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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 12th Jan 2021 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

MPs rally behind industry's calls for further financial help as they support dedicated hospitality minister petition: MPs across the political spectrum have backed sector calls for an extension of the VAT cut and the business rates holiday as they warned the government would not be “maximising the opportunity to engage with the industry” unless it appoints a dedicated minister. Catherine McKinnell, the Labour MP for Newcastle North, who led the debate into creating the role, said there was a “lack of deep understanding of the sector on the government's part”. More than 200,000 people signed the petition #SeatAtTheTable calling for prime minister Boris Johnson to appoint a hospitality minister that led to the parliamentary debate on Monday (11 January). McKinnell said: “It's clear the government would do a lot better if it stopped seeing it [the industry] as amenable to a one size fits all approach.” McKinnell highlighted hospitality was caught between “two crowded departments” – the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport – that “creates an incentive for passing the buck between departments, which reinforces the case for a minister for hospitality”. She said: “It's important we have that input from the hospitality sector so as to not repeat the mistakes that were made in the summer of 2020. We must at least recognise the sector needs a strong voice in government with a genuine recognition of its diversity and greater engagement with businesses and a much deeper understand of the ways in which they are affected by lockdown measures.” MPs also stressed a comprehensive plan along with an extension of key schemes such as the business rates holiday and the VAT reduction were key, along a with roadmap out of restrictions. Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, said: “Too many owners ineligible for government income support have had to deplete their personal savings to keep businesses afloat. Extending business rates relief for hospitality would be money well spent.” Julian Lewis, the Conservative MP for New Forest East, suggested introducing a temporary hospitality industry recovery minister. He said if it worked well it may be logical to make it permanent. Responding to the petition, Paul Scully, minister for small business, consumers and labour markets, said: “It’s not within my gift to create a new ministerial post, that power rests with the prime minister, but I can assure you the two of us are doing all we can within government to understand and represent the interests of the sector.” But McKinnell said: “Take this away and put it to the prime minister that [a minister for hospitality] is something that is in the government's interest to create.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “There was a clear and highly encouraging demonstration of strong cross-party support for an extension of the VAT cut and the business rates holiday. These are going to be crucial if we hope to see businesses survive the year. Announcing an extension of both of these policies, at the earliest possible opportunity, will provide some much-needed stability for our sector and allow businesses to begin planning. Equally clear is that a great many MPs recognise that this additional support will be necessary if the sector is to survive and lead the national revival.”

Industry News: 

New round of Scottish grants not enough to prevent business failures, warns UKHospitality: The new package of financial support for Scottish operators will not be enough to prevent some sector businesses from failure and jobs being permanently lost, UKHospitality has warned. The Scottish government has announced, in addition to the grants businesses receive through the Strategic Business Framework Fund, businesses closed by level four restrictions are to receive a one-off grant of up to £25,000. The £25,000 grant is being made available to larger hospitality businesses on top of the four-weekly £3,000 through the fund. Meanwhile, smaller hospitality businesses will get £6,000 on top of the four-weekly payment of £2,000. UKHospitality Scotland executive director Willie Macleod said: “Additional financial assistance is always welcome, but the reality is this is not going to be enough. We are talking about businesses that now have no revenue, or next to no revenue, whatsoever. The sector’s ability to generate any sort of income is almost non-existent, particularly for businesses in mainland Scotland. Financial support must go further if we want businesses to stay afloat and jobs to survive. We need confirmation the VAT cut and business rates holiday will be extended. This will, at least, give hospitality businesses some sense of stability and allow them to plan for what is going to be a very difficult year.” Finance secretary Kate Forbes said: “Crucially this essential funding will also help to close the gaps in UK-wide support for these impacted sectors and our one-off support for larger hospitality premises of £25,000 is considerably more generous than the £9,000 grant on offer in England. Of course we are acutely aware this support can never compensate for the full impact on business, but we must work within the resources that are available to us, and we continue to respond to the evolving economic challenges arising from the pandemic.”

Sunak – important hospitality industry is given every possible chance to succeed and flourish: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said as the UK comes out of the covid-19 crisis it will be important the hospitality industry is “given every possible chance to succeed and flourish”. Speaking in the House of Commons and replying to a question on future further support for the sector, Sunak said: “I will bear in mind other avenues for future support. As we come out of this it will be important the hospitality industry is given every possible chance to succeed and flourish.” However, he was less forthcoming on what that support would look like, side-stepping a question on the possibility of extending business rates relief and the current VAT cut, and refusing to be drawn on whether the furlough scheme could be extended past the end of April. 

Pubs will be calling ‘mayday’ if they cannot reopen until May, warns BBPA: Pubs across the UK will be lost for good if they cannot reopen until May and do not get extended financial support from government, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has warned. The trade body has also said Downing Street needs to be clear on its roadmap for the reopening of pubs. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “We really hope the speculation about pubs being forced to stay closed until May is not true. We strongly believe pubs are safe places to socialise and can play an important role in our social and economic recovery. If pubs are forced to stay close until May, it would mean they have faced 14 months of lockdowns and restrictions. How on earth could the government expect them to survive? UK pubs will be screaming ‘mayday’ long before a May reopening without significantly more financial support from government. The government has a duty to tell publicans when it plans to let them reopen with a clear roadmap alongside the vaccination programme. If it won’t be until May then it needs to extend financial support for them to survive and to brewers whose businesses also face jeopardy. In the more immediate future this means an extension to the chancellor’s latest grant support package and not just for pubs, but also breweries. In the longer term it means extensions to the business rates holiday and VAT cut, as well as a beer duty cut throughout 2021 and beyond. Without such support, local pubs in communities across the country will be lost forever.”

MPs launch urgent inquiry into covid-19 and the night-time economy: The newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the night time economy has launched an urgent inquiry into the devastating impact of covid-19 on British nightlife. The inquiry is being led by APPG chair Jeff Smith, who worked in the sector for several years in his earlier career. The APPG is calling for evidence from night-time economy businesses, employees, freelancers and consumers to share their views on the challenges facing the sector, its importance to society and economy, and how nightlife can be reopened. Consultations will run throughout the month of January for a report scheduled to be released in February. Evidence for the inquiry can be submitted via an online survey accessed at The group will also be contacting several night-time economy organisations and representatives from the government and local authorities to provide written testimony. The APPG was formed in December to provide a cross-party voice for the sector in parliament. Smith said: “As we move now into a third national lockdown, there has never been a more important time for government to address the urgent needs of night-time economy businesses, their supply chains and those that rely on them for employment. Despite playing such a vital role in our local communities and UK economy, nightlife businesses have been repeatedly overlooked by the government, and we are determined to ensure the specific challenges facing the sector are addressed. This inquiry will be a vital first step in our work.”

BII calls for urgent action to deliver government grants to pubs as fewer than one in four receive full payment: Urgent action is required to deliver government grants to pubs, the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has said after finding fewer than one in four have received the full payment of grants they were entitled to. The BII has conducted a survey of licensees to discover the reality of accessing government grant support for their pubs and found the “overly complex requirements” for applying for these funds meant the results “varied wildly from one local authority area to another”. In particular, the grants designed to support pubs who could still open, but with very severe restrictions on their trade – Local Restrictions Support Grant – have “caused confusion” in local authorities. In addition, one in seven licensees have yet to receive a single payment into their banks from grants they are entitled to. BII chief executive Steven Alton said: “We have taken our findings to the heart of government, to call on it to make the process as simple as possible for all, and to support local authorities who are clearly struggling to cope with the additional demands placed on them. The other clear message is our pubs need a full package of measures to support their recovery going forwards – 80% of our respondents believe cancellation of business rates for 2021-22 is critical to enable them to plan for the survival of their pubs once they are allowed to reopen. Similarly, 64% believe it is also critical to continue the reduction of VAT at 5% for the rest of the year, while almost as many believe this reduction should also apply to alcohol served in their venues.”

Deliveroo set to expand to 100 new UK towns and cities, more than double number of Editions sites globally: Deliveroo is set to expand into circa 100 new towns and cities in 2021 across the UK as well as more than double its number of Editions sites globally. The company will arrive in places such as East Kilbride in Scotland, Llanelli in Wales and Scarborough and Yeovil in England, after seeing customer demand for delivery services rise over the past year. Deliveroo also plans to offer restaurant partners its new “Signature” service, enabling customers to order delivery via restaurants’ own channels. Deliveroo will also expand its reach in about 150 of the areas it currently operates in, such as Glasgow and the Home Counties, which, together with the circa 100 new towns and cities it expects to enter, will bring the total number of people that could order from Deliveroo to almost two thirds of the entire UK population. In the past year, 20,000 new restaurant partners have joined Deliveroo and the company has launched 36 new grocery partnerships, covering about 1,600 UK sites on the platform. The company also created work for an additional 25,000 riders last year, meaning the number of riders doubled from 25,000 to more than 50,000 in the UK over the course of 2020.

Backman – covid might be restoring the traditional ‘community spirit’ that could enable the survival of the pub: Sector analyst Peter Backman has put forward a theory that covid could be creating a “new, enhanced sense of community”, which could enable the survival of the pub. Backman said: “While covid has raged, pubs have had a horrible time. But despite their two very different trajectories, the concept of ‘community’ links covid with pubs. And arising from this link is a recognition of the fundamental need to share with fellow human beings – and has been especially so during covid. This leads me to my central question: is there now alignment between the travails of the pub and the rapid advance of covid? And could the outcome of covid (or at least, one of its outcomes) be the creation of a new, or an enhanced, sense of community? Could that sense of community become the foundation for the pub? Is this a return to an earlier time when pubs really were the heart and soul of their communities? Whatever the answers, could they point to a potential new future for the pub?”

December year-on-year spending at pubs and bars plummets 71.4%, restaurants suffer 65.4% fall: Pubs and bars were hit with a 71.4% drop in December like-for-like spending while restaurants suffered a 65.4% fall, according to research from Barclaycard. The data also showed a 2.3% decline in overall spending – the largest drop since June 2020 – compared with December 2019 as tier restrictions hit the country. Year-on-year spend on essential items grew 4.5% as festive food shopping fuelled an 88% climb in online grocery spend and overall online spending rose 52.2%. Spending on fuel dropped 20.7% as people were unable to visit family and friends across the country. Brits also continued to make the most of nights stuck indoors by ordering takeaways with money spent on eating and drinking surging by 81% versus December last year. Barclaycard head of consumer products Raheel Ahmed said: “Changing restrictions continue to have an impact on our spending habits – which was particularly acute across the high-street and hospitality sectors in December, with restaurants, pubs and bars hardest hit during a low-key festive season in the majority of the UK. Additionally, many still continued to support their local shops where possible, spending more time in their local community. Small businesses have continued to remain agile to these changing consumer habits – with many going online for the first time. From dog walking services to subscriptions of weekly meal kits, small businesses are exploring new ways to reach their customer base. With the latest government guidance to stay at home and a vaccine rollout on the horizon, we are all hopeful of a brighter and more prosperous year ahead. Yet for now, the reality of lockdown life remains and it’s once more a hugely challenging time for high-street retailers as well as the hospitality, leisure and travel industries.”

Freehold pub prices drop 34.7% during ‘post-covid’ period: Average trading freehold pub prices have dropped by 34.7% to a value of £567,500 since the pandemic was felt in March last year, according to Fleurets’ 2020 survey of pub prices. However, the property agent qualified the drop by adding the quality of sites on the market was not as high as before the pandemic and more were based in the north of the country. The new survey splits the year into pre and post-covid periods, running from October 2019 to March 2020, and from April 2020 to the end of September 2020. Pre-covid, it found the average trading freehold – better quality pubs with accounts – prices rose by 8.3% to reach £868,683; non-trading freehold – pubs sold without accounts, sometimes closed and, if operational, under a temporary or management arrangement – dropped 10.8% to £306,299; and leaseholds – a wide variety of sites, including free-of-tie and tied deals, on assignment, letting and underletting – up 10.2% to £56,797. Post-covid, non-trading freehold dipped 1.4% to £301,967 while leaseholds fell by 46% to £30,769. The survey found the mid-market was affected most, which comprises successful freehold and leasehold assets. Although asset level trading spiked during the Eat Out To Help Out scheme in August, this reduced with the announcement of tier restrictions and was not lifted until the vaccine approval in early December. The survey added: “An increase in the volume of disposal opportunities entering the market is seemingly inevitable, as measures to protect employment and prevent business failure cannot extend to all indefinitely. This will create acquisition opportunities for well-funded, expanding operators. We are already witnessing a shift in landlord attitude, their focus swinging from big brand and covenant strength to concept innovation, entrepreneurism and greater commitment of independent and smaller multiple operators. As a result, we expect to see a rise in the number of new, small, multi-site operators. Lease terms will become more flexible reflecting a closer relationship between landlord and tenant, most likely with both parties sharing in operational risk through turnover or profit-linked rents.”

Almost 500,000 job losses in US hospitality sector during December: Almost 500,000 jobs were lost in the US hospitality and leisure sector during December, according to new research. Of the 498,000 job losses, three-quarters, or 372,000 positions, were in foodservice and drinking places, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Employment also fell in the amusements, gambling and the recreation industry (down 92,000), and in the accommodation industry (down 24,000). Since February 2020, before the pandemic was declared in March, employment in leisure and hospitality has fallen by 3.9 million jobs, or 23.2%. The Independent Restaurant Coalition noted unemployment in the leisure and hospitality sector in December was 157% lower than the national average. “The people who work in restaurants and bars are uniquely hurt by this pandemic, and don’t deserve it,” the coalition said. “More than 110,000 restaurants and bars – more than one in six across the country – have been left with no choice but to permanently close since March, destroying an important ladder of economic opportunity for millions of people.”

Company News:

PizzaExpress appoints chief business officer and chief customer officer: PizzaExpress, the David Campbell-led business, has appointed Jo Bennett as its new chief business officer, and Shadi Halliwell as its new chief customer officer. Bennett joins from Hilding Anders Group – the international sleep group with about 1,200 stores and sales in more than 60 countries – where she was group chief financial officer. Before this, she was a director of KKR Capstone, chief financial officer of retailer Jacques Vert Group, and worked in the operations group of TPG Capital. Halliwell was most recently chief marketing officer of Three UK, and from 2014 to 2017 was group marketing and creative director of Harvey Nichols. She also played a leading role in the marketing success of O2 for 15 years, most recently as head of brand and marcomms. Bennett and Halliwell will report to PizzaExpress chief executive Campbell, and will join managing director Zoe Bowley and people director Kate Daines on the PizzaExpress executive committee. Campbell said: “I am thrilled Jo and Shadi are joining the team. Their respective track records speak for themselves, and I am sure, alongside the already strong team at PizzaExpress, they will ensure that 2021 ends up as a brilliant year for our business around the world. Following the significant recapitalisation of the company two months ago, and substantial further funds being committed, we are in an increasingly strong position to grow once covid restrictions are eased.” Propel revealed last month PizzaExpress was to restructure its management team, which would include the creation of these two new roles. As part of the restructure, Bowley would see her remit expanded to also oversee the group’s international restaurant division. Andy Pellington will step down as chief financial officer, a role he has held for seven years, in March, after overseeing the recapitalisation of the business earlier this autumn. The finance role will come under the new chief business officer’s remit, as well as overseeing the group’s supply chain and procurement functions. The group’s new chief customer officer will also oversee the brand’s marketing function, as part of their remit, with the business currently without a marketing director.

Greene King continues 90% rent concessions for all tied tenants in national lockdown: Brewer and retailer Greene King has said all its tied tenants will continue receiving 90% rent concessions until the end of the current lockdown. The company wrote to all of its 1,000 tenants to confirm the additional support, which brings total financial support to more than £25m since the onset of the pandemic. The support remains in place while pubs are forced to stay shut under government restrictions and applies whether or not a pub is offering a takeaway service. The business said the support comes despite the government announcing grants of up to £9,000 for individual hospitality businesses impacted by the latest lockdown to help them through to the spring. Wayne Shurvinton, Greene King Pub Partners managing director, said: “The great British pub has been in a fight for its survival since the first lockdown in March 2020. We have stood shoulder to shoulder with our partners since that date and we are determined to keep doing all we can to support them now. However, reducing rents alone will not be enough and without further government support, pubs will continue losing money every week while they remain closed. The latest grants are a good step in the right direction but with no date for pubs to reopen, they will soon vanish on other overheads and outstanding bills. Pubs need guarantees of further long-term support from the government, such as an extension of the current VAT cut for hospitality and a continuation of the current business rates relief. As it stands, both of these would come to an end at around the point in the spring when it looks like pubs could finally be able to reopen. This could be the cruellest blow of all to hard-working publicans who reopen their pubs to welcome customers back in and suddenly see costs spiral.”

Five Guys UK strengthens 2021 pipeline with trio of new sites: Better burger brand Five Guys has further strengthened its 2021 UK openings pipeline, with the addition of three leisure park-based sites, Propel has learned. The circa 100-strong brand has secured the former Frankie & Benny’s sites in Crest Road, High Wycombe, and at the Gate Leisure Park, Chichester, for openings later this year. The company has also taken on the ex-Pizza Hut site at Stevenage Leisure Park, Hertfordshire. Last month, Propel revealed Five Guys had secured a site in London’s Brixton. It secured a newly developed site near Brixton’s Atlantic Road, and hopes to be on-site this month. It has also secured a site at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet West Midlands, which is due to open in the first quarter of this year, alongside Starbucks and Wagamama. As previously reported, it will also open in the Edinburgh St James development this summer. Five Guys opened ten sites last year, including at Parrs Wood, Manchester, just before Christmas.

Team behind The Assembly in Leeds to launch £1m Manchester venue: The team behind The Assembly street food concept in Leeds is to launch a £1m street food venue and taproom in Manchester city centre. As flagged up by Propel last February, PopCity, which is the brainchild of commercial property expert Nick Gregory and restaurateur Richard Sweet, will open the new site – Society Manchester – on the former Pitcher & Piano unit in Barbirolli Square. Local operator Elnecot will launch a new stone-baked pizza concept – Dokes Pizzeria – at the circa 8,000 square foot site, which will have capacity for 350 people. Other operators set to join the site, which hopes to launch this spring, include Asian concept Manzoku Street Food; burger concept Slap & Pickle; and the Falafel Guys. Vocation, the Hebden Bridge-based brewery, is also set to operate a taproom on-site. Society will also feature resident DJs and special guests, plus live music events, food and drink collaborations and local chef takeovers. Gregory told Manchester Evening News: “We’ve got an incredible line-up that will showcase local food superstars as well as our 2021 events programme that will be dedicated to highlighting independent artists from Manchester’s thriving music scene. It’s so important to us to create a destination that showcases the very best of Manchester and Society will be just that.”

French chef Cyril Lignac to open first UK site this spring: French chef Cyril Lignac is set to open his first UK site – Bar des Pres – in Albemarle Street in Mayfair this spring. The restaurant is Lignac’s first venture outside France. His French site served raw food when it opened in 2016 but the London expression will offer Franco/east Asian creations both warm and cold. Diners can expect scallops with caramelised miso; “Galette Craquette” (crunchy crab galette); Madras curried crab with avocado; and satay fillet steak. Pastries include French toast; chocolate tart; and vanilla and pecan praline mille-feuille. A wine list with almost 250 French pours and cocktails such as the Germanopratin – a blend of gin, Saint-Germain, cucumber, lemon juice and champagne – will be available. The site will seat 100 covers across two floors, including counter dining. Lignac said: “I have always adored London, its culture, its energy and lifestyle. I naturally wanted to open a restaurant in London to spend more time there, but also – most importantly – to integrate myself in the community, discover a new way of working, a different sensitivity, and a new type of creativity.”
Burger King announces rebrand with new logo, modern design and cleaner food: Restaurant Brands International (RBI), which owns Burger King, has announced it will rebrand the burger chain for the first time in 20 years – with the redesign expected to rollout at UK stores during the next few years. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, the overhaul focuses on the “food journey” and includes new worker uniforms, a new logo, store redesigns and new packaging. The business has introduced drive-thru redesigns, prototypes and modernisation throughout 2020. Raphael Abreu, head of design at RBI, said: “Design is one of the most essential tools we have for communicating who we are and what we value, and it plays a vital role in creating desire for our food and maximising guests’ experience. We wanted to use design to get people to crave our food; its flame-grilling perfection and above all, its taste.” Burger King also plans to use cleaner ingredients, plant-based menu items and easy-to-read signage in the increasingly digital age.

Westons reports first loss since 1991: Cider-maker Westons has made its first loss since 1991 during its latest financial year, newly filed accounts have revealed. The Herefordshire-based firm, which sells its cider to more than 40 countries across the world, said the pre-tax loss of £1.4m for the 12 months to 31 March 2020 was caused by “market factors” occurring within its on-trade channel. The loss comes after the company reported a pre-tax profit of £1.2m in the prior financial year. The latest accounts for H Weston & Sons also show its turnover dropped from £67.6m to £63m over the same period. The company is behind the Henry Westons and Stowford Press brands. A statement signed off by the board said: “Changing market dynamics within the highly competitive on-trade market impacted the overall top-line company performance. Alongside accelerating market consolidation, on-trade cider category volumes declined by 5.5%. The company's on-trade fruit cider performance tracked ahead of the market, with Stowford Press Mixed Berries being particularly successful.”

Restaurateurs launch £300,000 crowdfunding campaign to expand virtual wine cellar service: Restaurateurs Ian Campbell and Will Palmer have launched the first round of crowdfunding for their London-based virtual wine cellar, Drop, as they look to expand its service nationwide. Campbell and Palmer, who are behind 10 Cases wine bar and bistro and Parsons seafood restaurant in Covent Garden, launched Drop in 2016. Drop has seen its customer base double and sales grow 145% during the covid-19 pandemic, and is aiming to raise £300,000 on Seedrs as it looks to increase its audience. Drop is offering 3.99% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £7.2m. The key goal will be to scale the business to a national footprint of more than 100 distribution points. Projects to support this include expansion to 85 franchise locations, a logistics hub, additional technology development and artificial intelligence interpretation of customer needs. Palmer said: “More than 25% of wine drinkers purchase online in a market worth more than £1bn, yet nationwide on demand delivery options are almost non-existent. Given the current climate now is the perfect time for Drop to ramp up.” 

Timothy Taylor’s calls time on cask production until further notice: Keighley-based brewer Timothy Taylor’s has stopped producing cask beer until further notice. The 163-year-old West Yorkshire brewery has blamed the ongoing pandemic but will continue to produce beer for its bottled business – for both retail sites and its online store. During this period, the majority of its 100-strong workforce will be furloughed, with only key team members working on a part-time basis to keep the business active. Timothy Taylor’s sales director Paul Matthews said: “Once the reopening of our industry is confirmed, we can assure you we will be ready to meet demand and support our trade customers once again – as we were last summer.” 

Best Western Calcot Hotel on market for £6.3m: The Best Western Calcot Hotel in Reading is for sale for £6.3m. The 80-bedroom property has been brought to the market by Colliers International. It is on a 1.78-acre site on the A4 Bath Road with the potential for expansion or redevelopment. Paul Barrasford, director in the hotels agency team at Colliers International, said: “We are expecting interest from buyers looking to reopen the hotel business – or to redevelop the property for alternative use. It also has a supportive pre-application to develop an additional 25 bedrooms.” The hotel has traded under the Best Western brand for a number of years and was acquired in 2016 by the present owner, who has now decided to sell in order to concentrate on other business interests. The hotel has a restaurant with about 90 covers, and a bar with seating for 40. There are also two function rooms, one of which has capacity for up to 200 guests and a licence for civil ceremonies.

£60,000 rent bill for Cantonese restaurant closed since March forces site to shut for good: Cantonese restaurant Chung Ying Central has been forced to close for good because it cannot pay its £60,000 annual rent bill having been shut since March. The sister restaurant to James Wong’s Chung Ying Cantonese site, also in Birmingham, has not reopened since the first lockdown in March last year. Wong told Birmingham Live: “I am heartbroken to confirm Chung Ying Central will not reopen at Colmore Row. It had been my dream to open a restaurant here and I put my heart and soul into making it work. But a restaurant cannot pay £60,000 per year rent when it has only been open for two months of that year. It was a tough business decision but the right one for me and my family.” Wong said his focus is on ensuring his Chung Ying Cantonese restaurant in the city’s Chinatown area can survive. He added: “I want Chung Ying Cantonese to be around for its 50th year and it has a chance despite covid. We adapted quickly to the pandemic restrictions by switching to delivery and takeaway – and when we were allowed to open, we were able to offer good social distancing to diners. Sadly there was no hope for Chung Ying Central – it was too small for adequate social distancing and even if we could open, there are no more customers in the area.”

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