experienced operator Ian MacKenzie has sold The Fox, which was named Michelin Pub of the Year in 2004 under his guidance, in an off-market deal. The 16th century venue in the Cotswolds has been purchased by a private buyer through property agent Colliers. MacKenzie’s background includes managing The Hunters Lodge Restaurant, in Broadway, Worcestershire; general manager of The Dormy House hotel and restaurant in Broadway; owner of the Lambs Restaurant in Moreton in Marsh; head of operations at the Slug and Lettuce group; owner of The Ricochet Restaurant in Warwick; and owner of the food-led Ladbroke Arms in Notting Hill. The Fox comprises a bar and restaurant with a menu featuring seasonal British produce, a private dining room, plus accommodation in three bedrooms.

Rick Stein Group bolsters shellfish stock as it rides to rescue of Welsh supplier: Rick Stein Group has rode to the rescue of a Welsh shellfish supplier, who risked losing £48,000 worth of shellfish stuck at Portsmouth due to Brexit. Chef Jack Stein has pledged to purchase a large portion of stock from Nerys Edwards, to bolster Cornish supplies. It followed Edwards’ plea on BBC News, following a lorry-load of live shellfish being stalled for 24 hours in Portsmouth due to new Brexit border rules. The lobsters – 100kg a week in the first instance – will be used for the “Stein's at Home” boxes. This is in addition to 400kg to 500kg a week purchased from Cornish suppliers. Stein said the team has struggled to source enough Cornish lobster to cater for demand of online orders, and saw an opportunity to help the restaurant group; Edwards’ fourth-generation fish wholesale company Syren Shellfish; and Welsh fishermen, whose fish and seafood may otherwise be going to waste. Stein said: “We are in need of more lobsters in Cornwall, so this was an opportunity to help keep some of Nerys’ suppliers in business while she struggles to ship to Europe. The Stein's at Home menus have been going really well, and we are doing it to keep revenue flowing, retain our staff while our restaurants are shut, and importantly to make sure we keep using our long-standing Cornish suppliers.”

Caffe Nero launches at-home range at Sainsbury’s and Amazon for first time, free coffee giveaway: Caffe Nero is launching its at-home coffee range at Sainsbury’s and Amazon after seeing a 218% sales increase via its own channels since the second lockdown in November last year. It is also targeting home-school parents with a free giveaway of 1,000 bags of Caffe Nero whole or ground coffee beans. The move to launch at Sainsbury’s – in-store and on its website – and Amazon is the first time its coffee has been available outside its stores and its own online channels. The premium at-home range, which includes Caffe Nero’s Classico Original Blend, will launch in March at Sainsbury’s but is available now on Amazon. Caffe Nero UK chief executive Will Stratton-Morris said: “We know how challenging the situation is for families at the. We wanted to lend our support in the best way we know how, with free coffee, to help recognise and energise parents and homeworkers through this tricky period. We’ve seen a surge in sales of our ‘Coffee at Home’ range through our own website, and huge growth in our in-store click and collect service and our at-home delivery service via UberEats since they launched last summer. We’re delighted to be extending the availability of our popular at-home range even further with the rollout to Sainsbury’s and Amazon.”

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