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Tue 8th Jun 2021 - Update: Debbie Hewitt, lockdown easing, Nightcap, Inn Collection and rent debt
Debbie Hewitt to stand down as chairman of The Restaurant Group: The Restaurant Group has announced that chairman Debbie Hewitt MBE will be stepping down from the board with effect from 31 December 2021, in order to take up the role of chairman of the English Football Association, with effect from January 2022, subject to ratification by the FA Council. The board has commenced a formal process to recruit her successor led by Graham Clemett, senior independent director, and an announcement will be made in due course. Chief executive Andy Hornby said: “On behalf of the board and everyone at TRG, I would like to thank Debbie for the significant contribution that she has made to the business. She is a proactive chairman who has built and led a high-quality board and proactively engaged with all stakeholders throughout her tenure. The FA have chosen Debbie for her extensive chair expertise across a wide range of business sectors, and there is no doubt that TRG has benefitted from that experience. We wish her every success in this new role.” Debbie Hewitt added: “TRG is a fantastic business, full of outstanding people, who care passionately about our customers and the food and service they deliver. The group has undergone a substantial transformation since I joined in 2015, and it now has a stronger customer ethos, a stronger group of brands and a first-class team. Under Andy Hornby’s outstanding leadership, the company has emerged stronger from the pandemic and is poised for growth through all of its channels. I remain fully committed to working with Andy and Graham for the rest of the year to ensure the recruitment of a strong successor and a smooth transition.”

Three days before Propel Premium subscribers receive first edition of new sector turnover and profit database, 40% of companies making a loss: The first edition of a new database for Premium subscribers, The Blue Book, to be released at midday on Friday (11 June), shows 40% of the 215 companies included making a pre-tax loss. The number of loss-making companies reflects the impact of the pandemic but also companies investing heavily before the pandemic. It also shows tough trading in parts of the sector. The Blue Book shows McDonald’s has been the most profitable company in the UK for the past five years by some distance. The company has a total pre-tax profit of £1.7bn in its five most recent years. In its most recent full year, it made four times more pre-tax profit than any other company in the UK. The new database, which will be updated and expanded each month, ranks the top 215 sector operators by turnover and then by profitability. It also has a five-year overview of turnover and profit and shows what percentage of turnover is converted to pre-tax profit – or otherwise. Each month, Propel will be expanding the scope of The Blue Book – we want to add any company either turning over more than £5m or making a £1m pre-tax profit. Email to add your company to The Blue Book universe. Charity said: “The Blue Book will start to show the devastating impact of the pandemic on company profitability but, in due course, will chart the sector’s bounce back. It’s a fascinating document.” Propel Premium subscribers have just received their monthly update to the multi-site database, which has had 108 companies added since the last release at the end of May. They not only received the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they were also sent a 14,000-word report on the businesses added during May. The go-to database, which now features 1,822 companies that collectively operate 59,197 sites, 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. A single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email to sign up.

Lockdown easing could be delayed: The Times has reported that Britain’s roadmap for easing lockdown could be delayed by a fortnight with cabinet ministers increasingly pessimistic after a “downbeat” briefing from Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance. The newspaper stated: “The delay would enable all over-50s to be fully vaccinated and leave sufficient time for jabs to take effect before restrictions are lifted. Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, yesterday gave a briefing to ministers on the latest data that was described as ‘fairly grim’. One cabinet source said they expected a delay of ‘between two weeks and a month’ but suggested that the political fall-out was likely to be limited as long as full re-opening took place before the start of the school summer holidays late next month. Another said a delay made more sense that a partial lifting of lockdown restrictions to avoid any confusion in messaging. Boris Johnson is expected to make a formal announcement on Monday when the government’s social distancing review will be published.”

Nightcap reports very strong trading: Nightcap has reported very strong trading at its 19 premium bars. The company stated: “Unaudited group revenues for the three full weeks since the reopening of indoor hospitality, being 17 May to 6 June 2021 inclusive, saw growth of 92% when compared to group revenues recorded in the equivalent weeks in the calendar year 2019 (16 of the 19 premium bars had been established and were open at that time) and a 53% growth when compared to group revenues on a like for like basis for the same time frame. The strong sales performance since re-opening is significantly ahead of the board’s expectations, given that the bars have restricted capacity due to social distancing requirements. For the same periods described above, The London Cocktail Club saw revenues grow by 83% when compared to revenues seen in the same weeks in 2019, representing a 69% growth of revenues on a like for like basis. Nightcap’s latest acquisition, Adventure Bar Group, saw revenues growth of 96% when compared to those seen in the same weeks in 2019, representing a 46% growth of revenues on a like for like basis, including an all-time weekly sales record in excess of £520,000 across its nine bars. The board is particularly encouraged by the strong trading of the group’s two most recently opened venues, Luna Springs and Tonight Josephine in Birmingham. Luna Springs is Nightcap’s first outdoor trading space outside of London and Tonight Josephine Birmingham is the first expansion of the Tonight Josephine brand outside of London. Both form part of the group’s national roll-out strategy. On the back of the strong recent trading performance, the group continues to expand its opening pipeline for the next three years. Our management teams are travelling around the UK looking for new properties and we have a number of sites that are currently in legal negotiations across several of the group’s brands. Whilst we look forward to all covid-related restrictions being lifted on 21 June 2021, in line with the government’s previous guidance and the bars being able to trade to their full potential, we now have confidence that all sites will continue to trade well even if the current capacity restrictions remain in place.”

Inn Collection Group open debut Wearside site: The Inn Collection Group has launched its debut Wearside site, The Seaburn Inn on Sunderland seafront. The purpose-built, 40-bedroom pub with rooms overlooks the Blue Flag beaches of Seaburn and Roker. Built by Metnor Construction, the four-storey site features sea view rooms complete with balconies overlooking Roker Pier and Whitburn, an outdoor terrace, dining areas and a children’s play area. The Inn Collection Group operations manager Dan Evans said: “We are delighted to have opened The Seaburn Inn on the seafront in what is rightly known as the jewel in Sunderland’s crown. It is a superb addition to our portfolio as we continue to expand our presence with sites in exceptional locations across the north of England. The Seaburn Inn will be a major asset to Sunderland, boosting the area’s economic and tourism capacity at a time when it is needed the most. We’re excited to be part of the infrastructure in this dynamic part of the north east coastline, operating as a good, old-fashioned inn with our proven eat, drink, sleep and explore brand and service.” Backed by Alchemy and supported with banking via OakNorth, the north east based operator’s current portfolio stands at 23 sites following the recent acquisitions of The Park Hotel in Tynemouth, North Tyneside; The Waterhead Inn in Ambleside and The Carlton in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. Elsewhere, its expanding pubs with rooms estate includes sites on the Northumberland coast, County Durham and Yorkshire.

Hospitality and retail sectors warn of rent debt crisis: The hospitality and retail industries are urging the government to tackle the £5 billion of rent debt owed to landlords “as a matter of urgency”. The Times reports that each sector has estimated that its total amount outstanding in arrears and other dues is about £2.5 billion and they are warning of widespread business failures without some form of resolution. In evidence to a Treasury select committee inquiry into the economic impact of the pandemic, Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “The key thing is tackling this historic rent debt of £2.5 billion, which is currently due in one hit on 1 July when the moratoriums end. We urgently need those moratoriums to be extended. We need the government to work with us, with lenders, landlords, lessees and investors, to get a solution to this rent debt.” She said that one in five hospitality businesses were warning that without a resolution, there would be a wave of insolvencies and site closures. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said that it and UKHospitality had talked to government about the possibility of ring-fencing the historic debt relating to the periods of closure, “so, rather than a blanket extension of the moratorium, we’re looking at the historic issues, keeping the protection in place over that historic rent, to give time for those discussions between the landlords and the tenants to resolve themselves over the coming months”.

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