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Tue 18th May 2021 - Nick Collins – we won’t be back up to full profit until 21 June
Nick Collins – we won’t be back up to full profit until 21 June: Nick Collins, chief executive of listed cafe bar operator Loungers, has said that the business won’t be back up to full profit until 21 June and only if it is allowed to open fully with no restrictions. Talking to Radio 4’s Today Programme, Collins said: “Covid has clearly had a devasting impact on our sector. The last 15 months have been horrific. We are a well-capitalised, listed business and because of our trading format we haven’t been impacted as badly as many other businesses, having said that we are still losing £500,000 a week in terms of fixed costs when the business isn’t open and we won’t be back up to full profit until 21 June when we are allowed to open fully. So that 21 June date is so, so important for us as a sector when all the restrictions are removed and we are in a position to trade normally.” The business reopened all of its 170 sites yesterday (17 May) for indoor eating and drinking, but Collins pointed out the sector was still facing major restrictions on its ability to trade. He said: “It is not full relaxation of restrictions at all and that is really important to remember. It is great that we are getting too open internally, but having to order at table, having distancing in place and the rule of six, are still very major restrictions on our ability to trade. There are lots and lots of businesses, particularly in city centres, those more reliant on late-night trade that will still really struggle to make a profit with those restrictions in place. What we saw last year, in a really difficult environment with ever-changing rules around substantial meals etc, and what was particularly difficult was it put our teams under unfair pressure, because they were the ones having to interpret the legislation or rules that were being changed on a daily basis. I think now the rules are pretty clear, we’ve got used to them, and I think our teams across the hospitality sector will be good at enforcing those, whilst making sure, most importantly, that people can still have a good time and we are providing great hospitality.”

Operators serving food inspired by Italy well represented on updated Premium multi-site database: New businesses that are setting up restaurants inspired by Italian food are well represented on the updated Propel Premium multi-site database, which will be released on Friday, 28 May, at midday. At least 87 new businesses will be added to the most comprehensive multi-site database in the sector, including seven that have cited Italian food as an inspiration to their offer. New additions include Newcastle-based Zucchini Pasta Bar, Milan-based vegan burger brand Flower Burger, Italian sandwich and bakery brand Spinata, Harrods’ Dining Hall newcomers Pasta Evangelists, Marylebone’s The Italian Greyhound, Remo Mazzucato-led Piazza Italiana and grab-and-go concept A’do’re Fritto. Available only to subscribers, the exhaustive database was most recently sent at the end of April and included the details of 1,717 companies. The go-to database provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different, and what each business specialises in. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Premium subscribers are also to receive access to a second exclusive monthly database, The Propel Blue Book. This database will provide an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. It will be available on Friday, 4 June, at midday. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. Email to sign up.

Burger King UK confirms delivery kitchen move: Burger King UK, the Bridgepoint-backed fast-food chain, has launched is first dark kitchen site in London’s Kentish Town. As revealed by Propel earlier this month, the Alasdair Murdoch-led, circa 530-strong business has linked up with Foodstars to launch its first dark kitchen in Regis Road. A trial was launched on Sunday (16 May), with customers ordering initially through Deliveroo. The company said Just Eat and Uber Eats will follow. The kitchen will have the potential to reach around 400,000 customers, covering Camden and up to Highgate. Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK, said: “We know consumers have found food delivery services to be a real help during these challenging times, and that takeaways have offered some much-needed joy up and down the country. The opening of the first delivery-only Burger King kitchen marks an expansion of this valued service, which we believe will drive growth.” Propel revealed last week that the business will again team up with Foodstars to launch a further dark kitchen site in Wandsworth, while a third trial site will be with Deliveroo. If the trial sites are successful, it is thought Burger King will explore doing further delivery kitchen units. At the end of 2019, McDonald’s opened its first “dark kitchen” in order to establish how to meet increasing demand for delivery. The brand’s first kitchen-only location opened in Hanworth, west London, as part of a “wider trial to test varying restaurant formats”.

Brits blow £2.8m a minute enjoying the great indoors: Around £2 billion was spent across pubs, eateries, shops and attractions yesterday, working out at £2.8 million-a-minute at peak times, a study with the Centre for Retail Research showed. It found that around 20 million people went drinking and eating inside, shopped and hit cinemas, theatres and gyms for the first time in up to seven months. Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre for Retail Research, told The Sun: “Pubs and restaurants stocked up and made sure they had enough beer and food. People were ready to make the most of the moment. Research showed the public’s excitement about pubs and restaurants reopening indoors was significantly higher than for shops reopening.”

West African restaurant concept that began life in domestic kitchen to launch debut bricks and mortar site: A west African restaurant concept that began life in a domestic kitchen is about to open its debut bricks and mortar site. Plantain Kitchen founder Toby Oladokun, who has previously worked as part of the food marketing team at Chopstix, told Propel he was aiming to put west African cuisine “firmly on the map”. Oladokun started the business in November 2019 and has been operating it as a delivery concept from his kitchen in East Dulwich as well as at North Cross Road Market as he looked to build his customer base. Now Plantain Kitchen, which has also been offering DIY kits and provided its bowls to NHS front-line workers, will join the line-up at Peckham Levels on Friday, 21 May. Oladokun said: “I’ve spent the past 18 months preparing for this moment – it’s been about establishing ourselves and we’ve been using Instagram to tell the story of Plantain Kitchen. Doing delivery through Deliveroo has also given me a platform to get the concept in front of a wider audience and we have a 4.7 out of five star rating on there. When we get a new customer, we write a message on their order to thank them for joining me on the journey because you’re missing that personal touch with Deliveroo. Now I’m looking forward to sharing the Plantain Kitchen experience in person with our space at Peckham Levels. It’s an amazing community and I can’t wait to be part of it. During my time at Chopstix I was exposed to various areas of the business – from finance to supply chain – and learned about being able to make great products with good profit margins. Now I want to make sure west African cuisine becomes part of the mainstream.”

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