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Tue 18th Jan 2022 - Update: Consumer confidence grows, Hotel Chocolat, McDonald's, Chopaluna et al
Consumer confidence grows to raise hopes for hospitality's recovery in 2022: Consumer confidence about eating and drinking out remains high despite the spread of the Omicron variant, new research from CGA shows. The Consumer Pulse survey of 2,000 nationally representative consumers indicates more than two thirds (70%) now feel confident about visiting pubs, bars and restaurants. It is double the number of 34% who felt confident at the start of 2021, and a sharp increase on the total of 52% from CGA’s research in July. The research highlights lingering anxiety about covid-19, with more than half (55%) of consumers worried about Omicron and two thirds (67%) concerned about a further peak in infections. However, hospitality venues’ efforts to reassure guests about safety appear to be working, with almost three quarters (71%) of people feeling very or quite safe on their last visit – a small increase from July’s total of 69%. Consumers are also keen to support a sector that has been heavily impacted by covid-19. Seven in ten said they are worried venues may not survive the pandemic, while 62% are actively supporting local hospitality businesses. There are signs that footfall should increase in the months ahead, as one in five (19%) consumers plans to visit venues more often than they did last year – slightly more than the number who think they will make fewer visits (17%). A third said they will step up their frequency of visits after the end of January. CGA group chief executive Phil Tate said: “After a very tough Christmas, these numbers are a welcome reminder of the huge underlying appeal of Britain’s pubs, bars and restaurants. Having missed out on so many hospitality occasions in 2021, and with concerns about safety easing, we can be cautiously optimistic that spending will rebound as the year goes on. Some hospitality businesses remain vulnerable after enduring almost two years of very challenging trading conditions. But this is a resilient and resourceful industry, and with the right support from government it is well placed to drive Britain’s economic recovery in 2022 and thrive in the long run.”

Host of hotel companies to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A host of hotel companies are among the 85 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, which will be released on Friday, 28 January, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, which is a 38-strong hotel and resort operator founded by Donald Macdonald more than 30 years ago. Also added this month is Red Carnation Hotels – which in 2020 celebrated 100 years of hospitality and currently has 20 sites around the world, including 12 in the UK and Ireland. Award-winning Hand Picked Hotels, which is a collection of 21 country house and spa hotels located throughout the UK and the Channel Islands, has been included this month. In addition, Lake District Hotels, which is owned and run by Kit and Charles Graves and boasts a collection of six award-winning hotels situated in the surroundings of the Lake District, will be featured. Premium subscribers will also receive a 6,100-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. It features more than 2,000 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the sixth edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday, 4 February, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The sixth edition also includes a 19,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to another database, the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated monthly, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. 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 single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. 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.

Hotel Chocolat expects trading to be marginally ahead of expectations in current financial year after ‘strong’ first half: Hotel Chocolat, the premium British chocolatier, has said it expects trading to be marginally ahead of management’s expectations in the current financial year after a “strong” first half. Total group revenue for the 13 weeks ended 26 December 2021 increased 37% compared with the prior year, and by 63% compared with the equivalent period in FY20. Total group revenue for the first half has been strong, increasing 40% compared with the prior year, and by 56% compared to the equivalent period in the financial year ended 28 June 2020, the last equivalent period prior to the impact of covid-19. The company stated: “In the UK, the strong brand position and multichannel model enabled growth of 38%. New customer acquisition campaigns resulted in 38% more active customers. In the USA, the digital-led strategy delivered growth of 128%, with active customer database growth of 119%. In Japan, our multi-channel joint venture achieved growth of 131%. Since launching the VIP loyalty scheme 14 months ago, the database has grown by 1,000% to more than 100,000 active customers. Trading throughout the period has been encouraging and the Board now expects trading to be marginally ahead of management's expectations for the current financial year.” Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive, said: “These results demonstrate the Hotel Chocolat brand is connecting with more customers, as we invest continually in new product creativity, driving growth across channels and categories, and in our 'gentle farming' initiative supporting cacao-farming families. All of our six growth drivers are behind the acceleration in sales and our UK domestic market still has huge potential.” The board expects to announce the group's results for the six months ended 26 December 2021 on 2 March 2022.
 
Choppaluna secures debut Scotland site, in Glasgow: Salad bar concept Choppaluna, which is owned by Hero Brands, has secured its debut Scottish site, in Glasgow. The concept, which at the end of last year said it planned to open 10 sites in 2022, will open the doors in the second quarter of this year, on the former Via Italia unit on Union Street. Choppaluna, which was founded by Nikras Agha and Bijan Azadfard, specialises in salad bowls and wraps. The concept, which opened its first UK site in London’s Bloomsbury in October 2020, said last month it will now kickstart plans to rapidly grow across the country. It plans to open another London restaurant in High Holborn in the first quarter, while other openings are planned in Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford, Birmingham and Cambridge later in the year. Agha said: “We are excited to be launching a new restaurant in Glasgow, bringing our super-delicious, healthy dining experience of guilt-free indulgence to Scotland. Choppaluna will truly revolutionise the healthy eating space in the city, bringing people indulgent healthy options that fit with a fast-paced on-the-go lifestyle.”

McDonald's restaurants in US open 10% fewer hours than before pandemic due to staff shortages: McDonald's restaurants across the US are open for fewer hours than before the pandemic because they don't have enough staff, chief executive Chris Kempczinski has said. He told The Wall Street Journal the 13,000 McDonald's restaurants in the US had cut their opening hours by 10% on average. Record numbers of Americans are quitting their jobs in search of better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Others have returned to education, switched industries, or taken early retirement. This has caused a huge labour shortage, with restaurants hit particularly hard. Kempczinski said at McDonald's most recent earnings call, in October that its service was getting slower because it couldn't find enough staff, and that some restaurants had cut their hours. He added McDonald's staffing hadn't recovered as quickly as he'd expected and predicted the problems would persist into “the next several quarters”. A report by Kalinowski Equity Research in October estimated McDonald's labour shortage was pushing the company’s sales down by 3% to 4%. Companies have been scrambling to attract new hires, offering perks like higher wages, sign-on bonuses, and long-term benefits. Kempczinski said at McDonald's October earnings call the company's corporate-owned restaurants had raised their wages by an average of 15% in the year to date, and he told The Journal the company needed to provide jobs that people wanted and look after its workers. Some McDonald's franchisees have been taking matters into their own hands. Insider previously reported a McDonald's in Illinois was offering iPhones to some new hires, while another in Florida gave $50 to anyone who came for an interview.

Fruit lager brand Jubel raises £2.7m with ex-Domino’s Pizza Group CEO among investors: Fruit lager brand Jubel has raised £2.7m investment to support its growth. Launched in April 2018, Jubel has experienced 120% growth in the past year. New backers include experienced investor Nigel Wray, ex-chief executive of Domino’s Pizza Group, Stephen Hemsley, chief executive of Primary Health Properties Harry Hyman; as well as further backing from C&C Group. Michael Saunders, agency brands director at C&C Group, said: “The Jubel team has done a fantastic job of growing the brand significantly since we first invested in 2019. It was a no brainer for us to invest further in the brand and we're excited to continue supporting the growth of this new category space between lager and fruit cider that Jubel is pioneering.” Jesse Wilson, co-founder and chief executive of Jubel, added: “Our vision is to be the earth’s favourite fruit beer brand. We want to build a people and planet positive brand, and that’s why we became a certified carbon negative business in 2020 and will hopefully become a certified B-Corp in 2022 to hold us accountable to the highest standards of using business as a force for good – being a culture where diverse talent want to join, develop, and stay.”

Wasabi increases plant-based offer with new vegan sushi set: Wasabi, the sushi and bento chain led by Henry Birts and backed by Capdesia, has increased its plant-based offer with the launch of a vegan version of its best-selling “Harmony Set” sushi box. The new vegan sushi set consists of Xalmon Nigiri, Tofu Chumaki, Avocado Hosomaki, Xalmon & Avocado Chumaki, Inari & Red Pepper Hosomaki and Cucumber Hosomaki, all served with soy sauce and wasabi paste. Xalmon sushi is unique to Wasabi on the UK high street and was the only vegan product to receive top marks in a recent newspaper taste test. The Mini Xalmon Set has also been shortlisted for Best New Product at the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator 2022 awards, which take place this week. The launch forms part of a new vegan focused marketing campaign from the business, “Vegan at Full Flavour”, which launched at the start of the month.

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