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Fri 28th Jan 2022 - Give us a chance to recover from Plan B covid rules, say businesses
Give us a chance to recover from Plan B covid rules, say businesses: Businesses have urged Rishi Sunak to delay the rise in national insurance contributions to give them more time to recover from the impact of covid restrictions. The Times reports that 59% of 750 businesses surveyed by the British Chambers of Commerce believe that the chancellor and the government did not adequately assess the impact of Plan B measures on companies. A sizeable proportion of businesses suffered a loss of revenue because of the restrictions. About 38% said that they suffered some losses and of those 21% called them “significant”. 68% of companies said staff members had been absent owing to sickness or self-isolation in the past month, with about half of those affected recording a fall in output or activity as a result. 81% of companies in the manufacturing sector were affected by staff absences. 54% of firms said that the government had not provided enough support for businesses in response to the Plan B restrictions, which came into effect in early December. The rules included renewed limits on international travel, vaccine passports and a shift back to working from home where possible. Shevaun Haviland, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, called for the government to postpone the rise to national insurance contributions, which is due to take effect on 1 April. “Our members are telling us they are being squeezed by rising wages due to fierce competition for staff, and that the incoming national insurance contributions increase will compound this at the worst possible time,” she said. “I am really concerned that if this tax increase is not postponed, we will see a stranglehold put on the economic recovery just when it needs to be powering up. That’s why I am calling on the government to postpone the rise in national insurance contributions due for April to give the economy a chance to properly recover.” Haviland added that the government should commit to no further rises to business costs until the parliamentary recess in the summer.

Updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies released today at midday, 87 businesses being added: A total of 87 new multi-site companies, operating 918 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released today (Friday, 28 January), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes a number of brands growing through franchise, expanding cocktail bar concepts and regional restaurant and coffee shop operators. Premium subscribers will also receive a 6,500-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 26,300-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. In this week’s Premium Opinion, which will be sent to subscribers today at 5pm, he looks at the battle for Corbin & King while sector leaders including Greene King’s Nick Mackenzie, Punch’s Clive Chesser and Mowgli’s Nisha Katona give their thoughts on the year ahead. Meanwhile, sector analyst Simon Stenning discusses why 2022 can usher in a new era for the UK’s foodservice sector, and Charlie McVeigh, chairman of The Breakfast Club, examines the lessons to be learned from the pandemic. 


Minor – We will not get drawn into a war of words: Minor International, the biggest shareholder in Corbin & King, which it placed into administration earlier this week, has said it doesn’t want to get drawn into a war of words over the future of the business. Yesterday, co-founder Jeremy King posted a three-minute video on YouTube claiming Minor “hasn’t put a penny into the restaurants since buying into the business” in 2017, and that Corbin & King was “under siege from our investor, which puts its own interest ahead of us all”. A statement from Minor said: “We will not get drawn into a war of words. There is an administration process to follow that we respect. Minor International remains committed to preserving and protecting the long-term future of the company’s iconic brands and employees.” Earlier this week, Minor cited its “inability to align with King on a sustainable commercial strategy” for the decision to place the holding company into insolvency proceedings. On Wednesday (26 January), American investment fund Knighthead Capital Management tabled a £38m offer to buy out Minor’s debt in the business.

Maximal Concepts launches first UK venture with London izakaya opening: Asian restaurant group Maximal Concepts has made its UK debut with the opening of a Japanese izakaya bar and restaurant in Knightsbridge. The Aubrey London is based in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, showcasing traditional Japanese cooking techniques and offering a creative cocktail menu. It replaces Bar Boulud, the burger bar from New York chef Daniel Boulud that closed in October 2020 following the expiry of its ten-year contract at the hotel. With The Aubrey, Maximal Concepts is aiming for an “immersive experience where art and design meets high quality drinks and innovative dining”, like many of the group’s concepts in its Hong Kong base. Founded in 2012 by Malcolm Wood, Xuan Mu and Matt Reid, Maximal Concepts operates food and beverage concepts across Asia including John Anthony, Sip Song, Limewood and upscale Chinese restaurant Mott 32. Its first concept to rolled out internationally, Mott 32 currently has franchises in Hong Kong, Vancouver, Las Vegas and Singapore – which are set to be followed by nine more locations by 2024. The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, meanwhile, underwent an extensive restoration in 2019, including the hotel’s destination restaurants and Mandarin Bar.

Number of boarded-up shops finally starts to fall: The number of shuttered stores on high streets and in shopping centres has fallen for the first time since the beginning of 2018, according to new data. The Times reports that high street vacancy rates dipped to 14.4% between October and December, according to new figures from the British Retail Consortium. Before the pandemic, about 12% of shops in Britain were vacant. However, with businesses forced to stop trading for several months during lockdowns, that figure had risen to 14.5% by last spring and it stayed at that level over the summer and into the autumn. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the industry body, said that the drop, the first in almost four years, “offered the first glimmer of hope for Britain’s beleaguered shopping destinations”. Retailers and their landlords have been crippled by the pandemic. Lucy Stainton, a director of the Local Data Company, which compiled the report, said: “Vacancy rates are a strong barometer of the health of our high streets. With this in mind, it is very encouraging to see the increase in empty units finally stabilising after such a sharp rise over the past two years. This is the first real indication that the most significant structural impacts of the pandemic are potentially at their peak for certain regions.” The data showed that northern towns and cities generally had higher vacancy rates than those in the south. The retail consortium put that down to “higher disposable income and greater business investment” in the south, which meant that empty stores were repurposed more quickly. London has the lowest proportion of empty shops, with a vacancy rate of 11%. By contrast, in the northeast of England one in five shops is unoccupied. Shopping centres have always had higher vacancy levels than shops in retail parks or on high streets, but this trend has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Just over 14% of all retail units in Britain’s shopping centres sat empty two years ago, whereas now 19.1% of them are unoccupied. That is down from 19.4% last summer, however. Retail parks remain the most popular destination for shoppers, with an average vacancy rate of 11.3%. Of all the high street shops, 14.4% are empty.

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