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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 12th Oct 2021 - Update: Meat prices, McDonald’s UK losses, Aspirational Brands
Meat producers have warned of spiralling prices this Christmas: Meat producers have warned of spiralling prices this Christmas triggered by a surge in the cost of carbon dioxide after a rescue deal was struck to protect the flow of the vital gas. According to The Telegraph, industry leaders are bracing for a possible fivefold spike in the cost of CO2 – essential in the production of pork, turkey and chicken – following an agreement to keep manufacturing plants owned by CF Industries running over winter. The Exchequer has been bankrolling CF for the last three weeks to keep production going after surging wholesale gas prices made it uneconomic. Ministers have now brokered a longer-term deal between CF and the middlemen which it supplies, allowing the plant to charge significantly more for CO2 in coming months. Meat producers which then buy the gas from these middlemen fear they will be forced to bear the extra costs – potentially giving them no choice other than to put up their own prices, ultimately hitting consumers in the pocket. Industry sources said that there was speculation that CO2 prices could jump from £200 to as much as £1,000 a tonne. The British Meat Processors Association said: “The industry has been given no detail on what the price will be or how it will be calculated going forward. We understand that business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng took the decision to temporarily exempt parts of the CO2 industry from competition law to facilitate this agreement. What we need now is some detail and transparency around how the new pricing structure will work.” Meat companies spoke to officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Monday night but sources said they struggled to secure details about the nature of the deal with American-owned CF. Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “Although welcome news, the increased cost of buying CO2 is yet another burden on the food and drink industry, which is already facing enormous stresses. This will of course add more pressure on prices for shoppers and diners.”

Host of hotel operators being added to updated Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book: A host of hotel operators are being added to the updated Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. A total of 21 companies are being added to the updated Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, taking the combined number to 427 companies, which produce total turnover of £30bn. Of those companies 208 are reporting a profit and 219 are making a loss. Among the new additions are GHL Hotels, which turned over £183.2m in its most recent financial year; Lake District Hotels, which turned over £19.5m and Peel Hotels, which had turnover of £15.6m. The next edition of the Blue Book will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (15 October) at midday. The Blue Book, which is updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive two other databases – the New Openings Database, produced in association with StarStock, and the Multi-site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each month. 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. 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

McDonald’s UK reports loss in pandemic year: McDonald’s UK has reported turnover decreased by £433m to £970m in the year ended 31 December 2020. The company stated: “As well as the pandemic which had the most significant impact on turnover and profitability, consumer behaviour impacts the company’s turnover and variability of commodity prices and other costs impact profitability. The company’s gross profit decreased to £331m (2019: £58m) and it made an operating loss of £32m (2019: £345m profit). It lost £23.3m in the year compare to a £405.9m profit the year before.”

Aspirational Brands to launch UK’s first ‘floral coffee-bar-to-club concept’ next week: Aspirational Brands, a new growth vehicle formed to roll out a number of concepts across the UK, has announced an October opening date for its second Cheshire leisure venture. Recardo’s, billed as the UK’s first floral coffee-bar-to-club venue, will open on Friday 22 October. Having transformed the former Suburbia club in Ashley Road, Hale, Recardo’s will be a floral patisserie by day, and a 200-capacity 1970s, 1980s and 1990s nightclub by night. Overseeing the creative side of the concept will be Recardo Patrick, associate director of acquisitions for Aspirational Brands and former singer for soul band Sweet Sensation. He said: “I wanted Recardo’s to be a fun clubbing concept where people come for the experience, not just the headliners, and we will certainly achieve that.” Also joining the team at Recardo’s is new general manager Marvin Hayes, a former events manager at Mere Golf Resort and Spa in Knutsford. The launch will follow the opening earlier this year of Aspirational Brands’ first Chester venue, the Cheshire House Bar and Grill, based at the former Brasserie Blanc site in Knutsford. The group is also responsible for rolling out the Handmade Burger Co and Lemongrass concepts across the UK and hopes to have up to 35 sites trading by the end of the year, with plans to open a further ten to 15 in 2022.

Second crack at London for US celebrity chef Matthew Kenney: US celebrity chef Matthew Kenney’s second attempt at cracking London will come with the opening of Adesse at Selfridges in December. Kenney, who runs 40 restaurants in cities including New York, Bahrain and Sydney, first brought his plant-based cuisine to London in 2019. However, Essence Cuisine in Shoreditch, which offered 100% plant-based dishes designed by Kenney to eat in or take away, closed within a year of opening. His new venture will be based at the site of the former Corner Restaurant on the second floor on the flagship Oxford Street store. Among its offerings will be avocado tikka with grilled potato bread, curry leaf yogurt, coriander leaves and flowers, and a hibiscus cheesecake with strawberries and pistachio.

Operator behind Dundee bars group Macmerry 300 set to open new cocktail bar this week, plans to expand across the UK: Phil Donaldson – whose Macmerry 300 group includes Dundee venues Fly South, Bird & Bear, Draffens, Abandon Ship Bar, The King of Islington, Still not Dead and the newly opened pasta bar Franks – is preparing to launch another nightspot in the city. The 120-cover Nola will launch on Friday (15 October), an opening which was due to take place last year, but which was delayed by the pandemic. Operations director AJ McMenemy said: “Nola is set to bring the boujee party to Dundee’s thriving hospitality scene. With sophisticated drinks, table service and a stunning setting, we’re excited to officially launch. It’s been a long time coming, and we’ve got an incredible programme of DJs and drinks to celebrate finally opening.” Donaldson, a former professional footballer with Dundee FC, has also made inroads into Glasgow over the past year, opening Mexican eatery The Luchador, cocktail lounge Mr Lincoln and bar/restaurant The Bull. He also hopes to take his Abandon Ship Bar concept across the UK – and possibly into Europe – with ten openings being planned over the next three to five years. London is slated to be first up, with Leeds, Manchester, Brighton and Edinburgh all in the mix too. Donaldson opened his first hospitality venture – Gracie’s cafe in Dundee’s Broughty Ferry – in 2014 before laying the foundations of the Macmerry group by leasing premises at the then undeveloped Dundee waterfront the following year and opening a restaurant and adjacent cocktail bar Jam Jar, which went on to become the Bird & Bear and Abandon Ship Bar.

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