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Thu 7th May 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Stonegate MD – biggest challenge has been looking after our people ‘without putting a nail in the coffin of the business’: Stonegate Pub Company managing director Helen Charlesworth has said the biggest challenge has been looking after its people “without putting a nail in the coffin of the business”. Speaking to Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Charlesworth said Stonegate had been “flying” beforehand and “every day the sun shines I can’t think about anything else other than how much money we could have also been taking at this time”. She said: “Looking after our people was the biggest challenge and doing the right thing by them without doing too much to put a nail in the coffin of the business. We kept a balanced approach at all times. We don’t have a business without our teams so it was super important to everyone we felt we were doing the right thing by them and I do think we have achieved that.” Charlesworth said keeping communications “frequent, timely and clear” had been key while its online staff community platform was helping people stay in touch. She added: “We work together as a team and if you have a low moment then you pick up with your team members and they dust you down and get you back on your feel again. I get my energy from other people – and the banter we have has been a game changer. In essence we are making sure we have got our arms around the entire teams. We are still a team whether we are furloughed or not.” In terms of government support, Charlesworth said: “I think it is doing all it can in a short space of time but our industry is the very opposite of social distancing and this needs to be recognised. We will need government support for longer including furlough arrangements, but it’s important we get to reopen our doors. Lifting the curfew doesn’t mean people will immediate revert to their previous ways of life. Who knows what that will look and feel like but we have to be prepared for it as best as we can.” In terms of performance before the crisis, Charlesworth said: “We were doing really well – we were flying. Every day the sun shines I can’t think about anything else other than how much money we could have also been taking at this time. Easter Sunday was perfect weather for us – hot during the day and then cooling off into the evening so we would have done very well. Heading into the Euros would have been the icing on the cake. Unfortunately that’s not happened.” Charlesworth will share more of her thoughts in the video, which will be released on Thursday (7 May). Meanwhile, readers can support independent sector journalism and get their news 12 hours early (at 7pm each night) with a Propel Premium subscription. It costs £395 plus VAT per annum for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to sign up.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Orderbee announces low-cost click-and-collect and order and pay platform: Orderbee has launched a low-cost click-and-collect and order and pay platform. The new technology platform for restaurants, pubs and bars has been built in response to covid-19 and in partnership with PayPal by hospitality sector specialists Omnifi. While lock-down is in place, the new technology will allow customers to click-and-collect using a simple website that deals with ordering and payment, and will alert them when their order is ready to collect. After lock-down is lifted, Orderbee will also provide mobile order and pay support at tables, giving guests and operators a safer dining and working experience. All operators need to do is upload their menu items, prices and available ordering and collection slots, and transactions are routed through their PayPal accounts. Orders are managed in-house via a dashboard that can be accessed on any device. It’s a simple, secure and user friendly platform, with transparent pricing (from £80/venue monthly with no commission) and no complicated set-up or minimum contract. The service will be going live in May. Register interest via or email If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email

Business rates revaluation will no longer take place in 2021: The government has announced the proposed business rates revaluation in 2021 will be postponed. In a statement, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said the decision had been taken “to help reduce uncertainty for businesses affected by the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic”. Legislation had been introduced to bring the next revaluation forward by one year from 2022 to 2021. Hospitality and leisure businesses have already been granted a one-year business rates holiday as part of wider government measures to prop up the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Jenrick said: “We have listened to businesses and their concerns about the timing of the 2021 business rates revaluation and have acted to end that uncertainty by postponing the change. Now is the time for us to continue to focus on supporting businesses affected by the pandemic, including through our unprecedented package of almost £10bn in business rates relief.” The government said it was continuing work on the “fundamental” review of the business rates regime, and a call for evidence for the review would be published in the coming months.

CACI – consumer behaviour has jumped five years in two weeks: Consumers have jumped five years in two weeks, creating a turning point likely to change their behaviour forever, according to research from marketing, technology and data company CACI. The survey identified five key trends revealing how consumer behaviour is likely to change as the government prepares to announce its recovery roadmap. CACI said new habits formed over the past two months look likely to become part of the “consumer psyche”, leading to new trends that will impact how people live their lives. It said working practices “have changed forever”, with 35% of workers, typically those who are more affluent and aged between 35 and 54, expecting to increase the amount they work from home. CACI said: “This has big implications on the role of city centres and also a resurgence of the local high street and suburbs, particularly in London and the south east. More people present in the day means greater opportunity for community operators.” CACI said older shoppers have bridged the digital divide, with multi-channel shopping now embedded in all groups. CACI added older shoppers were also likely to continue social distancing post-lock-down, and would therefore increase their online spend. The research showed more than 75% of people will choose their brands and places on how safe they feel – with expectations of more self-service, larger aisles, greater use of click-and-collect, and places being more like showrooms. CACI said: “Destinations will need to demonstrate they are monitoring capacity and policing behaviour, as well as having visible measures in place, such as one-way systems, sanitisers, and staff welfare. The older the shopper, the more important this is.” Another trend is set to be people valuing family and community more, which means “a tighter network and greater engagement with those locations and brands that are part of your immediate sphere”. CACI said value and sustainability will also dominate with one-quarter of shoppers expecting their personal finances to suffer as a result of the pandemic.
CACI is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

‘Pubs miss out on best April trade for a decade’: Pubs and brewers have “missed out on the best April trade for a decade” due to the unseasonal sunny weather as a result of coronavirus and the associated lock-down, according to the British Beer & Pub Association. The trade body, which tracks sales of beer in pubs and shops, forecasted 35 million extra pints of beer would have been sold in April than under normal circumstances due to the weather – a total of 745 million pints sold across the month overall. This would have made it the best April for beer sales in a decade the trade association believed, due to it being the sunniest April on record according to the Met Office as well as the fifth hottest. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “April should have been a brilliant and much-needed boost for our sector – it’s a great shame that communities have been unable to go to their local together and enjoy the sun in the beer garden for what was the sunniest April on record. Pubs losing this additional sales opportunity adds to their woes at this present time.” With pubs expected to be among the last businesses to reopen as lock-down restrictions are lifted, the BBPA is calling on the government to “fill the significant gaps in financial support” that pubs and brewers need to help see them through the crisis. This including broadening access to grants and speeding up the delivery of loans.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is looking for an operations manager for a new attraction opening later this year in London. The company that is leading the opening has an existing reputation for creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences and is keen to start speaking to passionate operators with high-volume attraction experience. The salary is circa £60,000. Anyone interested can email
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Greene King launches staff support fund: Brewer and retailer Greene King has launched a support fund for staff affected by the coronavirus crisis. The Team Member Support Fund has been set up with an initial donation of £300,000 from Greene King. The funds have been raised from a combination of voluntary salary sacrifices from the executive board and directors and a company donation. Team members can also donate to the fund via a Gofund page. Subject to meeting certain criteria, all 38,000 staff will be eligible to access the fund with grants of up to £400 for those most in need of financial support. To help manage the process, Greene King has partnered with the Licensed Trade Charity, which has been supporting workers from pubs, bars and breweries with practical advice, emotional support and financial grants since 1793. Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie said: “I am incredibly proud of the way our team members have handled this situation. But I know it has not been easy and in some cases our team members are facing real financial difficulties, through no fault of their own. The Team Member Support Fund aims to ease some of the burden our people are experiencing right now. We are all in this together and we are directing the funds to help those who need it most.” 

Katona – ‘we will only reopen when government says it’s safe to go out and eat socially’: Nisha Katona, founder of Indian street food concept Mowgli, has said the business will remain closed for the foreseeable future and she only wants to reopen “when the government can actively tell people it’s safe to go out and eat socially again”. In an Instagram post, Katona compared reopening before it is safe to do so to “forcing a jumbo jet to fire up and fly with only three paying passengers”. She wrote: “This is my greatest anxiety at the moment and I know it is shared by many of my fantastic fellow restaurateurs. I only want to open Mowgli when the government can actively tell people it’s safe to go out and eat socially again. Realistically that can only happen when physical distancing requirements allow that. Me and my staff have patience and we understand the need for the full-service restaurant lock-down while we need two metre physical distances. While social distancing is necessary it makes sense that our mothballing remains necessary – indeed we closed before we were forced to for this reason. What many of us worry about is the ability of restaurants to survive...with this many businesses that were carefully and responsibly crafted around three times this number of chairs – as the intimate social hubs we were meant to be. With 500 jobs dependent on a considered and timely green light, I hope patience and a flexible ongoing assistance are foremost in the minds of those who hold our future in their hands.”

Papa John's posts strongest month in company's history: Papa John’s saw like-for-like sales in North America grow 26.9% in April, helping the company to its strongest month in history in terms of sales and average unit volume. International markets continued to struggle with 1.4% like-for-like sales growth for April. As the coronavirus crisis began to hit the restaurant industry hard in mid-March, Papa John’s saw a negative impact on sales but over the next few weeks during the lock-down it has seen sales grow significantly. “I think what this challenging, unprecedented situation has shown is the pizza delivery business is the kind of business that can persevere through these types of challenges,” said Papa John’s chief executive Rob Lynch. “Our business models are set up for this, and as that behaviour continues to evolve, we will benefit from that.” Papa John’s growth in the first quarter and the beginning of the second quarter was also related to their customer base widening. Lynch added: “We’ve seen more than a million new customers in April and we have not seen that in a long time. In fact, we lost a lot of customers in 2017 and 2018 and now we’re winning them back. We’re focused on menu innovation and our brand delivering better quality instead of commoditising the category and chasing the discounts that hurt our unit economics.” For the first quarter ended 29 March, revenue increased 2.9% to $409.9m, compared with $398.4m the previous year.

Landlords reject Travelodge payment offer amid fears of administration: Landlords have rebuffed a second payment plan offer from Travelodge as the hotel operator warned the impact of coronavirus could be ten times worse than the fallout from the 2008 crash. In the offer, sent to landlords on Monday (4 May) and seen by Property Week, Travelodge said a 1% drop in revenue per room would equate to a £5m to £6m fall in Ebitda and total revenue could decrease by £350m over the next year. It asked landlords to forfeit up to £146m in rent over the next 18 months, with the offer of a lease extension to make up for the loss in rent and a share in profits if the company performs strongly. A number of landlords quickly rejected the deal, with many citing the lease extensions already put in place after Travelodge was put through a company voluntary arrangement in 2012 and sold to the current owners. Many expressed fears the hotel operator would go into administration before the end of its leases. Travelodge reported shareholders had provided it with a £100m loan, but the terms of that have not been disclosed to landlords, who have been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to receive more detailed financial information about the hotel operator. Travelodge is owned by Goldman Sachs and New York-headquartered hedge funds, Golden Tree Asset Management and Avenue Capital. Last month Property Week revealed Travelodge had asked landlords for rent cuts of between 25% and 80% until the end of 2021.

Shake Shack plans takeaway focused ‘Shack Track’ experience, technology investments ‘kept us in business’: Shake Shack said it is preparing to reopen sites with some restaurants – dubbed “Shack Track” stores – modifying exteriors by adding drive-thru lanes and walk-up windows to accommodate social distancing requirements. Initially, Shake Shack offered in-store takeaway when the lock-down was introduced, but in early April began offering customers new ways to collect meals, including pop-up drive-thru lanes and kerbside pick-up. Chief executive Randy Garutti told Nation’s Restaurant News the Shack Track stores meet consumer demand for contactless ordering as businesses start to reopen across the US. He added: “We've been studying current layouts and future designs in order to identify where this model can be quickly added.” The company’s investments in digital technology, including its app, has “very literally” kept it in business during the crisis, he said. As previously reported, Shake Shack saw like-for-like sales drop 12.8% in the first quarter, driven by 29% plunge in March. Heading into the second quarter, Shake Shack said the company’s nimble response to the pandemic is paying off. Digital sales have been hovering at 80% for the past three weeks. For the week ending April 29, digital sales accounted for 84% of total sales, up from 18% from the week ending 11 March. The app and web channels showed the most significant growth, increasing almost three times compared with last year, the company said, but like-for-likes are still down as much as 70% to 80%. “While these sales in aggregate are still a material reduction from pre-covid-19 levels, we're encouraged by the consistency of week to week improvements and the clear signs of a path to recovery,” Garutti said. The company has gradually begun to bring back a number of its furloughed staff and has also increased hourly wages by 10% until 3 June and is guaranteeing second-quarter bonuses for all active managers.

Creams MD departs: Atif Amin has left his role as managing director of dessert parlour operator Creams, Propel has learned. It is understood Amin will not be replaced, with the management team of chief executive and co-founder Adam Mani; operations and commercial director Elton Gray; food and procurement director Jason Sinclair and marketing director Lauren Haslewood already in place. A Creams spokeswoman said: “We can confirm Atif Amin is no longer working with Creams. Atif has contributed to the success of Creams over the past couple of years and we are grateful for his input. We wish him all the very best for the future.” Meanwhile, Creams has partnered with The Cheesecake Factory Bakery to launch its desserts to the UK market. They are available for takeaway and via Creams’ delivery partner Deliveroo. To kick-start the partnership, the Godiva Double Chocolate Cheesecake will be available from Friday (8 May) and the full menu will be unveiled over the coming weeks.

Giggling Squid aims to reopen majority of sites over next two weeks: Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand founded by Andy and Pranee Laurillard, aims to reopen the majority of its 35 sites for delivery-only over the next two weeks, Propel has learned. The company had been running a trial at its sites in Wimbledon and Wandsworth. It extended it this week to a further three sites, including Cheltenham and Weybridge. The company plans to ramp this up, but is taking it on a site-by-site basis, with feedback from its staff paramount on what kitchens it will be able to open. In March, Giggling Squid said it had seen its takeaway business “grow considerably” in the 18 months since partnering exclusively with Deliveroo. 

Smashburger reopens five UK sites for delivery and collection: Better burger brand Smashburger has become the latest brand to reopen some of its sites for delivery and click-and-collect. The company, which operates seven sites in the UK, has reopened its sites in Bath, Brighton, Glasgow, Milton Keynes and Newcastle. It also operates sites in Dunfermline and Wednesbury. The company has reopened the sites with a limited menu in place and with delivery available through Deliveroo.

Gail’s launches ‘at home’ bakery range: Gail’s Bakery, which is backed by sector investor Luke Johnson, has launched an “at home” bakery range. Products including yeast, flour and eggs are available online for delivery or can be bought in the bakery. Chief executive Tom Molnar said: “We love the tradition of sharing ingredients baker-to-baker, such as fresh yeast and good British flour, particularly when it’s hard to come by. We continue to bake sourdough daily, and are offering produce from our partner growers and makers to keep our home kitchens stocked and support the lost wholesale market.”

Chik’n reopens Baker Street site for delivery: Chik’n, the fried chicken concept from the team behind Chick ‘n’ Sours, has reopened its site in Baker Street, central London, for delivery. Carl Clarke and David Wolanski are offering their selection of burgers and tenders via Deliveroo, reports Hot Dinners. The duo also operate Chick ‘n’ Sours but its three sites remain closed. Meanwhile, Ping Pong Dim Sum has reopened its St Christopher’s Place site for delivery and collection.

Just Eat enlists Snoop Dogg as it reimagines jingle to ‘connect with a younger consumer’: Rapper Snoop Dogg is set to appear in the latest campaign from Just Eat, the online market place for delivery, as it reimagines its jingle to “connect with a younger consumer demographic”. Created by McCann London, a 60-second teaser for the advert shows the musician declaring: “They said it could never be done – a Just Eat track to get down to…” with the full version set to be released on Friday (8 May). Susan O'Brien, who became global chief marketing officer at Just Eat in March, told Campaign: “Snoop’s remix allows us to connect with a younger consumer demographic, while also providing a bit of fun for our existing customers and fans of the original track. We love he’s taken something synonymous with the Just Eat brand and made it personal to him. We know our original ‘Did somebody say Just Eat’ jingle is a bit of an opinion-divider and it led to many a conversation, or singalong, as people enjoyed their favourite takeaway. As much as we love it, what better way to step things up a notch than to get the help of a global legend? Snoop answered our call and created a version of the song that got us all smiling.” Just Eat unveiled the jingle in May 2019.

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