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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 11th Sep 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sector like-for-likes bounce back to 2019 levels thanks to Eat Out To Help Out but market ‘more unstable than ever’: Britain’s managed pub, restaurant and bar groups saw collective like-for-like sales bounce back to 2019 levels in August thanks to the government’s Eat Out To Help Out campaign, the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker has revealed. But while food-led businesses forged ahead, drink-led operations still found trading tough, and the market is “more unstable than ever”. The London market also trailed significantly behind the rest of the country. With 85% of group-owned sites reopened, total sales across the whole managed pub, bar and restaurant market were still 12.2% below last August’s levels, but like-for-like sales in those businesses trading came out flat. Restaurants enjoyed the biggest boost last month, with group-owned sites that were open seeing collective like-for-like sales up 13.5% on August last year. But because only 65% of chain-owned restaurants that were trading back in February were open again, total sales across that part of the market were still down 10.9% on last year. Managed pub groups, which between them had 95% of their sites trading, saw like-for-like sales down 3.6% on last August and total sales down 9.4%. However, food-led pubs and pub restaurants did prosper on the back of the Eat Out To Help Out incentive with collective like-for-likes up 5.3% on last August and total sales down just 1.2%. In contrast, wet-led pubs saw like-for-likes down 11% and total sales down 16.3%. Across the managed pub market as a whole, food sales were up 12%, with drink sales down 15.3% on last August. Bar groups, which had 74% of their sites trading, had the worst of the month, with like-for-like sales down 27.6% and total sales down 37%. Regionally, London still struggled over August despite the assistance of Eat Out To Help Out. Like-for-like sales were down 13.4%, with total sales down 28.1%. In contrast, outside the M25, like-for-like sales were up 3.2% and total sales down just 7.9% on last August. While restaurants in London did, overall, record positive like-for-likes, up 2.6%, they still lagged considerably behind the rest of the country. Delivery accounted for 8.8% of sales among the casual dining groups in the Tracker cohort in August, down from 13.1% in July, but still up on the pre-lock-down percentage of 5.9% in February. Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, said it would be interesting to see if the momentum of Eat Out To Help Out could be maintained with the government’s new legal restrictions in force. Trevor Watson, executive director, Davis Coffer Lyons added: “The boost to food-led establishments due to Eat Out To Help Out is short term; the longer-term trend is the redistribution in trade towards residential districts and away from commercial city centres and London, in particular. The autumn sees the end of furlough and, potentially, the end of the moratorium on lease forfeiture. These twin threats are the biggest possible challenge to the industry so, although the doors are open to many pubs and restaurants, the market is more unstable than it has ever been. Pictures of people eating out in pub gardens, and healthy looking like-for-likes present a misleading and artificial impression of where the market is right now.” At the end of August, underlying annual like-for-like sales for the whole market were down 21% on the previous 12 months, with total sales down 31.9%.

Industry News: 

Sponsored message – Sprout CRM offers free track and trace: In an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus, all pubs, bars and restaurants in the UK will be legally required to implement a track-and-trace system from next week. It is critical all venues operate a safe environment for their guests, while providing a seamless and non-intrusive customer journey. Over the past few months, Sprout CRM has been offering a free track-and-trace system that is GDPR compliant and conforms to government guidelines. EMEA director Dhilon Solanki said: “During these challenging times, we wanted to help. It is vital customers and staff feel safe when dining at restaurants, pubs and bars. We aim to give these venues peace of mind.” The platform is currently being used in more than 15,000 locations and recorded more than 12 million check-ins to date. Operators using the platform include Starbucks, Shake Shack, Wimpy, Hollywood Bowl, Five Guys and IHG Group. Hawthorn Leisure head of marketing Jennie Tucker said: “The Sprout check-in solution is a simple and transparent tool for customers visiting our pubs, and the set-up has been fully supported by the Sprout team, for which we’re very grateful.” Sign up for our free standard version here. Customisation options also available. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email
Charlie McVeigh to look at what’s in store for the sector as government moves to ‘zero covid’ in latest Premium column: Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh looks at what could happen to the sector as the government’s strategy moves to “zero covid” as part of this week’s Premium Opinion, which will be sent to subscribers on Friday (11 September). Meanwhile, Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will examine the fallout from prime minister Boris Johnson’s latest lock-down announcements and whether the sector may have to face some brutal truths. There will also be the latest sector whispers 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
Propel Multi Club returns with free live digital webinar focusing on delivery opportunity, open for bookings for operators: The next Propel Multi Club Conference, taking place on Thursday, 8 October, will take the form of a day-long digital live webinar and will focus on the opportunity offered to operators by delivery. The event, which starts at 10am, is free for operators, who can claim two places by emailing Speakers include NPD Group foodservice director Dominic Allport talking about the growth of the delivery market, the key trends that are developing and where the sector goes from here. Elton Gray, commercial and operations director at Creams, will discuss the challenges and considerations of delivery working within a franchised business model. Thom Elliot, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims, will discuss the evolution of the concept’s delivery strategy, plus the development and success of its pizza at home offer. Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK, will talk to Propel insights editor Mark Wingett about being an early adopter of delivery during his time at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, the challenges and opportunities, and how delivery is working for Burger King. Just Eat managing director UK Andrew Kenny will discuss the key trends Just Eat is currently seeing; the key things it has learned since setting up its delivery operation; and how it is using data and insights to help operators improve the delivery experience. AlixPartners director Steve Braude will talk about the delivery market across the Pond and the differences with our own here. Susan Martindale, group HR director at Mitchells & Butlers, will look at building a delivery strategy for pubs, the company’s use of virtual brands and a possible move into dark kitchens. Andre Johnstone, the former Wagamama executive and founder of Delivery Insider, will give his views on how business can navigate through the confusing world of food delivery, from menu set-up to aggregator management. Richard Morris, chief executive of Tortilla, will explain how delivery has forced an evolution of the business for the better. Deliveroo’s director of national accounts Matt Ring will talk to Mark Wingett about how the business continues to innovate, its use of data to create virtual brands and the challenges it faces to stay ahead in terms of growing its consumer base. There will also be a panel session involving JP Then, founder of Crosstown Doughnuts; and Johnnie Tate, founder of Yard Sale Pizza on launching, operating and growing in a delivery-focused world.

Eat Out To Help Out pushes foodservice activity to highest level since covid-19: Spend in the British out-of-home (OOH) foodservice market during the week ending Sunday, 30 August reached 63% of the level seen pre-covid – pushing activity to its highest level since lock-down, according to insights firm The NPD Group. Britain’s OOH foodservice industry would normally have transacted more than £5bn of sales during the month of August but the impact of covid-19 this year means the actual figure is estimated to be almost 50% lower, with spend levels slightly above £2.5bn. The insight firm’s separate SnapMyEats consumer panel showed 62% of the growth in “eat-in” – some 21 million trips – was driven by buyers purchasing more frequently in August than they did in July because of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. More than one third (34%) of the “eat-in” growth, which is the equivalent of 11.5 million trips, came from bringing in new customers in August. On top of this, two million trips were switched from delivery to “eat-in”, as the scheme encouraged buyers to go out for meals they had been ordering in. The NPD Group said there has been a movement away from delivery since foodservice venues reopened for on-premise visits from 4 July. Delivery spend peaked at week ending Sunday, 5 July but has returned to normal levels. The additional uplift in eating-out spend over recent weeks is due to on-premise consumption, which has increased from just 22% of pre-lock-down spend when the sector reopened to 57% of pre-lock-down spend by the end of August. The research found dinner was the most active meal eaten out, followed by lunch at 72% and 63% of pre-lock-down spend respectively while consumers aged 16 to 24 were especially active in recent weeks, with their spend jumping from 49% of pre-lock-down to 77% in just three weeks. The next most active age band was the over-55s spending 72% of pre-lock-down levels. By the end of August, weekday recovery was significantly more pronounced at 69% of pre-lock-down spend compared with 50% for weekend spend. Dominic Allport, insights director (foodservice), The NPD Group, said: “The important question is whether the restaurant industry will sustain this summer’s improvement into September and October? These two months would typically see 17% of the industry’s annual spend with combined sales of almost £10bn. However, the foodservice industry is still facing severe pressures and with recent concern about a possible second wave of covid-19 cases it is likely that any further improvement could be challenging. Underperformance versus last year is likely to continue with September and October potentially seeing sales around a third lower than they were last year, meaning more than £3bn fewer sales.”
The NPD Group is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Cross-party support voiced for long-term reduction in tourism VAT: Cross-party support has been voiced for a long-term reduction in tourism VAT. MPs from the Conservative Party, Labour, the SNP and Liberal Democrats each suggested at a backbench business debate in the House of Commons on Thursday (10 September) an extension of the reduction in VAT beyond January would be an effective way to protect businesses over the winter and stimulate the UK’s tourist economy. Hospitality and tourism businesses welcomed the government’s decision earlier this summer to reduce VAT to 5% until January 2021. Prior to the cut, the UK’s rate of VAT for accommodation and tourism attractions was approximately twice the average of other major European destinations such as Spain, Germany and Italy, imposing higher costs and stifling demand. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, said: “The expression of so much cross-party backbench support for extending the VAT cut is a very positive signal the value of hospitality and tourism is rightly being recognised. As we move away from the peak tourism season, it is encouraging to see all parties looking at ways in which government can support these vital sectors through the winter. A permanent cut in VAT would level the playing field with the UK’s international competitors, enabling tourism and hospitality businesses to survive over the winter, before helping to drive the UK’s economic recovery in 2021.”
UKHospitality is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

University researchers fear ‘rule of six’ will devastate live music sector: Birmingham Live Music Project (BLMP) has claimed the government ruling that restricts groups to no more than six people will be disastrous for the live music scene. The project, which comprises team members from Aston University, Birmingham City University and Newcastle University, is documenting the experience of independent operators and companies across England. BLMP project leader Dr Patrycja Rozbicka said: “We have previously estimated that with various degrees of restrictions on social gatherings, the capacity of live events across region dropped to one third of its pre-covid capacity. With the newest ‘rule of six’, we anticipate the number of live events taking place will drop even more. And plans to postpone the trials for large events and conferences by at least a month puts production companies across the region in a position of even greater jeopardy without provision for alternative solutions. That’s a minimum of 2,350 full-time jobs linked to the music tourism in West Midlands alone.” BLMP will present its first public workshop online on Friday, 18 September. The event, titled “West Midlands and the (international) business of creative culture”, will be the first of three panel discussions looking at the creative culture sector, live events and night-time economy of West Midlands. Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) chief executive Michael Kill is one of the panellists. He said: “The NTIA expresses concerns around the continual exclusion of night-time economy businesses from support within Birmingham and across the UK. The government’s latest announcement continues to leave many businesses with immensely difficult decisions surrounding their future, and the future of thousands of employees who are facing redundancy. We look forward to exploring these critical questions with colleagues from across the industry in Birmingham later this month.”
New York City to resume indoor dining at 25% capacity from 30 September: New York City governor Andrew Cuomo will allow restaurants to resume indoor dining from 30 September but they can only use a quarter of their tables. Coronavirus had put a stop to eating inside the city’s restaurants but eating outside premises has been allowed since early July. Positive cases of covid-19 have been under 1% for more than a month and Cuomo mooted the idea of reining back indoor dining if it went above 2%. However, plans to reopen further – using 50% of indoor tables – could take place on, or possibly before, 1 November. Cuomo said: “I want to thank New Yorkers for their hard work to increase compliance, and we can now take the next step in reopening our restaurants. We’ve been speaking with stakeholders, and we are now announcing that we can safely reopen indoor dining in New York City with limited capacity at the end of this month, as long as they adhere to strict health and safety protocols. This is good news and the right step forward, especially for restaurant owners and staff who have been struggling through this time. But it is up to all of us to ensure compliance and the health and safety of those around us.” New York State Restaurant Association president and chief executive Melissa Fleischut added: “This comes at a pivotal time for the restaurant industry in New York City, and we would like to thank governor Cuomo for recognising this and providing hope to the thousands of restaurants based here in the culinary capital of the world. Allowing restaurants to open indoors at a limited capacity will provide these eateries with an economic lifeline as they all try and keep their doors open through this pandemic.” Included among the stipulations restaurants must adhere to are: temperature checks on entry, details taken of one member of each dining party, masks to be worn when not seated at the table and sites must close by midnight.
London hotel market continues recovery: London’s hotel market has continued its recovery – but occupancy and revpar levels were at August record lows, according to the latest data from STR. The figures showed occupancy dropped from 64.4% year-on-year to 30.7%, while revpar fell 79.7% to £26.52. Average daily rate was down 42.9% on last year, to £86.40. STR said regional markets in the UK continue to outperform capital cities.
Fleurets property agent Kate Dowd passes away: Kate Dowd, who became a Fleurets property agent after quitting her career as a publican, has passed away. A statement from Fleurets read: “It is with enormous sadness we confirm our colleague and friend Kate Dowd has passed away following a long-term illness. Kate joined Fleurets in 2003 following a successful career as a publican in Brighton and worked closely with our local divisional director Nick Earee to become one of the best-known and successful agents in the area. Kate was a popular and very positive member of our team and, while she faced many health challenges in recent years, Kate met each with utmost bravery and positivity to the end.” 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a hospitality business that is looking for a digital marketing manager. This hospitality, entertainment and leisure business operates destination venues and has a great reputation. The digital marketing manager will manage, plan and execute all digital marketing, including but not limited to social media, marketing/CRM database, social media, and paid and display advertising campaigns. The role will also work collaboratively with the hands-on and passionate senior management team across other areas of the business. The individual must have at least five years’ experience within a digital marketing or similar role and demonstrable experience leading and managing SEO/SEM, marketing database/CRM, email, social media and/or display advertising campaigns. The position is London based, paying between £45,000 and £55,000 depending on experience. Anyone interested can email
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Busaba looks to exit four leases as it launches CVA process: Busaba, the Thai chain founded by Alan Yau, is looking to exit four leases as it launches its company voluntary arrangement (CVA) proposal, Propel has learned. The company, which earlier this summer was acquired by Tnui Capital – the London-based private equity firm – launched its CVA process this week, working with advisory firm Duff & Phelps. Propel understands the 13-strong group is looking to exit its site in Eastcastle Street, Oxford Circus, which it placed on the market earlier this year; plus the lease of its former site in Manchester; the lease of its former site in St Albans; and on the site it was set to take in Reading’s Jackson’s Corner development. The company has so far reopened seven of its sites since 4 July. Managing director Terry Harrison said in a letter to staff: “These extraordinary times have brought extraordinary challenges for everybody and, as you’ll be aware, the casual dining arena has particularly suffered as a consequence of the covid-19 pandemic. The knock-on effect of the outbreak continues and this unfortunate, but necessary measure, is the only real option we believe we have left to save our business in these challenging times, thereby preserving jobs and ensuring the restaurants will open again, or in the case of those that have reopened, stay open. Since the covid-19 ‘lock-down’, we have had to make some very difficult decisions to sustain our business and it is true to say anybody connected to Busaba has been affected and has had to share in the pain to secure our future, including rebuilding our operating model, simplifying our menu offer, reducing our workforce, applying the government’s furlough scheme (which is having huge mental health implications), and our management team accepting a significant salary sacrifice at head office. The response from our restaurant teams has been incredible and their understanding and flexibility has resulted in us proposing that (where we once thought we were going to have to make 200 redundancies) we will be reducing our workforce down by around 40 hard-working, committed, team members. The proposal is drafted to ensure the sustainability of the business going forward and putting it on a variable costs model basis. Our teams have shown incredible understanding about changes to working practices and we are asking the other stakeholders to join us in changing this business and driving it forward.”
Temakinho places debut UK site on the market: Brazilian-Japanese fusion chain Temakinho has placed its debut UK site in London’s Soho on the market. The company, which was founded in 2012 by the Maroli family and operates 18 restaurants in Italy, the UK and Ibiza, opened the sites at 10 Old Compton Street in 2016. CDG Leisure is understood to be marketing the site. The brand also operates a site at One Tower Bridge, which continues to trade. Earlier this summer, the company reopened both its UK sites for deliveries and takeaway.
Country Pub Group founder acquires one site out of administration: Matthew Lowe, the founder of Somerset-based The Country Pub Group, which was placed into administration earlier this summer, has bought back one of the company’s four sites, Propel has learned. Steven Parker and Trevor Binyon, of Opus Restructuring, were appointed joint administrators for the group, which operated The Temple Inn in Temple Cloud, The Battleaxes in Wraxall, The Castle Inn in Bradford-on-Avon and The Mendip Inn in Shepton Mallet, in July. Lowe has bought back the Mendip Inn for a total consideration of £30,000. It is currently uncertain if there will be any realisation of the three other leases. Due to the pandemic, the company ceased trading in March and closed its premises. It was able to make use of the government’s furlough scheme and managed to obtain a £50,000 grant. The company had submitted a case for a £212,000 Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan, however this was turned down.
Five Guys secures former Chiquito site in Enfield: Five Guys, the US better burger brand, is set to continue its expansion in the UK, after securing a site in Enfield, while in talks on a further three sites, Propel has learned. The John Eckbert-led company has secured the former Chiquito site at Southbury Leisure Park, with an opening planned before the end of the year. Propel understands the circa 100-strong company is in talks on a further three sites, including one in Crawley, West Sussex. Earlier this month, Propel revealed that the company had launched a “curb side” pick-up option at selected sites across its UK estate, Propel has learned. It launched the option at 14 of its sites across the country, including those in Leicester, Nottingham, Cheshire Oaks, Gloucester Quays and Milton Keynes. 
Goodman to reopen all six sites by end of September: All six Goodman Restaurants sites will be back open by the end of September. The Global Craftsman Group-owned chain reopened Goodman City on Tuesday (8 September) and will begin business at Zelman Meats Soho on Wednesday, 23 September, and Goodman Canary Wharf on Tuesday, 29 September. Goodman Maddox Street, Zelman Meats Harvey Nichols and Beast have been open since July. Week-on-week growth in covers since reopening on 4 July for the group was helped by the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Managing director Alex D’Aguiar said: “We’re thrilled that we are reopening the rest of our estate following lock-down and are pleased to be trading better than expected. The next few months will continue to be a challenge. While carefully complying with social distancing measures put in place to protect our guests and staff, we’ll be pivoting our guest profile not to be so reliant on tourism and business travellers in central London and, most importantly, continue to give our loyal guests the confidence to come back and dine with us.” Founder Misha Zelman added: “Since lock-down I have been inspired how the team has adapted, reorganised and planned how we recover through these challenging times. The team has been working tirelessly to ensure we have stability in the business as we start to rebuild over the next 12 months, working with our key partners that have been very supportive.”
Inception Group reopens Soho-based Cahoots, plans new immersive dining experience: Inception Group has reopened its Soho-based, 1940s-themed speakeasy, and announced it will be launching an immersive dining experience, inspired by the much-loved British wartime sitcom ’Allo ’Allo, at the venue next month. From Wednesday, 7 October, the original Cahoots Underground space, will play host to a ’40s feasting experience inspired by the cult comedy classic of the same era. While tucking into a “ration-busting” three-course menu, guests will be treated to a “nostalgic dose of escapism, as a talented team of actors seeks to revive the most memorable characters and storylines from the long-running wartime spoof”.
Gaucho and M launch ‘Safe Six’ menu: Gaucho and M Restaurants, owned by Rare Restaurants, have launched The Safe Six Menu in response to Boris Johnson’s announcement that no more than six people may gather together as part of the fight against covid-19. From Thursday, 17 September, until the end of October, all Gaucho and M Restaurants across London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh will accept a limited number of bookings at 6pm for a three-course meal with each dish costing £6. Menus have been are designed by culinary director chef Mike Reid, who has appeared on TV shows This Morning and Ready Steady Cook, and include seabass ceviche, churrasco cut of prime Argentine steak and a chocolate brownie sundae. Rare restaurants chief executive Martin Williams said: “We assisted the cabinet office in making restaurant venues covid-secure – now we want to support the safe dining for six. Although it seems the new measures are restrictive, in many ways they are liberating and will allow indoor dining beyond your family or bubble – so we wanted to create a menu that celebrates visiting restaurants once more”.
Searcys to continue reopening its restaurant estate: Searcys will reopen its Helix restaurant within The Gherkin on Monday, 21 September. It will be joined by St Pancras Brasserie by Searcys, which will open again on the same day while the stable’s Saatchi Bar and Brasserie, near Sloan Square, has already reopened. Helix, which is located on floors 39 and 40 at the top of The Gherkin, in the City of London, will offer a new weekday menu and champagne partnership with Lanson, alongside its first afternoon tea. Dishes will be inspired by iconic food markets such as Billingsgate and Borough Market, and will include roast pumpkin velouté served with caraway toast, apple and almond; miso cod loin with roast cauliflower, verjuice and grapes; and white chocolate cremeux, passion fruit, baked chocolate and mint – available at £28 for two courses and £35 for three. For its afternoon tea, which starts at £35, executive chef Darren Deadman has designed a menu that includes finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, plus sweet treats of passion fruit mousse, Black Forest gateaux and lemon macaroon. The Gherkin will also open its private dining rooms for small events, private dinners and meetings. Searcys operates circa 30 sites across the UK.
Starbucks rolls out strawless lids for iced drinks across US and Canada: Starbucks has rolled out its recyclable strawless lids for iced drinks across the US and Canada. It follows a pilot scheme in select stores over the past year, including some in the UK. Starbucks said it marked a “significant milestone” in its efforts to eliminate one billion plastic straws globally per year. “Recyclable, strawless lids for customers across the US and Canada is another step in our journey to reduce our environmental footprint,” said Michael Kobori, chief sustainability officer at Starbucks. “As we move closer toward our 2030 target of a 50% reduction in waste sent to landfills, the long-standing history of innovation within Starbucks, partnership across the industry and changing consumer behaviour remain fundamental to our purpose and our prosperity as an organisation.” Frappuccino blended beverages and other drinks with whipped cream will continue to have a domed lid made from recyclable plastic and be accompanied by a straw, except where prohibited by local law. Straws will also remain available in stores for customers upon request. Starbucks said strawless lids will be rolled out to more markets in the coming year.

Smoke & Salt to relaunch with bricks and mortar site in Tooting: Smoke & Salt has left its “magic box” site at Pop Brixton and will open a bricks and mortar restaurant in Tooting, on Tuesday, 22 September. Chefs and founders Aaron Webster and Remi Williams reached their crowdfunding target of £140,000 in January in a bid to find a permanent home. The duo said: “Our cuisine is an awesome reflection, representation and re-imagination of the modern dining scene in London, bridging ancient food cultures and traditions.” Smoke & Salt’s ethos celebrates the ancient techniques of smoking, curing and preserving, combined with bold, global flavours and modern influences. Smoke & Salt will be offering 50% off each bill from its launch until 24 September. It will then offer £10 off per person, along the lines of the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme from Friday, 25 September, until the end of the month. The restaurant will seat 30 to 35 people. Aside from the à la carte menu, there will be a six-course sharing menu with each dish chosen by the chefs.
Malhotra to launch pop-up bar as work starts to restore ex-music hall and pub: Newcastle-based pub, restaurant and hotel operator Malhotra Group is to launch a pop-up bar as an interim measure as restoration work begins on a former music hall and pub in the ongoing Bigg Market project. Balmbra’s in the Cloth Market area of the city was damaged by fire in 2014 but now it will be restored with support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Owned by Malhotra Group, Balmbra’s will see its frontage restored, with reproduction signage of the original from the 1900s. A pop-up bar will be built inside while further restoration work takes place. Bigg Market project manager Alex Slack told BDaily: “The public hasn’t been able to enjoy Balmbra’s for years. While we would ideally like to see the full restoration of the dance hall, this interim redevelopment and pop-up bar will bring the building back into public use and will go some way to stopping the rot and allowing further disrepair.” Malhotra Group founder and chairman Meenu Malhotra added: “We remain committed to a full restoration in due course but, as an interim measure, we want to see the building back in use. We will be working hand in hand with NE1 and the city council to ensure the project is carried out appropriately and sensitively.”

Tokyo Diner launches Fakey Cakey concept, its first creation since lock-down: Tokyo Diner will launch its new concept Fakey Cakey – savoury dishes that look like sweet cakes – from Monday (14 September). The Soho restaurant, founded by Richard Hills in 1992, will offer 11 varieties of Fakey Cakey. Tokyo Diner said the dishes are “a new type of cake created for those who prefer savoury flavours but still want a celebration cake that brings the wow factor”. Each Fakey Cakey is handcrafted with layers of shari (Japanese seasoned rice) and fresh vegetables. Fakey Cakey was the brainchild of long-standing Tokyo Diner chef Gayan-san, who has worked at the central London site since 2011. 
LWC secures multimillion-pound loan to help navigate covid-19 waters: Independent drinks wholesaler LWC Drinks has secured a multimillion-pound emergency loan to help “right the ship”. NatWest has provided the finance through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS). Managing director Ebrahim Mukadam said: “There are many successful businesses like ours that have been unavoidably impacted by the pandemic and the subsequent lock-down. It’s very positive to have secured the CLBILS loan, which will enable us to right the ship. We have an ambitious growth strategy in place and look forward to pushing ahead, continuing to support our existing clients while growing our customer base across the UK.” The Manchester-based company was founded 40 years ago and operates 14 depots across the UK with more than 13,500 on-trade customers. LWC was advised by JMW Solicitors partners Scott Cameron and Majid Mahmood, with assistance from associate Michael Atherton. Chris Poston from chartered accountancy firm RPG advised LWC in respect of the financial issues relating to the transaction. JMW head of banking Cameron said: “We’re delighted to have supported LWC in securing a CLBILS facility as it normalises operations following a challenging period. It’s an excellent business with a strong track record and an extensive customer base, standing it in good stead as it implements its return to business and growth plans.”

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