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Tue 28th Sep 2021 - 70 sector leaders tell government – we’re facing a staffing crisis
70 sector leaders tell government – we’re facing a staffing crisis: Nearly 70 leading hospitality sector figures, including serial sector investor Richard Caring, Soho House founder Nick Jones, and Jeremy King, co-founder of Corbin & King, have written an open letter to the government urgently asking it to revise current settlement and pre-settlement schemes and the highly-skilled migrants lists to address the industry’s staffing crisis. In the letter published in today’s FT, they write: “The hospitality industry in the UK injects millions of pounds into the economy in taxes and helps to make people ‘feel good’. Hospitality is not a low-skilled career. There are many roles both in the kitchen and on the floor which require a high level of training and extensive experience – eg, sashimi chef, sommelier, floor manager. Many roles within hospitality need to be included on the skills shortage list – this is critical in order to save the industry under Brexit rules. A huge number of individuals have left the industry and many operators simply cannot stay afloat with reduced staffing levels. Post-covid customer demand is increasing, but now we don’t have the necessary trained staff. Pre-pandemic hospitality was the third-largest industry in the private sector and was estimated to contribute £133.5bn to national gross domestic product and employed over 3.2m people – about 10% of the workforce – according to UKHospitality. Allowing the sector to recruit the staff it needs will result in higher turnover, more jobs and the resultant taxes returning to pre-pandemic levels more quickly. Hospitality is not a low-pay sector, and these are skilled jobs paying skilled wages. The problem is not that we cannot compete with other sectors on pay, but that the staff are not there in the numbers required. The higher end of the hospitality market is struggling. It relies on well-trained staff as quality cannot be compromised. London’s restaurants are integral to the appeal of the city for tourists and those who choose to live and work here. A crisis in this sector will have ramifications for London as a global city. We urgently ask the government to revise current settlement and pre-settlement schemes and the highly skilled migrants lists to address these imbalances.”

Three days to go before release of updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, 73 companies being added: A total of 73 new multi-site companies, operating 417 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, which will be released on Friday (1 October), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes international growth concepts making their UK debut, expanding vegan brands, regional coffee operators and a number of brands growing through franchise. Premium subscribers will also receive a 6,200-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and 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. Alongside this, Premium subscribers will also receive the third edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Wednesday, 6 October, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. Premium 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 plus regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. 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. To subscribe, email

Vaccine passports could be mandatory at indoor and outdoor venues under revived scheme: The prospect of vaccine passports being used at indoor and outdoor venues in England this winter has been raised again by the government. The plans seemed to have been put on the backburner but The Telegraph reports that on Monday night the government launched a consultation, asking the public for views on the use of vaccine passports this autumn and winter if covid-19 cases threaten to overwhelm the NHS. The Plan B proposals also open the door to the number of venues being widened beyond nightclubs, music venues, outdoor festivals, concerts and sports events. The consultation asks whether the public thinks the list of settings is too narrow, raising the prospect that other entertainment venues where people mingle and mix could be included. Maggie Troup, the health minister, said: “While we are totally confident the careful steps we are taking will help rule out the need for mandatory vaccine certificates, we need to be prepared for all scenarios. We know these kinds of contingency plans will only work if businesses and the public get to have their say and I’m urging everyone who could have to use certification: give us your views, give us your ideas.” Industry and the public have been given until 11 October to respond to the planned vaccine passports, which would be mandatory for all adults over 18 attending the prescribed venues, and will require legislation. Under the plan, only double-vaccinated people would be certified by the passports. Negative coronavirus tests and proof of natural immunity after recently recovering from the virus would no longer be permitted. They will face fierce criticism from Tory MPs, who have claimed the plans are “totally unacceptable”, discriminatory and a route to a “two-tier society”.

Chapel Down reports progress after move away from beer: Chapel Down has reported revenues increased by 35% to £8.109m (H1 2020: £6.001m) in the six months ended 30 June 2021. Adjusted Ebitda was up 232% at £801,000 (H1 2020: £241,000). Wine sales volumes were up 66%, Direct to consumer volumes were up 36% and there was 86% growth in off-trade business in Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, J Sainsbury, Majestic, Tesco and other well-known retailers. Chairman Martin Glenn stated: “I am pleased to announce significant progress in the development of Chapel Down as a premium wine producer with greater focus. This has manifested itself in rapid sales growth and profitability. There has already been a positive swing of over £1m in terms of Ebitda, which in H1 2021 was £0.618m (H1 2020 loss of (£0.419m)). The drivers of this excellent turnaround have been a growing demand for our award winning wines and the opening up of new distribution routes to the consumer. The foundations remain our superb quality wines and spirits, our industry leading brand recognition and of course, our great team. I’ve always said that ‘people make strategy happen’ and this has certainly been the case at Chapel Down. Frazer Thompson and his team have steered the company through the pandemic, built a significant e-commerce proposition and completed the difficult process of exiting beer production which we completed in April 2021. They have also completed a successful round of fundraising and financing. This has allowed full focus on what we believe will continue to make Chapel Down even more well-known and regarded and enable it to grow more profitably – namely our range of extraordinary wines which continue to delight consumers and connoisseurs alike. The Platinum medals for our Rose Brut NV and Kits Coty Blanc de Blancs for example, help continue to win new friends and customers. Chapel Down is the UK’s biggest English wine business with the most recognised and valued brand. It takes time and patience to build high quality wine capability and great flair to build a distinctive brand. Frazer has helped build something remarkable and a business of which all stakeholders can be proud.” Andrew Carter, previously managing director of Chase Distillery and chief commercial officer of Treasury Wine Estates, became the company’s new chief executive this month replacing Fraser Thompson. Glenn said: “I’d like to extend the board’s thanks and appreciation to Frazer Thompson who retires in November and to wish his successor Andrew Carter my best wishes as they work to ensure a seamless transition as he takes over as chief executive. Frazer has built a tremendous platform for growth at Chapel Down during his 20 year tenure.”

Escape Hunt reports strong bounceback: Escape Room operator Escape Hunt has reported a strong post lockdown bounce back from UK sites which re-opened on 17 May 2021. H1 revenue was £1,178k with UK sites open for only six weeks in the period (H1 2020: £1,306k from c.11 weeks UK trading). Site level Ebitda for the half year was £441k (H1 2020: 499k). Adjusted Ebitda loss in the half year reduced to £796k (HI 2020: £816k). Dubai acquisition performing ahead of expectations with payback expected in less than 12 months. New UK owner operated sites opened in Watford and Kingston on 17 May 2021 bringing total UK owner operated sites to 14; further sites secured and in build at the Lakeside shopping centre in Essex and in Milton Keynes. This brings the company to 16 owner operated sites in the UK and 19 in total. Mature like-for-like sites are delivering 117% of pre-covid (2019) sales with total sales (including new sites) delivering 192% of 2019 level in the 16 weeks between re-opening and 5 September 2021. July and August both profitable at group Ebitda level (even stripping out UK government covid support) which validates our previous assertion that with the existing estate, the company could become cash generative over a full year. Chief executive Richard Harpham said: “It has been extremely pleasing to see such a strong bounce back of consumer demand in the UK over the summer. Encouragingly, we are now beginning to see an increase in corporate activity which we expect to show further growth as office-based work begins to return over the Autumn. Our acquisitions in both the Middle East and France / Belgium are performing well and we believe they will generate a very attractive return on investment underpinning our international franchise efforts whilst our new sites have all traded profitably virtually from day one. It is clear that escape rooms have now entered the mainstream consumer psyche underpinning confidence in our strategy and the significant strategic progress made in the last 18 months. Notwithstanding the incredibly tough conditions for the leisure industry during this period, the company has emerged stronger and with a platform with significantly greater critical mass. We look forward with optimism.”

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