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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 14th Jul 2021 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Hostmore exploring QSR opportunities for Fridays, sees scope for 20 63rd+1st sites by 2023: Hostmore, the parent company of Fridays and the 63rd+1st concept, is exploring QSR opportunities for its core brand with service station providers. Under the heading “Fridays And Go”, it is thought the business is currently progressing QSR opportunities with service station providers for sites located in high footfall traffic sites for both drive-to and drive-in sites. Under the drive-in strategy, the company is looking at a capital-efficient model where service station operators hold the infrastructure and Fridays earns a licence fee. At the drive-in sites, customers will park in an allocated bay and order through a digital screen through voice activation. It is thought customers would also be able to use the digital screens as entertainment while they wait for their order, with the content managed by a specific service team. The company also believes there is a longer-term opportunity to develop drive-thru sites and kerbside delivery for the brand. Propel revealed this month, Hostmore had secured two new sites in Glasgow and Harrogate, for its fledgling 63rd+1st concept, which launched earlier this year in Cobham, Surrey. Targeting sites in university towns and secondary affluent cities, the company is believed to be close to securing a site in Cambridge for the concept, with openings in Bath, Oxford, Durham and Edinburgh also on its radar. It believes there is scope to have 20 sites under 63rd+1st by 2023. Propel revealed in April, the company had launched its first virtual delivery brand, Jailbreak Chicken, across 14 sites. It has now extended its reach to 33 Fridays site, and believes there is potential to launch it across the whole Fridays estate in due course. Last month, Fridays’ backers Electra Private Equity announced Hostmore as the name of the new parent company for Electra’s hospitality brands, which are intended to be demerged by Electra and admitted to the main market of the London Stock Exchange late in the third quarter of this year.

Industry News:

Whitbread-backed Pure among 62 new companies added to updated Blue Book for Premium subscribers: Healthy food-to-go group Pure has enjoyed such success that Whitbread took a 51% stake in the company in 2016 with an option to acquire the remaining stake – and the business is one of the 62 companies that has been added to the updated Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is now available to Premium subscribers. Founded by Ed Bentley and Spencer Craig in 2009, Pure has grown to 21 sites and has a turnover of £25.7m. The second edition features a total of 280 companies and provides an overview of the most recent five years, ranking them by turnover and profit conversion. It also shows directors’ earnings over five years and the top-earning director. Total turnover for the 280 companies is £25.8bn. The minimum company turnover included is £4m. The Blue Book is updated each month, with more companies added. 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 a second exclusive monthly database, The Propel Multi-Site Database. The updated database of multi-site companies for June included 63 new companies since its previous update in May – making a total of 1,880 listed businesses. Collectively, the 63 new companies operate 565 venues. Subscribers not only received the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they were also sent a 10,389-word report on the businesses added during June. 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 to sign up.
UKHospitality calls on Scottish government to provide further financial support to industry despite ‘relief’ over level zero move: UKHospitality has called on the Scottish government to provide further financial support to the sector with the industry still under “seemingly endless restrictions” despite the country moving to level zero. First minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed lockdown restrictions would be eased from Monday (19 July) – but with certain conditions. Face masks will remain mandatory while up to ten people from four households can meet in an indoor public place and 15 people from 15 households can meet outdoors. Pubs and restaurants can stay open until midnight – scrapping the 11pm curfew while working from home should continue where possible until 9 August. However, nightclubs will have to stay shut. Sturgeon also announced her plans for self-isolation rules for those who have been in close contact with a covid-19 case. However, these changes will only come into effect when the country moves beyond level zero – expected to be from 9 August at the earliest. From that point, people who have received both vaccines and had a negative PCR test will not be forced to isolate. UKHospitality Scotland chief executive Leon Thompson said: “The move to level zero – with a few modifications – for all of Scotland is very welcome and allows some of our members to finally reopen after many months of closure. However, hospitality continues to trade in a very difficult environment, which will not improve until all major restrictions are removed. Instead, businesses burdened with expensive short-term debt will continue to struggle, unable to break even while ongoing and seemingly endless restrictions continue. Again, there’s nothing on financial support for Scotland’s hospitality businesses, which are now set to fall further behind businesses in England. A new package of support can make the difference between survival and closure for some businesses.” Scottish Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “The decision to maintain a curfew is hugely disappointing and will exacerbate the financial difficulty many hospitality businesses find themselves in.” Scottish Hospitality Group spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “The midnight curfew is just a made-up time with no evidence to justify it. It’s like Groundhog Day with our warnings about driving people into house parties and other uncontrolled spaces that lack all the precautions you find in responsible pubs, restaurants and hotels. The government didn’t listen last year when we cautioned them about this and they’re not listening now.”

Pub industry drives increasing confidence in sector’s future prospects but extension to VAT reduction key to prospects: Sector businesses are increasingly confident about their future prospects despite the enormous impact of covid-19 on the industry but believe an extension of the VAT reduction beyond September will be key to their prospects. The latest hospitality snapshot survey by sector specialist accountancy firm haysmacintyre found 70% of the 92 respondents were either confident or very confident about their business’ future prospects, even before prime minister Boris Johnson announced the full relaxation of all remaining covid-19 restrictions. This was a markedly more positive sentiment compared with haysmacintyre’s March survey, where 49% expressed confidence about the future. The increase in confidence is primarily driven by the pub sector, with 79% of pub and bar respondents now confident or very confident about the future, compared with just 41% in March. Meanwhile, 82% of hotel respondents are either confident or very confident about their future prospects, in line with 83% in March, whereas 60% of restaurants expressed confidence, up from 53%. Difficulty in recruiting staff appears to be the greatest challenge facing all hospitality businesses – 63% of operators cited it as their biggest issue after the initial reopening this spring. Meanwhile, 60% of respondents said the VAT rate cut was the government support measure they most wanted to be continued in some form going forward; a significantly greater proportion than the 20% of businesses that selected business rates relief as their most preferred option. Six in ten (62%) of hospitality businesses expect trading levels to return to normal before the second half of 2022, down from 70% who believed this would be the case in the March survey. Meanwhile, 43% of restaurants, along with 41% of pubs and bars, are confident of a return to normal trading levels sometime this year, compared with just 18% of hotels. Gareth Ogden, partner in the hospitality team at haysmacintyre, said: “With the economy finally reopening in full next week, there is optimism in the air. While many would like to see some form of support continue, or even be made permanent – not least VAT cuts and business rates reform – as government measures unwind, it is more likely they will cease altogether. Therefore, we are yet to see the full fallout for the sector, which will inevitably play out over the next 12 months.”
haysmacintyre is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member 
Stay-at-home Euros and staffing issues see industry like-for-likes fall 3.9%: Sector sales fell 3.9% last week compared with 2019 levels with the final stages of Euro 2020 taking place and staffing issues, according to the latest data from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. However, sales were up 10.3% on the previous week. Last week’s breakdown indicated food sales increased by 1.6% but drink sales were down 9.1%. S4labour chief customer officer Sam Wignell said: “It’s clear from speaking to our customers, a lack of staff – resulting from Brexit, covid restrictions and track and trace – is affecting worker availability. This is leading to a squeeze in the labour market for an industry that is heavily dependent on people. Hence, hampering the ability to trade.”
S4labour is a PropelBeatTheVirus campaign member 
Jones – putting long-term plans in place on how we can attract, retain and develop people is absolutely vital for hospitality: Karen Jones, executive chair of Prezzo, chair of Mowgli and Hawksmoor, and non-executive director at Deliveroo, has told Propel it is “absolutely vital” the sector puts long-term plans in place on how it can attract, retain and develop people. She also said the sector needs to be better at training people in management skills. She said: “What we have been poor at is allowing our people, both back and front-of-house staff, to progress and really develop management skills. If you look in kitchens across hospitality, I don’t see many programmes that up-skill young chefs in terms of their management skills. When there is a stretch on people, they get promoted very quickly, and I remember seeing this in the ’90s and again now, that a young sous chef will suddenly become a head chef, and he or she won’t necessarily possess those management skills. There is a technical skills part but leading a team requires enormous skills of leadership and management, and if you don’t have those and you can’t bring your team together and can’t deal with issues with people, then you burn out and leave the industry. Putting long-term plans in place about how we can attract, retain and develop people in hospitality is absolutely vital.” Jones said the crisis had also highlighted how vital the sector was to the vibrancy of high streets. She said: “What has become unquestionably true is the hugely important role hospitality plays in the ecosystem of the high street and the city centre. That vibrancy hospitality brings to our high streets and city centres, the entire inter-connectedness between hospitality, office life and retail, and in a wider sense between tourism, hospitality and culture, is unarguable. Hospitality, metaphorically and literally, lights up a high street. I was on the board of Asos for a long time and it gave me an early look and understanding of the power of online retail, which we have seen grown exponentially, and if you are going to tempt people out to shop for goods, be it clothes or food, it has got to be pleasurable. What makes it so is not just the shop that is selling the product but also the fact you can have a coffee, a pizza, etc. What has been done in terms of easing planning restrictions for outside spaces is wonderful and we need to hold on to that and not make it expensive and difficult again for that to go backwards.”
Football fever results in boost to UK hospitality footfall: UK hospitality footfall rose significantly on Sunday (11 July) for the Euro 2020 final, according to data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. The majority of cities across the UK experienced a steep increase in footfall, with the high street seeing the biggest boost, and London was the busiest city by far. With a 129% increase in footfall compared with the previous Sunday (4 July), high street pubs saw the biggest impact, with sports clubs enjoying a 62% increase, followed by pubs (up 53%) and bars (up 20%). With London hosting the final at Wembley, traffic was up by 89% compared with the week before. This was followed by Leeds (up 54%), Durham (up 46%), Newcastle (up 37%) and Bristol (up 35%). Wireless Social chief executive and founder Julian Ross said: “While it’s tough to take that England came so close to lifting the trophy, it’s really encouraging to see people getting out and supporting hospitality venues on what was the biggest night for English football in 55 years. Our data has been showing for some time now that consumers are eagerly returning to visit hospitality venues and, with ‘Freedom Day’ just around the corner, we’re hoping we’ll start to see footfall figures edge closer to pre-pandemic levels.”
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

British Land sees end to rent concessions as curbs ease: British Land has said it does not expect to grant further rent concessions to its tenants this quarter as the easing of coronavirus restrictions had boosted their trading. The company, which wiped more than £1bn from the stated value of its holdings in May as tenants were unable or unwilling to pay rent, said it was planning to take a firmer line as the “vast majority” of its customers were trading well. The firm, which counts London’s Broadgate Circle and Sheffield’s Meadowhall shopping centre in northern England among its assets, said it had seen a strong response to the reopening of indoor hospitality with restaurant sales on its portfolio up 6% in its second quarter compared with the same period in 2019. It said: “Where appropriate, we have agreed pragmatic and equitable solutions for the periods of closure, which include monthly payments and concessions. However, with trading restrictions substantially lifted and the vast majority of our customers trading well and paying the rent due, we do not expect to make further concessions this quarter.” Footfall at British Land’s shopping centres between 17 May and 3 July was 75% of 2019 levels, compared with 96% at outdoor retail parks. British Land chief executive Simon Carter said: “With lockdown restrictions lifting, we have seen a notable improvement in activity across our markets and our business is performing well.”

Indoor dining to reopen in Ireland for people with evidence of covid-19 immunity: Indoor hospitality in the Republic of Ireland is set to reopen for people with evidence of vaccination or immunity from covid-19. The cabinet approved new legislation on Monday (12 July) so those who are fully vaccinated or have had the virus within the past nine months can enter cafes, restaurants, pubs and others licensed venues. Accompanying minors will be allowed to enter with parents or guardians and social distancing measures will still apply. It comes following days of talks between the hospitality sector and senior Irish government officials about the resumption of indoor hospitality. The legislation is set to be passed this week to come into force next week, or by 26 July at the latest. It will run until 9 October, after when any extension must be approved by the Dail and Seanad. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar admitted it was “not the ideal way” to reopen indoor hospitality. He said: “We are entering a new phase of the pandemic largely due to the vaccination programme. Last year, we tried to live with covid and we were unable to do so, but we believe this is now possible as a consequence of the vaccination programme. We intend to reopen in a sustainable way.” Varadkar said he hoped the approach was not seen as “discrimination”, adding it is “entirely a public health measure”. The Restaurants Association of Ireland welcomed the move as a “giant leap towards reopening hospitality businesses safely, viably and sustainably”. Chief executive Adrian Cummins said: “While we don’t live in perfect pre-covid world, the announcement will give confidence to a sector we are moving forward in a direction that will give the opportunity to 20,000 hospitality businesses reopen indoors and 180,000 employees return to work.”
London hotel market reports best performance since start of pandemic as industry continues recovery: The London hotel market has reported its best performance since the start of the pandemic as the industry continues its recovery. Occupancy in June stood at 41% with average daily rate at £99.78 and revpar at £40.96, according to data from STR. The occupancy and revpar levels were the highest for any month in London since February 2020, while the average daily rate level was the highest since March 2020. 

Company News:

Slim Chickens lines up first north east opening: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) is looking to add to its Slim Chickens estate, with its first opening in the north east. Propel understands BRG has lined up an opening on the former MOD Pizza site in the Metrocentre, Gateshead, for the 11-strong Slim Chickens brand. Propel revealed last month that the company had lined up an opening on the former MOD site in Long Row, Nottingham. Sites in Bournemouth and Brighton are also thought to be on its radar. Slim Chickens opened its latest UK site in the new McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Cannock, West Midlands, in the spring. 
Honi Poké to open five new restaurants at it targets site in every major UK city by 2023: Hawaiian poké specialist Honi Poké is to open four new London sites and one in Manchester. The ten-strong group is launching restaurants in Victoria, Southbank, St Paul’s and Bishopsgate in the capital and at Selfridges at the Trafford Centre, in Manchester, within the next five months. They will join recent openings that include Manchester, which is delivery-only, as well as Fulham and Westfield Stratford in the capital. Founded by Vladimir Martynov and Kosta Varesko in 2017, the company aims to have a site in every major UK city by 2023. The Victoria site will be in the Tower development in Palmer Street while the Bishopsgate restaurant will be at British Land’s 155 Bishopsgate development in the City. The Southbank restaurant will be at the Tower Estate in Stamford Street and the St Paul’s opening will be in Fleet Place. The expansion plan is coupled with the launch of its premium, delivery-only, sushi brand Honi Sushi, which now has five locations across London. 

San Carlo to open Knightsbridge site under Cicchetti brand: San Carlo Restaurant Group, the north west-based operator, has revealed its new opening in London’s Knighsbridge will be under its Cicchetti brand. The company, which first announced the move last month, will launch the restaurant, adjacent to Harrods, later this year. The 286 square metre, two-storey, Italian restaurant will open at 6 Hans Road. It follows on from the Italian family-owned San Carlo Cicchetti restaurants at Piccadilly and Covent Garden in London, in Manchester and overseas in Doha, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The group is also behind other London restaurants including the Alto by San Carlo on the rooftop at Selfridges and Signor Sassi in Knightsbridge Green. The company will also launch a new concept – Italian brasserie Isola by San Carlo – at St Christopher’s Place next month. San Carlo Cicchetti Knightsbridge will open daily and offer all-day Italian dining. The culinary focus will be on cicchetti dishes, designed for sharing. Managing director Marcello Distefano said: “Our existing Cicchetti restaurants in Piccadilly and Covent Garden continue to flourish and this superb location feels like a natural fit for us.” San Carlo Restaurant Group is owned by the Distefano family and has 22 restaurants in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Leeds and Leicester along with Qatar, Riyadh, Bahrain and Bangkok. It is also set to open a restaurant at Manchester airport’s new “super terminal”. CDG Leisure acted for San Carlo Group on the Knightsbridge deal while CBRE advised the landlord, Dorrington.
San Carlo Group features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which has just been updated for Premium subscribers. San Carlo Group has turned over an average of £51m in the past five years. The Blue Book provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks 280 companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors. 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. Email to sign up.

Southampton-based Alternative Pubs eyes ten-strong estate after fantasy-themed revamp of city site: Southampton-based Alternative Pubs is eyeing growth to a ten-strong estate after reopening The Hobbit in the city following a £600,000 joint investment with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. The refurbishment of the property, which the three-strong Alternative Pubs has run since 2019, has given the pub a unique fantasy theme in keeping with its name and added one of the biggest beer gardens in the city centre. The revamp includes a burrow-like bar, a dungeon-styled live music room with space for an audience of 80 and armoury-inspired games area. A new outdoor stage area will have capacity for up to 500 people once restrictions are lifted. A new menu of food and drink will complement the fantasy theme. Alternative Pubs co-founders Jack Andrews and Hanson Leech are now eyeing further expansion with a view to building up a portfolio of up to ten leased pubs across other nearby city and town centres. Andrews said: “Our business model is built on leaseholds. As our money isn’t tied up in freeholds, we can expand more rapidly. The risk is also diversified and shared. The pandemic has shown you can’t underestimate the value of that.” Stephen McInerney, Star Pubs & Bars’ area manager for Southampton, added: “We’re delighted to have invested in The Hobbit and supported Alternative Pubs’ inspired vision for the pub.” Alternative Pubs also operates The Shooting Star and The Black Phoenix in Southampton.
Atul Kochhar to open Wembley Park and Beaconsfield restaurants: Two Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar is to open a restaurant at Wembley Park, north west London, and is also planning a launch in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. Kochhar has agreed a deal with Quintain to launch Masalchi, which means “the spice master”, later this year. Masalchi will be on the corner of Olympic Way and Wembley Park Boulevard. It will serve a pan-Indian menu of dishes that Kochhar discovered at street markets during his gastronomical travels of India. The menu will include Gurda Kapura Masala (a spicy curry made with offal and freshly roasted garam masala in a tomato-rich gravy) and Purani Dilli Ki Nihari Handi (old Delhi-style lamb stew) alongside grilled dishes. Kochhar said: “The energy and vibrancy of Wembley Park makes it one of the most exciting places in London right now. Opening my new dining concept in this neighbourhood and destination makes a lot of sense and will be a thrilling next chapter.” Quintain retail director Matt Slade added: “A Michelin-starred chef opening his newest restaurant in Wembley Park is a fantastic endorsement of what we are creating here.” Kochhar will also be adding to its portfolio with an opening in Beaconsfield. Kochhar has secured the former Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi premises in Aylesbury End to launch Riwaz this year. Propel understands Kochhar was keen to strengthen his presence in the county, having launched Hawkyns in nearby Amersham, and Sindhu and Vassu – both in Marlow. Kochhar also operates Indian Essence in Petts Wood, Kent. David Rawlinson, of Restaurant Property, acted for Kochhar on the Beaconsfield deal while Oli Marcroft, of KLM Retail, acted for the private landlord.
Inception Group to reopen west London nightclub the minute restrictions lift: Inception Group, which owns and operates concepts including Cahoots and Mr Fogg’s, will reopen its Chelsea nightclub, Maggies, the minute restrictions lift. Having been closed for more than a year, the Fulham Road venue, which has had a facelift while it was shut, will open at 12.01am on Monday (19 July) for seven days in a row before returning to its Thursday to Saturday opening days. Guests will be welcomed into the club, which is named after 1980s prime minister Margaret Thatcher, by a Boris Johnson impersonator. The refurbished venue includes a 1980s-inspired high school locker cloakroom with live streaming selfie screens. There is a new cocktail menu, which will feature Flashdance Frozen Daiquiri with Bacardi Carta Blanca rum, raspberry, lime juice and sugar; and By the Power of Grayskull with Bacardi Reserva Ocho años rum, lime juice, sugar, mint and Red Bull tropical. Founders Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling said: “Thank you for all your support during the past 16 months. It’s been very challenging, but we are delighted to, at last, have the green light to return to business much closer to normal. All our venues will be fully open from 19 July. Mr Fogg’s Secret Garden in Mayfair is a great new addition to the group and will also now be open on Sundays from August onwards. We will, of course, continue with enhanced hygiene and safety measures throughout the venues, but we can’t wait to get back towards how things were before March 2020.” Inception Group operates 11 venues across London.
Really Local Group secures Ealing site: Cultural infrastructure developer Really Local Group has secured a site in Ealing, west London. The company has signed a deal with British Land to transform the 15,000 square foot Karma Club into a new independent three-screen cinema and mixed-use community arts venue. The Karma Club is situated on the ground floor and basement of The Broadway. The venue has received planning approval and is set to open in early 2022. The ground floor will be home to Compound Coffee cafe and the main entrance down to the venue at basement level. In response to changes in working patterns as a result of the pandemic, the space will be flexible to accommodate activities ranging from co-working during the day to community events and performances in the evening. Really Local Group founder Preston Benson said: “In our post-pandemic world, celebrating our local culture and communities matters more than ever before. We are excited to be launching our latest independent cinema-led community hub within Ealing Broadway. We look forward to further enhancing the cultural offering in a borough with an established arts and film heritage, while also providing an adaptable, collaborative venue for locals to enjoy.” Really Local Group operates sites in Bermondsey, Canning Town, Catford, Hayes and Sidcup in London as well as Reading.
McDonald’s franchisees offering tuition and child care in a bid to attract new workers: McDonald’s franchisees in the US are offering higher hourly wages, paid time off and tuition payments in an attempt to win over workers. According to the Wall Street Journal, they are also offering back-up child care. The benefit has become popular among companies during the pandemic as employers and Americans emerging from the pandemic seek to adapt. McDonald’s said it was making a multimillion-dollar investment to back the franchisee efforts. Franchisees own 95% of the chain’s circa 13,450 US stores. In May, McDonald’s said it would bump up starting pay in its corporate-owned restaurants to between $11 and $17 an hour, and said it would keep assessing wages to be competitive.

Powerleague agrees deal to acquire five sites from rival PlayFootball: Britain’s biggest provider of five-a-side football has signed a deal to acquire five centres from its rival, PlayFootball. According to The Times, Powerleague, which is also expanding on the continent, is buying sites in Bury, Colchester, Luton, Romford and Shepherd’s Bush in west London, for an undisclosed sum and will invest about £500,000 to upgrade them. PlayFootball is controlled by the Sports & Leisure Group, which was formerly chaired by David Bernstein, the ex-chairman of the Football Association. The acquisition, which lifts Powerleague’s total to 41, marks a turnaround in the fortunes of the group following a company voluntary arrangement in 2018 that resulted in the shedding of 14 uneconomic sites. It has also bounced back strongly from the pandemic. The group, which also runs five and seven-a-side leagues at 248 locations owned by third parties, has also secured a site in Rotterdam for construction of its second Dutch centre and is seeking sites in the Republic of Ireland and France, as well as more in the UK. Christian Rose, who was brought in as chief executive in 2018, said at the end of his two to three-year business plan, Powerleague would probably seek a new private equity investor, merge with a rival or consider an AIM listing.
Wendy’s plans Peterborough drive-thru site: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, which made its return to the UK with an opening in Reading last month, is planning to open a drive-thru site in Peterborough. The company, which hopes to eventually open up to 400 sites in the UK, has submitted a planning application – alongside ones from Costa and Taco Bell – to build a drive-thru site at a planned new 3.1-hectare development off Maskew Avenue, New England, in the town. The application states the drive-thru units will be provided with separate enclosed parking areas for each site. Wendy’s has already confirmed it will open sites in Oxford and Stratford, east London, in the second half of this year. Propel previously revealed Wendy’s had lined up its first out-of-town site for its UK return, in Essex. The company, which plans to open five sites in the UK this year, with a target of eventually operating about 20 company-owned branches in Britain, is understood to be in advanced talks on taking a site at Thurrock Shopping Park. It is thought it could be the location of another drive-thru unit. The company plans to enter the UK with company-owned and operated restaurants in 2021 and, in its second phase, will launch in priority areas with multi-unit franchisee operators. It recently applied to open a site in Croydon, and Propel understands Wendy’s is in talks on sites in Camden, Romford and Brighton. In March, the company said it plans to open ten sites in the UK in 2022, and it had secured multiple locations and was engaged with several potential franchisees.
Live music booking platform set for rollout: GigRealm, an online platform that puts the control of organising live music back into the hands of those in charge, is rolling out this summer. Enabling hospitality businesses “to book live music with ease”, GigRealm connects developing and emerging artists with all types of venues. Three quarters (74%) of respondents to the most recent Live Music Census said they had visited a pub or bar specifically to watch live music. It is also estimated live music increases drink sales by up to 60%. GigRealm was founded by Tom Brady and Reuben Narey, who saw a gap in the market. The company has appointed Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, and Alison Wenham, founder and former chief executive of the Association of Independent Music, to its board. GigRealm not only supports independent venues but also provides a corporate offering for larger, multi-site operators. Brady said: “Live music is something we’ve all missed since the outbreak of the pandemic and it’s an experience that simply cannot be recreated at home. With the lifting of restrictions, consumers are eager to get out and enjoy live music experiences once more, and we want to help venues offer this. We’re hoping our end-to-end digital solution will help operators drive revenue, increase footfall across their venues and give their guests the kind of experience they are so desperately craving.” 
Land Securities to offload £500m of hotel assets: Land Securities is gearing up to offload £500m of hotel assets from its portfolio. The company said the disposals were part of a wider change in strategy to focus on office and retail and pivoting away from non-core assets. Several of the hotels that the firm is selling are in London, including its Hammersmith Novotel branch, which is valued above £50m. A Land Securities spokesman said: “We’ve made it clear our strategy is focused on shaping three types of place that connect to our purpose – retail destinations, office clusters knitted into the fabric of our cities and mixed-use, living-led sustainable neighbourhoods. Anything that doesn’t fit into that strategy is being reviewed.” Land Securities owns 21 hotels, spread across the UK in cities such as Manchester, Glasgow and London. Knight Frank has been instructed to act as an agent to support the sales process. Land Securities reported sharp falls in profits in May after tenants struggled to service rent payments amid ongoing covid restrictions that suppressed demand in the leisure and hospitality sectors and commercial property valuations plummeted.

Peel Hunt – Cineworld share price ‘too vulnerable to its capital structure to take any chances’: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Ivor Jones has updated his forecast on Cineworld, arguing the share price is “too vulnerable to its capital structure to take any chances”. Issuing a “Hold” note on the shares with a target price of 75p, Jones said: “We have not updated our forecasts since the FY20 results. We reduce our FY21E Ebitda forecast to US$510m (from US$975m) now we have slightly greater visibility on the year ahead. The movement in the share price implies the market was well ahead of us. With circa five times net debt/Ebitda (on a pre-IFRS 16 basis), there is little room for disappointment. FY21E will be yet another tough year for the business. Trading will only be properly back on its feet after the summer, when the release schedule is back to normal. Offsetting that is a risk that covid-19 flares up at just the wrong time and US cinemas, once again, have to close their doors. There will be little useful trading information with the 12 August interims, by which time relatively few major films will have been released. It will probably still turn out all right in the end. So far, demand for going to the cinema is robust with attendance for the major films that have been released at close to pre-covid-19 levels. It appears the cinema industry has reached an accommodation with the studios over a reduced release window and, in light of strong performance in cinemas, it seem likely studios will return to cinema release before streaming, in order to maximise returns. But we would like to see proof. Cineworld’s share price is simply too vulnerable to its capital structure to take any chances. When we are sure the business has stabilised we may return to a more positive recommendation but, for now, we reiterate our ‘Hold’ recommendation and lower our target price to 75p from 85p.”

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