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Thu 2nd Sep 2021 - Kate Nicholls – al fresco dining should be a staple
Kate Nicholls – al fresco dining should be a staple: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has argued the al fresco dining seen in London during the summer should be retained. Writing in City AM she stated: “London may have had its worst summer weather in a decade but it has nonetheless been one of the best when it comes to al fresco dining in our capital. The sights and sounds of our city streets packed with people catching up with much missed family and friends this summer has been genuinely heart-warming, after such long periods of enforced closures and isolation. Which is why Westminster City Council’s decision to re-introduce traffic to Soho’s streets at the end of September, is such a disappointing one. The extension, and proposed permanent retention, of streamlined pavement licensing was something we heartily welcomed when it was announced back in July. Since then, it has proved a lifeline for hospitality venues all over London and the country. Allowing operators to extend their venues into the street and have an outdoor offering, was a powerful move to help the sector make the most of the staycation boom and drive economic recovery. Huge hurdles remain for our pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and leisure facilities as we head into the autumn and winter. Across the country, a significant number remain closed and will perhaps not open their doors again. For those that have made it this far there are widespread staffing issues – our members are reporting a 10% vacancy rate, implying a shortage of 210,000 roles, compounding problems with supply chains. Some 94% of hospitality businesses are experiencing problems, with about two thirds of those saying some goods simply don’t arrive and this has the knock-on impact of reducing menus, meaning less choice for consumers and lower sales for businesses already on the edge. The pandemic has highlighted the resilience and creativity that thrives in the hospitality sector, from enhanced safety measures in high-street cafés, to igloos in pub gardens and digital menus and online payments in venues everywhere. All this will be for naught, however, if the sector fails to get the further support it needs. In order to rebuild, we need local authorities and national government to create a supportive landscape for hospitality. This includes measures such as facilitating pavement licences at a local level. At a national level it includes reform of the business rates system, under which hospitality currently overpays by £2.4bn each year, and a permanently lower rate of VAT for the sector. Such moves will allow the industry and its people to play a full role in the economic recovery of London and the country. Prior to the pandemic, hospitality represented 10% of UK employment, 6% of businesses and 5% of GDP. We very much want to return to this position as a powerful driver of the UK economy and to play a key part in the nation’s recovery but can only do so with the right support.”

62 new companies to be added to Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group, will include 408 companies, an increase of 62 companies compared with the August edition. The 408 companies produce total turnover of £30.6bn – 200 are in profit and 208 are reporting a loss. The next edition of the Blue Book will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday, 10 September at midday. The Blue Book, which is updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive two other databases – the New Openings Database, produce in association with StarStock, and the Multi-site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each 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.

Gym Group reports strong membership recovery: The Gym Group, the operator of 190 gyms, has reported a strong recovery in membership numbers following re-opening, with total members at 30 June 2021 of 730,000, up from 547,000 at the end of February 2021. The company stated: “In addition to four sites opened in H1 to the end of June, we plan to open 40 new sites in the 18 months to December 2022, of which three have opened so far in July and August.” Richard Darwin, chief executive of The Gym Group, said: “Since the re-opening of gyms in April, The Gym Group has performed strongly with excellent member feedback, a higher rate of visits per member and a rapid recovery in overall membership levels. We have identified some exciting growth opportunities to expand our estate further and raised additional funds from shareholders to capitalise upon them. With restrictions now lifted, we are planning to open 40 new sites by the end of 2022, of which three have opened so far in July and August, as we continue to make fitness accessible for all and deliver further social value to communities around the country. We look forward to the second half of the year and beyond with confidence.”

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