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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 23rd Apr 2021 - Scotland’s biggest pub operator expects half its pubs will re-open next Monday
Scotland’s biggest pub operator expects half its pubs will re-open next Monday: Scotland’s biggest pub operator, Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars, expects around 50% of its 230 pubs in Scotland to reopen on 26 April. With half its pubs remaining closed, Star Pubs & Bars is continuing its rent reduction support until restrictions are fully lifted. By 17 May – when rules may next be eased – the company will have invested over £5.7 million in rent cuts to help its Scottish pubs through the pandemic. Its rent reduction support for the UK now stands at £62 million. In addition to rent relief, Star Pubs & Bars is offering its licensees free covid safety point-of-sale materials, and a raft of reopening support. This includes new training materials, trading insight and supplier discounts to enable licensees to make the most of their outside areas. Star licensees around Scotland are revamping their outdoor space in preparation for 26 April. Over the last two months, licensee Neil Douglas of Basils on Annfield in Newhaven, Edinburgh, has upgraded a stylish alfresco area he added to the pub during the first lockdown. Carrying out much of the work himself, Neil has installed sail-like covers, festoon lighting and pretty planting as well as new fencing to shelter customers from the sea breezes. The £8,000 revamp has gone down well with local residents. Lawson Mountstevens, Star Pubs & Bars managing director, said: “We know the rent relief, which represents a significant investment on behalf of Star Pubs & Bars during challenging times for the whole industry, will have a significant bearing on the future sustainability of our licensees’ businesses – and clearly we want to see our pubs thrive in the long-term. We’re delighted that the Scottish government has allowed us to reopen but the restrictions are onerous. Pubs are in a fragile state. The Scottish government urgently needs to provide additional financial assistance or scrap the nonsensical curfews and restrictions on drinking alcohol indoors that will hamper the recovery of Scotland’s pubs. The pandemic has shown the true partnership nature of leased and tenanted pubs. Throughout, we have tried to shoulder a fair share of the burden on Scotland’s pubs.”

Brands with big UK growth plans lead the updated multi-site database, only available to Propel Premium subscribers: The updated Propel Premium multi-site database, which will be sent to Premium subscribers next Friday (30 April) at midday, has gained an additional 84 companies during the past month, many of which have big growth ambitions in the UK. Subscribers will receive a 4,600-word report on the 84 new brands, concepts and growth companies. They include: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, founded in the US in 1972, has announced plans to enter the UK this year, as has Japanese udon noodles and tempura restaurant company Marugame Udon, with a July opening planned for Spitalfields and a second site at The O2 to follow. Others include Australia’s largest Mexican quick-service franchise Zambrero and South Korea’s leading fried chicken brand Pelicana. Doppio Malto has chosen Glasgow for its first opening in the UK, with the owner citing Italy’s connection with the city for the decision – it is the first of 100 planned sites. Miso Group, co-founded by Canadian chef Adria Wu, is planning a UK rollout of a technology-led Middle Eastern-inspired concept called Operation:Falafel. Hero Brands-operated healthy eating concept Choppaluna, has announced a UK rollout, with two London sites being looked at to complement its flagship site in Bloomsbury. The debut site for JiJi’s, a new Israeli-Japanese dining concept, will launch in London’s Islington Square development in June. Meanwhile, Australian entrepreneur Dennis Turner and former Deliveroo global head of restaurant strategy Cengiz Rahmioglu are to launch a Thai-focused concept called Burning Rose. The exhaustive database now holds the details of 1,713 companies – and is only available to Propel Premium subscribers, who will receive the updated list on Friday, 30 April. The go-to database has the most comprehensive multi-site operator information in the sector – 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. 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. Premium subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. In Friday’s (23 April) Premium Opinion column, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett looks at EG Group’s deal for Leon, where the brand goes next and the fight for roadside revenue. At the same time, he looks again at the rent situation. 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 to sign up.

Fulham Shore – group sales ahead of 2019, next few months may be the most exciting in the group’s history: Fulham Shore, the owner of the Franco Manca and The Real Greek brands, has this morning reported that its group sales in the week ended 18 April 2021 were “very encouraging”, being not only ahead of the previous week, but also ahead of the same week two years ago in April 2019. It said that these trading results were achieved without any inside seating and “our colleagues in the restaurants deserve great credit as demand has far exceeded the number of seats available at peak times”. The company has re-opened 70 out of its 72 Franco Manca and The Real Greek restaurants for various combinations of al-fresco dining, delivery and collection services. The restaurants’ terraces are operating as much al-fresco dining as possible. Currently, 37 out of the 52 operational Franco Manca pizzeria and 16 out of the 18 operational The Real Greek restaurants have outside tables. The group said it continues to identify potential new locations for its two businesses. In the last two weeks, it has inspected sites in many towns and cities across the UK including London, York, Durham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Liverpool and Manchester, for either new or additional sites. The company said: “Many of the restaurant locations we are seeing are available as a result of insolvency events and, as a result, are typically pre-existing fitted units. Sites of this nature have a lower opening cost to the group compared to shell units. We therefore expect a reduction in the group’s average capital expenditure per new site in the short term, and that this should improve our return on capital. The group continues to be presented with a number of excellent potential retail locations, almost on a daily basis. The board hopes that Fulham Shore can contribute towards the revival of town centres with new restaurant openings as the covid-19 restrictions ease. We look forward to recruiting many new staff members to our great teams at Franco Manca and The Real Greek in preparation for the new restaurants that we intend to open.” The business is currently in the process of building two new Franco Manca pizzeria: on High Holborn in London and on Mitchell Street in the Merchant City, Glasgow, with opening dates scheduled for June 2021. The company said: “The board believes that the next few months may be the most exciting in the group’s short history and looks forward to opening our restaurants fully once permitted and capitalising on the property opportunities that are being presented to us.”

Wales expects to re-open indoor hospitality on 17 May: Indoor hospitality and all tourist accommodation in Wales is expected to reopen on 17 May after the First Minister added further dates to the country’s coronavirus road map. Mark Drakeford said it would be for the incoming Welsh government to confirm the reopening, but the main opposition parties have already committed to the same date if they win the 6 May Senedd election. Other changes expected by 17 May include reopening indoor entertainment venues and attractions, with more changes “subject to the public health situation remaining favourable”. The dates for indoor hospitality and tourism accommodation brings Wales in line with the reopening dates in England. Wales has the lowest level of virus infections in the UK and is third in the world in terms of vaccine delivery.

Crispin Odey’s hedge fund bets against Deliveroo: A hedge fund that is part of Crispin Odey’s investment empire has revealed it took a short position against Deliveroo, the first sign that short-sellers are targeting the company following its disastrous float last month. James Hanbury and Jamie Grimston of Brook Asset Management, part of the Odey Asset Management group, took out the short position on 31 March when Deliveroo went public in London, the Financial Times reported. Deliveroo’s market debut was one of the worst on record for the City as the company’s share price fell more than 25%, wiping £2bn off its valuation. Its advisers partly blamed short sellers who bet against companies by selling borrowed stock and hoping it will fall, allowing them to return the trade at a profit. However, Odey’s short position did not reach the 0.5% disclosure threshold meaning it’s unlikely to have entirely accounted for Deliveroo’s performance since its debut. Deliveroo was forced to cut its valuation in the weeks ahead of its float after a series of major investors, including M&G, Aviva Investors and Aberdeen Standard, signalled serious concerns about its future. Deliveroo has failed to recover from its debut, with shares down around 40% from the listing price.

Best Western hotel in Somerset hits market for £2.5m on behalf of administrators: The Best Western Plus Centurion Hotel in Somerset has been brought to market, with a guide price of £2.5m, on behalf of joint administrators, Mark Boughey and Timothy Ball, of Mazars. The four-star hotel comprises 45-bedrooms along with extensive function facilities, a restaurant and bar, and the Centurion Health Club, which includes a gym. The grounds also feature a nine-hole golf course and club with circa 140 members. Opposite the hotel is also a former indoor bowling facility, which has since been converted to an educational training building. The hotel is located between Midsomer Norton and Radstock and is being marketed by Christie & Co. The site is held on a freehold basis with the benefit of two additional leases for Fosseway Bowls Club and Westfield Football Club. Additionally, the hotel offers development potential, with planning permission granted for redevelopment of the swimming pool, spa and health club facilities.

Daish’s Holidays reports bumper hotel bookings: Hotel operator Daish’s Holidays has reported bumper bookings for staycations in May – a 495% increase on the same period in 2019. The majority of bookings being made are for June – when the government hopes to lift all social distancing restrictions – with these up 699% compared with bookings made for the same period in 2019. Autumn and winter bookings are also on the rise compared with 2019, with October to December breaks receiving an average 418% increase. Paul Harper, sales and marketing director at Daish’s Holidays, said: “Spring and summer bookings have rapidly increased since January and it is evident people feel reassured holidays on home soil can go ahead this year.” The company will reopen its portfolio of ten hotels on Monday, 17 May. A small number of hotels have already begun providing outdoor dining options for locals. Daish’s Holidays also acquired The Esplanade Hotel in Scarborough last year, which is currently undergoing significant refurbishment work.

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