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Wed 7th Apr 2021 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Judge rules in favour of expedited resolution to why hospitality can’t open at same time as non-essential retail: A judge has ruled that the legal action seeking to reopen indoor hospitality at the same time as non-essential retail will be expedited through the courts after the government sought to argue against a fast resolution of the case. The legal action has been brought by Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, and Punch Taverns founder Hugh Osmond to try to force the early opening of hospitality venues. On Tuesday (6 April), the government was ordered to the High Court to justify why it is allowing non-essential shops to open before pubs and restaurants. Lord tweeted: “10am today, the government argued against the expedition of our case. A poor stalling tactic. This afternoon, the judge ruled against them and confirmed our case will be expedited. The next phase is 19 April. Hospitality should open before 17 May. This again proves, as we did with the substantial meal, that the government cannot make decisions unless backed up with evidence. Both myself and Hugh Osmond are delighted with the decision. All we ever asked for was fairness and facts. [This] is a win for hospitality.” Osmond said: “The government asked the court to refuse our request for expedition of our case [on Tuesday, 6 April]. Mrs Justice Eady disagreed and the case will indeed be expedited as we had asked. Excellent news. Hospitality is losing £200m per day and 3.2 million employees have an uncertain future but the government complained we had asked them to respond over a bank holiday. The court, however, decided the matter was urgent. The government must base its decisions on facts not prejudices. [This] was only a small step to hold the government to account, but an important one. Win or lose now, the government will have to provide proper evidence to support its position. That is a victory in itself.”

Industry News:

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Propel Premium now available to companies for an unlimited number of staff for £895 plus VAT per annum: Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “Propel Premium is becoming an invaluable learning and insights resource to the sector. We will be broadening our library of videos over the coming weeks with further sector leaders sharing their expertise on a variety of subjects.” Premium subscribers already receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews. Subscribers receive a password that allows them to watch the interviews on demand. They feature industry leaders such as The Restaurant Group chief executive Andy Hornby, PizzaExpress managing director Zoe Bowley and Rekom UK chief executive Peter Marks sharing their lessons of lockdown. Meanwhile, guests on the Friday Wrap discussing their views on the sector include UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie and sector investor Luke Johnson. Subscribers also receive exclusive access to the Propel multi-site operator database, which was fully updated and released last week. The exhaustive database of businesses, which comprises 1,628 companies, is the most comprehensive multi-site operator information in the sector – and reflects the tumultuous changes of the past year with several hundred businesses disappearing and replaced by several hundred new ones. A new multi-site database will also be sent to Premium subscribers at the end of each month with a report on new companies and changes in the multi-site universe. It provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different, and what each business specialises in. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com to sign up.
 
Government begins call for evidence on commercial rents situation: The government has begun the process of calling for evidence on potential interventions to the rent debt situation. Launching the process, which will last until 11.45pm on Tuesday, 4 May, the government said if there is evidence that productive discussions between landlords and tenants are not taking place, and that this represents a substantial and ongoing threat to jobs and livelihoods, it “will not hesitate to intervene further”. The government said: “Throughout the past year, many businesses have been forced to close in line with public health restrictions and faced significant periods of disruption to revenue. In response, the government introduced legislation to prevent landlords of commercial properties from being able to evict tenants for not paying rent; to restrict landlords’ abilities to recover rental arrears through the seizure of tenants’ goods; and to restrict the service of statutory demands and winding-up petitions. All of these measures are now in place until 30 June 2021. Despite this extension, these measures are temporary, and while the government recognises they cannot – and should not – continue indefinitely, a carefully managed exit is necessary to preserve tenant businesses and the millions of jobs that they support. This call for evidence will support the government’s decision-making on the best way to withdraw or replace these measures. Many landlords have raised concerns about tenant businesses using company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) to alter lease terms and disclaim leases of unprofitable locations, particularly after the landlord has agreed rent concessions with the tenant. The use of CVAs does not form part of this call for evidence. There have been a number of recent developments that may affect the use of CVAs in the future, such as the restoration of Crown Preference and the judgement in the Debenhams case. There are also a number of legal challenges brought by landlords and others to the use of CVAs making their way through the courts. The government will separately continue to monitor the use of CVAs and the impact that these recent developments are having on landlords.”

Scottish operators fear ‘day of reckoning’ as financial support cut: Scottish operators are in fear of “a day of reckoning” with the sector gripped by debt, the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) has warned. Support will stop for pubs and restaurants on Monday, 19 April – a week before a “minority” of the hospitality sector will be able to open, serving alcohol outdoors only, leaving the majority unable to trade and without adequate business support, the SHG said. While Monday, 17 May, signals further indoor reopening, the Scottish government has yet to indicate when all restrictions will be lifted. SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “A day of reckoning is coming for debt-strapped Scottish businesses and as politicians prioritise the electoral trail, they are needlessly cutting a financial lifeline. It’s senseless and again highlights ministers’ lack of knowledge of our sector – 12 months down the line, this is pitiful. Grants should be maintained until a business can return to trading normally. We are relieved some hotels and restaurants will be able to open this month but Scottish ministers cannot just wash their hands of the thousands of operators left stranded and unable to trade viably. We urge the government to appoint a senior representative with a business background who is capable of grasping the unique challenges facing the sector such is the level of complexity and scale of our industry and the punitive restrictions forced on us. Signature Pub Group founder Nic Wood added: “We have 21 premises with only seven able to open on 26 April leaving 300 of my staff reliant on furlough for longer. It’s just terrifying the Scottish government believes you can trade as a pub, viably and supporting jobs, while not being allowed to sell alcohol. But these limitations are endless for smaller city centre bars, late-night premises, nightclubs, entertainment and live music venues, that are now starved of financial support and just won’t make it through the next couple of months.”
 
Seven in ten night-time operators fear covid status certification will damage business: Seven in ten night-time economy operators have said covid status certification would damage their business, according to a flash survey by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA). Prime minister Boris Johnson has said the government is exploring the possibility of such certification to open up areas of the economy such as nightclubs and concerts. But 70% of businesses surveyed by the NTIA felt covid status certification, negative testing or immunity proof are not necessary to open their event or premises safely while 69% said it would have a negative impact on business. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: “The positive news from the roadmap has been overshadowed by the potential impact of covid status certificates being implemented by the government for businesses to allow for the ease of social contact restrictions, with the overwhelming majority of UK nightlife sector believing the measures will have a detrimental impact on trade. Businesses are, likewise, frustrated at the way in which the government is communicating these potential restrictions – with many feeling a considerable number of questions left unanswered. These businesses have suffered extreme financial hardship for more than 12 months and are desperate to open but they have been left feeling uncertain once again following a government announcement.”
 
New alfresco dining being brought to London’s West End and Liverpool ONE: New alfresco dining is being brought to London’s West End and Liverpool ONE in time for reopening by Grosvenor Britain & Ireland. From Monday (12 April), more than 800 outdoor dining places will be available at dining destinations and public spaces across Mayfair and Belgravia. Following the success of last summer’s schemes, North Audley Street has been transformed into an outdoor “dining room” experience with environmentally friendly lighting and heating, and widened pavements. Grosvenor Square will play host to new seating for 150 people and picnic areas. In Motcomb Street, Belgravia, the recently opened Pantechnicon will welcome guests to its Roof Garden, while Grosvenor has invested in 150 new outdoor dining seats on the street and in the recently completed Halkin Arcade. This will be supported by Grosvenor’s largest marketing campaign for its destinations supporting all tenants and the recovery of the West End. Meanwhile, Grosvenor will increase its outdoor seating capacity by 100% at Liverpool ONE to facilitate an additional 610 covers, all in keeping with social distancing guidelines, ahead of outdoor reopening next week. Of these, half of the covers introduced will bolster the existing outdoor seating areas of Liverpool ONE’s restaurants, cafes, bars and leisure experiences, while the remainder will form part of pop-up activations across Chavasse Park alongside new, dedicated communal spaces across the destination.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a leisure business, operating in the north of England, which is looking for a finance director and is looking to speak to ACA/ACCA/CIMA-qualified candidates. The finance director will be responsible for ensuring the business is supported on all financial matters, ensuring all financial and tax obligations are met as well as driving the annual budgeting process, including profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow. The position is paying £80,000 to £90,000 plus benefits. Anyone interested can email Oliwia@corecruitment.com with their CV.
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News:

Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken begins national expansion with Essex franchise deal: South west-based operator Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken is to begin its national expansion after signing a franchise deal to open in Essex, Propel has learned. The nine-strong company, which is led by Carl Traill and backed by HBM Investments, will open the first site under the new agreement with franchisee Joe Bhangal in Billericay later this summer. Propel understands the Billericay site will be the first of ten stores planned in the Essex area over the next three to five years for the brand, with openings lined up in Colchester, Chelmsford, and Southend-on-Sea. The company is also believed to be in advanced talks with franchisees for the south Wales, Birmingham and Hertfordshire regions. Traill told Propel that Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken was actively recruiting multiple site franchisees across the country and had mapped out 85 regions in which the brand could expand into. He said: “Aside from trying to stay afloat over the past year, we have also been busy examining opportunities to grow the business. We are in discussions with a number of multiple franchisees, who can support five sites and above, across the country, including two regions in Birmingham and south Wales. Traill, former director of operations at Burger King UK, joined the business in 2019, at the same time as it secured new funding from HBM Investments – a vehicle that includes experienced franchisee Amir Mashkoor as a director. Mashkoor previously operated 25 Subway restaurants in Greater London. Millie’s currently operates seven sites in Bristol, plus sites in Yate and West-super-Mare. Traill said the company was continuing to look at opportunities to open more sites in Bristol and the surrounding areas. Harry Latham, who with Ray Allen, opened the first Kentucky Fried Chicken store outside North America in 1965, founded Miss Millie’s in 1988. 
 
Abokado begins reopening estate: London-based healthy eating chain Abokado has begun reopening its estate after being acquired out of administration last year, Propel has learned. Abokado has reopened its Westminster store, with more to follow shortly. The outlet, which is just outside St James’s underground station, is offering takeaway as well as delivery via UberEats in the Pimlico, Victoria and Westminster areas. Abokado, which was founded in 2004 by Mark and Lindsay Lilley, was acquired by a new vehicle – Montway Holdings – that was set up by the chain’s founders – in October last year. It now operates ten sites having previously had a 19-strong estate prior to the administration. 
 
Chilango to launch debut digital-only site, opens delivery kitchen in Hove: Mexican restaurant brand Chilango is to launch its first digital-only site. Located at Boxpark in Croydon, the restaurant will open on Monday (12 April) and Chilango said it signals the group’s commitment to recovery and growth as it emerges from the pandemic. At the Croydon restaurant, guests will be able to order food via Chilango’s new digital kiosks or in advance via the website. Orders can then be picked up through the designated pick-up area. Croydon is the first restaurant to have completely digital ordering and will be a test bed for future digital growth and development. During lockdown, the business has benefited from the growing demand for home deliveries of food and opened three delivery kitchens – in Battersea, Canary Wharf and Reading. It has added to that with an opening in Hove, operating from the Deliveroo Editions kitchen in Olive Road. Chilango managing director Richard Franks said: “We are excited to be exploring new ways to bring the Chilango experience to our guests. We first trialled digital screens in our London Wall restaurant in 2019 and saw such a strong performance we were keen to trial a restaurant with digital-only ordering. This new style of restaurant opens up possibilities of different footprints for future openings and pipeline. Consumers are demanding more digital access than ever before so we’re constantly exploring new ways to enhance the experience for our customers. During lockdown, delivery and online orders made a huge difference to our business and this will continue to be a key driver of our recovery and future growth strategy.” Chilango operates ten restaurants and four delivery kitchens.
 
Supper launches £5m fundraise to expand across London: London-based premium food delivery service Supper has launched a £5m funding round to expand across the capital. The platform, which has described itself as the “Michelin star Deliveroo”, will raise £1.5m through private equity investment firm Growthdeck as part of the fundraise. Supper said it had doubled its customer base to more than 80,000 users since the beginning of the pandemic, as consumers sought to replicate the restaurant experience at home. By the end of the year, Supper is aiming to increase its customer numbers to 120,000 and the number of restaurants on the platform to 300. The funding round will also be used to develop localised partner kitchens in order to widen its geographic spread. Founded by Peter Georgiou in 2015, Supper uses a fleet of specially adapted scooters and directly employed drivers to cater for the premium end of the market. All of its drivers are employed directly, avoiding the use of “gig economy” workers. Gary Robins, head of business development at Growthdeck, said: “We’re delighted to be launching a second round of investment for Supper, which has already cemented itself as the go-to food delivery service for fine dining, upmarket restaurants and high-end retailers. This is a clear gap in the restaurant delivery market that Supper has managed to carve out.” Propel also understands Nick Basing, who is set to stand down as chairman of Ten Entertainment Group later this year, has become a shareholder of and investor in Supper.
 
Lina Stores to open debut international site: Delicatessen brand Lina Stores is to make its international debut. The White Rabbit Fund-backed company will open its first site outside the UK in Shibuya, Tokyo, this summer. Lina Stores Omotesando will open with a small plate restaurant and adjoining delicatessen for eat-in and takeaway. The 90-seater restaurant will feature an open-theatre kitchen and dedicated pasta room. The menu will include a number of London favourites such as crab and scallop rondini with prawn and confit cherry tomato together with new dishes exclusive to Japan. The adjoining delicatessen will provide a range of cured meat, cheese, fresh pasta, panini, desserts and coffee. Lina Stores head chef Masha Rener said: “I have enormous respect for Japanese cooking and culture, in particular their mastery at extracting unique flavours through craft and dedication. Handmade pasta requires similar focus and both traditions rely on the use of seasonal artisanal produce to achieve the best plate of food. We chose the Omotesando neighbourhood in Tokyo because it’s a hive of creative energy.” Lina Stores operates restaurants in London’s Soho and Kings Cross as well as its original delicatessen in Brewer Street.

Away Resorts reports record bookings, invests more than £50m ahead of reopening next week: UK holiday park operator Away Resorts has reported record bookings and invested more than £50m as it prepares for reopening next week. The company said bookings were up 47% year-on-year, with February and March recording the biggest ever months for bookings being made. It said a new younger demographic was coming to its holiday parks, with a 25% increase in bookings from young families aged 20 to 28. Longer breaks were also being favoured with guests booking for an average of 4.7 days, increasing the average length of stay by 12% from pre-covid. Guests are also willing to spend more on their stays with the company stating demand for its “indulgent class” accommodation was up 45% year-on-year and already 80% sold for the year ahead. Away Resorts has invested more than £50m over the past 12 months, including the acquisition of three additional parks – Boston West, St Ives and Cleethorpes – and an initial £10m redevelopment of Mill Rythe on Hayling Island in Hampshire. It said the pipeline of further opportunities “remains strong”. In line with its target of reducing carbon emissions by 10% in 2021, Away Resorts has introduced an all-electric caravan to its parks. The company has also recently launched The Esme, accommodation designed specifically with social media users in mind. Chief executive Carl Castledine said: “The public have shown great resilience and having been locked down for the past year are now ready to get out an enjoy a well-deserved break. We have worked tirelessly over the past year to make our parks safe and built on our heritage by driving innovation across the industry.”
 
Jollibee lines up Cardiff opening: Jollibee, the Philippines fast food group, which last month said it plans to invest £30m on expanding in the UK, has lined up its debut site in Wales. The company, which plans to open ten new sites in 2021, has secured the former Burger King site in Cardiff’s Queen Street for an opening this summer. Propel revealed this week Jollibee has also targeted an opening at 92-93 Briggate in Leeds. The fried chicken brand, which operates about 1,200 sites worldwide, plans to be in “every major city in the UK”, and is planning a further 15 to 20 openings here next year. It currently operates three sites in the UK, with a flagship site on the ex-Bella Italia site in Leicester Square, complete with a new store design concept, set to open next. It also has openings lined up in Reading, Nottingham, Edinburgh and Newcastle. Its expansion in Europe will include its first restaurant in Spain, which will open later this year in Madrid.
 
Chopstix to open site at The Trafford Centre in Manchester: Chopstix, the pan-Asian quick service restaurant concept, is opening a site at The Trafford Centre in Manchester this month. The company, which has more than 60 outlets across the country, will open in the 750 square foot spot adjacent to Burger King on a ten-year lease. The launch forms part of the brand’s wider nationwide expansion, which has seen five outlets open in the past year. The outlet will join other eateries in The Orient – one of Europe’s largest food courts – providing deliveries and click and collect services until normal service is able to resume, anticipated for mid-May. Chopstix managing director Jon Lake said: “We’ve always dreamed of having a store at the Trafford Centre and to see it happening is just incredible. Lockdown has been hard for us all but we hope customers new and old can click their sticks and delight in our quick and tasty offering.” Nick Williams, senior director at CBRE, The Trafford Centre’s asset manager, said: “Chopstix joining the centre’s mix of eateries in The Orient will be a really exciting addition to spice up our offering this year. The Trafford Centre has continued to enhance its vibrant mix of eateries available for customers, with other recent launches including Archie’s and Slim Chickens also reflecting consumer demands and creating opportunities for brands to reach a wider audience.” Cushman and Wakefield advised The Trafford Centre on retail leasing and Metis Real Estate Advisors on food, beverage and leisure leasing.
 
Bean secures Sale site: North west-based independent coffee company Bean is to open a site in Sale. The company will open the branch at the Jackson House office development after agreeing a deal with landlord CEG. The 128,000 square foot Jackson House is undergoing a £6m refurbishment, including an extension, new gym, meeting rooms and a terrace with indoor and outdoor seating to complement the new food and drink outlet. Bean already has a site at CEG’s Exchange Station development in Liverpool. Jon Whyte, Bean co-founder and managing director, said: “Jackson House will be a fantastic place to work, meet and socialise, and we are looking forward to opening and expanding our collaboration with CEG.” Robert Morton, investment manager at CEG, said: “Bean Coffee’s expansion into Jackson House is fantastic for our tenants. We’ve been impressed with the quality of the roastery and deli range Bean provides at our Liverpool development and we were keen to see a similar food and drink offer at Jackson House.” Bean operates 13 sites across the north west.
 
Innis & Gunn appoints director of marketing: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has appointed Fiona Kennie to the new role of director of marketing as it bolsters its in-house marketing team with a host of new hires to support ambitious growth plans. Marketing investment in the business has also increased by a further six figures on the previous year as the company seeks to continue momentum and further build awareness in England. Kennie has 20 years of broad marketing experience across a variety of strategic roles, spanning the breadth of the global drinks industry. She will shape a new marketing strategy to drive brand growth. She will also lead Innis & Gunn’s internal marketing team, which now includes nine staff, with four new appointments and two further roles to be added – community communications executive and social media content creator. Steph Forsyth has also joined Innis & Gunn in the new role of PR and internal communications manager while Lauren Baillie has arrived as social media editor and e-commerce executive Natalie Brennan will lead Innis & Gunn’s e-commerce strategy. Innis & Gunn founder Dougal Gunn Sharp said: “I have never been more confident in the future of Innis & Gunn than I am now, and this is partly due to our new marketing team. With Fiona at the helm, we have a clear brand positioning and clear strategy and the right internal expertise across the new team, ready to deliver.”
 
Civerinos to open fifth Edinburgh site: Edinburgh pizza brand Civerinos is to open its fifth site in the city. The company is opening the venture on the promenade at Portobello beach on Monday (12 April). The premises is called Prom Slice and follows its recent opening in Corstorphine, called West Slice. Prom Slice will have a window for takeaway and space indoors for 20, with an outdoor seating area that will feature up to 50 deckchairs overlooking the sea. Civerinos serves a selection of 20-inch pizzas and slices with a range of sides alongside smoothies and frozen margaritas. Owner Michele Civiera told Herald Scotland: “I have always dreamt of opening in Portobello since I moved here seven years ago with my family. I just wanted somewhere to take the kids in the evening for pizza on the beach. When this opportunity came up, it was the perfect location and fit for us.” Civerinos also operates outlets in Hunter’s Square and Forrest Road, as well as the High Dive pizza pub and restaurant in St Leonard’s Place.

Team behind Manchester’s Common bar to open new pub and pizza shop: The team behind the Common bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter is to open a new pub and pizza shop in one of the city’s newest neighbourhoods. Founded by husband and wife team Jonny and Charlotte Heyes, Common & Co will be the first operators at the £250m Kampus neighbourhood being developed by Capital & Centric and HBD. Cornerstone is the latest pub concept from the Heyes and is described as a “traditional boozer reimagined for the 21st century”. Common & Co is also bringing its giant pizza slices, with Nell’s Pizza opening next door to provide the food. Already at Common and The Beagle in Chorlton, Nell’s Pizza is known for its 22-inch New York-style pizzas. The new pub includes outdoor seating overlooking the canal, and is set to open in July. Jonny Heyes said: “We got the impression the vision for Kampus would be something we, as an independent operator, could get on board with. It will be a thoughtfully curated selection of independent businesses as part of a neighbourhood ecosystem. All it was lacking was a pub and a pizza shop.” Adam Higgins, co-founder at Capital & Centric added: “Cornerstone will be at the heart of the Kampus community, just like the local pub should be. This is going to be setting the tone for what we’re creating at Kampus – independent, laid back and for everyone.”

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