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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 3rd Nov 2021 - Burger & Lobster to recommence UK and international expansion
Burger & Lobster to recommence UK and international expansion: Burger & Lobster, the nine-strong London-based restaurant group, is to recommence expansion with a “strong pipeline of sites in place, both in the UK and internationally”. The company said week-on-week sales continue to increase, and the business is currently well-positioned for expansion. A tenth London site will be announced at the start of next year. The business, which marks its tenth anniversary next month, has not closed any of its sites permanently since the pandemic – all nine London restaurants reopened in line with government guidance. The group has enjoyed high team member retention rates where restaurants remain well-staffed, with most team members returning to work post-furlough. Burger & Lobster continues to invest in the upskilling of their team members and the average length of service currently sits at two years and seven months. A new executive development chef has been appointed and a menu development programme has begun with new dishes being introduced next month “that put the spotlight on premium ingredients and provenance”. A key focus for the brand is menu collaborations with the first guest dish appearing on menus this month. The “Sleezey’n’Bisquey Lobster Mac & Cheese,” created by Gizzi Erskine and Professor Green, has seen more than 2,500 dishes sold in just two weeks. As part of the elevated food positioning, a series of chef and food partnerships have been secured for 2022. It comes as Burger & Lobster reported turnover fell by 65% in 2020 to £16.3m as the covid-19 pandemic curtailed its operations. The company started the financial year in a strong position with net assets of £3.3m. By May 2020 the restaurant group pivoted by offering restaurant delivery, opening three dark kitchens to increase brand reach, and launching nationwide DIY kits, accounting for sales of £650,000. Misha Zelman, director and founder of Burger & Lobster Restaurant Group, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating our tenth anniversary next month, having reopened all our restaurants and experiencing high demand. It has been an incredibly challenging 18-months for hospitality. Still, we are immensely proud to have retained so many members of our team post-furlough and would also like to take this opportunity to thank our landlords for their support during the pandemic. The business has shown resilience and adaptability, giving us the confidence to open more sites both here in the UK and overseas. As we continue to develop and innovate, we are confident our unique brand proposition will continue to engage with diners.”

Thwaites – trade has recovered very quickly with business better placed than most to put covid behind us: North west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has said trade has “recovered very quickly” and surpassed its early expectations with the business “better placed than most to put covid behind us”. The company reported turnover for the six months ending 30 September 2021 was up 119%, to £47.8m, compared with £21.8m last year, which was impacted by three months of lockdown. Turnover was only 10% down compared with the same period in 2019, which the company said was “a good result considering that trade was restricted during the first three months of the period”. Thwaites saw an operating profit of £9.3m compared with a loss of £1.4m the previous year – and was only slightly down on the £9.5m profit in 2019. Net debt at 30 September 2021 was £61.4m (2020: £66.6m); but more significantly had reduced from £78.8m at 31 March 2021. At its current level the business has considerable headroom against its total banking facilities of £90m. Its inns division has performed very strongly since reopening and the increased demand for UK leisure breaks has led to record levels of room occupancy and average room rates. Sales for the period were at 98% of 2019 levels. Sales in its hotels and spas division were at 89% of 2019 levels for the period. However, they have been growing steadily as the year has progressed and by September sales were running 15% ahead of 2019. During the period, the company acquired the Red Lion in Burnsall in the Yorkshire Dales. Thwaites sold 11 properties in the period and its old Blackburn brewery site, which it vacated in 2018. The company received total proceeds from these disposals of £4.5m, making a profit on disposal of £0.3m. The board did not recommend the payment of an interim dividend. Chairman Rick Bailey said: “There are many headwinds, largely outside our control, which are creating a level of uncertainty as we look to the future. The lack of availability of new team members is disrupting both our ability to fully man our properties as well as our supply chains. Inflation is rising more quickly than in recent years with the national minimum wage set to increase by 6.6% next April. Lastly, in the next six months we will see the withdrawal of government support, which has been critical in achieving this set of interim results. The announcement of changes to draught beer duty in the Budget are welcome, but this reduction will be more than offset by inflationary rises elsewhere. As an industry we have campaigned for a permanent reduction in VAT to 12.5% for pubs and the hospitality industry as well as root and branch reform of business rates, both of which would be major investments in the long-term health of our sector, help it to recover from the past 18 months of closures and provide confidence and employment, particularly for young people. The changes that we have made in recent years to orientate the business to larger scale properties towards the more premium end of the market, means we are as well placed as any and better than most to navigate our way through any difficulties that are thrown at us. I have no doubt the company and our teams will together put the era of covid behind us and continue to build on our success.”

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