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Thu 11th Feb 2021 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Summer staycation market set for 22% increase versus 2019, could reach ten-year high: The value of the UK summer domestic holiday market is set to increase by an estimated 22% compared with 2019, according to research by Mintel. It has also predicted £7.1bn will be spent by holidaymakers during summer, which would be a huge rise from the £5.8bn spent in 2019, and potentially a ten-year high. However, the total value of domestic holidays taken by Brits during the whole of 2021, estimated to be £12.9bn, is forecast to be 11% short of the pre-covid levels of £14.5bn in 2019, but Mintel expects the domestic market to fully recover by 2022, when it will reach an estimated £15bn. It claimed rural and countryside holidays will overtake beach holidays in popularity this summer in the UK. The vast majority (83%) of UK travellers would like to return to their typical holiday behaviour once the threat of covid-19 has fully subsided with agreement peaking among the over-65s (91%). The vaccine programme looks to have helped increase booking confidence as 22% of UK adults were planning to book a holiday in the three months following December 2020, up from 18% one month earlier. Marloes De Vries, associate director, travel at Mintel, said: “The UK holiday market will continue to benefit from cautious and price-sensitive consumers who will opt to stay closer to home. The introduction of quarantine hotels and compulsory testing for all arrivals adds another layer of uncertainty in what would normally be an important booking period. As a result, more travellers will choose to book a staycation. The fourth quarter of 2021 has potential to exceed pre-covid-19 levels too, provided the virus can be kept under control. Our research reveals a growing interest in visiting rural areas in the UK. Interest in cultural/historical sightseeing holidays is growing too, up from 14% in 2019 to 21% in 2020. Limited options to travel overseas is likely to have helped boost Brits’ desire to explore sights closer to home or to discover what’s on their own doorstep.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – McCain launches campaign to help operators do ‘next level delivery’: McCain has launched a campaign to help operators do “next level delivery” after commissioning in-depth consumer research. A spokesman said: “National lockdowns mean you have had to adapt your service operations, with delivery now taking the lead on your list of priorities. This is often easier said than done! Not only does it require a whole new approach to the menu, you may also need to consider products specifically designed for delivery so you can continue to delight customers. Visit our hub to uncover what customers really value in delivery, practical tips from our next level ambassadors, plus free product samples of our game-changing delivery range for you to try on your menu. But don’t just take our word for it – hear how operators up and down the country have been using the range to extend their delivery zones, delight their customers and make more profit. SureCrisp is the game-changing fry that stays crispy for up to 20 minutes in a delivery bag, without any special packaging, so you can confidently deliver to a wider area. P!ckers range of cheese sides travel brilliantly and allow your customers to max their meal. Let McCain Foodservice Solutions help you do next level delivery. Order your free sample now.” If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email

Reilley – ending [inadequate] support will flatline thousands of businesses: Loungers chairman Alex Reilley has said he doesn’t think the government or the public have any idea about the “catastrophic devastation that lies ahead for hospitality” and “ending [inadequate] support will flatline thousands of businesses”. Reilley said as well as destroying livelihoods and resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, it will “crush hopes and dreams and wipe out life savings, causing awful financial insecurity and hardship”. He added: “The vast majority of a generation of entrepreneurs in our sector will be financially ruined. Despite all of this our voices have become nothing more than white noise to the government and the mainstream media and it would increasingly appear we’re the ones that just have to ‘take it on the chin’. Hospitality is a wonderful fraternity made up of people from all walks of life and every social background. We are hard-working, passionate, risk-taking survivors. We’re also very proud – being a burden on the state doesn’t sit easily with us and asking for help is not in our makeup. However, we’ve been required to completely close for most of the past 12 months for the greater good and an alarming amount of businesses in our sector simply have nothing left. Rishi Sunak, Boris Johnson, Paul Scully and Kwasi Kwarteng: I can guarantee you this – without continued, and additional, support the business failures and subsequent job losses in our sector will be far worse and more shocking than you could have ever feared. The fate of hospitality is in your hands and only you have the power to prevent the decimation of a sector that directly employs 3.2 million in addition to hundreds of thousands of related jobs in our supply chain. I sincerely hope you understand what’s at stake here.”

Londoners drive trend of snacks and coffee deliveries, 95% rise on 2019: The trend of ordering snacks and coffee deliveries to family homes in London rose by 95% in 2020 versus 2019, according to research by insights firm The NPD Group. The demand by Londoners for snacking delivered by foodservice operators and delivery platforms such as UberEats and Deliveroo was significantly ahead of the 11% increase in orders placed by families across the country as a whole. London represents one quarter of the UK’s snacking via delivery market. The NPD Group insights director (foodservice) Dominic Allport said: “During 2020, London was the only region to see a rise in snacking via delivery. The main reason is the greater use of delivery subscriptions such as Deliveroo Plus in the capital, where customers pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited free deliveries. For the provider, the £11.49 monthly fee encourages customers to order more food, to buy more frequently, and it also increases loyalty.” Research also discovered deliveries for snacking at the weekend was pronounced in London too with a 72% uplift year-on-year, versus a rise of only 2% across Britain. The 16 to 24 age group are the most likely to pay for a ready-made coffee to be delivered to their home, often as part of a snack order. The average amount spent per person on snack delivery increased by 20% nationally in 2020 versus 2019 to reach £5.66. This figure is just 20% less than overall spend per person on main meal delivery (£7.14). The number of items bought during each snacking occasion in London has increased significantly and is now 18% higher than the national average. Allport added: “Once lockdown is over, this trend is likely to remain embedded in the population. In that case, we expect coffee to soon be in the top five snacking home deliveries.” The top five snack deliveries in 2020 were soft drinks, chicken products, pizza, potatoes (fries) and sweet bakery goods.
The NPD Group is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

54% of unit closures in the City were hospitality and leisure businesses: More than half of work unit closures in the City of London were hospitality and leisure businesses, according to research by the Local Data Company. The retail data consultancy found 54% of all closures seen in the City were hospitality and leisure units, of which 83% were national chains. Chains have had to rationalise their London estates, closing locations where footfall has declined significantly. The data also showed the number of vacant work units in the City of London has increased by 47% during 2020, from 174 at the end of 2019 to 255 at the end of 2020, as workers stayed home and footfall fell across the district. In 2020, the vacancy rate increased by 3.5% in the City compared with an average increase of 1.3% for Greater London and 1.6% for the whole of Great Britain. Vacancies are now at the highest level in five years in the City where retail stock is densely supplied with food-to-go units, pubs, bars and restaurants. Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at the Local Data Company, said: “The City of London has been dramatically hit given the vast majority of the worker population, on which these businesses are almost solely reliant, went away overnight as the government’s initial work-from-home order kicked in. The fact a significant number of retailers deemed ‘essential’ have chosen not to open in this location throughout various lockdowns, despite their ability to trade, is a further indication of just how low current consumer demand is in the City. Looking forward, we might expect once people are able to safely return to offices, the need and demand for this supporting economy will return just as quickly as it went away, presenting a real opportunity for agile operators especially in those key categories such as takeaway food shops, bars and restaurants.”

NTIA fears government is ignoring night-time businesses over commercial rent debt: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) fears the government has turned its back on the night-time economy as the forfeiture moratoria on rents comes to an end next month. The trade body said almost nine in ten nightclub businesses are in rent arrears of more than two quarters and fears landlords that have not reached agreements with commercial tenants will take action for non-payment of rent without further government intervention. The NTIA said rent is the second biggest cost in the night-time industry, equating to an estimated 8% to 10% of annual turnover. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “Reclaiming property and utilising the current proposed changes in planning reform under permitted development rights to allow for the demolition and rebuilding of ‘vacant and redundant’ light industrial buildings, will culminate in us losing many of our much-loved cultural spaces and social environments to housing. The government’s early attempt at commercial rent resolution through a code of conduct did little or nothing to secure confidence within the sector. We are in an unusual position where businesses are backed up with rent debt due to the pandemic, the moratoria has prevented action being taken by landlords who are suffering similar financial pressures from lenders. This has brought about a call from the sector for stakeholders to share the burden of backdated rent debt – government, lenders, landlords and tenants taking an equal share of the shortfall. The government needs to support nightclubs and late-night venues with a robust financial package and a roadmap giving a clear indication of the timelines for reopening against the backdrop of the vaccination rollout.”

Half a million businesses face collapse, study finds: More than half a million companies are at risk of collapsing by the spring unless the government extends support schemes until the economy has fully reopened, a think-tank has said. According to The Times, work by the left-of-centre Institute for Public Policy Research found half of hospitality, food and other specialist service companies had less than three months’ cash, as did 40% of arts and entertainment businesses. Overall, the number of companies with “dangerously low” cash buffers has risen sharply over the four months to the end of January, as national lockdowns hammer trading. The companies said to be at risk — largely small firms — employed nine million people, “whose jobs could be lost”, the think tank said. To see them through the pandemic, it added, the government should use the March Budget to extend the furlough scheme, which ends in April; provide more grants; and offer companies cash injections in return for equity stakes held by the state in a “Citizens’ Wealth Fund”. The institute’s work was published alongside research by the Resolution Foundation, another think tank, which confirmed companies in hard-hit sectors such as hospitality were struggling.

Delivery platform Big Night takes London restaurants nationwide: Big Night, the delivery platform championing independent restaurants, is offering nationwide delivery for the first time. Complementing its existing on-demand hot food delivery service in London, Big Night is now bringing some of the capital’s restaurants such as Darjeeling Express, Luca, Levan, Legare and The Laughing Heart to homes across the UK. The initial launch line up will soon be expanded with restaurants not only based in London, but with “standout” options from around the country too. Launched by The Laughing Heart founder Charlie Mellor, and Pavel Baskakov, in the spring of 2020, Big Night is now embarking on the next evolution of the business, dramatically expanding both its reach and number of restaurant partners over the coming months. 

Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a globally recognised retail brand that is looking to hire a customer and retention director. This position is a pivotal role, created to support the business’ 2021 growth. The role will be responsible for all areas of customer journey and retention. The individual will be responsible for driving high retention across a customer base, using data to showcase value and ensuring customers receive high quality support and guidance. The position is based in London and paying up to £100,000. The individual will be working proactively in a role that is predominantly strategic in nature, overseeing campaign delivery and driving the retention strategy in parallel with company growth. Anyone interested can email with their CV.
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News: 

Honest Burgers lines up Windsor opening, shareholders inject further funds into business: Active Partners-backed Honest Burgers will further add to its growing regional presence with an opening in Windsor, Propel has learned. The company has secured a site in the town’s Thames Street for an opening later this year. Earlier this week, Propel revealed the circa 40-strong business had taken on the former Carluccio’s site in St Albans’ Christopher Place shopping centre. Propel understands Honest Burgers will operate the site initially as a pop-up after taking a short-term lease on the unit. It comes as the group’s annual accounts showed its shareholders had injected £2.7m into the business at the end of last year. It said the funds were intended to aid the group in taking advantage of new opportunities and enable it to deliver its rollout plan. Last year, the company secured £3.5m via the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and agreed a revised covenant position with its banks to July 2021. The accounts said the company anticipates a renegotiation of this over the spring. In the year to 26 January 2020, Honest Burgers saw a 32% uplift in turnover year-on-year, up £9.7m to £40.4m, while Ebitda before exceptional items climbed 34% to £5.9m (2019: £4.4m), on the back of six new openings. Marc Rogers, at MKR Property, acted on the Windsor deal. 

SSP confirms it is considering debt and equity funding options: UK-based travel hub foodservice company SSP Group has said it is evaluating the merits of several funding options in both debt and equity that would further strengthen its balance sheet. The company was responding after the Financial Times reported SSP Group was planning to raise up to £500m through a rights issue from shareholders, according to two sources close to the company. SSP said as at 30 September 2020, it had cash and undrawn available facilities of about £520m. Included within this amount was £300m from the Bank of England Covid Corporate Financing Facility, which has been drawn down in full during the month of February. SSP said the recent draw down was solely due to the scheme closing for further drawings from March onwards. The company stated: “While SSP is confident in the medium-term recovery of the travel market, there remains significant uncertainty with regard to covid-19 and associated travel restrictions. In that context, the group continues to evaluate the merits of a range of funding options, both debt and equity, that would further strengthen its balance sheet.”

Tasty not aware of any reason for share price surge: Wildwood operator Tasty said on Wednesday (10 February) it was not aware of any reason for the surge in its share price and trading volumes. “There have been no material developments since the company's most recent trading update on 15 January,” the company said. At lunchtime on Wednesday, the shares were up 30%, at 7.50p, but have since fallen back and finished the day at 6.99p.

Coconut Tree takes former Koh Thai site in Bath for seventh restaurant: Sri Lankan bar and restaurant group The Coconut Tree is to open its seventh site, in Bath. The company will open the restaurant in Broad Street in late spring after taking the premises previously occupied by Koh Thai. Brand director Anna Garrod said: “Though trading conditions have been incredibly tough over the past 12 months, we had a good August, September, and October last year despite the restrictions, and demand for what we do is still strong. We feel now is the right time for us to keep pushing The Coconut Tree forwards. We are delighted to announce our seventh restaurant will be located in Bath, a vibrant city we’ve had in our sights on for the past two years, but it's such a sought-after location and rents for independents are high, understandably so. Luckily, the landlord for this site is Bristol based; he knew of our brand and history, and was keen to see us in Bath. He made us a commercial offer that would make this possible.” The Coconut Tree was founded in 2016 by five Sri Lankan friends living in Cheltenham – Praveen Thanginah, Dan Fernando and Shamil Fernando, who oversee the food, financial director Mithra Fernando, and operations director Rodrigo Rashinthe. The Coconut Tree operates two sites in Bristol and one in each of Bournemouth, Cardiff, Cheltenham and Oxford.

Dirty Wild Wings founders launch UK’s first Japanese fried chicken concept: FB Holdings, which is behind the rapidly growing Dirty Wild Wings concept, has launched the UK’s first Japanese fried chicken concept, in the West Midlands. Karaage, which pays homage to an age-old Japanese fried chicken method, has opened in Woodbridge Road, Moseley. The restaurant is currently operating via a click and collect service only. Traditional Karaage dishes on the menu are offered in a variety of Japanese flavours including classic teriyaki, ponzu, tonkatsu, and Tokyo sauce. The menu also includes katsu curry, ramen dishes and Japanese-inspired burgers in bao buns. Plans to open a second Karaage site in Resorts World are being discussed; as well as a third in Birmingham city centre, by the end of 2021. Having launched Dirty Wild Wings across 50 virtual sites in the UK, the group is planning to open the first bricks-and-mortar site for the concept, at the Touchwood Shopping Centre in Solihull. FB Holdings is also rolling-out Dirty Wild Wings meal kits across retail and online stores. Other brands within the portfolio include Indian street food establishment Indico, which currently operates in The Mailbox in Birmingham and Shirley; JAQKS Chicken & Chips, with sites across the Midlands; Jamaya, a Caribbean/jerk chicken concept at the Touchwood Shopping Centre; and the most recent, Bulls Street Burgers, serving-up classic burgers and sides.

Burger King and McDonald’s test new loyalty programmes: Burger King and McDonald’s are testing new loyalty programmes. Burger King is piloting its new Royal Perks loyalty rewards programme in five US cities – Los Angeles, Long Island, Miami, New Jersey and New York City – as part its digital platform overhaul. Customers will earn ten “crowns” for each dollar spent, which can used to get free items across the menu. The platform also allows daily perks, the possibility of earning points for delivery through the website and smartphone app and double rewards in a user’s birthday month. Meanwhile, McDonald’s has expanded the US test of its MyMcDonald’s rewards programme, first announced last autumn, to the New England area from its initial locations in Arizona and Nevada. The company unveiled its plans for a domestic rewards programme during an “Accelerating the Arches” online investor conference in November. McDonald’s said MyMcDonald’s includes a suite of integrated digital tools and offers that give customers more personalisation, more convenience and more value. The company plans to roll out the rewards programme in the US later this year. “Our customers have been clear, they want even easier ways to order a Big Mac and world famous fries and to be rewarded for their loyalty,” said Alycia Mason, McDonald’s US vice-president for digital customer experience and media. The company said more than 85% of MyMcDonald’s Rewards members participating in the pilot tests were satisfied with the programme to date.

Watch House to open site in St Mary Axe: Edition Capital-backed coffee concept Watch House will open a site in St Mary Axe in April. The first multi-level Watch House location will be in the “Can of Ham” building in the City of London. The 3,700 square foot cafe will be arranged over three floors and feature state of the art brewing technology. The space will offer quiet and scenic working spots, a cantilevered bar to observe the baristas at work, as well as a mezzanine. Watch House was founded by Roland Horne in 2014 and operates five coffee houses and a roastery. 

Papa John’s strengthens Milton Keynes presence with Stadium MK store: Papa John’s has opened a new store – in the East Stand at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes. As well as delivering to residents daily, Papa John’s will also be serving up freshy-cooked pizza to MK Dons supporters from a dedicated Papa John’s kiosk inside the stadium, once fans are permitted to attend football matches, concerts and other events once again. Franchisee Rav Singh, who also runs three other Papa John’s outlets in Milton Keynes, will manage the new store. Justin Gilbert, director of business development Papa John’s UK, said: “It’s a win-win situation, as everyone loves football and pizza so teaming-up makes perfect sense! Milton Keynes is where our headquarters and fresh dough manufacturing base is located, and we have always been keen to support local community activities in the area.” MK Dons chairman Pete Winkelman added: “This partnership with Papa John’s will only add to the Stadium MK experience once our supporters are allowed to return home.”

Edinburgh-based Scran Bistro plans double opening: Edinburgh-based Scran Bistro has revealed plans to launch two further sites in the city centre. The company is set to open cafes in North Bridge and George IV Bridge. Scran Bistro, which launched in the North Bridge Arcade in 2018, offers sweet treats, tea, cakes and coffee, as well as loaded fries, burgers and filled wraps. In an Instagram post, the team said: “Every one of us at Scran has been working extremely hard behind the scenes and trying to keep the business running while trying to improve and move forward. We are so happy to let you guys know Scran will be opening another two branches this year.” Scran also hinted there were plans for a new menu at the sites, encouraging customers to get in touch with their own ideas of dishes and treats to be included.

Filipino ice cream parlour brand Mamasons opens bakery: Filipino ice cream parlour brand Mamasons has opened a bakery in Kentish Town. The company has launched Panadera in Kentish Town Road – a few doors away from its ice cream parlour. Panadera sells a variety of Filipino baked goods, including pandesal (Filipino bread rolls) and the Panadera loaf as well as Filipino croissants and a Clamansi meringue tart. The drinks menu features coffee, matcha latte, ube lattes and a range of iced tea and coffee, reports Hot Dinners. Mamasons also operates an ice cream parlour in London’s Chinatown.

Restaurant boss gets five-year ban for hiding takings to avoid tax: A restaurateur from Warwickshire has been handed a five-year ban for hiding his company’s true takings to avoid paying the correct taxes. Sadikur Rahman Chowdhury, of Kenilworth, was the director of Simla Restaurant, incorporated in December 2002. The company traded as a restaurant called Simla Tandoori from premises in West Street in Blandford Forum, Dorset. Simla Restaurant entered into liquidation in August 2019 and this triggered an investigation by the Insolvency Service into Chowdhury’s conduct. Investigators uncovered the business traded without issue until June 2008 when it was discovered Chowdhury had caused Simla Restaurant to submit inaccurate returns to the tax authorities. Enquiries established Chowdhury owed more than £48,000 in VAT and almost £113,000 in corporation tax from 2009 to 2017. It was found Chowdhury had underdeclared sales to avoid paying the correct taxes and, at liquidation, owed the tax authorities more than £266,000. An additional penalty of in excess of £104,000 was levied by the tax authorities for the under declaration of corporation tax. Chowdhury has been given a five year ban that stops him from directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company.

Indoor entertainment plans to complement two-screen cinema at Skelmersdale shopping centre: Concourse Shopping Centre has announced plans to open an indoor entertainment centre called WonderWorld. The move comes after US franchise brand UltraStar Cinema said it was adding a two-screen cinema to the shopping centre in Skelmersdale, Lancashire. If planning is approved by West Lancashire Council, WonderWorld will be located on the second floor, above the main shopping level and will include jungle-themed adventure golf, ten-pin bowling, ninja-style inflatables, a soft play area for toddlers, a virtual reality room, amusements with dodgems, electronic darts, cocktail bar with performance stage, American diner and an artisan-style street food court and coffee bar, which will create 50 to 60 jobs. Meanwhile, UltraStar Cinema is putting the finishing touches to its cinema, which will be the first new movie theatre in the town for 38 years. David Halliwell, director of Lancashire-based Moorgate Developments, said: “This is a long awaited development by many, which is why we took our research to a higher level, looking at the most popular entertainment centres from as far away as Australia and America.” 
New Hull restaurant takes site that was home to popular Italian Operetta for 28 years: Restaurant operator Jason Ioakeim is set to launch a site in Hull at the venue that was home to popular Italian food specialist Operetta for 28 years. Bond Street Restaurant & Bar will initially operate as a takeaway and will showcase some of the dishes that he intends to serve once covid-19 restrictions have eased. The restaurant will open in mid-February with a team of up to ten staff, which Ioakeim expects to double once diners are allowed to eat at the site. He said: “We will focus on British food, which is so multicultural that there will be a lot of other influences, especially with the many plant-based options that we will introduce. With social distancing, we have room for about 60 people and another 20 or more when restrictions permit. We also have a lot of space outside and we’re in discussions with Hull City Council about making use of that. With the takeaway service, we want people to have a nice dining experience at home without breaking the bank. For every meat option on the menu, we will aim to offer a plant-based option.”
North Yorkshire Water Park makes multimillion-pound investment in expansion: North Yorkshire Water Park is making a multimillion-pound investment in its facility as it aims to expand. The venue, in Scarborough, has revealed plans to invest “significantly” throughout 2021 to expand its current water sports offering and encourage growth. The investment will see a new wakeboarding line added to the park’s current offering, along with kickers and rails, allowing visitors to expand their skills with experienced instructors. The park will also add new lakeside buildings, including a cafe, and a decking viewing area by the lake. The work is set to be completed in May. David Steel, chief executive of Dawnay Estates, which owns North Yorkshire Water Park, said: “It’s an exciting time for the water park as we expand our facilities and what we have to offer ready for the summer season. Ultimately, this new development is a huge opportunity for us to cement our new and improved offering and contribute to the leisure and tourist offer in North Yorkshire.”

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