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Fri 26th Feb 2021 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sector leaders write to chancellor pleading for emergency support to stop more businesses failing before they have chance to reopen: More than 200 industry leaders along with sector trade bodies have written to the government warning it that unless a substantial package of support is announced at next week’s Budget, more businesses will fail before they have a chance to reopen. UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping – as well as sector leaders – have written to chancellor Rishi Sunak highlighting the dire position of many businesses and the urgent need for financial support. The letter warned one in five businesses do not have enough cash to survive the rest of February; almost two-thirds do not have enough cash to survive until the end of May; businesses are spending, on average, £10,000 per month to remain closed; and trading restrictions will leave businesses unable to break even until the June lifting of restrictions. The letter called on the chancellor to unveil an urgent package of support at the Budget to bridge the latest closure period including an extension of the 5% VAT rate with the cut widened to include other products and services across hospitality; a full business rates holiday for 2021-22; extension of full furlough with no national insurance contributions for closed businesses; enhanced grants for hospitality businesses until 21 June with State Aid rules disapplied; a beer duty cut; no repayment of HM Revenue & Customs debts before 1 July; and an extension of the rent moratoria with government and stakeholders working towards finding a solution to the rent debt crisis. In a joint statement, the trade bodies said: “This week’s announcement of the plan for reopening the economy has sent shock waves through the nation’s hospitality businesses. There is a genuine fear among many in our sector that businesses are going to fail and jobs will be lost at the 11th hour. Meanwhile, costs continue to pile up for businesses that cannot yet open, only putting more at risk. Many businesses that provide crucial jobs and support investment in communities across the country will fail before they have a chance to reopen their doors. The chancellor must announce a substantial package of financial support at next month’s Budget to keep these businesses alive until the summer. After a year of misery, the end is now finally in sight. The government cannot allow business to fail now, when the reopening of our sector is within touching distance. Members of the public are desperately looking forward to socialising with their friends and family, for the first time in more than a year in many cases. If the government does not act, they may not be able to.”

Industry News:

Gusto and The Alchemist FDs to feature in Friday Wrap as part of latest Propel Premium column: In this week’s Propel Premium, subscribers will be receive access to the latest Friday Wrap as Propel insights editor Mark Wingett and Fleet Street Communications managing director Mark Stretton are joined by leading sector finance directors – Frank Bandura, of Gusto Restaurants, and Victoria Stewart, of The Alchemist – to discuss the upcoming Budget – the best and worst-case scenarios; challenging decisions they have had to make over the past year; and the future approach they will take to their role. Meanwhile, Mark Wingett looks at the reasons to be optimistic for the rest of the year. There will also be the latest sector whispers from Premium Diary. The column will be sent to subscribers on Friday (26 February) at 5pm. 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. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

‘Pent-up demand’ for hospitality will see cities bounce back post-lockdown: The “pent-up demand” for food, drink, culture and nightlife will see cities bounce back when restrictions are eased, according to Time Out’s Travel Survey. Research by the media and hospitality brand found just as many respondents (41%) want to enjoy city breaks as countryside escapes (42%), while a fifth (19%) would like a fusion of both to “explore city neighbourhoods and their food and drink scenes”. Time Out international editor James Manning said: “It’s been a hard year for city life and for travel, so it’s incredibly heartening to see our Time Out Travel Survey identifying a huge interest in city breaks for 2021. We believe cities will bounce back more quickly than anyone expects, given the huge pent-up demand for food, drink, culture and nightlife. Nevertheless, we’re expecting the surge in nature travel to continue too, with many people still preferring outdoor activities. The ‘fusion trip’ combines the best of both worlds: the vibe of the city, with a wave of travellers discovering the new urban phenomena emerging from the global shutdown, plus the relaxation (and built-in social distance) of a nature trip.” Meanwhile, almost a third (32.5%) of consumers said they want to return to restaurants as soon as possible – almost double the number from when the restrictions were lifted in July last year, according to research by mobile order and pay company Wi5. The desire to visit pubs also increased, with more than a quarter (26%) of people reporting they will be in their local as soon as possible. In July 2020, 17.7% said they planned to return to a “casual dining restaurant” while 20.5% planned to return to pubs as soon as they reopened. Wi5 said the covid-safe measures hospitality venues put in place during the summer is likely to be a driving factor in the increase.
Wi5 is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Pubs will be able to serve takeaway pints on 12 April: Pubs will be allowed to serve takeaway pints once beer gardens reopen on 12 April, Downing Street has confirmed. The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Outdoor hospitality is permitted so I believe takeaway alcohol will be permitted.” The confirmation came after prime minister Boris Johnson hadn't mentioned takeaway pints when unveiling his roadmap out of lockdown on Monday (22 February).

Unpaid rent bills for commercial property during pandemic could reach £7bn: Commercial property investors could see pandemic-related rent arrears reach up to £7bn, it has been estimated. The British Property Federation told the Evening Standard it estimates total rent unpaid for UK commercial property between late March 2020 and the end of June 2021, will be up to £7bn if the moratorium is extended and the current rate of rent non-payment continues. It has been reported the moratorium on evictions will be extended until the end of June. Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “Everyone agrees the majority of tenants and landlords are already working in partnership and creating new plans for the future together. A further extension to the moratorium will only delay recovery and the re-setting of the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. It will prolong the current stalemate between a minority of tenants and landlords.” Tenants have welcomed news of an extension, Mark Selby, co-founder of Wahaca, said: “This is very welcome news, particularly for a lot of small independent businesses who are looking at an incredibly bleak and worrying three or four months ahead without any means or income to pay for rent on properties they have for the vast majority of the year been unable to trade from.”

Scottish hospitality leaders’ group calls for full reopening date to align with England: Hospitality leaders in Scotland have called for the full reopening of the sector on 17 May. The proposal would align with the date set to take place in England and the “Hospitality & Tourism Action Group” – comprising about 80 Scottish businesses – fears failure to reopen on that date would devastate hospitality and tourism and risk the jobs of 285,000 people. The group has set out its own time-frame for getting the industry back on its feet after almost 12 months of government-imposed lockdowns and other trade restrictions. It is calling for immediate alignment to the dates set out in England as 17 May for hotels and restaurants and mid-April for self-catering. James Thomson, owner of the Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh, told the Edinburgh Evening News: “With this extended period of forced closure and inadequate support, many businesses across Scotland now face the real risk of permanent closure and potentially losing their trusted suppliers and staff. Last year, I had to make the incredibly difficult decision to close The Tower in Edinburgh after operating it for 22 years. Prior to the pandemic we were in a very positive position of having a team of excellent, highly skilled staff. I fear the worst for them and for businesses like ours who have to make awful decisions based on the current circumstances.” Fiona Campbell, chief executive, Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, added: “The first minister had the opportunity to provide detail, clarity and certainty to the thousands of self-catering businesses across Scotland and the government failed completely to do so. What makes this even more disappointing to us is it effectively means we are lagging behind our colleagues south of the border who already have an indicative date to reopen. We are now not only having to cancel and refund existing bookings, we are also having to turn down bookings from south of the border.” The Hospitality & Tourism Action Group has also asked for clarity on both travel and tiers. 

68 Conservative MPs sign letter urging chancellor to cut beer duty: A letter signed by 68 Conservative MPs has been sent to HM Treasury, imploring chancellor Rishi Sunak to cut beer duty in his Budget statement on Wednesday (3 March). The initiative was driven by Richard Holden, MP for north west Durham, who is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group and has championed the Long Live The Local campaign. It follows concerted calls from the beer and pub sector for increased support from the chancellor in his Budget following the announcement of prime minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap to reopening, which confirmed pubs will not be able to fully open inside and outside without trading restrictions until mid-June at the earliest. The British Beer & Pub Association has previously said the very cautious reopening of pubs will cost the sector £1.5bn in lost trade in April alone, as three in five pubs will not be able to open or be viable with outside service only. The UK pays £3.6bn in beer duty each year. At present, £1 in every £3 spend in a pub goes to the Treasury in a range of taxes including beer duty. To date, more than 500,000 people have signed the Long Live The Local petition calling on the government to cut beer duty. More than 275,000 people have also written to their local MP asking them to urge the chancellor to cut beer duty. Holden said: “While the government support has been welcome, it has not made up for the massive impact of being closed for so long on these vital local institutions. The best way for them to build back better after this crisis is to get people back into pubs and the best encouragement for publicans and the public is to see real action on beer duty.” 

More than one-in-ten consumers considering getting Mother’s Day ‘takeaway’ from pub or restaurant: More than one-in-ten (14%) consumers would consider getting a Mother’s Day “takeaway” from a local pub or restaurant, according to a new consumer poll. The snap poll – by KAM Media, hospitality CRM platform Airship and gift card platform Toggle – showed this rises to 23% of Generation Z and young millennials. Meanwhile, 7% would consider buying their mum a gift card for a local pub or restaurant with the promise to celebrate when venues reopen with that figure rising to 14% of Generation Z and young millennials. With lockdown measures preventing them from celebrating together, 8% would consider sending a “takeaway” meal directly to their mum’s house from a local pub or restaurant. The poll also identified 21% of those who are celebrating Mother’s Day this year intend to make an even bigger effort than normal. A total of 39% of UK adults have already started thinking about how to celebrate Mother’s Day, including possible gift options. Meanwhile, despite 71% of UK adults intending to celebrate the occasion, 19% said they would appreciate being given the option from operators and brands to “opt out” of Mother’s Day communications. 
KAM Media, Airship and Toggle are Propel BeatTheVirus campaign members

Sacha Lord – Greater Manchester’s night-time economy ‘could take up to three years’ to recover: Sacha Lord, night-time adviser for Greater Manchester, has said it could take three years for the area’s night-time economy to return to pre-pandemic levels. Talking to Business Live, Lord said it was likely more businesses would close their doors for good between now and the earliest date for pubs and bars to come out of lockdown. He said: “As a promoter, the announcement of the roadmap was positive and it was amazing to hear the prime minister use the word nightclub, which he has not said for quite some months. However, as an advisor on the night-time economy, it was devastating as the delay on getting things open again is a lot longer than the industry thought, as everyone thought it was going to be around Easter time. The pandemic has cost the night-time economy in Greater Manchester billions and that is only going to increase between now and May.” He called on the government to extend the business rates relief, VAT rates to be kept at 5% and the extension of furlough “until we can get back to full capacity”. He said: “The VAT is the big one for me. It will make such a big difference to businesses that are struggling right now. There is no doubt the two weeks we are currently in are the most critical in my 26 years in this industry. It started with the roadmap and will end with the Budget next week.”

Furlough numbers in hospitality up 3% in January: The hospitality sector furloughed 1.15 million people during January – an increase of 3%. Treasury figures showed a total of 4.7 million people were on the government scheme at the end of the month. By the middle of February a total of £53.8bn had been claimed since the furlough scheme began last year. In total, 11.2 million employees across the UK have been given furlough cash. The scheme pays up to 80% of salaries to those who cannot work because of covid-19 restrictions. Charlie McCurdy, researcher at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Furlough has once again played a crucial role in protecting incomes and keeping a lid on rising unemployment. But with almost five million workers still on furlough in the most recent data, our biggest labour market challenges may be ahead of, rather than behind, us." Separately, Treasury figures showed businesses took out a further £2.2bn of government-backed loans in the past month. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme was most popular, with a further £1.2bn lent. It means in total, almost £73bn has been lent under the scheme and its two sister schemes – the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Bounce Back Loans. More than 1.5 million businesses have taken Bounce Back Loans, with the first repayments due in May.

Skills and Education Group acquires BIIAB Qualifications: BIIAB Qualifications, known as BIIAB, a long-standing part of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), has been acquired by the Skills and Education Group – a further education and skills sector membership body. As part of the group, BIIAB will “retain its identity and focus on being the awarding body of choice for the hospitality industry”. The BII said this development would allow the trade body to further strengthen its engagement and provision to its members and to focus its resources on its range of membership services. BIIAB, as part of the Skills and Education Group, will retain its services in qualifications and apprenticeships available to BII members. Skills and Education Group chief executive Paul Eeles said: “I am hugely passionate about the sector, just as much as I am about further education, and I believe this is a fantastic opportunity to bring these two things together. As we look to the future, having a qualified and skilled workforce is critical to the success of the hospitality industry.” BII chief executive Steven Alton added: “The hospitality industry faces significant challenges as it rebuilds following the impact of the pandemic. Attracting, developing, supporting, and retaining great talent will be central to its future success. The combined strength of the Skills and Education Group and the BIIAB collaborating with the BII allows us to fully support our members to be at the heart of the economic recovery.”

Company News:

YO! appoints new chairman: YO!, the global, multi brand Japanese and Asian food group, has appointed John Walden, formerly of Naked Wines, Holland & Barratt and Argos, as its new chairman, as the company sees “significant opportunities” to further progress its multi-channel strategy. Eric Nicoli, who joined YO! as chairman in 2015 following the acquisition of the company by Mayfair Private Equity, is stepping down to pursue other interests. YO! said Walden has been at the “forefront of multi-channel, consumer-driven retailing for more than 20 years”. As well as advising consumer-facing businesses and private equity investors through Inversion LLC, the US based retail focused management and strategy consultancy he founded 13 years ago, he has extensive board experience of multi-channel consumer focused businesses in the UK and US. Previous roles include chairman at Naked Wines, where he oversaw the sale of Majestic Wines and its enhanced focus on the US market, and executive chairman at Holland & Barratt following the acquisition by LetterOne. From 2012 to 2016, he was managing director of Argos and then chief executive of its parent company Home Retail Group, where he led the digital transformation and sale of Argos to Sainsbury’s. During his time at YO!, Nicoli helped lead the transformation into a global multi brand, multi-channel food group, with 75% of revenues now coming from North America. Richard Hodgson, chief executive of YO!, said: “The past 12 months have demonstrated the value in our diversified multi-channel strategy. Against the backdrop of a very difficult year for hospitality businesses across the globe, we have been able to grow thanks to our retail business in North America, which has remained open throughout. As we now start to emerge from the pandemic, we see significant opportunities to further progress our multi-channel strategy and I am delighted John has agreed to join our board as chairman at this time. He brings with him extensive experience from both sides of the Atlantic which will be invaluable as the group moves to the next phase of growth. I want to thank Eric for his role in the transformation of the group over the past six years and wish him all the best with his future projects.” Walden said: “Richard and the team have created a food group like no other, and there is still a lot to play for. I am excited about bringing my experience to the board and supporting Richard and the management team as they look to capitalise on this opportunity.”

Costa extends Deliveroo link up to 500 sites: Costa Coffee has signed a new delivery partnership with Deliveroo, which will see it extend its delivery offer to across 500 of its sites from Monday (1 March). The partnership will allow those with the Deliveroo app in England, Scotland and Wales to order coffee and selected hot and cold food items from Costa’s menu. Becky Brock, commercial and customer director for Costa Coffee UK & Ireland, said: “Our customers are at the heart of what we do and over the past 12 months, they have continually fed back that they want to enjoy their favourite Costa Coffee, their way – whether through click and collect via our stores, at one of our Costa Express machines, collected through one of our drive-thrus, but also delivery is key as they juggle home-life. We’re pleased to offer an expanded service.” Costa initially began a delivery trial with Deliveroo through six of its London-based sites in 2019.

Domino’s Pizza reports global sales up 21.7% in fourth quarter and 12.5% for 2020: Domino’s Pizza has reported global sales increased 21.7% in its fourth quarter ending 3 January 2021 and 12.5% for the full year. Like-for-like sales were up 11.2% in the US in the quarter and 11.5% in 2020. The international division saw like-for-like sales grow 7.3% during the quarter and 4.4% for the full year. The figures marked the 108th consecutive quarter of international like-for-like sales growth and the 39th consecutive quarter in the US. Total revenue in the quarter increased 17.9% to $1.36bn, with full-year revenue up to $4.12bn. The company added 388 net new stores during the fourth quarter – 272 internationally and 116 in the US. In the full year it opened net 624 stores – 395 internationally and 229 in the US. Diluted earnings per share in the quarter were up 23.4% to $3.85. Chief executive Ritch Allison said: “We celebrated our 60th year as a company in 2020, and while it was a challenging year in so many ways, it was also a year that saw the Domino's brand rise to the occasion all over the world. This past year, a year like none other, reminded me once again Domino's has the best group of global franchisees and team members in the restaurant business.”

Black and White Hospitality begins recruitment drive ahead of reopening: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White, has started a recruitment drive as the sector gears up for reopening. The company is expecting a “feeding frenzy” following the enforced lockdown and believes “pent-up demand will mean restaurateurs will need to hit the ground running”. Black and White Hospitality, which owns and manages the franchise rights to eight Marco Pierre White-inspired brands, is searching for an experienced operations manager to oversee the day-to-day running of its franchised venues located across London, the south of England and south Wales. Nick Taplin, chairman and chief executive of the group, said: “There’s no denying the hospitality sector, like many others, has been hit hard over the past 12 months. However, with the vaccine programme well under way and cases of the virus dropping, we’re expecting restrictions will start to be lifted during the spring. Last summer, when restaurants were allowed to reopen, demonstrated guests were keen to dine out and those venues that did open enjoyed a very successful few months trading. Because of this, we now want to strengthen our team ready for when this happens. There’s no point waiting to see what happens. It will happen, so we need to be ready and operating at full tilt from day one and is why we’re recruiting now.”

BrewDog secures go-ahead for first beer hotel in England: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has been given the go-ahead to open its first beer hotel in England, in Manchester. The company and Bruntwood Works have exchanged contracts, and have been granted planning approval by Manchester City Council to bring a bar, restaurant and hotel to Bruntwood Works’ new Bloc development in Fountain Street. Called Doghouse Manchester, the new bar, restaurant and hotel are set to open in mid-June, and will become BrewDog’s third site in the city. The 18-bedroom hotel will be set over three floors. At reception, guests will receive a welcome beer on arrival. Rooms will be furnished with shower beer fridges, draft beer taps while room service will offer food and drink from the restaurant and bar. A rooftop terrace will host another bespoke bar plus a taco food offering. The ground floor will comprise a 3,512 square foot bar and restaurant featuring a large outdoor terrace with 28 taps of draft beer. James Brown, head of bars at BrewDog, said: “We are excited to open our first UK hotel in Manchester, a city we have loved operating in for more than ten years. We’ve really upped the ante offering our guests an unforgettable experience – they’ll never want to leave.”

Adventure park Ninja Warrior UK to open ninth site in autumn: Adventure park Ninja Warrior UK, which is inspired by the ITV show, will open its ninth site, and its first in West Yorkshire. The business has taken a two-storey unit at The Broadway in Bradford and is set to open in the autumn. Located in the Petergate Mall section of The Broadway, Ninja Warrior UK will feature an assault course with obstacles such as ring sliders, carriage wheels, quad steps, spider walls, cliff hanger and ending with the “beat the wall” challenge. The venue will include the brand’s new “Ninja Warrior Air Park” inflatable obstacle course, as well as a merchandise store, party rooms and a food and drink area. The Broadway general manager Ian Ward said: “The Broadway is evolving and adapting and we’re delighted to be supporting the night-time economy in the shopping centre and in Bradford.” Ninja Warrior UK director Mike Anderson added: “The Broadway was the ideal location for our next adventure park. It’s ideally located in the city and well positioned to serve West Yorkshire and beyond. We considered a number of retail venues across the north and Bradford really resonated with us.” Ninja Warrior UK has sites in Cardiff, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Gloucester, Sheffield, Southampton, Stoke-On-Trent and Wigan.

Fred Sirieix to open restaurant in Wormwood Scrubs prison: Fred Sirieix, former general manager of Galvin at Windows and presenter of BBC show My Million Pound Menu, is to open a restaurant inside Wormwood Scrubs prison. It marks the second opening from The Right Course – a charity programme founded by Sirieix. It aims to train up prisoners in hospitality giving them the skills they need to get jobs on their release from prison. The Right Course transforms staff canteens in prisons, aiming to run them like high street restaurants. Its first opening was at Isis prison in Thamesmead. Sirieix tweeted: “Very excited to announce the opening of our second The Right Course #charity #restaurant @ Wormwood #Scrubs in early April.” The Wormwood Scrubs project will feature a coffee shop and a full table service restaurant. Sirieix said: “The aim is to ensure offenders learn the skills and values of hospitality so that upon release they can gain employment thus reducing reoffending (currently about 50%) and helping to solve the skills and staff shortage in the restaurant hospitality business.” Prisoners taking part get the chance to cook alongside chef from some of London's top restaurants, with Jose Pizarro and Chris Galvin among those to have taken part.
 
Nestlé agrees acquisition of recipe box business SimplyCook: Nestlé has agreed to acquire recipe kit business SimplyCook after announcing in November last year that it took a majority stake in Mindful Chef – a similar business. SimplyCook, which was founded by Oli Ashness in 2014, will continue to be led by its founding team with the support of Nestlé. The business has helped households cook more than 20 million recipes and will now have Nestlé’s expertise behind it. Nestlé UK & Ireland chief executive Stefano Agostini said: “There is a growing demand for great tasting, nutritionally balanced food and this move underlines our focus on investing in businesses with attractive growth prospects and acting on current trends.” Ashness added: “The more we got talking to Nestlé, the more we realised our ambitions and vision for the business aligned with what Nestlé sees as the right path for the SimplyCook business. Nestlé’s experience, operational expertise, and international know-how gives us the opportunity to expand further in the UK and beyond, making cooking more accessible for millions more consumers in far less time than we previously imagined.” Oghma Partners, a corporate finance house focused on the consumer industries, acted as the exclusive financial adviser to the shareholders of SimplyCook. Nestlé agreed to acquire a majority stake in healthy recipe box service Mindful Chef to help boosts its food offerings in the UK and Ireland as private equity firm Piper exited the business last year.

Staycity reports UK bookings surge on back of recovery roadmap announcement: Aparthotel operator Staycity has seen UK bookings surge this week on the back of the government’s recovery roadmap announcement. Bookings across the group’s 11 UK properties rose 333% in the 24 hours after the announcement, compared with the previous week, with £312,000-worth of business taken on Tuesday (23 February) alone. London, Birmingham and Manchester proved the most popular destinations. Hotels in England are expected to reopen on 17 May, according to the government’s roadmap for recovery. Staycity co-founder and chief executive Tom Walsh said: “This demonstrates the pent-up demand for travel and the fact guests are keen to book trips and to have something to look forward to. It’s a huge relief to us, and the hospitality industry as a whole, to have this clear evidence people are keen to make up for lost time – and also that they have confidence in the stringent hygiene protocols the industry has put in place.” At the end of last year, Staycity announced a €70m debt and equity refinancing to ensure the privately-owned company was fully capitalised post-pandemic, and ready to continue with its European plans to almost double its size over the next 18 months. This year, Staycity will open nine properties across Europe, with a further six in 2022 including sites in Manchester, Dublin, Bordeaux, Paris, London and Frankfurt.

Merlin to open world’s first standalone Peppa Pig theme park: Merlin Entertainments has partnered with Hasbro to launch the world’s first standalone Peppa Pig theme park, at Legoland in Florida. Opening in 2022, the venue, which will be a separately ticketed theme park, will feature multiple rides, interactive attractions, themed playscapes, water play areas and live shows daily. Merlin has an exclusive multi-territory licencing agreement with Hasbro, owner of the Peppa Pig brand, to build and operate the Peppa Pig attractions, targeted at the pre-school market, as part of its broader strategy to engage in intellectual property partnerships with some of the world’s most popular brands. Merlin group chief development officer Mark Fisher said: “We have already had great success with our immersive Peppa Pig World of Play attractions in the US and in Asia. Working with our partners at Hasbro, we are excited to be taking the next step in creating this fully immersive theme park, which will bring to life even more of the sights, sounds and experiences that family audiences know and love so much from Peppa’s world.”

AB InBev integrates Camden Town Brewery into UK business: Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) has begun to fully integrate Camden Town Brewery into its UK business following “strong growth in 2020”. AB InBev also revealed Camden Hells was its top-selling craft beer across the UK in 2020. Paula Lindenberg, president for UK & Ireland at Budweiser Brewing Group, the UK arm of AB InBev, said: “We’re excited to welcome the innovative and creative Camden team to the business, which will be a key part of our long-term strategy. This move will better combine capabilities and teams to pave the way for future growth.” AB InBev also saw global revenue in the final quarter of the year grow 4.5%. For the full -year, like-for-like revenue, stripping out the impact of acquisitions and disposals, dropped 3.7% to $47bn, while the volume of drinks it sold fell 5.7% as the covid-19 pandemic cut into drinking and socialising globally. Chief executive Carlos Brito said: “We finished the year with momentum in our key markets by leveraging our fundamental strengths as a company and capturing the benefits of investments we have been making for several years in our portfolio. We are now more closely connected than ever to the six million-plus customers and two billion-plus consumers we serve worldwide through our clear commercial strategy, revamped innovation process, digital platforms and ongoing operational excellence.”

Dot Bagel doubles up in Newcastle: Newcastle-based bagel shop Dot Bagel has secured its second site in Newcastle. The Craig Robinson-founded business, which specialises in made-to-order bagels, will open its sequel site in Acorn Road in Jesmond. Robinson’s original Dot Bagel site launched in Chillingham Road, Heaton, in September last year, and he also operates Brew & Bite coffee shop in the same street. He claimed his businesses are eyeing a £1m turnover in the next 12 months and said: “After working in America for two years as district manager for Pret A Manger, I was inspired by house special bagels we used to enjoy in the city and my vision was to bring bagels to the Newcastle food scene. During lockdown, I experimented with a range of bagel flavours and promoted them on Instagram. They were popular and a few months later we had our own shop selling our handmade bagels.”

Nottingham soft play centre shuts permanently: Nottingham-based indoor soft play centre Jungletastic has been forced to shut permanently after citing covid-19 restrictions as the cause for closure. Although the business will formally cease trading in May, it is unlikely the business will reopen before then meaning 14 jobs have also been lost. The business was open most recently in September. Jungletastic director Sarah Simmonds told The Business Desk: “The decision to permanently close has been the hardest one we have had to make after all these years but due to covid-19 and the foreseeable restrictions, we are no longer able to sustain the business.” Administrator Smith Cooper has been appointed to wind the business up, led by partner and insolvency practitioner, Michael Roome. He said: “Many businesses within the leisure sector have been facing existential pressures in the past year and Jungletastic is no exception. It was difficult, if not impossible, for the owners of Jungletastic to adapt. While the owners sought advice early on, sourcing financial support and optimising the resources available, it unfortunately wasn’t enough to future-proof the business.”

Plans for multimillion-pound whisky distillery development and visitor experience in Northumberland get go-ahead: Plans for a multimillion-pound whisky distillery development and visitor experience in Northumberland have been given the go-ahead. Ad Gefrin, located in Wooler on the edge of the Northumberland National Park, will celebrate the region's Anglo-Saxon heritage. The development is expected to open in 2022 with the creation of 50 jobs. The project has been backed by £3m from the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, as well as £1m from the North East Rural Growth Network – Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, and £600,000 through Northumberland County Council. Helen Golightly, chief executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Ad Gefrin is one of the most important economic and tourist developments for many years in north Northumberland and will undoubtedly boost economic activity in Wooler and the wider Glendale community.” Northumberland National Park chief executive Tony Gates added: “To have a new visitor destination that will foster rural economic growth and that reflects the rich heritage of our landscape at a key gateway to Northumberland National Park is a significant boost for the area.”

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