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Thu 5th Aug 2021 - Update: Mowgli, pingdemic, Pret A Manger
Mowgli to make London debut in Fitzrovia: Indian street food concept Mowgli has lined up its first opening in London, with a site in Fitzrovia. The Nisha Katona-led company is set to open on the former Cote site at 5 Charlotte Street, this October. Katona hinted last month that an opening in London was a possibility for the Indian street food concept before the end of this year. On the brand making its London debut, she said: “With your appetites and your support you brought us this far and it is with grateful hearts that we open Mowgli London at 5 Charlotte Street Fitzrovia in October. It’s a street that I have dined upon and been fond of all my life. It is beyond my wildest dreams that we have this opportunity to open, heads down and humbly, in a sweet little building that feels like it was always Mowgli. We will slink open and, I’m sure, suffer the slings and arrows of accusations of audacity and hubris. But this little northern home-grown brand, with a flawed but passionate leader and honest food that can never be everyone’s cup of tea, should not be afraid to venture wherever you might want her. And it is because of your beckoning that we brave the capital. Wish us well won’t you. A big step for our little monkey – we look to you our Mowglite family as we swing to our new frontier.” Propel revealed last month that the company had also applied to open on the Oasis unit in Brighton’s Dukes Lane. The 12-strong group recently opened in Cheshire Oaks, and has openings in Bristol and Cheltenham lined up for later this year. It has also secured sites in Edinburgh and Glasgow for 2022. Katona said the business, which is backed by Foresight and chaired by Karen Jones, was looking at Newcastle and Cambridge for 2023-24 and the brand would “continue to build at the steady rate of four sites a year as long as you want us”. Rob Meadows at Davis Coffer Lyons acted on the Charlotte Street deal. 

Next edition of Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profitability shows £6bn of losses as pandemic takes effect: The next edition of the Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profitability, produced in association with Mapal Group, shows that 180 companies out of the 352 featured are reporting a combined loss of £5.9bn. A further 172 companies are in profit by a collective £1.5bn. The next edition It will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday, 13 August, at midday, and will feature Propel insights editor Mark Wingett’s Ones to Watch, his guide to outstanding smaller companies. The Blue Book features 352 UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators with a total turnover of £29.6bn. The Blue Book, which is updated every month – on the second Friday of the month – provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Last Friday (30 July), Propel premium subscribers received the updated database of multi-site companies for July, which is produced in association with Virgate. The latest edition of The Propel Multi-Site Database included 71 new companies, operating 477 sites between them, and increases the total number of companies on the database to 1,951. Subscribers received the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they were also sent a 12,094-word report on the businesses added during July. The go-to database 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. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. It is updated at the end of every month. Subscribers also received a new database on Friday (30 July). The New Companies Database, produced in association with StarStock, focuses on the newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and will be updated at the end of every month. 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. 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.

Pingdemic drags on the post-covid recovery: The economic recovery slowed last month as the pingdemic hit consumer spending and staffing in Britain’s dominant services sector. The Times reports that labour shortages, rising wages and higher costs also drove companies to increase their prices at the fastest pace in at least 25 years, according to the closely watched purchasing managers’ index for services in July. The PMI survey, compiled by IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, confirmed that the economy has been hit by millions of staff being forced to self-isolate under covid-19 rules, as companies had to reduce operations. Demand has been hit further as people have stayed at home rather than going to shops and restaurants. The reading of activity in the services sector, which accounts for four fifths of national output, dropped from 62.4 in June to 59.6. Although well above the 50 mark that indicates growth, it was the slowest rate of expansion since the end of lockdown in March. “While many firms commented on strong consumer spending and a sustained recovery in demand, there were reports that covid-19 isolation rules had negatively influenced sales volumes,” the survey said. “Many service providers commented on staff shortages due to covid-19 isolation rules.”

Pret A Manger named and shamed over failure to pay minimum wage: Pret A Manger, Sheffield United FC and John Lewis are among 191 employers fined and publicly criticised for an “unacceptable” breach of employment law in which tens of thousands of workers were paid less than the minimum wage. The Times reports that the breach by Pret, the coffee and takeaway meals chain, related to childcare vouchers, it said, which had “inadvertently caused remuneration to fall below minimum levels”. The business department said that John Lewis had underpaid 19,392 workers by £941,356, making it the largest offender in a list of large and small businesses “named and shamed” for “short-changing” more than 34,000 workers by a combined £2.1 million. The retailer, the UK’s largest employee-owned business, said it was “surprised and disappointed” to be on the list. It said the problem related to an error made in 2017 linked to its practice of “pay averaging”, which for staff paid by the hour aims to “smooth out” pay over a year to ensure a consistent amount each month. A spokeswoman said the “technical breach” had been fixed at the time, and added: “Our average minimum hourly pay has never been below the national minimum wage and is currently 15% above it.” Named employers have since been made to pay back what they owed. Several were also fined, with penalties amounting to a combined £3.2 million.

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