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Thu 18th Feb 2021 - MPs tell government to act now or see ‘extinction’ of UK nightlife, Camile Thai expansion
MPs tell government to act now or see ‘extinction’ of UK nightlife: A cross-party group of more than 40 MPs has warned the night-time economy is at risk of “extinction” unless the government takes further action. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Night Time Economy has published the findings of its recent inquiry into the impact of covid. The MPs have urged the government to bring forward a sector-specific grant package – including extending furlough, business rates relief and the cut in VAT – and a detailed roadmap for reopening the sector to avoid “irreversible losses” that would create “ghost towns” across the country and hinder the wider economic recovery. The report, entitled “Covid-19 and UK Nightlife”, looked at the impact of the pandemic and government support for businesses in the night-time economy and supply chain businesses. It involved a survey that received more than 20,000 responses and showed 85% working in the sector are considering leaving the industry. More than three quarters (78%) of all industry employees had at some point been on furlough while night-time economy businesses had on average made 37% of their total workforce redundant. In the second half of 2020, businesses traded at an average of 28% of their annualised pre-covid turnover while only 36% self-employed nightlife workers have been able to claim the Self Employment Income Support Scheme. The inquiry examined written submissions from businesses, local authorities and trade bodies as well as the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS). The joint DCMS-BEIS submission recognised the importance of nightlife to the economy as a whole, noting after the 2008 financial crisis the sector “helped drive the UK’s recovery more generally.” Despite this, the inquiry found economic support for the night-time economy had been “insufficient”, containing significant gaps. Jeff Smith, chair of the APPG and a former self-employed DJ, said: “Our findings reveal this industry is on its knees, in desperate need of additional support from the government and a concrete plan for reopening. If the government is serious about its ‘levelling up’ agenda it must act now to save this sector and avoid untold damage to the social fabric of this country.” Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill added: “We need more assistance and a detailed plan for reopening now. Otherwise, much of what defines a night out in the UK will be lost forever.”

Camile Thai announces 15 new stores to open in 2021, plans €10m fundraise for tech pivot: Dublin-based healthy food delivery company Camile Thai has announced it will open 15 new stores in 2021 and begin a €10m fundraise to pivot to a more tech-focused approach using drones and kitchen robotics. This year will also see Camile Thai push forward with its “franchise as a service” venture, which will offer flexible franchise options for business owners with “well-located, but underused commercial kitchens in regional towns”. Of the planned 15 new sites, which will create 300 jobs, seven will be in the UK, in locations such as Streatham, London; Twickenham, Greater London; and Epsom, Surrey – with the remaining eight in Ireland. The €10m will be part of its plans to progress with a technology-centric strategy. The chain claimed to be the first in Europe to deliver its menu by drone and has plans to automate its kitchen operations with robotics in 2021. Camile Thai founder Brody Sweeney said: “Despite an extremely difficult year for the hospitality sector, for Camile, 2020 has seen rapid growth. Our suburban, delivery-focused model has proven to be pandemic proof in the past 11 months, not least in terms of revenue and sales. This has enabled us to not only push forward with our aggressive expansion plans, but also to prematurely move ahead with our main goal – our tech pivot. We see tech playing such an incremental role in terms of food preparation, but also user experience and, of course, delivery.” Its plans for flexible franchises aims to allow operators to easily pivot to offer Camile’s delivery menu even if further lockdown restrictions were to be implemented. Camile operates more than 35 outlets in the UK and Ireland, including six in London and was founded in 2010. Its investors include Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave, Andy McCue and Brian Caulfield.

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