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Fri 7th Aug 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Operators hail success of first week of Eat Out To Help Out as sales increase 70.9%: Restaurant and pub operators have hailed the success of the first week of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, including significant double-digit increases in like-for-like sales compared with last year. Figures from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality, showed sales increased 70.9% during the first three days of the week. Food sales have more than doubled, with a 114.3% increase, while drink sales are up 29.8%. Operators also said tables were in high demand for the rest of the month. More than 73,000 businesses have signed up to Eat Out To Help Out, which offers customers 50% off food or non-alcoholic drinks up to £10 per person on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August. Peter Borg Neal, founder of Oakman Inns and Restaurants, said: “The Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been fantastic for us. We have been more than twice as busy as we were this time last year. It’s great to see people socialising in a safe environment and the scheme is clearly protecting jobs. Moving forward, however, further financial help is needed to protect pubs and restaurants that have accumulated debt such as rent if we’re going to save those businesses and their jobs.” Colin Hill, chief executive of Nando’s UK & Ireland, added: “We have been busy so far this week. It’s too early to tell the long-term success of the initiative because of the many challenges we still have to navigate in the weeks and months ahead but so far it has proved popular.” Will Beckett, co-founder of Hawksmoor, which has received more than 15,000 bookings for the 13 days of the scheme across its six restaurants, said: “Although we’ve seen lower sales because of the lower spend per head, we’re still incredibly happy. Everyone loves having busy restaurants and lots of new people are coming in and trying Hawksmoor for the first time or finding a way to come back. Anything that encourages people to start enjoying restaurants again is great. The industry needs this kind of kick-start at the moment. I think it’s a really good example of much-needed government intervention for an industry still in crisis.” S4labour chief production officer Richard Hartley said: “We have seen confidence gradually increase since the reopening of the industry at the start of July. However, this level of support is the catalyst consumers needed on the journey back to normality.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “The sector has been quick to adopt the scheme and customers have been quick to take advantage of the many great deals available, with many socially distanced venues booked up. We hope people continue to enjoy a fantastic dining-out experience at a significant discount throughout the rest of August.”

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at the Eat Out To Help Out effect and top sector stories in this week’s Premium Opinion: Insights editor Mark Wingett will give his view on the events of the past seven days, including the effect of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, as part of this week’s Propel Premium Opinion. He will also look at the performances of café bar brand Loungers and Fulham Shore-owned Franco Manca as well as the deal for better burger brand Byron in the piece, which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (7 August) at 5pm. Meanwhile, Premium Diary will rummage through the industry’s rumour mill to uncover some front-line gossip. 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. It costs £395 plus VAT per annum for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to sign up.

Paul Chase – lock-down isn’t working: Leading sector commentator Paul Chase has argued lock-down isn’t working. Writing in this week’s Propel Friday Opinion, Chase bases his article on research by David Paton, professor of industrial economics at Nottingham University Business School, who reviewed the effectiveness of lock-downs by taking a rational look at costs and benefits. Chase writes: “Given the huge economic costs of lock-down as well as costs associated with postponed operations, children not in school, and a rise in depression and anxiety, the benefits would need to be considerable to justify such costs.” Paton outlines four scenarios, with the first seeing lock-down leading to a lower rate of covid cases. Chase writes we would need a “big reduction in deaths to justify a lock-down” and criticises the “if it saves even one life it’s worth it” argument, which is “regularly trotted out to justify compulsory mask wearing”. Scenario two sees lock-downs failing to cut the number of cases but spreading them out over a longer period to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed, which was the argument for the UK’s lock-down. Scenario three sees a reduction in deaths in the short term but cases rising when lock-down is eased. Chase writes the only benefit in this scenario is if cases are delayed long enough for a vaccine to be developed. He writes: “Given the timing and development of a vaccine is uncertain but the costs very certain indeed, this doesn’t provide a good justification for lock-down policy.” Scenario four sees lock-downs failing to lead to a significant reduction in deaths – “devastating for lock-down policy as it suggests huge costs with zero benefits”. Chase points out areas with some of the highest death rates also had strict lock-downs, such as Spain and New York. Chase writes: “When the dust settles and we review all this it’s unlikely we’ll find lock-downs had a large impact on deaths. Other measures – hand-washing, social distancing and banning mass gatherings – are more likely to have been effective.” Chase will share more of his thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published on Friday (7 August) at 11am.

CGA – no-show cancellations dropped to 22% by the end of July: No-show cancellations dropped to 22% by the end of July with almost two-thirds (66%) of consumers who had booked tables in the week beginning 27 July turning up to eat out, compared with 53% in the week commencing 13 July, the latest CGA Consumer Pulse survey has revealed. The survey also found that for the week starting 27 July, 11% of consumers cancelled and informed the premises compared with 23% in the week beginning 13 July. At the same time, more than one-fifth (22%) were a no-show in the week beginning 27 July compared with 24% in the week beginning 13 July. Charlie Mitchell, research and insights director at CGA, said: “With pre-booking now becoming a near-essential part of the eating and drinking out experience and with a high rate of no-shows and cancellations during the first weeks of opening, it’s encouraging to see far more consumers are turning up to their reserved bookings than previously.”

UK footfall returns to 50% of pre-lock-down levels, English cities continue to bounce back: UK footfall has returned to 50% of pre-lock-down levels, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. The stand-out figures during the past week include Birmingham, which saw footfall on Sunday (2 August) 31% behind pre-lock-down figures, the smallest gap Wireless Social has seen on its data so far. Footfall in Manchester grew slightly during the week but, with the new regional lock-down in place, the figures are likely to decline again this week. Footfall in British towns increased 8% on Saturday (1 August), with the same rise seen in London’s suburbs. Footfall in some of the capital’s shopping districts also increased during the week, with Oxford Street enjoying its highest footfall in five months. Wireless Social said other London shopping districts were “growing, but slowly”. There was a decline in footfall in Soho’s Wardour Street during the week, however, indicating Soho isn’t picking up as quickly as other areas in the capital. In Scotland and Wales, footfall is increasing at a slower rate compared with England. Cardiff’s figures increased but footfall remains about 60% down from the February base. Glasgow’s footfall grew, but not at the pace of previous weeks, while Edinburgh bucked the trend, seeing a 9% increase on Sunday.
Wireless Social is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Northern Ireland halts pub reopenings after coronavirus cases spike: Northern Ireland has halted its programme of reopening pubs after reporting the highest number of daily cases of coronavirus since May. Wet-led pubs had been gearing up to reopen on Monday (10 August) but they will remain shut now until at least Tuesday, 1 September. The move comes after the country reported 43 new coronavirus cases on Thursday (6 August) compared with a total of 18 in the previous five days. First minister Arlene Foster said: “Because of the concern around the level of community transmission and the desire to frankly prioritise the reopening of our schools, we have decided it is prudent to pause the reopening of our pubs.” Hotels, restaurants, food-led pubs and beer gardens have been open since the beginning of July.

Tipjar reports 145% leap in tipping and rise in value following Eat Out To Help Out launch: Tipping transactions are up 145% following the introduction of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, according to data from Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept. The figures also revealed the average tip value between Monday (3 August) and Wednesday (5 August) increased from £4.42 to £6.45, compared with Monday to Wednesday before the scheme’s launch. A record £150 tip was also made through the system – the largest for a weekday. Tipjar manages tips for more than 260 restaurants across the UK. Tipjar founder James Brown said: “We started this business to help tipped workers earn more in a cashless world. We’re delighted to see the Eat Out To Help Out scheme is helping businesses and workers earn more at a time when they really need it.”

Foodhub partners with Gigable to offer restaurants flexible delivery: Food delivery platform Foodhub has secured a partnership with gig economy platform Gigable to expand the delivery options for restaurants listed on the site. Gigable directly connects businesses with freelancers so a restaurant looking for a delivery driver can post the date and time they need a driver and rate of pay before waiting for a member of the community to accept the job. The new tie-up will give Manchester’s independent restaurants a commission-free delivery service. There are more than 500 Gigable drivers and 150 Foodhub takeaway restaurant partners in Manchester but the delivery app is looking for this new collaboration to help grow its network. Manchester-based Foodhub has been operating since 2017 and, unlike the traditional commission-based structure used by other takeaway market places, it operates on a subscription model. Philip Mostyn, chief operating officer at Foodhub, said: “A multitude of businesses are feeling the outcome of the current crisis and restaurants in particular are facing a period of uncertainty. However, those that have thrived have been those that offer a delivery service. Therefore, we have partnered with Gigable to enable independent restaurants in Manchester the ability to provide delivery.” Gigable founder and chief executive John Ryan added: “This is an opportunity for us to bring something new to thousands more businesses and freelancers across the UK.”

Cost of a pint rises at four times the rate of inflation: The cost of a pint in the UK has risen by 6% in the past year – four times the rate of inflation, according to new research. The average pint costs £3.94 up from £3.70 in 2019, according to analysis by price comparison website Finder. This is four times the rate of inflation during the same period, with general prices rising 1.5% since March 2019. Finder shopping and travel specialist Georgia-Rose Johnson said the rise was “unlikely” to put customers off because pubs were only starting to reopen following more than three months of lock-down. She added: “However, it is probable pubs and bars may have to increase their prices to make up for the losses they have incurred by being closed, causing the cost of a pint to be even more expensive next year.” London is the most expensive city, with a pint costing an average of £5.19. However, Brighton isn’t far behind, with locals paying £5.02 per pint. Cambridge is the third-most expensive (£4.91), while Edinburgh and Oxford round off the top five (£4.74 and £4.49 respectively). At the other end of the scale, Dundee is the cheapest UK city to buy a pint (£3.08) – 41% cheaper than in London and 86p less than the national average. Swansea (£3.12), Perth (£3.14), Sunderland (£3.30) and Stoke-on-Trent (£3.33) follow closely behind. Finder carried out the research ahead of International Beer Day on Friday (7 August).

Government-backed loan schemes support 1.2 million businesses: Almost 1.2 million businesses in the UK have been supported by finance from lenders through UK government-backed coronavirus lending schemes, according to new figures from HM Treasury. The figures revealed more than 1.1 million small and micro businesses have now been backed by the UK’s banking and finance industry through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, including Yorkshire-based Jinnah Group Lenders, which has also approved an average of 87,000 new bounce back loans per week. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme has now supported 58,600 businesses with finance and facilities worth more than £13bn, including Red Oak Taverns and Parogon Pub Group. Additionally, lenders have backed 480 larger businesses through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, including The Restaurant Group and Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame. Stephen Pegge, managing director of commercial finance at UK Finance, said: “The banking and finance industry remains committed to supporting the nation’s businesses through the challenges they are facing from the coronavirus crisis. This support is designed to ensure businesses are able to navigate the coming months but diverse sources of finance will be needed to help them prosper in the future. It remains important to remember any lending provided under government-backed schemes is a debt not a grant so firms should carefully consider their ability to repay before applying.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is helping a hospitality business as it looks to appoint a management accountant. The position is based in Surrey, supporting operational teams and reporting into the group head of finance. The position will have a variety of group-wide responsibilities including autonomous management of the general ledger, responsibility for reconciliation and monthly account packs, reviewing balance sheets for each venue, supporting turnaround for individual sites, implementing new company accounting software and overseeing an incoming assistant. This position would suit an experienced management accountant who is organised and self-driven. Anyone interested can email their CV to
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Itsu to receive £4.3m of new funding and begin operational turnaround plan if CVA approved: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, is to receive £4.3m of new funding and begin an operational turnaround plan if its company voluntary arrangement (CVA) proposals are approved, Propel has learned. It’s understood Itsu’s shareholders, which include Ambrosia Investments, have provided a letter of comfort to the company confirming their intention to support an additional funding need of up to £4.3m should it not be successful in obtaining this financing from an external source prior to the funding need arising. However, this additional funding is conditional on approval of the CVA proposal. If the additional funding isn’t made available, this would leave the company with a substantial funding deficit and no ability to address that. The CVA proposal document states: “The directors are firmly of the view the company has now exhausted all solvent options available to it and, unless the CVA is approved, it will be likely to file for administration or liquidation. The proposed restructuring terms in the CVA provide the only bridge to a sustainable and profitable future for the company.” As part of the proposals the company and its adviser AlixPartners have carried out an assessment of the company’s property portfolio and divided the sites into six main categories, with each category of lease affected differently pursuant to the terms of the CVA. Category A comprises 19 sites, which are already on sustainable rent terms. Category B comprises the group’s two airport concessions at Gatwick and Heathrow. Category C comprises 46 sites, which will move to turnover rent under the proposals at 9% up to £950,000 of yearly store turnover and 10% on additional yearly turnover, with a rent “top-up” every six months during a “rent concession period”. Sites demised under Category C leases are listed as core sites to the business the directors consider could trade profitably in the period while the business recovers from covid-19. Category D comprises 9 sites that made little or no profit before the covid-19 outbreak but which the company believes could be made profitable if rent is adjusted to a suitable level. Category E comprises five sites – Chancery Lane, Lime Street, Ludgate Hill, Old Broad Street and Sackville Street, which were trading at a loss, are close to expiry or are wholly sub-let and which the company wishes to exit as part of the CVA. Finally, there are also two non-trading premises leases in a final category. Until now, Itsu has been mainly funded through equity rather than debt, with shareholders who have never taken dividends out of the business. Shareholders have invested £40m into the company during the past four years and it has predominantly had relatively low levels of external bank debt. The business plans to open the majority of its estate in September as expectations of London footfall begin to increase, albeit from a very low base. Itsu currently has 15 stores open, with trading said to be at low levels compared with 2019 sales. Certain stores that geographically benefit from lock-down and those with strong delivery catchment areas are showing “slightly stronger” signs of trade. The CVA meeting will be held on Wednesday, 19 August.

TRG offered £1.6m to buy back five Food & Fuel sites out of administration: The Restaurant Group (TRG) offered £1.6m to buy back five sites from the 11-strong Food & Fuel business, which was placed into administration in March, Propel has learned. On 24 April this year TRG exchanged on a deal for Coco Momo sites in Marylebone and Kensington, The Queens in Crouch End, The Roebuck in Chiswick and The Queens Arms in Pimlico, with completion due to have taken place by 12 June. In June, Propel revealed London pub operator Market Taverns had acquired another four sites from the former Food & Fuel estate – The Sporting Page in Chelsea, The Queens Head in Holborn, The Lots Road Pub & Dining Room in Chelsea, and The Prince Of Wales in Putney. In the administrators report, a consideration of £200,000 was received from Market Taverns and a deal for The Lots Road Pub & Dining Room, The Prince Of Wales and The Sporting Page was completed in May. It is envisaged a sale of The Queen’s Head will be completed shortly. Of the two remaining pubs placed into administration, The Duke in Richmond and The Grosvenor in Hanwell have been taken back by their respective landlords. The Steam Packet in Chiswick wasn’t included in the administration but transferred to TRG’s gastro-pub brand Brunning & Price. Administrator RSM said multiple parties submitted offers in respect of each site. Food & Fuel’s turnover in the year to May 2019 was £11.74m, with a pre-tax loss of £3.74m. For the seven months to the end of last year, its turnover stood at £6.37m, with a pre-tax loss of £1.9m. RSM said the property, plant and equipment across the 11 pubs had a net book value of £2.41m. TRG acquired the then 11-strong Food & Fuel in September 2018 for £14.9m.

BrunchCo paid £500,000 for bulk of Le Pain Quotidien UK: BrunchCo paid £500,000 to acquire 15 of Le Pain Quotidien’s 26 UK sites through a pre-pack administration, Propel has learned. The new company, a subsidiary of Belgium-based investment firm Cobepa, the chain’s existing backer, acquired the bulk of the Le Pain Quotidien UK business in June. The move saw Steven Whibley, who was managing director of the brand at the turn of the decade, return to the role. In April, Propel revealed an emergency sales process for the UK business had been launched, with Alvarez & Marsal overseeing the auction. This process generated 11 offers for the business, five were for the shares of the company (solvent offers) and six for some or all of the business and assets of the company (insolvent offers). The solvent offers ranged from £1 to £2.1m, while the insolvent ones ranged from £450,000 to £2.4m, all with a number of conditions including a new licensing agreement from the parent company. However, the solvent options were seen as unachievable and all the insolvent offers as challenging in “some regard”, including a requirement for the parent company to provide a licence to use the Le Pain Quotidien brand, which it had indicated it was unwilling to do in respect of some of the bidders. Following the progression of a restructuring of the parent company on 1 June, it subsequently submitted an offer, which was concluded provided the best outcome for the company’s creditors as a whole. Prior to March, Le Pain Quotidien UK was funded through a group-wide cash pooling arrangement managed by the parent company. As at 31 December 2019, the company’s accounts showed an operating loss of £3.3m (2018: £0.6m loss). On 2 April 2020, the parent company informed Le Pain Quotidien UK it did not intend to provide it with further financial support beyond a loan of $1m (circa £800,000). This loan was provided to pay critical expenses, including employees’ salaries and wages in March, while the company considered the restructuring options available to it. On 6 April, the company was presented with a statutory demand for £34,500 and a final demand on 9 April for £213,391, which it was unable to settle. Last month, Whibley told Propel the company was in talks about taking on a further three of the brand’s London sites. Whibley said: “At present, we’re planning a staged reopening from August.” Whibley said the group would spend six to nine months looking to put in foundations to revitalise the brand and look to open a new site in 2021 before embarking on an expansion strategy of opening three to four sites a year from 2022.

Franco Manca operator raises £2.25m in oversubscribed share placing: Fulham Shore, operator of Franco Manca and The Real Greek, has raised £2.25m in a share placing that was oversubscribed. A total of 36 million new ordinary shares have been issued at a price of 6.25p. The new shares represent about 5.91% of the issued share capital and total voting rights of the company. Directors of the company subscribed to new shares as part of the placing, including managing director Nabil Mankarious, who acquired almost three million shares; chairman David Page, who bought more than 2.2 million shares; and finance director Nick Wong, who acquired more than two million shares. Page said: “We are pleased to have concluded the fund-raise, which was oversubscribed, at a premium to the previous day’s closing share price. This raise, along with our new bank facilities, places us on a sound financial footing.” On Thursday (6 August) Fulham Shore revealed it had entered into a new £10.75m debt facility and agreed new terms for its existing £15m banking facilities. The company said it had traded at 72% of last year’s level since reopening after lock-down. Meanwhile, Fulham Shore will reopen its The Real Greek site in Reading on Saturday (8 August), meaning 15 of the brand’s 18 restaurants will have reopened.

PizzaExpress to reopen 63 restaurants next week taking total to more than 300: PizzaExpress is to reopen 63 restaurants on Thursday, 13 August, taking the total to have reopened to more than 300. The company, which this week revealed plans for a major restructuring that could see 67 sites shut permanently, said the move follows the successful phased reopening of dine-in, delivery and click-and-collect services at selected pizzerias from last month. The latest sites reopening will include Cheltenham, Haywards Heath, Northampton and Worcester. Social distancing measures at reopened sites include a physically distanced layout, hand-sanitiser stations, heightened hygiene procedures and cleaning measures, along with regular health checks of team members. There is also a new online booking service, a new digital menu and cashless payment. PizzaExpress managing director Zoe Bowley said: “The initial signs from the restaurants that have already reopened have been very encouraging and we’re delighted to be welcoming even more customers back into our restaurants. The response to our online booking system, new digital menus and cashless payments has been fantastic, and we continue to encourage everyone to use these services as much as possible as their local restaurant reopens. We are very grateful for the way our customers have embraced our new procedures.” All PizzaExpress’ reopened restaurants are taking part in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme this month. As well as the major restructuring, PizzaExpress said it had also hired advisers from Lazard to lead a sales process for the business.

Megan’s to launch first site outside London, in St Albans: London-based cafe and deli concept Megan’s is to open its first site outside London, in the former Jamie’s Italian in St Albans, Hertfordshire, Propel has learned. Megan’s head of people Fernanda Antonio said: “We are excited to be able to extend our Megan’s family with our first out-of-London location. We will create 30 jobs in St Albans and are looking for ambitious managers, chefs and waitresses who have that Megan’s magic.” The company, owned by Tossed founder Vincent McKevitt, operates eight venues in the capital – in Balham, Battersea, Clapham, Fulham, High Street Kensington, Islington, Parsons Green and Wimbledon. 

Greene King to install electric vehicle charging points across pub estate: Brewer and retailer Greene King is to install electric vehicle charging points in all suitable sites across its 2,700 managed and tenanted pubs. The initial phase will see installation of chargers in 900 of Greene King’s managed pubs within the next 12 months as part of the company’s commitment to support greener thinking and its sustainability strategy. The Churchill in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, has become the first Greene King pub to offer electric vehicle charging points. Tony Hodgson, head of estates at Greene King, said: “We have been working hard to develop our sustainability plans as we continue to build a greener business. With more people buying electric cars in a bid to be more environmentally friendly, we want to support our customers who come to dine or stay with us by offering electric charging ports in those of our pubs that are able to do so.”

Estabulo Rodizio Bar and Grill secures site at York shopping centre as owner shifts focus from national to regional operators: Yorkshire-based Brazilian restaurant Estabulo Rodizio Bar and Grill has secured a site in York. The company has agreed a deal to open at Vangarde Shopping Park in premises previously occupied by Boparan Restaurant Group-owned brand Giraffe. The letting is part of a shift by Vangarde to move away from national chains towards a diversified offering of leisure, retail and regional restaurant operators in response to “changing demand and difficult trading conditions”. The restaurant will be Estabulo Rodizio Bar and Grill’s eighth venue following its launch in Beverley, East Yorkshire, in 2016. The concept specialises in cuts of meat that are skewered and cooked over an open flame. Customers pay a fixed price and use a two-sided disc to control the pace of their meal. The green side indicates to the waiter to serve more meat, while the red side indicates a pause. To help with the change of direction, Vangarde has brought in Hartnell Taylor Cook and Emanuel Oliver to join existing agent Lawrence Hannah, which secured Estabulo Rodizio Bar and Grill. Lawrence Hannah director Miles Lawrence told The Business Desk: “The food and drinks market is moving away from national chains and regional operators now represent by far the most exciting options for landlords. With this in mind we were delighted to secure Estabulo, which us well loved throughout the region and brings a whole new flavour to the scheme.”

Lollipop to open French-inspired venue in Chelsea as it puts plans for concept based around cooking at home on hold: Immersive hospitality group Lollipop is to open a French-inspired venue in Chelsea after putting plans to launch a concept built around the nation falling back in love with cooking at home on hold. The group, founded by Sebastian Lyall, was aiming to launch Kitchen Storey in King’s Road, which would see diners cook part of their own meal.  However, Lyall told Propel the fact destination trade is struggling because people aren’t coming into London or are unwilling to travel across the capital, had led him to pivot Kitchen Story into Jolie. He hopes Kitchen Storey will now launch in the winter. Set to open on Friday, 28 August as part of Lollipop’s Chelsea Funhouse venue, Jolie is described as a crossover between a restaurant and cocktail lounge. It will serve sharing plates inspired by the different regions of France, including its signature smoked cote du boeuf, and bottomless cheese fondue. The cocktail list takes inspiration from the smells and scents of different regions in France, including the Versailles – a champagne-based cocktail with homemade caramel peach cognac and vanilla gold spray. Lyall said: “We believe restaurants are more than just about eating, they’ve become places for people to socialise and continue their night after their dinner. With restrictions on travel and people wanting to stay in a venue for the whole evening, we think this new dining experience comes at the right time.” Lollipop, which Lyall founded in 2015, has a number of restaurants in London and Paris. It was also behind nude restaurant The Bunyadi, which Lyall hopes to bring back as a permanent site, and a pop-up owl cafe.

Ennismore to start expansion of Tandoor Chop House concept with Notting Hill site, introduces ‘tacos’ offer: Glenagles owner Ennismore is to start expansion of Tandoor Chop House, its concept inspired by the communal eateries of Northern India and the classic British chop house. Ennismore launched Tandoor Chop House in Adelaide Street, Covent Garden, in 2017. Now it will open a venue in Notting Hill on Wednesday, 12 August featuring a new Tandoor Tacos menu alongside the regular Tandoor Chop House offering. The venue in Uxbridge Street will initially operate from 5pm to 10pm, Wednesday to Sunday, for dinner only. It will offer a menu of small plates such as bhaji onion rings with smoked aubergine raita, and dishes from the tandoor oven such the signature house tandoor chicken. The Tandoor Chop House Mighty Thali – a “mix of the best bits” on the menu – will be on offer for groups of two to three to share. Tandoor Tacos will be available to eat in and feature paratha bread filled with a combination of Indian and Mexican flavours, spices and pickles. The five paratha tacos include The Jack Route (jackfruit tikka, charred aubergine raita, pickled carrot, swede and red onion). Both menus will be available for delivery via Deliveroo. When Ennismore launched the concept, then head of restaurants Graham Hall, who is now a director of Drake & Morgan, told Propel: “It’s a simple but good offer. It’s ideal for lunch and for pre-theatre dining, hence the Covent Garden location, with a selection of plates to share as well as individual dishes. We’re looking to roll it out over the next couple of years.”

LGH warns about 1,500 staff at risk of redundancy: About 1,500 staff at hotels managed by LGH in England and Scotland have been told they are at risk of redundancy because of the coronavirus crisis. LGH, which manages 55 properties, including some Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Hallmark hotels, said the staff were in a consultation period. LGH manages about 2,500 staff on behalf of hotels, many of which are franchised. Joanne Monk, group people and development director at LGH, said no hard and fast decisions had been made about how many jobs would be cut. However, she said LGH’s hotels were being run on skeleton staff at the moment, which was likely to continue. Monk said because of the effects of coronavirus on the hotel industry and the economy as a whole, it was likely that only a small number of staff out of those who were made redundant would be able to be redeployed within LGH hotels. However, she added some staff may be retained on casual contracts. The majority of staff at risk of redundancy are operational – such as chefs, bar staff, front-of-house workers and cleaners – although LGH-managed staff are also at risk across the board. The “central staff” – that is, higher management within the firm – are also at risk, Monk said. She added the winding down of the government’s job retention scheme from the beginning of August was a factor in the timing of the consultation but the main reason the firm had warned staff about the risk of redundancy was it didn’t expect demand to pick up within the next year, Monk added.

Butchies to launch at former VQ site in Clapham next week: London-based chicken sandwich concept Butchies is to launch a site in Clapham on Tuesday (11 August). As revealed by Propel last month the concept, which was founded by Garrett Fitzgerald in 2013, has secured the former VQ takeaway site at 122 Clapham High Street. The grab-and-go site will have a 4am licence and offer Butchies’ all-day menu, which includes six fried chicken sandwiches in soft butter-toasted buns alongside buffalo wings, buttermilk chicken tenders and popcorn chicken. Butchies has also launched its first children’s meal, which includes six pieces of popcorn chicken, house barbecue sauce, small fries, and a blackcurrant and raspberry juice from Pip Organic. The company, which is chaired by Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh, has two other sites, in Shoreditch and Fulham (Market Halls), and also operates a dark kitchen in King’s Cross. However, when the Clapham grab-and-go site opens the company will close its unit at the Foodstars kitchen in Battersea. Fitzgerald said: “At the beginning of lock-down we launched a delivery-only kitchen in Battersea, which has been a huge success for us. We are super excited to migrate that kitchen to Clapham High Street, which allows us to continue serving all our delivery customers as well as allowing us to serve the beautiful people of Clapham in the flesh.” Kit Alexander, at Etch, acted for VQ.

Administrators dealing with Exchange Hotel in Cardiff resign after concluding property is ‘unsaleable’: Administrators dealing with the company behind the Exchange Hotel in Cardiff have resigned from their position having concluded the hotel is “unsaleable”. The move leaves the future of the Cardiff hotel and the millions of pounds still owed to creditors in limbo as official receivers or a potential liquidator will now take over, despite assurances from the hotel operator it would reopen within weeks. Kelly Burton and Lisa Hogg, joint administrators at Wilson Fields, have stepped down saying they would be unable to recoup monies owed. The announcement comes days after the Exchange Hotel posted on social media saying a reopening was imminent and the hotel was no longer part of Signature Living. Signature Living Coal Exchange, which owns the freehold to the historic Coal Exchange building, went into administration on 6 May owing at least £25m and with just £17 in the bank. A statement from Wilson Field said: “The former joint administrators resigned from their position due to funding for the holdings costs associated to the company’s principal asset, namely the Exchange Hotel in Cardiff, being withdrawn. This meant the former joint administrators would be unable to achieve the statutory purpose of administration.” Despite the building’s owners going into administration, the separate operating company that runs the hotel on a day-to-day basis, The Exchange Hotel Cardiff Ops, was unaffected. The operation of the hotel business itself is still considered viable. Eden Grove Properties, a company with a registered address in Cwmbran, has applied to renew the Exchange Hotel’s premises licence, which had lapsed while the hotel was closed during lock-down. Wilson Fields confirmed it hadn’t reached an agreement with any party regarding the sale of the hotel or had allowed any party to trade the hotel.

Steve Drake reopens Michelin-starred restaurant Sorrel: Chef patron Steve Drake has reopened his Michelin-starred restaurant Sorrel. Drake opened the venue in Dorking, Surrey, in 2017 with the venue awarded a Michelin star in 2019, which it has retained as well as four AA Rosettes. The restaurant features new safety measures including a one-way system to help guest flow, bookings for a maximum of two households (including support bubbles) up to a table of ten, staggered bookings and hand sanitiser available at the entrance and throughout the building. Members of staff have been appointed to oversee the new procedures, while the number of tables have been reduced. Sorrell will also offer single-use menus.

C&C Group rebrands Irish business to Bulmers Ireland, launches online ordering platform and customer portal: Drinks company C&C Group has rebranded its Irish business. The move sees C&C Group combine its two main operating businesses, C&C Gleeson and Bulmers, under the unified trading name of Bulmers Ireland. A spokeswoman said: “Our objective is to better align our business units in Ireland under one corporate identity, which reflects the strength and standing of Bulmers, one of Ireland’s most iconic brands. The modernisation and simplification of our business model in Ireland will support our customer base and enhance our service. As we navigate the challenges of covid-19, we have listened to the changing needs of our customers. As those needs evolve, we aim to deliver solutions that add value for our customers and enhances the service we provide.” The company has also launched an online ordering platform and customer portal system entitled Bulmers Direct and an app to support the on-trade. The spokeswoman said: “To support the hospitality industry, we have launched the Local app and website, which aims to support pubs, clubs, restaurants and bars looking to offer delivery or collection services but with no technology solution. Transaction fees of 2% per order will be reinvested into Local, with any excess income generated during 2020 donated to healthcare charities across Ireland.” Last month C&C Group appointed David Forde as group chief executive. Forde will join from Heineken, where he has been managing director of Heineken UK for seven years, at the latest in early 2021.

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