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Tue 25th Jan 2022 - Marston’s reports like-for-like sales down 3.6% as Omicron hit consumer sentiment
Marston’s reports like-for-like sales down 3.6% as Omicron hit consumer sentiment: Brewer and retailer Marston’s has reported like-for-like sales of minus 3.9% for the 16-week period to 12 January 2022 (compared to the same period in 2019) ahead of the annual general meeting to be held at 10am today. Total sales declined 3.9%. The company said this result reflected ‘the impact of the Omicron variant and consumer sentiment related to the new variant in the last eight weeks’. It added: “During the five-week period of December like-for-like sales compared to the market outside the M25 were 1% ahead of the market and total sales were 5% ahead. Prior to the emergence of Omicron and subsequent introduction of renewed restrictions, like-for-like sales in the first eight weeks to 27 November were +1.3%, as previously reported, with encouraging trading momentum. As a result of government messaging including guidance to work from home and the call to limit social distancing, like-for-like sales were (8.8)% in the last eight weeks of the period under review. Drinks sales have outperformed food sales during the period. From a geographic perspective, the group’s pubs in Wales and Scotland were more significantly impacted than those in England by the tighter restrictions that were enforced during the period.” Chief executive Andrew Andrea said: “Whilst the emergence of the Omicron variant and subsequent government guidance temporarily impacted consumer sentiment, we remain confident that the strong trading momentum which we were experiencing prior to that will resume. We welcome the various plans underway to gradually ease trading restrictions in Scotland and Wales. These, together with the reduction in the required self-isolation period and anticipation of an imminent end to the work from home directive, should enable some semblance of normalised trading patterns to return. Indeed, there is growing evidence over the most recent of weeks of the New Year that consumer confidence is rebuilding, and guests are returning to our pubs in greater numbers, which is encouraging. Importantly, Marston’s has a well invested, predominantly community pub estate which is well placed to benefit from the pent-up consumer demand which we are confident remains.”

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator video available to buy: Readers who missed out on this year’s Restaurant Marketer & Innovator event can now catch up on all the insights and expertise that was offered – by buying the video. For £495 plus VAT, people will be given access to the recording. The event, which is a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality, returned for its fourth year last week. More than 60 industry and agency leaders took to the stage over two days, representing brands including The Alchemist, Coco di Mama, Vapiano, Individual Restaurant Company, Anglian Country Inns, Compass, Dishoom, BrewDog, Elior UK, Punch, Greene King, Just Eat, Fridays, Gamechangers Hospitality Investments, Lane7, Mission Mars, Wing Shack, The Cocktail Club, Incipio Group, Kerb Food, PPHE Group, Hilton, Pho, Pizza Pilgrims, Rum Kitchen, New World Trading Company and Arc Inspirations. The conference focused on marcomms strategies, proposition and concept development, the latest market insights, technology and digital developments, diversification of revenue streams and how brands are adapting to the new normal. It is designed for marketing, development and innovation teams, as well as senior executives and investors wanting to better understand the latest marketing, innovation and development opportunities to build market share and grow. Emma Banks, vice-president – food and beverage strategy and development at Hilton, said: “Anyone in hospitality wanting to stay relevant with exactly what is going on and trending this is a conference for you! Very cool and insightful.” Jack Edge, marketing manager at Mission Mars, added: “So many inspirational speakers, so much insight, so many happy faces… and so much work to do now we’re home to make dreams reality.” Alan Laughlin, chief executive of Vapiano, said: “Really enjoyed the conference and have so many connections and takeaways. Great work as always!” Readers can buy the video by emailing

Jamie Oliver blames fast-food deliveries for surge in obesity: Jamie Oliver has opened a new front in his healthy eating battle after claiming “there is no proof” that food delivery companies care about the nation’s diet. The chef said that a rise in childhood obesity recorded during the lockdown months of 2020-21 was unacceptable. “I think everything, socially and technologically, is driving our kids away from taking a pile of ingredients and making a plate of food,” Oliver told Radio Times. He said that a lockdown “spike” in cooking had misled the nation into thinking it was eating more healthily. “We’ve been under an illusion over the last 18 months because we’ve been making banana bread and sourdough,” he said. “There was a spike in cooking but it was because we were forced. The reality is a whole load of digitisation and delivery solutions. It’s never been easier to order dinner on [a phone]. Those companies, none of them cares yet. There’s no proof you can give me that they care. Convenience is the big driver and even cheap takeaways are expensive when you compare them to cooking.”

McDonald’s to debut chicken Big Mac in the UK: McDonald’s is bringing out a chicken Big Mac by swapping out its iconic beef patties for two crispy chicken fillets. The burger will be on the menu in McDonald’s 1,300 UK restaurants from 2 February and it will remain on the menu until 15 March. The chicken version is 50p more expensive than a classic Big Mac, which costs £3.59, but prices do vary between branches. It has more calories with 544kcal, compared to a Big Mac which is 508. The Big Mac has been on the menu in the UK since 1974. The chicken Big Mac is already available on the menu in Australia – but this is the first time it’s been sold in the UK.

Brothers set to swoop on hotels strapped for cash: The billionaire Livingstone brothers have teamed up with a Dutch pension fund manager to invest €1bn in buying hotels from cash-strapped owners. The Times reports that London + Regional, the global investment company of Richard Livingstone and his brother Ian, today will announce the launch of a European hotel venture with PGGM and John Ozinga, the former chief executive of Accor Invest, the property division of the French hotels group. L+R Hotels already owns more than 100 hotels worth more than €5 billion, including Cliveden House in Berkshire, Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay and the Fairmont Monte Carlo, although the new venture will be separate from its existing properties. L+R and PGGM, a not-for-profit pensions administrator with €291bn under management, together will contribute €500m of equity and then will gear up to the tune of €500m in debt to target hotel assets in Europe, mainly France, Germany, the Benelux countries, Spain and Italy. The money will be invested over two years. The company also has set up a hotel asset management company called LRO Hospitality in partnership with Ozinga to find deals, operate hotels and manage the assets. Ozinga said that market conditions would present opportunities to acquire hotels “from investors or operators facing cashflow challenges”. Desmond Taljaard, managing director of L+R Hotels, said that the fund would be a longer-term investor rather than seeking a quick return. L+R and PGGM have already completed their first acquisition, a hotel near La Défense on the edge of Paris.

AB Hotels reports turnover and pre-tax profit boost despite restrictions: Family-owned AB Hotels has reported turnover increased to £9.9m for the year ending 31 October 2021, compared with £8.8m the year before despite restrictions caused by the pandemic. The company, which is owned by the Bejerano family and operates the Sopwell House Hotel in Hertfordshire, saw pre-tax profit rise to £888,000, compared with £4,500 the previous year. In his report accompanying the accounts, director Abraham Bejerano stated: “Even when we opened, a number of restrictions remained in place throughout, which has hampered our ability to drive the business in the manor we are accustomed to and has limited our capacity in some areas. However, despite this, the figures produced during the months we were open were excellent, and in many cases were record monthly performances. Tight cost control, increased pricing, and rigorous payroll management, along with the lower rate of VAT for hospitality, were all crucial in delivering a good profit for the year, even more remarkable given the total closure for more than six of the 12 months.” The company, which will open a second site – Five Lakes in Essex in May – received government grants of £1m for the period. No dividend was paid.

Sushi Moka secures second site: New independent Japanese restaurant Sushi Moka has secured its second site, in Wandsworth’s Ram Quarter, opening this summer. Sushi Moka, which specialises in authentic Japanese food with a fusion twist, opened its debut restaurant in Marylebone, where it has “built a reputation for excellent Japanese cuisine through careful use of local suppliers and high-quality ingredients”. It has taken a 795 square foot unit in Ram Quarter, the former home of the Young’s brewery, on a 15-year lease from landlord Greenland. It will sit in the Bubbling Well Square area of the mixed-use development alongside Sambrook’s brewery, fine dining restaurant London Stock and Strike bowling. Christine Chen, owner and founder of Sushi Moka, said: “Ram Quarter’s emphasis on dynamic, independent brands make it the perfect place for us to establish our first home south of the river. With our focus on quality and authenticity, we can’t wait for residents of Wandsworth and beyond to come in and discover our fantastic food for themselves.” Chris Daly, deputy director commercial, at Greenland (UK), added: “Sushi Moka is an ideal fit for the vibrant food and leisure destination we’ve created, complementing our existing line-up of occupiers and playing well to our target demographics across Wandsworth and beyond. With Sushi Moka onboard and the launches of Boom: Battle Bar and Strike late last year, we anticipate an exciting and successful 2022.” Melbourne-inspired restaurant and coffee house Friends of Ours is also due to open at Ram Quarter in late spring.

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