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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 10th Dec 2021 - Pint could rise by 10p as pubs suffer Christmas cancellations
Pint could rise by 10p as pubs suffer Christmas cancellations: The cost of a pint is expected to rise by 10p as pubs experience widespread cancellations of Christmas bookings because of concern about the Omicron variant and new coronavirus measures. Some employers have insisted that their offices will stay open, despite Boris Johnson’s call on Wednesday for people to work from home where possible. Clive Watson, executive chairman of the City Pub Group, which has about 50 pubs, predicted that pints would increase by 10p to offset lost revenue from parties. “About ten days ago office parties started to get cancelled, particularly those office parties which were being funded by companies, so typically parties for 40 to 50 people,” he told Today on BBC Radio 4. “After yesterday’s announcement, that has accelerated.” Emma Sweet, marketing manager at the Brakspear group of pubs, told The Times that its 130 premises had received hundreds of cancellations since the prime minister announced new restrictions. In the nine houses it manages directly, there were 140 cancellations. “Usually you may get the odd one due to illness,” she said. “Christmas parties can go ahead at the moment and we’re practising distancing to make sure people feel safe. You can’t be cross with the people who want to cancel because you want them to feel safe and have a good time, but you just want things to carry on as normal.” Sweet added that landlords were caught between wanting to encourage parties and not “coming across as being glib”. She said: “Everybody wants a second go at Christmas after last year.” Luke Johnson, part-owner of the bakery chain Gail’s, said his businesses had received numerous cancellations since Wednesday’s announcement. He said on The World at One on BBC Radio 4: “Where does it end? Does it happen every single time there is a new variant and scientists get a little nervous?”

Propel Premium Advent Video Calendar, Yasha Estraikh to feature: Propel has launched its Premium Advent Video Calendar, giving subscribers access to a great video each day in December from our autumn conference series. Each day in December in the run-up to Christmas, Premium subscribers will be sent a video featuring some of the sector’s leading operators, who will share insights, advice and expertise. The next three videos – which will be sent at 9am today (Friday, 10 December), tomorrow (Saturday, 11 December) and Sunday (12 December) – feature Yasha Estraikh, associate partner at leading investment firm Piper; Tim Wilks, founder of Lane7, the bowling alley, ping pong and karaoke concept; and Steve Holmes, chief executive of the Azzurri Group. Premium subscribers received the fifth edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on (3 December). The database showed the details of 366 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches. Premium subscribers also receive access to two other databases. The latest Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, and the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. 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 group editor Mark Wingett, who this week interviews Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie. 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. If you want to upgrade your subscription to have an unlimited number of people receive access to Premium, email jo.charity@propelinfo.com.

‘Plan C’ rules including ‘table service in pubs’ being considered by officials: Ministers are considering ‘Plan C’ rules which include “table service in pubs” and “vaccine passports in smaller venues”, it’s been reported. The proposals – which would be a step up from the current Plan B restrictions – could be introduced in the New Year if Omicron turns out to be more dangerous than currently believed. Under ‘Plan C’ punters would have to check in with the NHS covid app to go to pubs and restaurants. Face mask-wearing may also extend to all indoor places – including those currently exempt in Plan B, including gyms and pubs. Brits may also have to show vaccine passports at more venues – which will be a blow to businesses already facing issues under Plan B. Rules forcing hospitality venues to collect the contact details of all customers are already being considered in the Plan C “package”, according to the Daily Mail. This would help NHS Test and Trace track down those who come into contact with covid cases as they fight the mutant strain. One source told the newspaper that measures could also include a return to table service in pubs and restaurants.

Ministers rule out further business support under new covid restrictions: The government has ruled out new financial support for companies, including hospitality and retail businesses that face losing crucial sales over the Christmas period, despite introducing fresh coronavirus restrictions. Business lobby groups have called for extra state help to cover losses expected to result from Boris Johnson’s new covid-19 measures for England, which include guidance for people to work from home and a requirement for vaccine passports to gain access to large venues. Many pubs and restaurants have already reported a rise in cancellations because of public concern about the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, and demand in city and town centres is expected to be further hit by the work-from-home guidance that takes effect on Monday. But Treasury officials said there would be no further support for businesses during the so-called Plan B restrictions for England that the prime minister announced on Wednesday. “There is already support in place,” said one official, adding that this could change if further restrictions were imposed. The Treasury said its covid-19 support package for businesses would continue into the spring of next year and “we will continue to respond proportionately to the changing path of the virus, as we have done since the start of the pandemic”. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, a trade group, said members estimated the Plan B restrictions would hit sales by up to 30%. “Government should not be making decisions [on financial support] without assessing the impact on the sector...we don’t know the full detail of how this is going to be implemented,” she added. Trade group UKHospitality called for further business rates relief, grants, rent protection and extended VAT reductions. “Anything less would prove catastrophic,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive. In Scotland, where vaccine passports were introduced for nightclubs and large events in September, sales dropped between 30 and 40% compared to 2019 and venues had to shoulder an additional £559 weekly cost on average due to the need for extra door staff, according to the Night Time Industries Association, a trade body. Alistair Storey, chair of Westbury Street Holdings, which owns the cafe chain Benugo, said city centre businesses would be hit hardest by the government’s advice to work from home. Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, said the advice “re-emphasises the need to support London and the big cities”.

Liberal Democrats call for hospitality support amid ‘unprecedented rates’ of Christmas cancellations: The Liberal Democrats have written to the government requesting urgent support for hospitality firms impacted by plan B measures. Pubs and restaurants in city centres have been concerned about a drop off in trade during what is usually their busiest time of year, following fresh work-from-home guidance. In a letter to the minister for small business, Paul Scully, Daisy Cooper and Sarah Olney said pubs were experiencing “unprecedented rates of booking cancellations” this Christmas. The letter says: “We need an urgent hospitality summit to bring together representatives from hospitality, leisure and the supply chains with hospitality workers and government, to put in place an emergency plan to save our pubs, restaurants, hotels and nightlife from collapse.” Firms have already paid for stock for the Christmas period in the wake of supply chain disruptions, the MPs said. “Much of this can’t be stored for the future, and even the small proportion that can will cause immediate cashflow disruption in already struggling businesses. What’s more, venues who will be required to use a covid passport system, such as nightclubs or other large indoor venues, will ‘incur extra staffing costs’.” City AM writes that the Liberal Democrats have called for an urgent hospitality summit to discuss financial support for the sector.

Starbucks to get its first unionised US store since 1980s: Staff at one Starbucks coffee shop in New York state have voted to establish the first labour union at one of the chain’s own stores since the 1980s. Out of a staff of 27, 19 voted in favour at Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo. Despite the small numbers involved, the vote is likely to rattle the giant coffee chain brand. Starbucks had pulled out all the stops to persuade staff to vote against unionising, including flying in top executives. Campaigners for the union gathered in Buffalo to watch the vote be counted via Zoom and cheered as the result was announced. However staff at a second Buffalo store voted against establishing a union. The vote at a third is not yet resolved as some of the ballots are under review. In all, about 100 baristas and supervisors took part. BBC News reports that Starbucks workers in Buffalo began the campaign to unionise in August, saying they were overworked, but not listened to by the company. The mobile app in particular has added to their workload, they said, by enabling multiple complicated orders to arrive in quick succession, which they are then under time pressure to fulfill. The vote could set a precedent at the coffee chain, which has more than 8,000 company-owned stores across the US, none of which have been unionised since the 1980s.

Brussels in plan to crack down on the gig economy: A new European Union directive could provide extra workplace rights and protections for up to 4.1 million people, such as Uber drivers or Deliveroo couriers, in the so-called gig economy. The Times reports that under European Commission proposed legislation on platform work, “people who currently earn below the minimum wage would enjoy increased annual earnings of up to €484m”. Companies such as Uber, Deliveroo and Just Eat use smartphone apps to offer cheap driver and delivery services using people defined as self-employed, who are paid on a job-by-job basis. The commission said: “New ways of organising work, such as platform work, make it more complex to correctly classify people as workers or self-employed. This leads to situations where some people are unfairly deprived of access to the rights and protections associated with worker status.” The sector has reacted with anger, warning that 150,000 people working for ride-hailing platforms such as Bolt, Free Now and Uber would lose work. The announcement had been expected and shares in some of the companies had fallen before the announcement. Deliveroo’s stock slid another 2¾p or 1.1%, to 237½p yesterday.

McDonald’s opens net-zero restaurant in Shropshire: McDonald’s, which currently operates around 1,400 restaurants in the UK, has opened its first ‘net-zero’ restaurant in Market Drayton, Shropshire. Part of its Plan for Change programme, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions across its restaurants, offices, and supply chains in the UK and Ireland by 2040, the new UK restaurant will be the blueprint for all McDonald’s new-build branches. It will support the company’s target to revamp everything from the beef in its burgers to furniture in restaurants, with sustainability-oriented improvements including compostable packaging made from renewable, recycled or certified sources. Beth Hart, vice-president of supply chain and brand trust at McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said: “At McDonald’s we believe that our food needs to be served in restaurants that are sustainable for the future. Market Drayton is a big step towards making that a reality, enabling us to test and put into practice what a net-zero emissions building, both in build and use, really looks like. We’ve already started to roll out some of these innovations to other restaurants.”

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