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Fri 9th Apr 2021 - Loungers secures 12-month extension to bank facilities; taking phased approach to reopening
Loungers secures 12-month extension to bank facilities; taking phased approach to reopening: Cafe bar operator Loungers has announced it has secured a 12-month extension to the bank facilities it secured last April, which now provides the 168-strong company with total facilities of £25m. The Lounge and Cosy Club operator said that its lending banks, Santander and Bank of Ireland, have approved a 12-month extension to the incremental £15m revolving credit facility (RCF) that was put in place in April 2020. This additional facility now runs to October 2022 and provides the company with total RCF facilities of £25.0m. It also said that covenant tests at 18 April 2021 have been waived and subsequent quarterly tests until 26 December 2021 have been reset to provide “appropriate headroom to enable a full resumption of the company’s new site roll-out programme”. At the same time, the company said it intends to take a phased approach to reopening and will initially open 47 sites in England on 12 April for takeaway and external trading, and five sites in Wales on 26 April on the same basis, in line with the respective governments’ suggested roadmaps. It said that assuming no changes to the roadmap, it plans to reopen all of its English sites by 17 May and its sites in Wales later in May subject to confirmation from the Welsh government. In addition, the group also plans to open four new Lounge sites in Wolverhampton, Stourbridge, Welwyn Garden City and St Ives by 26 May bringing its estate to 172 sites in total, comprising 142 Lounges and 30 Cosy Clubs. These new sites were partially fitted out going into lockdown at the end of December 2020 and are currently being completed. The company said: “We are approaching reopening with enthusiasm and optimism, encouraged by how strongly the business traded last Summer and Autumn. Our sites have been completely closed since 30 December and we have used this time well, continuing to focus on evolution within Lounge and Cosy Club, as well as undertaking targeted investment in our sites, particularly in our outside trading areas. We remain confident that Loungers is well-placed to emerge strongly as the country comes out of lockdown. We anticipate – and are ready to return to – a run-rate of 25 new site openings per year during the course of the year ending April 2022, assuming no further covid interruptions. The pipeline of new sites is exceptionally strong and we continue to see a large number of attractive opportunities in the locations which we are targeting.” Nick Collins, chief executive of Loungers, said: “Having been closed since 30 December, it is really exciting to be back in some of the sites, preparing to open our terraces to customers on Monday. Whilst it is frustrating that we have to wait until 17 May to re-open more fully given the steps we have taken to ensure our business is covid-safe, it does allow us to re-open gradually, bring our teams back from furlough and get the supply chain back up and running. We expect to trade well once the estate is fully re-opened, particularly with our strong coastal presence as we look forward to a summer of staycationing. Planned new openings in Blackpool, Scarborough and Aberystwyth ahead of the summer holidays will reinforce this position. Our suburban and market town locations, combined with our flexible, all-day model, mean we are well-positioned as we look to the future. The most recent lockdown has given us a real opportunity to build a fantastic pipeline of new sites in what is undoubtedly a tenant-friendly environment. We will approach the coming months cautiously but are very keen to get back to opening 25 sites a year at the earliest opportunity with such excellent properties being presented to us, and we are grateful to Santander and Bank of Ireland for their continued support.”

Pub staff will check drinkers’ phones to prove they have registered with Test and Trace: Drinkers must hand their phones to pub staff to prove they have registered on the NHS Test and Trace app when beer gardens open on Monday (12 April) under a tightening of rules to track covid in hospitality venues. The Telegraph reports that under the latest guidance pub staff must look at customers’ mobile phone screens to make sure that they have registered with Test and Trace before they can be served. Drinkers will still have the option of registering manually by filling out a form with their name and telephone number. The guidance, issued ahead of the outdoor reopening, says that “should someone choose to check in with the official NHS QR code poster, a venue should check their phone screen to ensure they have successfully checked in”. Under the rules from Monday, all customers will have to register with Test and Trace rather than just one person per group. Pub bosses have raised concerns that the rules will place an additional burden on staff as hospitality venues try to recover from the pandemic lockdowns. They are also concerned that staff who demand proof customers have registered could face abuse. Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “This is putting high onus on individual staff working in premises to check people’s phones, and we are continuing to work with the government to try and get a more pragmatic, proportionate and reasonable solution. We’re concerned to ensure that we minimise chances of harassment or abuse of staff.”

UberEats rollouts new Dine-In feature that allows diners to order in-person: Uber is rolling out a new feature which will allow customers eating in at restaurants to order and pay via the app. The ‘Dine-In’ tool goes live today ahead of the easing of lockdown restrictions on 12 April which will see pubs and restaurants with outdoor space welcome patrons for the first time in 2021. Uber says the feature will be available at all sites that are already registered on Uber Eats. ‘Dine-In’ is being rolled out to all users in the UK today after successful trials at various sites here last year. Users will find the Dine-In option in the normal UberEats app and will be able to access a participating restaurant’s menu by scanning a unique QR code. The company said the aim of the new function was to prevent unnecessary contact with objects which are touched by several people, such as menus and card machines. Payment can be taken via the app in the same way as customers buy food for delivery on UberEats. MailOnline understands Uber is waiving all commission fees and payment processing costs until the end of 2021. Toussaint Wattinne, general manager for Uber Eats in the UK and Ireland, told MailOnline: “We know the last year has been incredibly hard for restaurants, and we want to champion small businesses and do our bit to support the UK’s economic recovery. The best way to support restaurants is by getting back out there to support your local, and our new Dine-In feature will enable restaurants to open their doors safely, process orders efficiently, and at no extra cost.”

Private chef parties at home startup Yhangry raises $1.5m: Yhangry, London-based startup that brings affordable private chefs to your door has netted $1.5m (£1.09m) in seed funding from a flurry of big-name serial investors to fuel its expansion. Launched in late 2019 by former Barclays traders Heinin Zhang and Siddhi Mittal, the platform aims to “democratise access to premium private chefs” so that Londoners can book a previously elite-only experience for special occasions at home. In the time it takes to book a restaurant, customers can choose a date and bespoke menu and book in a vetted chef for as little as £17 per person. According to the Evening Standard, angel investors include former Tech Nation chair Eileen Burbidge’s Passion Capital, which was one of the earliest backers of online bank Monzo. Other backers include Made in Chelsea star Ollie Locke and Index Ventures partner Martin Mignot, who has invested in companies such as scooter company Bird. The app currently has around 130 freelance qualified chefs on its books and has served around 7,000 Londoners. The pair will use the new capital to double the size of their team by the end of the year, and further develop Yhangry technology and services across the UK, before targeting an international rollout.

Shaftesbury to extend al fresco dining plans: Shaftesbury has announced it will extend its al fresco dining plans across its London West End estate. Working closely with its occupiers and with Westminster and Camden Councils, Shaftesbury’s villages will now have outdoor dining space available to safely seat 3,000 visitors, all while observing social distancing guidelines. The landlord said that the enhanced al fresco seating scheme builds on the successful trial of pavement dining across the West End in 2020 and will cover all of its villages, which includes Carnaby, Chinatown, Fitzrovia, Seven Dials and Soho, providing comfortable all day dining opportunities for seated groups of up to six people. Visitors will be able to dine outdoors at over 165 eateries across the villages, while each of Carnaby, Chinatown and Seven Dials have their own outdoor communal seating to ensure visitors can also enjoy restaurants offering takeaway menus. To further enhance the experience for visitors, each of the villages will be running their own programme of outdoor events and installations throughout the summer. Julia Wilkinson, restaurant director, said: “We are extremely excited to welcome visitors back to the West End after what has been a difficult 12 months for everyone, and we are especially grateful to all those who have put in a huge amount of work to prepare our villages for re-opening. We continue to follow all government guidelines and have adapted our extensive al fresco dining areas to allow visitors to enjoy our vibrant shops, restaurants, cafes and bars in a safe and comfortable environment, which in turn will assist our tenants with their recovery efforts. I’m sure that we have all missed the irreplaceable experience of visiting our favourite West End restaurants, cafes and bars and very much look forward to returning to support them and to enjoy the best of West End hospitality once again.”

Mamma Dough on the hunt for franchise partners to expand across the country: Better pizza concept Mamma Dough has announced plans to expand across the country with a franchising model. Mamma Dough said it has built a loyal London fan base and is looking to replicate that on a wider geographic scale while maintaining its quality, atmosphere and service values. It added that operating in suburban areas during the pandemic has contributed to its success. Jake Harrison, who founded Mamma Dough in 2014, said: “We’ve had a lot of interest in franchising but never felt ready as a business but we truly feel now is the right time for Mamma Dough to spread its wings. As a result of covid and the efficiency games and business model reshape, Mamma Dough is now in a position to seriously explore the next step with franchising.” The business has sites in Honor Oak Park, Brixton, Peckham, Ladywell, Sydenham, South Norwood and Tooting Bec.

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