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Fri 29th May 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Tattu shares reopening planning document to help other operators: Contemporary Chinese restaurant group Tattu has shared its standard operating procedure (SOP) for how the business is adapting and planning to reopen to help other operators. The group, which operates four venues, said changing working practices and dining areas to fit with social distancing. “takes a lot of consideration, time and energy”. Tattu managing director Adam Jones said with this in mind “and the spirit of collaboration we’ve seen thrive in the hospitality sector” it has decided to share the document with other operators. Writing in this week’s Friday Opinion, Jones said: “Our SOP addresses all of the key operating areas, from personal hygiene, personal protective equipment and site hygiene to team well-being, deliveries and the importance of social distancing. It’s a work-in-progress and will continue to evolve as the situation changes. There’s still much uncertainty around final government guidelines for cafes, bars and restaurants for reopening, and it’s important to note our plans are designed for our particular business and operations specifically. They have been built using risk assessments for each of our restaurants and with the intention to be fully compliant with current government guidelines. Our major concern, like most operators, is gaining clarity on the government’s justification for its two-metre distancing guidance. If our country chose to follow the guidance from the World Health Organisation – allowing guests and staff to be one metre apart – it would change things dramatically. By sharing our process of working towards reopening, explaining how we foresee Tattu operating in this ‘new normal’, we hope to encourage other operators to share their learnings and use our collective voice to inform the government of how we intend to adhere to guidelines, and where there may be challenges, on the road to reopening safely.” Jones will explain more in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be sent out on Friday (29 May) at 11am. 

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to explain why sector’s move out of lock-down and its entire future stands at an inflection point as part of latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will explain why the sector’s move out of lock-down and its entire future stands at an inflection point as part of the latest Propel Premium column, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (29 May) at 5pm. He will also look at what next for Casual Dining Group, Byron and others currently in process; and also at the Marston’s/Carlsberg UK joint venture. Meanwhile, Boston Tea Party co-founder and chief executive Sam Roberts will ask what useful parallels can be drawn from our response to coronavirus and that of climate change. There will also be the latest sector rumours from Premium Diary. 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 Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,600 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Sector workers’ monthly pay ‘down as much as 40%’ with tronc not factored in furlough scheme: Sector workers’ monthly pay could be down as much as 40% with the furlough scheme not factoring in tronc payments, according to hospitality software provider Fourth. Its figures revealed tronc payments make up on average more than 25% of hospitality workers’ basic pay, for the significant cohort that receive it. The data, which has been aggregated from analysis of more than 120,000 workers across 200 companies, showed 60% of all workers in the sample received tronc payments during 2019. It means the majority of furloughed hospitality workers are earning significantly less than 80% of their normal wage. Because they no longer receive the average addition of 25% tronc to their monthly pay, they are in fact only receiving 60% of their usual wage. With the government expected to scale back its level of support for furloughed workers over the coming months, this percentage could fall further. The data also revealed on average tronc makes up a higher percentage of the basic pay for salaried workers (28%), than those paid on an hourly basis (24%). Further to this, the data set only includes tronc payments made digitally, and not cash tips. Taking this into consideration, Fourth said it suggested many hospitality workers being furloughed could be receiving less than 60% of their normal monthly wage. Using an example from the data set and a blended tronc figure across salaried and hourly paid workers, an employee earning £1,850 over a four-week period in 2019, would receive tronc payments of £438. As a result, the basic pay that the employee received on furlough for this four-week period would rise from £1,129 to £1,480 if tronc was to be included in the furlough payment. James England, senior vice-president at Fourth, said: “In addition to graphically illustrating what an important component tronc is for many hospitality workers’ pay, these findings also demonstrate why a tapering off of support could really hurt the finances of hospitality workers.” 

Germany slashes VAT on restaurant meals by more than half: Germany has slashed VAT on restaurant meals by more than half for 12 months to help operators recoup devastating losses caused by the lock-down and social distancing introduced to slow the spread of coronavirus. The measure, passed in parliament by a wide majority on Thursday (28 May), cuts the sales tax restaurant guests pay on food to 7% from 19%. Restaurants have reopened to eat-in guests, though rules requiring a minimum distance between tables continue to weigh on profits in the sector. Industry associations have warned swathes of businesses in the sector are on the brink of bankruptcy. As in the UK, the hospitality trade in Germany has been among the worst-hit of all sectors of the economy by the restrictions that were imposed in March to help prevent the pandemic overwhelming the country’s healthcare system. Finance minister Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats has promised to further support the gastronomy sector in an impending economic stimulus package.

France reopens bars and restaurants, subject to a one-metre rule outside Paris: France's prime minister Edouard Philippe has announced the reopening of bars and restaurants nationally, although Paris will need careful monitoring despite no longer being a virus hotspot. A ban on travelling more than 100km (60 miles) has also been relaxed, but the bar on gatherings of more than ten people remains. Paris is now designated as an “orange” zone on the country's coronavirus risk map, Philippe said. Almost all other French regions have “green” status, meaning they are more free of the virus. It means the easing of restrictions in the Paris region would be more careful, Philippe said. As a result, eating and drinking establishments in the city will only be able to serve customers on outside terraces. Outside the capital, cafes, bars and restaurants can reopen with restrictions from next week. Staff must wear masks and customers must also wear masks when moving around. There must be a distance of a metre between tables and no more than ten people can sit at any one table.

‘Diners have mixed views on waiting staff wearing masks’: Diners have mixed views on waiting staff wearing masks, according to a survey of customers by Essex-based pub operator Pie & Pint Inns. Its findings showed 48.5% would not want waiting staff to wear masks with 45.2% believing they should. In their responses, diners said “if staff had their temperature checked they did not need to wear masks” and “masks would not make me feel relaxed”. The overwhelmingly majority (94%) want to see sanitising stations at key points while four-fifths (80%) want venues to operate at reduced capacity to help with social distancing. A total of 94% said they wanted to see pre-bookings at key times to help control occupancy. Meanwhile, 85% were keen to see venues offer a takeaway option.

Israelis flock to cafes and restaurants after reopening: Israelis have flocked to cafes and restaurants after they reopened for business for the first time in three months. Eateries, along with all other non-essential businesses, had been shuttered as part of strict measures to try to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country. Israel's Channel 12 News said some 120,000 people had made reservations for Wednesday night (27 May) – but while some outlets reported brisk trade, others remained shut, put out of business by the cost of the lock-down. Venues will have to comply with new restrictions, including positioning tables at least 1.5 metres (five foot) apart, taking customers' temperatures and using only disposable menus. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the reopenings, encouraging people to “drink a cup of coffee and a beer too”.

Paul Chase – a new national sport has been taken up called hypocrisy policing: Leading industry commentator on alcohol and health Paul Chase has argued a new sport has been taken up in the absence of football – hypocrisy policing. Referring to the Dominic Cummings saga, he said this was a classic “them and us” row that “engages the class consciousness of the British in a very raw way”. Writing in this week’s Friday Opinion, Chase said: “I don’t want to appear naïve; I understand the best way to tell a lie is to stick to the truth until you reach the incriminating bit – and then you make something up! The ‘drive 60 miles eye-test’ comes to mind. But if the charge is he has committed a moral crime, as opposed to a crime against the law, then I take the view there are no crimes without victims. Who was victimised by what he did? Who was harmed? There has been plenty of speculation, but absolutely no evidence he met anyone outside his family during this whole period. His child went to hospital and presumably would have done so if the family had remained in London. Despite two months of investigative journalism, the press has failed to identify anyone he has interacted with that he might have transmitted the virus to.” 

Almost two-thirds of Brits using lock-down to discover new ingredients and recipes: Almost two-thirds (65%) of Brits are using lock-down to discover new ingredients and recipes, with this figure rising to an 76% for over-60s, according to new research. A survey of 8,000 people by healthy recipe box service Mindful Chef showed Brits have been opened to new ingredients such as apricot harissa, jackfruit, tahini and shichimi togarashi. Close to a third admitted they’ve rediscovered the pleasure of cooking. A quarter claimed they now spend time cooking with other members of their household and are also enjoying eating more meals together. More than half of those surveyed claimed they are spending more on their food and groceries than they were prior to the coronavirus outbreak. The majority claimed this was a habit they plan to continue with and maintain long after the crisis has passed. The research also revealed the pandemic has caused people to be more mindful about the food they purchase, with 65% stating they are making more effort to minimise their food waste. A total of 43% claimed they try to buy from British suppliers where possible and more than a third choose to purchase more sustainably sourced ingredients. More than a third of those that signed up to Mindful Chef during the pandemic said they had done so because they wanted more variety in the recipe repertoire, as mealtime monotony sets in, while 58% said they did so in search of a healthier diet. Two-thirds admitted to eating “badly” prior to lock-down as they didn’t have the time to prepare nutritious food. Meanwhile, 70% felt life will never be the same again following the UK’s now ten-week period in lock-down.

New York and Los Angeles cap third-party delivery fees: New York and Los Angeles have joined the list of US cities capping third-party delivery fees to help restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic. This week, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill that caps third-party delivery commissions at no more than 20%. The fee cap was part of a larger comprehensive relief package aimed at giving New York City restaurants a fighting chance to survive a prolonged order to temporarily close dining rooms to stop the spread of coronavirus. Other provisions of the bill include prohibiting delivery companies from charging restaurants for telephone orders with customers that did not result in an actual transaction during the call. The bill is valid through the coronavirus emergency and for a 90-day period after the state lock-down ends, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. In states where dine-in restrictions have been lifted, many restaurants have been taking advantage of health guidelines that encourage outdoor dining. Jurisdictions are also easing regulations with regards to permits needed for “patio-style” seating. New York City is waiving the fees restaurants pay to use pavement areas for outdoor dining until February 2021. The city is also protecting restaurant owners from being personally liable for defaulting on rent payments until 30 September. Los Angeles has voted to cap third-party delivery fees at 15%. But third-party delivery companies argue the fees pay for a combination of fixed costs, and tailored marketing that helps drive order volume. Caps, they argue, will result in fewer orders for independent restaurants because they won’t be able to market themselves as aggressively as national chains on delivery platforms; while consumers might have to pay higher prices to offset revenue lost from commissions. 

Job of the day: COREcruitment is seeking a franchise expert to join a well-known restaurant brand. The business has historically grown through company-owned and operated restaurants and is keen to expand further with franchise partners. This position will be solely responsible for writing and forming the franchise model, formulating a 12-month franchisee recruitment plan – from managing to sourcing, on-boarding and future management of all franchisees. This role is very much suited to a hands-on and motivated individual who has extensive knowledge in growing franchisee relationships. Experienced franchise directors interested in finding out more can email Hollie@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Pret to reopen further 200 sites on Monday: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-owned business, is to reopen a further 204 shops from Monday (1 June). The company will take the number of reopened stores to more than 300 with sites in towns and cities across the UK such as Bath, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Exeter and Liverpool among those to start trading again. As per government guidelines, these shops will be open for takeaway and delivery only with extensive social distancing and safety procedures in place. Pret will be offering a limited menu of some of its most popular sandwiches, salads, and baguettes, as well as hot and cold drinks, bakery items, fruit, and snacks. Pret has also expanded its delivery operation, with the service available through Deliveroo, Just Eat and UberEats, dependent on the shop’s location. Pret said it is adapting its business to an environment where more people are working from home and earlier this month the company launched its first retail coffee range, including three organic coffee products now on sale on Amazon UK and in Pret shops. Customers can also buy its new “Heat Me at Home” macaroni cheese range and a selection of “Heat Me at Home” soup. Chief executive Pano Christou said: “We’re rapidly transforming our business in light of the pandemic and the dramatic drop in city centre footfall. The changes we’ve been making include new ways to serve customers and bring Pret’s products to our customers’ homes safely. It's going to continue to be tough for Pret in the months ahead, and I'd like to thank our team members who are returning to work and making reopening possible.”

Boston Tea Party boss – the biggest challenge will be striking a balance between safety and core business values: Sam Roberts, chief executive of all-day casual dining cafe Boston Tea Party, has said the biggest challenge for the business as its gears up to reopen will be striking a balance between providing a safe environment for staff and consumers, and making sure that isn’t out of line with the company’s core values. Speaking as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Roberts said: “The biggest challenge, and this came out from the work we did with our teams, is one of balance. So how do we make sure we are providing a safe and sound environment for our teams to come into work, giving them the confidence that it is okay? Equally how do we do that for our customers? But how do we make sure we do this so it isn’t out of line with our overarching values and core business? How do we do that in an inimitable Boston fashion?” This week the 24-strong company started trialling click-and-collect from two of its sites, with a delivery trial to begin next week. Roberts said: “That has been challenging, but we are working really hard to make sure we can bring in some of those Boston characteristics and USP into those extra sales avenues. We have been toying with these things for a couple of years now and always been a bit nervous about it, because of the lack of control and relying on aggregators to deliver our experience into people’s homes. But this does gives us an opportunity to trial it and see what sales lever that it can be. And we all know when we are finally given the green light to come out of this, we are probably going to need all the sales we are going to get.” The business is well known for its sustainability values, but Roberts fears for the sector as a whole this issue will go on the backburner. He said: “When it is about survival and there is fear about people’s jobs, ultimately and understandably people will start to focus on short-termism and short-term profits above everything else and I think that would be a mistake. We believe if you look after people and the planet then profit looks after itself.” Roberts will share more of his thoughts in the video, which will be released on Friday (29 May)

Costa reopens another 97 stores: Costa Coffee, which is owned by Coca-Cola, has reopened a further 97 stores, taking the total to 316. The company has reopened the remaining 58 drive-thru sites that were closed along with 39 stores trialling takeaway only. Costa has been gradually reopening its estate over the past month having initially reopened four sites – in Manchester, Bristol and Mansfield – two of which were delivery only and two drive-thru. 

Papa John’s seeing best sales period in history: Papa John’s has said it is currently seeing the best sales period in its history. Like-for-like sales grew 26.9% in North America for the first four weeks of the second quarter, while international sales – where 15% of stores are still closed – lagged behind at 1.4% growth. During the second four weeks of the quarter, North America like-for-like sales improved to 33.9% and 7% internationally. Updating on Papa John’s preliminary results for the second quarter, chief executive Rob Lynch said: “In May, for the second straight month, Papa John’s team members and franchisees delivered the best sales period in the company’s history. We entered the pandemic with strong growth and momentum, and are fortunate our delivery and takeout model has enabled us to meet an essential need for high-quality food, safely delivered to consumers’ homes. As states and communities slowly reopen, we continue to show strong performance.” Lynch said the company’s successful contactless delivery model as well as the introduction of new menu item – Papadias – contributed to the sales growth. 

Lupins to launch at-home delivery service after rethinking business model: Lupins in London’s Flat Iron Square is to launch delivery service “Lupins at Home” on Monday (1 June) followed by a new deli and kitchen shop later in the month. Restaurant owners and chefs Lucy Pedder and Natasha Cooke said they had to rethink their business model to adapt to the current circumstances, and the changes to their restaurant may well be permanent. The new “at-home” offering will include many of the restaurant’s sharing plates; some new recipes developed during lock-down; an extensive deli to include homemade quiches, sandwiches and seasonal salads; plus a kitchen shop selling unique tote bags, handcrafted goods plus freshly baked bread and kombucha. Cooke said: “With the likely social distancing regulations it makes no business sense for a small restaurant like ours to reopen. Apart from not being financially viable we would lose that unique cosy Lupins vibe, which is what our regulars love about us. We know our customers are missing us and while we cannot reopen we can offer Lupins meals at home. We had also always planned to open a deli and I think the current situation has just been the perfect opportunity to bring those plans forward.” 

Brindisa Kitchens begins reopening for takeaway and delivery: Spanish restaurant group Brindisa Kitchens has begun reopening for takeaway and delivery, Propel has learned. Brindisa has reopened its Battersea site with its London Bridge outlet scheduled to follow on Tuesday, 9 June. It is the first step for the company in reopening all six sites. The company said it has taken all possible steps to ensure the well-being of staff and customers. Opening hours are noon to 7pm from Tuesday to Sunday. All its classic dishes are available along with some new summer additions.

Leon launches content channel to inspire change in way people think about food: Natural fast food brand Leon is aiming to inspire change in the way people think about food, with the launch of a new digital platform combining a refreshed consumer website for its restaurant, grocery and delivery businesses with multi-media content. Leon has collaborated with a number of notable names in the industry to create a variety of podcasts, films, and articles, designed to inform, inspire and entertain. The “Leon Presents” channel is dedicated to celebrating the power of food and the value it offers to individuals and communities as well as their relationships with the planet. The website will also present stories that cover some of the initiatives Leon has been involved with; including FeedNHS, which helps feed critical care teams, and Feed Britain – Leon’s online delivery service that offers a range of boxes containing “essential grocery items as well as restaurant quality meals”. Leon chief executive and founder John Vincent said: “Now more than ever we need to value the role food plays in our lives and the importance of environmental sustainability and responsibility. The new content channel will engage and inspire change in the way we think about food by mobilising action from like-minded people. We are creating a movement that demonstrates the power of food to save the human and make change.”

Leicester-based operators take on second Everards pub: Leicester-based operators John and Moira Rossiter have secured their second pub with Leicestershire-based brewer and retailer Everards. The Rossiters, who have been running The Sir Robert Peel pub in the city since 2016, will take on The Western from Tuesday, 9 June. John Rossiter said: “We are passionate about proper pubs and want to keep another traditional pub alive and within its community, especially as pubs are and will continue to disappear and because of the current circumstances. We want to put The Western back on to the ‘real ale’ and pub circuit in the local vicinity, just like we have done at the Peel.” Everards business relationship manager Martin Bailey added: “We are delighted John and Moira will be taking on The Western. We have no doubt with their careful consider business sense along with their tenacity and fabulous personalities, they will guide the pub back to its rightful place at the heart of the local community.”

Padella to launch DIY pasta kits for delivery: Pasta restaurant concept Padella is launching DIY pasta kits for delivery from this weekend. Customers are able to order two pasta kits to cook at home in less than five minutes – its pappardelle beef shin ragu, and tagliarini with tomato sauce. The service is only available to people in either Hackney or Islington – the boroughs where Padella’s two restaurants are based – with deliveries being made by staff on eco-friendly Pedal Me bicycles, reports Hot Dinners.

Cineworld reports lenders have waived leverage covenant: Cineworld has announced its lenders have agreed to waive the leverage covenant in respect of its credit facility for the June 2020 testing date and has increased its leverage covenant to nine times net debt to Ebitda for the December 2020 testing date. The company stated: "The group has also agreed the terms of $110m of additional liquidity through an increase in its revolving credit facility. In addition, the company has secured credit committee approval to apply for an additional $45m through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme in the UK and expects shortly to commence a process to access $25m through the US government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Cineworld expects this additional liquidity, to the extent required, will provide it with sufficient headroom to support the group even in the unlikely event cinemas remain closed until the end of the year.” Cineworld said it expected government restrictions related to cinemas will be lifted in each of its territories by July and has put in place procedures “to ensure a safe and enjoyable cinema experience for employees and customers”. 

Social enterprise takeaway seeks new home in Lambeth or Southwark: Medleys, a social enterprise pilot takeaway business providing healthier, affordable meals to lower income families, is seeking a new home. The initiative is run by Shift Design, supported by the Guys and St Thomas' Charity Childhood Obesity Programme. The project is seeking a new kitchen space to call home for its dark kitchen operation, with an option to share a space with another operator or to rent a small fitted-out space. Anyone who can help can email alice.wilson@shiftdesign.org

Boutique Hotel Group positions itself for growth with refinancing deal: Chester-based boutique hotel operator Boutique Hotel Group has secured a five-year refinancing deal with Barclays as it looks to position itself for growth. Boutique Hotel Group operates three sites – Peckforton Castle, Nunsmere Hall and Inglewood Manor. The deal – advised on by JMW Solicitors – concludes a lengthy process that began in 2019 in readiness of Boutique Hotel Group existing arrangement with Santander coming to an end. Boutique Hotel Group managing director Christopher Naylor said: “We're delighted to have gotten the deal over the line – it really illustrates the strength of our business and it’s a very positive indicator of market confidence in the ability of our industry to battle through this unprecedented situation.”

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