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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 12th Aug 2021 - KFC issues warning to customers as UK restaurants hit by food shortages
KFC issues warning to customers as UK restaurants hit by food shortages: KFC has warned customers that disruption is leading to food shortages at its restaurants across the UK. The fast food brand said that its business had been hit by “disruption over the last few weeks” in a statement issued last tonight. It said that some items on the menu may not be available when customers visit the restaurant or drive-thru. Other items will also be packaged differently than usual. It also urged customers to be patient with its “incredible teams”. It is not yet known when the disruption will end. KFC UK tweeted: “The Colonel has just emerged from a long day at the fryers and wanted to share the following message. Just a heads up that across our country, there’s been some disruption over the last few weeks – so things may be a little different when you next visit us. You might find some items aren’t available or our packaging might look a little different to normal. We know it’s not ideal, but we’re working hard to keep things running smoothly. In the meantime, please be patient with our incredible teams...they’re doing a brilliant job despite the disruptions. We can’t wait to see you soon for your next fried chicken fix. Thanks for understanding.”

Next edition of Propel Blue Book sent to Premium subscribers tomorrow: The next edition of the Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profitability for Premium subscribers, produced in association with Mapal, is to be published tomorrow (Friday, 13 August) at midday. 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. A total of 180 of these companies are now posting total losses of £5.95bn as the effects of the pandemic take hold. Meanwhile, on 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 Openings 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 to sign up.

Corbin & King locked into £1m unpaid Wolseley rent battle: Corbin & King is locked into a legal battle over almost £1m of unpaid rent at its Wolseley venue, the FT has reported. Its landlord, Jersey-based STJ Investments, is fighting a landmark legal case demanding that Corbin & King pay all of the almost £1m of rent debt which built up while the restaurant was closed during coronavirus lockdowns. So far, the restaurateurs have defended themselves using a clause in the lease that precludes payment of rent if trading is not permitted at the site by government edict. The FT reported: “The landlord, which is controlled by the Russian-born Belgian oligarch Vladimir Zemtsov, is now trying to find alternative ways to reclaim what it says is owed. This week the landlord filed court papers alleging that the Wolseley had illegally sublet the premises because the lease was in the name of the Wolseley ‘Prop Co’, while the rent is paid by the Wolseley ‘Op Co’. Corbin & King says that claim is ‘spurious’. The Wolseley is not the only business whose future hangs in the balance as a result of the pandemic. While coronavirus cases have spiked and fallen back over the past 18 months, the pile of rent that has gone unpaid thanks to government-mandated closures has continued to grow, currently standing at £6.4bn, according to Remit Consulting. Tenants are deep in debt and calling on their landlords and their lenders to share some of the pain. “The landlord’s avowed intent was to get every single penny of rent. Our argument was, we will pay what is due but we will not pay [the rent owed] for the pandemic period,” says Jeremy King, Corbin & King’s chief executive. As soon as lockdowns hit in March last year, just days before commercial businesses faced the quarterly rent payment date, King, confronted with the prospect of no revenues for several months, wrote to landlords of the group’s nine restaurants. “I said rent is due on the 25th [but] we are not in a position at this stage to pay it fully,” King said. He requested that instead of paying three months in advance, as is usually done in the UK, the business reimbursed each month’s rent at the end of the month. “Just about everybody was fine except for the Wolseley landlord who wanted to go into expensive legal detail to allow this to happen. I should have known at that point they were going to be difficult throughout.” Corbin & King has racked up around £100,000 in legal fees fighting STJ Investments, which also insists that its property insurance is not liable to pay out half the sum of the rent under the policy terms. Through its lawyers, STJ says it took court action ‘as a last resort’ and that despite offering a ‘reasonable concession’, the Wolseley has ‘refused to pay any rent for the period when the restaurant was forced to close’. “A concession was agreed at the start of the pandemic which the Wolseley subsequently reneged upon. Since then a series of offers have been made, most notably an offer to split the rent for the lockdown period one-third/two-thirds to reflect a reasonable and fair sharing of the financial impact of the pandemic,” its lawyers say. STJ says that its own insurance policy cannot be used to cover any of the unpaid rent by the Wolseley. King says the concession offered was ‘an absolutely minimal rent-free period’ that has been ‘aggravated by their refusal to recognise our rental recovery rights’ under the landlord’s insurance policy.”

Cineworld – trading has been encouraging: Cineworld Group, which operates 759 cinema sites and 9,269 screens globally, has reported group revenue of $292.8m (H1 2020: $712.4m) and group adjusted Ebitda loss of $21.1m (H1 2020: profit of $53.0m) for the six months to 30 June as result of closures. It had an operating loss of $208.9m (H1 2020: loss of $1,340.9m) which has been reduced by asset impairment reversals of $95.6m resulting from lease modifications. It had a cash burn of $271.0m during the period, averaging approximately $45m per month. Total period cash burn was $66.6m after tax receipt of $204.4m in the US. It reported its estate has now reopened and majority of capacity restrictions lifted in the US and in the UK since 21 July, with a gradual recovery of admissions and demand since re-opening, supported by strong retail sales. Alicja Kornasiewicz, chair of Cineworld Group, said: “Cineworld has continued to deliver strong operational and cash control despite the challenging trading conditions we have been faced with in light of covid-19. Our teams have given their utmost during periods where we have been able to open, and I would like to thank them for their commitment and dedication. I look forward to continuing to work with the board, the management team and all our employees, as we return to delivering sustainable growth as the market recovers, for the benefit of all our stakeholders.” Mooky Greidinger, chief executive of Cineworld Group, said: “Despite the challenges, the actions we have taken have ensured that Cineworld has emerged a more focused business with significant liquidity and a clear vision for the future. Trading has been encouraging since we started to re-open our sites in April and it has been great to have our teams back, doing what they do best, and welcoming customers back into our cinemas. Cineworld is in the position it is today thanks to the great dedication and commitment of the Cineworld team around the world and I sincerely thank each and every member of the team for their loyalty and contribution. I am confident that the business is in a strong position to execute its strategy and deliver a return to growth as we recover from the pandemic and capitalise on the forthcoming strong film slate alongside clear pent-up consumer demand.”

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