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Thu 17th Jun 2021 - Update: Loungers, Whitbread, delivery apps, takeaway and No 1 Lounges
Loungers reports like-for-like sales up 26.6% in the four weeks after indoor dining opened up: Loungers has reported five new openings since its year end on 18 April – new sites in Wolverhampton, St Ives, Stourbridge, Welwyn Garden City and Blackpool brings the estate size to 173 – and like-for-like sales up 26.6% in the first four weeks since indoor dining was allowed. The company stated: “In the period following the initial relaxation of covid-19 related restrictions on 12 April, Loungers opened 88 sites to trade outdoors only. While the weather made this challenging at times, outdoors trading allowed for a phased and controlled reopening of the estate. With the further relaxation of restrictions on 17 May allowing indoors trading, Loungers reopened all of its sites. Like-for-like sales over the four-week period from 17 May through to 13 June were up 26.6%, using the period 20 May to 16 June 2019 as the comparator. While these are still early days, and trading has benefitted from significant pent-up demand and the VAT reduction, we are encouraged by the initial strength of our trading performance and remain confident the company will emerge strongly from this period.” Net debt as of 18 April was £34.6m, with a further £12.9m of outstanding rent and deferred liabilities to HM Revenue & Customs. Chief executive Nick Collins said: “I am really pleased with how the business has reopened and our trading performance has once again demonstrated the resilience of both the Lounge and Cosy Club brands. Customers have returned with confidence and our team have performed amazingly. While the government’s recently announced decision to leave the remaining restrictions in place for a further four weeks is disappointing for the hospitality sector as a whole, we look forward to a return to normality on 19 July.” 

Propel Premium subscribers to receive updated database of multi-site companies on Wednesday, 30 June: Propel Premium subscribers will receive the updated database of multi-site companies on Wednesday, 30 June, at midday. The latest database, released at the end of May, saw an additional 108 multi-site companies added taking it to 1,819 businesses with subscribers also receiving a 14,000-word report on the new brands, concepts and growth businesses, many of which have big growth ambitions in Britain. The exhaustive database, due for release at the end of June, will have at least 1,881 multi-site companies listed – and is only available to Propel Premium subscribers. 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. 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.
 
Whitbread reports 'encouraging trends' post 17 May: Whitbread has reported total accommodation sales down 60.9% in the 13 weeks to 27 May, its first quarter, and food and beverage total sales down 86.0%, reflecting the government's lockdown restrictions that were in place for most of the quarter. The company reported “encouraging trends post 17 May”, when overnight leisure stays were permitted. It has “very strong forward booking trends in tourist locations throughout the summer, and improved forward bookings across the majority of the rest of the estate, with the exception of airport locations and central London”. Chief executive Alison Brittain said: “The group traded significantly ahead of the market during the quarter, despite the impact of the UK government restrictions that were in place for the majority of the first quarter. Trading in the UK since 17 May, when overnight leisure stays were permitted, and when our restaurants fully reopened for indoor service, has been encouraging. Additionally, our forward bookings continue to improve, benefiting from the anticipated post-lockdown bounce in leisure demand, and a continued gradual improvement in business bookings. During the first quarter we opened ten new hotels in the UK. We hold a uniquely advantaged position in the UK, built on our scale, market-leading direct distribution, and strength of the Premier Inn brand. Our position as the market leader in the fast-recovering budget sector is combined with a broad, domestic focused customer mix. This, alongside our financial flexibility and ability to invest in our customer proposition when others are constrained, means we are well-positioned to continue our strong performance. In Germany, we now have a business of scale with a national footprint. Our accelerated pipeline growth saw three new hotels added, taking our open and committed pipeline to 73 hotels, and we continue to assess opportunities to grow the pipeline through both organic and non-organic routes. As in the UK, the German hotel market is recovering, and we anticipate a steady improvement in occupancy rates in our 30 operational hotels as we move through the summer. In both markets, our financial strength will enable us to capitalise on the enhanced structural opportunities that will exist, and drive long-term value for all stakeholders.”

Meal delivery apps ‘push up price by as much as 44%’: Ordering takeaways via an app is up to 44% more expensive than buying directly from the restaurant, according to Which?. Prices are driven up because of the fee restaurants must pay to the major delivery firms Deliveroo, UberEats and Just Eat. The companies also charge customers for each delivery or monthly subscriptions, topped up with handling and so-called small order fees. Researchers from the consumer group Which? compared the cost of ordering meals for two to four people from five unnamed restaurants and cafes, including the food itself and fees such as delivery. Ordering via a takeaway app was 23% (£7.14) more expensive on average per meal than using the restaurants’ own services. Deliveroo was generally the most expensive, costing an average of 31% (£9.91) more. Buying a takeaway from a burrito and taco restaurant came in at £43.94 with Deliveroo, which was 44% (£12.29) more than ordering direct. Even before adding delivery and service charges, the food was 26% (£8.30) more expensive. UberEats orders cost an extra 25% (£7.93) on average, while Just Eat’s were 7% (£1.56) more expensive. A number of restaurants told Which? they had raised prices to cover the commission of 15% to 35% demanded by delivery services. The consumer group said fixing problems with orders could also be difficult as customers were “caught between the restaurant and the app”. Adam French, of Which?, said: “The undoubted convenience offered by a delivery app comes with a hidden additional cost.” Deliveroo said it aims to offer customers great value while allowing restaurants to boost sales. UberEats said: “We are focused on ensuring the best restaurants and best selection of food is available to customers, delivered in an average time of less than 30 minutes.” Just Eat said its “commission rates are aligned with the value we provide to our partners and…it’s really important to us that our customers have a positive experience”.

Delivery and takeaway still booming despite the return of eating in: May’s delivery and takeaway sales at Britain’s leading restaurant and pub groups were 273% higher than in May 2019, CGA’s latest Hospitality at Home Tracker has revealed. The figure is down on the Tracker’s 2021-on-2019 growth of 345% in April, following the reopening of hospitality for inside service in the second half of May. However, it indicates deliveries and takeaways are certain to remain a much more significant element of groups’ operations than they were before covid-19. CGA’s Hospitality at Home Tracker shows growth in delivery sales was more than twice as high as takeaways, thanks in large part to the rising popularity of third-party delivery platforms. Combined, they accounted for almost half (49.7%) of restaurant and pub groups’ sales in May, with eat-in contributing the remainder (50.3%). “While many consumers seized the chance to eat out again, hospitality’s reopening for inside service isn’t diminishing the appeal of deliveries and takeaways,” said Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA. “With the quality and convenience of at-home ordering rising, the lockdowns of the past 15 months have firmly embedded it in people’s habits. It will be fascinating to see where the balance of eating-out and ordering-in settles as COVID-19 restrictions loosen.” CGA’s Hospitality at Home Tracker collected sales figures directly from 17 out of the 22 companies participating. 

No 1 Lounges sells Australian sites: No1 Lounges, the British multi award-winning airport lounge operator, has sold its Australian lounges to Swissport Australia. The sale includes The House lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, together with My Lounge in Brisbane. The House is No1’s international brand offering “world-class hospitality” and the My Lounge concept boasts a “relaxed social lounging experience”. Chief executive John Upton said: “With No1’s expansion into Australia taking place at a rapid pace in recent years to take advantage of this fantastic high-growth market, we are naturally disappointed to see these lounges go. However, covid has impacted many businesses and ours is not immune. That said, we are delighted to have found a great partner in Swissport Australia to continue the No1 brands and experience in Australia and wish the very best for our former colleagues and commercial partners who have a wonderfully bright future with the new ownership team. This disposal enables us to strengthen our business in the UK and continue on our mission to make it easier for our customers to eat, drink and relax in style before they fly. Our customers and partners tell us that they can’t wait to visit us as we all re-emerge from the pandemic and we firmly believe that pay-to-use lounges like No1 will have an even greater role to play in the post-covid world.” As national and international travel comes back, No1 Lounges will continue to focus on its portfolio of nine lounges across the UK and will use this platform to expand again over the coming months and years. The No1 Lounge brand provides expansive lounging with a choice of experiences, from tended bars to bistros, set within luxurious surroundings. Clubrooms is the premium brand with individual private rooms, hosted table service, and complimentary drinks in an environment that evokes a modern private members’ lounge. 
No1 Lounges UK sites are located at Gatwick, Heathrow and Birmingham airports. No1 Lounges were ranked the best in the UK according to a study by Which? in March 2019.


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