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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 17th Apr 2024 - Update: Just Eat Takeaway, Time Out Market, inflation and wages et al
Just Eat Takeaway reports 11% growth in UK and Ireland in first quarter of 2024: Just Eat Takeaway has reported 11% growth in its UK and Ireland operations in the first quarter of 2024. In a trading update, the company said its UK and Ireland business accelerated gross transaction value (GTV) growth to 11% (7% constant currency) in the first three months of the year. It also reported continued momentum in GTV growth in Northern Europe and constant currency GTV growth, excluding North America, of 3% in the first quarter, within the 2024 guidance range of 2% to 6% year-on-year. The business reiterated its guidance, including adjusted Ebitda of approximately €450m and positive free cash flow before changes in working capital in 2024 and thereafter. It has a long-term target of group adjusted Ebitda margin in excess of 5% of GTV. Jitse Groen, chief executive of Just Eat Takeaway, said: “Just Eat Takeaway started the year well, with the acceleration of GTV growth in UK and Ireland, and our continued momentum in Northern Europe in Q1 2024. We are excited that the investments in our business are paying off, and we are looking forward to the rest of the year.” The company said under the share buyback programmes announced in April and October 2023, 8.9% of the issued shares were repurchased as per 12 April 2024. It has also decided to discontinue all operations in New Zealand in the coming weeks, with the financial impact “immaterial”. The company also continues to actively explore the partial or full sale of its Grubhub business. It added: “There can be no certainty that any such strategic actions will be agreed or what the timing of such agreements will be. Further announcements will be made as and when appropriate.”

Next Who’s Who of UK Hospitality to feature 865 companies, released on Friday: The next Who’s Who of UK Hospitality will feature 865 companies when it is released to Premium Club members on Friday (19 April). This month’s edition includes seven new companies and 65 updated entries as well as more than 233,000 words of content. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium Club members also receive access to five other databases: the Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database. All Premium Clubs members will be offered a 20% discount on tickets to five Propel paid-for events – The Excellence in Pub Retailing Conference (14 May), Social Media for Profit (18 July), the Talent and Training Conference (1 October) and Restaurant Marketer and Innovator (two days in January 2025). Operators that are Premium Club members are also able to send up to four members of staff to each of our four Multi-Club Conferences for free. Premium Club members receive their daily Propel Info newsletter 11 hours earlier than standard subscribers, at 7pm the evening before. They also receive videos of presentations at eight Propel conference events two weeks after they are held. This represents around 100 videos of industry insight over the course of the year. Premium Club members will be sent a dedicated monthly newsletter that will highlight key updates in the sector and direct subscribers to all the vital content their membership offers. Premium Club members also receive exclusive opinion columns every Friday at 5pm, which include the thoughts of Propel group editor Mark Wingett and a host of industry leaders from across the sector. A Premium Club subscription costs an annual sum of £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Premium Club for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or supplier. Email today to sign up.

Time Out Group agrees new deal for Budapest Market: Time Out Group has entered into a management agreement with Corvin Food Market Kft to open a new Time Out Market in Budapest, Hungary, with an expected opening date in 2025. The agreement increases the number of sites in development to nine, which are set to open between 2024 and 2027, in addition to the seven Markets already open and a pipeline of further locations in advanced negotiation. Time Out Market Budapest will be located in Corvin Palace which first opened in 1926 and recently has been renovated back to its original neoclassical state. Considered one of the city's legendary historic department stores, it has been redeveloped as a mixed-use real estate property offering retail, leisure and a hotel in a prime central location at Blaha Lujza Square, a busy intersection and public transport junction. Time Out Market Budapest will be the primary food offering at Corvin Palace. Comprising approximately 25,000 square feet indoors on the first floor and a further 9,000 square feet outdoors on the rooftop, Time Out Market Budapest will feature 14 kitchens, four bars and one event space. With around 800 seats, guests will be able to experience a curated mix of the city's best culinary and cultural talents from award-winning chefs to up-and-coming restaurateurs and artists. Under a management agreement, Time Out Market receives a share of revenues and profits (subject to a guaranteed consultancy fee) but does not contribute to the capital cost of the site. Chris Ohlund, chief executive of Time Out Group, said: “Budapest is amongst Europe's most beautiful cities in which both locals and tourists love to go out – to open a Time Out Market in one of the city’s top locations, together with our partners in Budapest, is very exciting for us. Budapest offers both traditional, classic and modern, hip elements – it has a vibrant and diverse food scene which we will bring together under one roof at Time Out Market Budapest.” Oliver Balogh and Viktor Balogh, of Corvin Food Market Kft and minority owners of Corvin Palace, added: “Corvin Palace is the oldest department store in Budapest – we are proud to have now brought it back to its original glory, whilst creating value through a modern mixed-use of this legendary building. This is an ambitious project, so our goal was to include an iconic food and cultural market to complement the high-quality retail and leisure offerings as well as a hotel already signed – we are delighted to be welcoming Time Out Market Budapest to Corvin Palace soon.” A Time Out Market is set to open in Porto next month, followed later this year by Barcelona and Bahrain. Further Time Out Markets are scheduled to open in Osaka, Vancouver and Abu Dhabi in 2025, and in Prague and Riyadh in 2027.

Numbers of long-term sick absent from work rises to record high: The number of people out of work because of long-term sickness has leapt to a record high of more than 2.8 million. Economic inactivity, describing when an individual is out of work and not looking for a job, has been increasing steadily since the start of the covid pandemic, pushed up by a greater prevalence of long-term illness, reports The Times. Before the pandemic, 2.1 million people were classified as being economically inactive owing to long-term sickness. It means that there has been an increase of about 700,000 over the past three years, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. A sharp rise in the number of people leaving the workforce altogether has intensified inflationary pressures. Economists have said that a fall in the pool of available workers has pushed up wage growth and is to blame in part for inflation proving difficult to tame. The ONS also said that the unemployment rate had risen to 4.2% from 3.9% and that the number of people of working age in employment had dropped by 141,000. Vacancies fell for the 21st month in a row, signalling that the labour market is under pressure amid high interest rates and slow economic growth. Charlie McCurdy, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, the think tank, said: “Britain’s post-pandemic jobs recovery has fallen further off course, with falling employment adding to the longer-term rise in economic inactivity. Rising redundancies and falling job levels are signs of a stagnant economy, while rising inactivity and long-term sickness suggest there are wider issues with the health of our workforce. Tackling rising inactivity — and its impact on the public finances, the benefits system and people’s wider health and wellbeing — is one of the biggest economic challenges facing both this government and whoever wins the next election.” Overall, the number of economically inactive people of working age in Britain hit 9.4 million in the three months to February, levels last reached in 2012, when Britain was still reeling from the global financial crisis and the credit crunch. When measuring every age group in the UK, the rate of inactivity climbed to 37.4%, the highest rate since September 1998.

Growth in wages falls more slowly than expected: Growth in wages has fallen more slowly than expected, strengthening the chances of the Bank of England postponing interest rate cuts until later in the year, reports The Daily Mail. Regular pay growth for the three months to the end of February slowed to 6% on an annual basis, from 6.1% in the previous three months, data from the Office for National Statistics showed. City analysts had expected the rate to slip to 5.8%. Total pay, which includes bonuses, was unchanged at 5.6%. The level of private sector earnings growth, which is watched closely by the Bank, fell to 6%, the lowest figure since the three months to June 2022. Liz McKeown, director of economic statistics at the statistics office, said: “Recent trends of falling vacancy numbers and slowing earnings growth have continued this month, albeit at a reduced pace. We are now seeing tentative signs that the jobs market is beginning to cool, with both a fall in the headline employment rate from our survey and a drop in the total number of people on payrolls from HM Revenue & Customs data.” The Bank has emphasised that wages growth must slow before it can consider lowering borrowing costs from a 16-year high of 5.25%. The central bank has lifted its base interest rate from a low 0.1% in December 2021 in an effort to tame inflation, which rose to a four-decade high of 11.1% before sliding to 3.4% in February. Rob Wood, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, the consultancy, said that the near-10% increase in the minimum wage in April would push up wages growth in that month. However, Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, said that the weakening in the labour market “suggests that wage growth will continue to slow over the next six months, even though the pace of decline appears to have eased”.

UK GDP forecast to grow by just 0.5% in 2024: GDP in the UK will grow just 0.5% in 2024 – powered by a rising population rather than a dynamic economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts. However, with falling inflation and predicted ­interest-rate cuts, the government is confident ­Britain is on the road to economic recovery, reports The Telegraph. The GDP of the UK has been boosted by “inflows of migrants”, the IMF's World Economic Outlook found. It trimmed growth forecasts for the UK by 0.1 percentage points for this year and next, to 0.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively. The IMF forecasts that, when calculated per head, GDP will flatline in 2024. The UK and other advanced economies have seen their workforces boosted by “increased inflows of migrants with faster growth in the foreign-born than in the domestic-born labour force”, the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook. Its analysis showed that the foreign-born workforce had grown by around 20% since the start of 2019, whereas the UK-born labour force had slightly shrunk over the same period. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the IMF update showed “the UK economy is turning a corner”, adding: “Over the next six years we are projected to grow faster than large European economies such as Germany or France, both of which have had significantly larger downgrades to short-term growth.” However, the IMF also warned that current tensions in the Middle East, could potentially lead to a new oil price shock and throw the improvement in the global and UK economies off course. It warned that the Israel-Hamas conflict could escalate further into the Middle East, while continued attacks on ships in the Red Sea and the ongoing war in Ukraine risk new price hikes. This could see food, energy and transport costs spike around the world, with lower-income countries set to be harder hit.

Craft breweries ‘under increasing threat’: Craft breweries are under increasing threat as rising costs and lower demand push even more into insolvency. The total number of business failures in the sector increased from 35 in 2022 to 52 in 2023, according to data from accountancy firm Price Bailey. Smaller breweries have been hit particularly hard by rising interest rates and higher costs, as many have been pushed to rely on debt to finance equipment, raw materials and in some cases, operating costs. While the data covers breweries that entered into insolvency, they do not count those that were liquidated, reports The Daily Mail. Price Bailey says that rising interest rates and the tapering of energy support package, means a growing number of breweries have failed to make payments on loans, pushing them into insolvency. Matt Howard, head of insolvency and recovery at Price Bailey, said: “Many of these businesses were betting on interest rates staying low but with rates having sharply risen many are unable to make loan repayments. The longer rates stay at current levels, the more brewers are likely to fall into the red. As rates have risen banks are piling pressure on breweries to make capital as well as interest repayments on loans. This has proved the final nail in the coffin for many breweries.” At the same time, craft beer production has yet to recover from the pandemic. A report by the Society of Independent Brewers (Siba) found that average annual production for 2022 remained 11% below 2019 levels. “With many microbreweries struggling to turn a profit in the first few years of trading, you only need a shrinking market for a short period for unsustainable debts to pile up,” Howard added. “Pubs are less willing to take risks on new beers where there is uncertain consumer demand. While 2024 is already seeing an improvement in trading conditions for brewers, we are likely to see many brewers fall by the wayside as the sector continues to consolidate around fewer premium brands.”

Marco Pierre White’s former Leicester Square restaurant secured by police from squatters: Marco Pierre White’s former Leicester Square restaurant has been secured by police after hundreds of squatters moved in, The Telegraph understands. As many as 400 squatters are said to have taken over the former site of Mr White’s in London’s West End. The Metropolitan Police has now secured the five-floor building and there was no sign of squatters on Tuesday. Mr White’s, a steak and pizza restaurant opened by Marco Pierre White in 2021, closed at the start of 2024. Ellen Leyco, manager of Jollibee, a Filipino fast-food restaurant next door, said that up to 400 people had been living on all floors of the building. She reported the issue to Westminster City Council after rubbish and waste started appearing at the back entrance of the building. She said: “The council regularly visits us. When they were here last week, I told them they need to look into Mr White’s because it is causing us some trouble. The council came back today and told me I was correct as they found 400 people there. They said they were occupying all the floors, and they were illegal. Many are homeless and they are leaving a mess out the back.” A council spokesman confirmed that the issue had been flagged to the Met. Heavy metal locks have appeared on the front doors of the building and the windows have been covered with curtains and sheets of paper.

Greggs manager sacked for crossing out use-by dates wins claim for unfair dismissal: A Greggs site manager who was sacked for crossing out food use-by dates with a black marker pen has won her claim for unfair dismissal. Rosario Lino was hauled to a disciplinary hearing after a surprise inspection in 2020 found tuna crunch and chicken mayo containers with their expiry dates “blocked out”. She had marked the items with marker pen to show staff which food needed throwing out but was sacked after being accused her of avoiding disposing of the food to prevent waste figures at the branch in Braywick, Maidenhead, from “looking poor”. The Gregg's site manager sued her employers and her claim of unfair dismissal was upheld because of flaws in the disciplinary procedure, reports the Daily Mail. But she was not handed any compensation as she was found to be “culpable” for her dismissal. The site manager made other claims, of race discrimination and harassment, but these were not upheld.

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