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Wed 1st Apr 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pubs to trade as food shops as Greene King, Admiral Taverns and St Austell sign up to national initiative: A ground-breaking national initiative will enable pubs to trade as food shops offering essential items such as bread, eggs and milk. Powered by e-commerce trading platform StarStock, will allow pubs to process orders online to provide a valuable income stream. The service is a partnership with Brakes, Coca-Cola European Partners and Use Your Local and is open to pubs across the UK. The initiative has already won the support of Admiral Taverns, which is making mypubshop available to its 1,000 pubs; Greene King Pub Partners, which operates a tenanted and leased estate of more than 1,000 pubs; and Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery, which operates 170 pubs. The partnership with Brakes will also open up the service to the 15,000-plus pubs the wholesaler supplies. It will offer participating venues a food shop “starter kit”, while each transaction made via mypubshop will accrue a 2% fee to cover operational costs. However, the venture is being run as non-profit, with surplus revenue donated to the NHS. The mypubshop platform will allow licensees to select items for the “inventory” on their web shop. Once an order is placed and purchased online, customers can pick it up from the pub. Admiral Taverns chief executive Chris Jowsey said: “We are doing everything we can to support our pub operators through this extremely challenging period and partnering with StarStock was a no-brainer. Our pubs sit at the heart of their communities so we’re expecting a good take up of this service so many of them can act as essential goods stations and support people as best they can.” Greene King Pub Partners managing director Wayne Shurvinton added: “We have been working around the clock to offer support to our partners and teaming up with StarStock gives our publicans the tools to step forward to help their communities.” StarStock founder Sam Ulph said: “This is a vital way for pubs to stay connected, offer an essential service and secure an income stream during a period when they are unable to trade in their normal way. It will also alleviate pressure on grocery shops and supermarkets.” Pubs can register to use the service at

Industry News:

Propel Premium subscribers to receive updated multi-site companies list featuring 1,600 businesses: Subscribers to Propel Premium will receive an updated version of the database of multi-site companies next week. Another 100 businesses have been added to the list, taking the total to 1,600. The database features information such as number of sites, type of operation and key people at the business. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular columns from insights editor Mark Wingett. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email

S4labour offers further advice on furlough pay: S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, has offered further advice on the issue of furlough pay. Employers are able to claim a grant from the government to claim 80% of an employees pay, up to £2,500 per month. For salaried staff this should be their salary on 28 February. For variable-paid staff, S4labour has created a furlough pay type that calculates the higher of their average monthly earnings over the past 12 months or their pay from the comparable month last year. For those employees with less than a year’s service, it should be the average monthly earnings while they have been employed by the company. For weekly paid staff, S4labour advises recalculating last year’s comparable monthly earnings every week during the furloughed period. Employers can also claim for National Insurance contributions and pension contributions up to 3%. Individuals are only entitled to the National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage for the hours they are working and therefore can be paid below this level when on furlough. Employers can chose to top-up pay above the government-supported level but will be liable for this cost as well as the associated National Insurance costs and pension contributions. All employees that were on the PAYE on 28 February will be eligible. The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant after 1 March if they are rehired by their employer. Employees must be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks at a time but can come in and out of furlough. While on furlough, the employee’s wage will be subject to usual income tax and other deductions. In terms of claims, the government portal will be running by the end of April and employers will be able to submit a claim every three weeks. UKHospitality has confirmed employers don’t have to accrue holiday for their employees while they are on furlough but it has to be part of the agreement between the employer and employee and should be confirmed in writing. The government has also relaxed rules on carrying over annual leave. The new regulations will allow up to four weeks of unused leave to be carried into the next two years.
S4labour is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

OpenTable adds UK restaurant delivery option via Deliveroo and UberEats partnership: Restaurant booking platform OpenTable has partnered with Deliveroo and UberEats to offer delivery options in the UK. It follows the introduction of a delivery feature with UberEats and other partners in the US and Canada in 2019. The global launch also sees the option available in Australia, Mexico, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. The partnership with Deliveroo and UberEats will enable diners to select and order a meal from a restaurant on the OpenTable platform and have it delivered direct. OpenTable chief operating officer Andrea Johnston said: “Restaurants are a vital part of our communities and we hope these partnerships will help support restaurants with additional revenue sources and give diners access to restaurant-quality meals to enjoy at home during these difficult times.” The launch will see more than 3,000 restaurants offer delivery through OpenTable.

Walkers partners with restaurant groups to turn dishes into crisp flavours: Snacks company Walkers has partnered with five restaurant groups for a new crisp range. The six Taste Icons flavours have been inspired by dishes at Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas, Nando’s, PizzaExpress and YO! The flavours are GBK’s classic cheeseburger, Las Iguanas’ chilli con carne, Nando’s peri-peri chicken, PizzaExpress’ American hot and margherita, and YO!’s katsu curry. Each pack also comes with a two-for-one restaurant meal voucher with the redemption deadline postponed until December as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Customers can enter their details and a ten-digit promotional code on Walkers’ website and will be emailed a voucher to redeem at participating restaurants.

City Harvest receiving 20 tonnes of excess food a day: City Harvest, a charity that distributes surplus food in London, has said it has been receiving 20 tonnes of food a day since 17 March. The charity normally receives 35 tonnes a week. Following the lock-down on Friday, 20 March, City Harvest said at least one tonne of chicken from Nando’s had been stacked into boxes, alongside steak from Hawksmoor and burgers from Lidgate, as restaurant companies ensure their food doesn’t go to waste. City Harvest’s main suppliers are Innocent, Bookers and Fruitful Office but City Harvest said that produce had been “eclipsed by the sheer number of restaurants, caterers and companies donating food”. The charity added it had also received calls from Honest Burgers and McDonald’s, and regular donations from Bone Daddies and Gail’s. To cope with demand, City Harvest has increased volunteer numbers to 20 a day including a number of furloughed restaurant staff. Despite hectic times, City Harvest said it was still looking for volunteers and had launched a Go Fund Me campaign to keep operating. For more details, email

Hospitality sector makes 20,000 hotel beds available to key workers: Almost 200 UK hotels have made more than 20,000 beds available for NHS staff and other vital workers following a call from UKHospitality. The trade body has been liaising with representatives of key workers to ensure those helping to battle coronavirus are supported. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The strain placed on businesses, key workers and the NHS is visible. At such a time, it’s vital the nation’s resources are best used to support those who need it to help us all get through. It’s heartening to see so many hotels make themselves available to host NHS staff and other vital workers. The hospitality sector has been devastated by the crisis and hotels have been forced to weather a huge blow. Many companies have already looked to help by providing beds and it’s great so many more have answered our call to provide support where it’s needed most. We hope housing key workers in hotels that are otherwise empty will ease the strain on those services battling to tackle the spread of coronavirus. It could also save hotels at real risk of going out of business and keep people in work at a time when many jobs are at risk. UKHospitality will liaise with the government and is ready to help co-ordinate efforts to support businesses, staff and emergency services.”

Pubs will remain a ‘force for good’ during lock-down: Pubs will find a way to remain a “force for good in their communities” during the government-induced lock-down, PubAid co-founder Des O’Flanagan has said. Despite having to remain closed during the latest phase of the coronavirus pandemic, pubs have been supporting their communities in other ways. Many have adapted their menus to takeaway or delivery, with a number providing free meals to pensioners, while others have set up village shops or acted as a hub to co-ordinate community efforts to support vulnerable residents. A number of pubs have set up helplines, while others have organised online pub quizzes. O’Flanagan said: “Despite the catastrophic consequences of the pandemic for pubs, many have responded by doing all they can to remain a hub for their community. Pubs have survived for hundreds of years by adapting to the changing world around them. We are only at the beginning of this difficult time but we’re confident pubs will help people come through it.” 

Organisers of #TheGreatAmericanTakeout offer second push: Organisers of US campaign #TheGreatAmericanTakeout have offered restaurants another push on social platforms to highlight takeaway options. A coalition of restaurant brands and Los Angeles-based advertising agency High Wide & Handsome offered operators free downloadable images on its website in the latest promotion, launched on Tuesday (31 March). Last week’s campaign generated more than 28,000 tweets and 21,000 Instagram posts, a spokesman for the group told Nation’s Restaurant News. “We are pushing this again nationwide and in subsequent weeks to help our industry,” said Sarah Grover, interim chief marketing officer of Veggie Grill, one of the restaurant brands in the coalition.

Postponed 2020 Drinks Trade Regatta will return next year: The 30th Drinks Trade Regatta, which was due to take place in June, has been postponed until 2021. The brewing industry’s annual sailing event was due to take place on the Solent from Friday, 5 June to Sunday, 7 June. Teams are asked to donate £1,000 to charity with the top three contributors able to donate a percentage (first place 50%, second 30% and third 20%) to a charity of their choice. Last year 18 teams took part and raised a combined £22,000 for charity. The teams depart Port Solent, Portsmouth, on a fleet of Sunsail yachts to Cowes on the Isle of Wight to compete in seven races over two days. The event is now due to take place from Friday, 7 May 2021 to Sunday, 9 May. For more information, call Sunsail account manager Terry Hunt on 02392 222 221.

Company News:

Byron places entire workforce on job retention scheme, directors take pay cut: Byron, the better burger brand led by Simon Wilkinson and backed by Three Hills Capital, has placed its circa 1,200 staff on the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) while directors have taken a “substantial” pay cut. The 51-strong business, which completed a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) in 2018, appointed KPMG last week to explore ways to shore up its balance sheet including options to access emergency funding. Wilkinson told Propel: “Byron has worked with employees during this hibernation period and put everyone on the CJRS. The directors have taken a substantial pay cut to remain with the business and work with KPMG to review options and steer the company through these challenging times.” This week sector peer Carluccio’s, which also completed a CVA in 2018, was placed into administration. Last week both brands held emergency talks regarding a merger, which came to nothing. The CJRS pays up to 80% of employees’ wages with a ceiling of £2,500 a month.

About 20% of Bella Italia sites remain open for delivery and collection: Casual Dining Group (CDG) has kept about 20% of its circa 115 Bella Italia restaurants open for delivery and click and collect, Propel understands. A spokesman for the company, which is led by James Spragg, said: “Staying open to provide this service actually costs us more – we’re definitely not in it for the money. The small team working reduced hours in each restaurant to cook and serve food have chosen to do so and are proud to support their communities. If they choose not to work, we fully support their decision and will be assisting them to access support available to them and enrolling all permanent staff at closed sites on the government’s ‘furlough’ scheme.” Bella Italia is offering two levels of discounts to those using its click and collect service, including 50% off the bill for NHS and other key workers. The company said: “Nothing can repay those who are risking their own safety to keep the wheels of society moving but our small gesture is a discount they can use as many times as they like during these worrying times.”

Veeno – keeping staff key to regaining momentum: Rodrigue Trouillet, owner and director of Italian wine bar business Veeno, has told Propel staff will be key in the company’s attempts to regain the momentum it had before the coronavirus crisis. Trouillet acquired the company out of administration a year ago and said “real progress” was being made before the country was locked down. Like-for-like sales were up 11% in 2019 and Trouillet said it had seen a great start to 2020, with like-for-likes increasing 25% in January and 29% in February. Veeno was still seeing double-digit like-for-like growth in March until the government told people to avoid pubs, bars and restaurants as the coronavirus crisis accelerated. Veeno has consolidated its estate in the past year and now has eight sites, including a franchised outlet in Reading. However, Trouillet revealed the company had been talking to potential franchisees before the coronavirus outbreak and those talks would restart when the crisis ended. He said: “We may have had to shut our wine bars but we have a concept that works and that will really help us when we reopen. At the moment we’re pushing online sales and it’s going well. We have furloughed all our staff because we want to make sure we keep them. They have been terrific and one of the main reasons we’ve been so successful in the past 12 months. Of course I understand businesses need to preserve cash but our people will be key to helping us re-establish our momentum when all this passes. We were getting some really good reviews, particularly around customer service. Even now we’re getting a lot of messages from people saying how much they miss us. We look forward to seeing them again – hopefully soon.” Trouillet said expansion, which he stressed “wouldn’t happen straight away” after restrictions were lifted, would focus on franchising, which was a “win-win situation all round”. He added: “Our model means the capital investment is quite low. We’ve had about 100 expressions of interest in the past four or five months – we have to find the right profile. We’ll use Reading as a blueprint but franchisees have to understand it’s not a money-making machine straight away – it takes a lot of hard work. We need to be realistic about the type of place we look at and find the right balance between what’s a reasonable-sized site but avoiding high rents and business rates. We need to be smart about it but our message is clear – we are here to stay, thrive and expand.”

Shepherd Neame extends licensee support by waiving rent for entire government closure period: Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has extended its programme of support for licensees after announcing it will waive rent for the duration of the government lock-down. The company’s head office team is also helping licensees to access grants and financial support available from the government. The company previously suspended all licensee rents from 23 March. Since rent is payable weekly in arrears, this effectively means Shepherd Neame licensees haven’t paid rent since prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on 16 March to avoid pubs. Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame said: “We are working closely with our licensees during these challenging times and want to offer every support possible to help them preserve the future of their businesses. Our focus is to protect our people, pubs and the company for the long term.”

GBK ends delivery option across selected sites: Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) has suspended the delivery option it was offering from select UK sites. Last week owner Famous Brands stated: “Select GBK and Wimpy restaurants in the UK will attempt to remain open to service the home delivery market but the viability of that option is unclear at this stage. Management will monitor the situation closely for both operations. Given the prevailing instability in our trading markets, it is difficult to project with accuracy the impact of the pandemic on the business. Across our business we’ll continue to enforce the necessary disciplines and protocols required to curb and slow the spread of coronavirus.” GBK has now decided to close all its sites for the time being and suspend home delivery services. The business said: “Our teams have worked tirelessly to provide services to their communities throughout this difficult time and we thank them wholeheartedly.”

Wahaca launches ‘at home’ initiative: Mexican restaurant group Wahaca has launched an online platform to “bring the business into the nation’s homes”. Wahaca At Home will offer recipes, cocktail ideas, playlists, family activities and news of the company’s charitable initiatives. It will include a video series featuring co-founder Thomasina Miers’ Mexican-inspired recipes that will be shown online and on Wahaca’s Instagram and Facebook sites. Miers said: “We look forward to welcoming taco fans back to our restaurants as soon as we can but, in the meantime, hope they’ll welcome us into their homes to shine a few rays of Mexican sunshine and satisfy those cravings for Mexican food when so many of us need to stay indoors.”

Goodbody – new Domino’s chief executive will have plenty to deal with quickly but significant consumer brand and franchisee experience will help: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said new Domino’s Pizza chief executive Dominic Paul will have “plenty to deal with quite quickly” but his “significant consumer brand and franchisee experience” would help. Paul, who was chief executive and managing director of Costa Coffee between 2016 and 2019, will take up the role at Domino’s on Monday (6 April) and join the board on 1 May. Current chief executive David Wild will retire from the board on that date. Ruddy said: “It is pleasing to see Domino’s appoint a chief executive with significant consumer brand and franchisee experience. Domino’s, on a relative basis, is the best placed to navigate its way through the coronavirus crisis and it was encouraging to hear its contactless delivery service is offsetting the lost sales in collection, albeit in a short period. There will be plenty of challenges for the new chief executive to work through including keeping supply chains running smoothly, exiting the loss-making international businesses and, most importantly, repairing franchisee relationships. With Wild stepping down from the board on 1 May, there will be plenty for Paul to deal with quite quickly. Overall, this is a positive development and removes another overhang from the Domino’s investment case following the recent appointment of Matt Shattock as chairman.”

Capital & Regional collects 50% of its second-quarter rent: Capital & Regional has collected 50% of second-quarter rent from tenants, way below the 80% it would usually collect for the period, as only 23% of its tenants remain trading during the lock-down. The company’s seven UK shopping centres remain open as some tenants provide essential services. Capital & Regional stated: “We are in discussions with all our retailer customers on outstanding rent, appreciating these are challenging times. With our larger chain store and multiple unit retailers we’re in dialogue to understand and assess the impact the relief measures announced by the government could potentially have on their businesses and anticipate further collections as we work through these discussions. We are likewise engaging with our smaller independent retailers as to how we are best able to offer support, sensitive particularly to the impact the current situation is having on them.” On Monday (30 March), Hammerson said it had received 37% so far of rent billed for the second quarter. Last week Intu said it had only received 29% of rent due for the second quarter of 2020, compared with 77% received for the same period a year before.

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