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Wed 15th Sep 2021 - Itsu raises wages, Red Oak acquires nine Hall & Woodhouse pubs, London alfresco dining
Itsu announces 11% increase in hourly pay for team members: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Julian Metcalfe, has announced it is increasing the hourly wage for entry-level team members by 11% to a minimum of £10.40 an hour. It said all in-store workers will see an equivalent wage increase effective from this Friday (17 September), which will benefit 1,000 existing employees, who are paid weekly. The increase will be effective from 1 October for those paid monthly. Itsu currently operates 72 stores across the UK. The company said it was “incredibly proud” of its track record in helping team members progress their careers, with 90% of store managers having started their journey at Itsu as a team member. Itsu UK chief executive Ganan Kanagathurai said: “We are delighted to announce we are leading the way in the hospitality industry, increasing wages for new and existing team members. This investment reinforces our commitment to the people that deliver the outstanding quality food and customer service levels we are renowned for in the market. An investment in our people is an investment in the business.” Metcalfe said: “Our team members are the heart of our business and the face of our brand for our customers in-store. Itsu has always offered an incredibly attractive career path and this announcement will only increase the number of people that want to join our mission to deliver high quality, nutritious food at an affordable price.” Earlier today, Wagamama owner The Restaurant Group said it was to put up chef wages in areas hardest-hit by the hospitality sector’s ongoing labour shortage. Chief executive Andy Hornby told the Standard the group, which is also behind Frankie & Benny’s, will make the move as part of a whole host of measures to attract staff. Wagamama chief executive Thomas Heier told the Press Association last week the business was facing difficulties at about a fifth of its 144 sites. Hornby said: “We are doing a whole host of stuff. It’s not just headline wages, but the way tips are shared, the way team workload is shared. The chef population is an area where there is some very targeted investment in wages. We’re not doing a one-size fits-all rise [for chefs]. It’s a question of seeing which restaurants and which part of the country have particular shortages.” Last week, Costa Coffee announced it would give all 14,500 of its store team members in UK company-owned stores a 5% pay increase in recognition of their “commitment and continued passion during the difficult times presented by the covid-19 pandemic”.

Red Oak Taverns acquires nine-strong package from Hall & Woodhouse, aims to double estate over next two years: Red Oak Taverns, the national pub operator founded by Aaron Brown and Mark Grunnell in 2011, is to acquire nine tenanted pubs from Dorset-based brewer and retailer Hall & Woodhouse. The deal marks Red Oak’s third pub package acquisition in 2021 and the business, which operates just under 200 pubs, has ambitions to double its estate over the next two years. In February, the company acquired a ten-strong package of leased and tenanted pubs from Bedford-based brewer and retailer Wells & Co. A month earlier it had acquired three pubs from Reclamation Inns for an undisclosed sum. Earlier this year, the business said it was also finalising terms for additional capital of £35m to “take advantage of immediate investment opportunities”. Grunnell said, “We are delighted to be acquiring these high-quality pubs from Hall & Woodhouse and very much look forward to welcoming their hardworking business partners to Red Oak Taverns. This acquisition will be the third portfolio acquisition this year for us and shows our commitment to growing a quality pub estate throughout the UK by working with pub owners and family brewers in a professional and diligent way. These highly performing pubs will be a great fit to our business. The commitment to growing our business remains undiminished by the pandemic and this will be the third portfolio acquisition we have made this year, we have also added three individual pubs to our estate, taking our total acquisitions this year, so far, to 25 pubs. The pandemic has only temporarily interrupted our growth plans and we are ready to take advantage of investment opportunities that become available with a view to doubling the size of our business over the next two years”. Matt Kearsey, managing director of Hall & Woodhouse, said: “We have always actively managed our pub estate, and made the decision to sell these pubs to take advantage of strong demand, in order to reinvest in other properties which are better aligned to the long-term strategy of our excellent business partnership estate. We are currently seeing some exciting opportunities in the market to buy high quality pubs in prime locations, often with accommodation. We have already bought two freehold pubs, and have a further five sites in solicitors’ hands. We thank our business partners for their loyalty over the years, it has been a pleasure working with them, and we are confident that their pubs will continue to thrive under Red Oak’s ownership.” The pubs are largely community and rural destination venues located in East Sussex, West Sussex, Surrey and Dorset. Simon Chaplin at Christie & Co advised Red Oak on the transaction. Hall & Woodhouse were not represented. 

Alfresco dining to continue in Covent Garden: Alfresco dining is to be extended in Covent Garden, after Westminster City Council approved a continuation of the outdoor dining scheme that has proven a lifeline for hospitality businesses in the area. And while the road closures that allowed Soho to become an outdoor festival over recent months will stop at the end of this month, the council said a replacement scheme will be devised in conjunction with local residents. Westminster City Council said the outdoor dining scheme in Henrietta Street, King Street, Maiden Lane and parts of Southampton Street that has proved crucial for hospitality businesses will remain. A scheme in St John’s Wood will also be extended. It follows a month-long consultation that saw more than 80% of residents and businesses approve of the plans. The future of Soho’s outdoor dining scene will be dependent on the outcome of a consultation with residents and local businesses. During the summer, about 60 streets in Westminster benefited from measures including pavement widening and temporary closure of roads and parking bays to allow tables and chairs to be set-up for outdoor restaurant seating. Matthew Green, Westminster City Council cabinet member for business, licensing and planning, said: “Covent Garden has always been one of London’s top destinations for hospitality and St John’s Wood offers world-class eateries on a bustling local high street. We’re really pleased that residents and businesses have voted in favour of keeping alfresco. Thanks to residents and businesses working together, Westminster is proud to be able to support the continuation of outdoor dining in these areas.”

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