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Mon 28th Mar 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Nicholls – government needs to get behind hospitality’s ‘engine of growth’ if it wants to level up: Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, has said that if the government wants to make significant progress on its levelling up agenda before an expected general election in 2024, it needs to get behind the engine of growth, which is hospitality. Speaking on Propel’s Friday Wrap series, Nicholls said: “This government is committed to levelling up, and if you’re going to deliver levelling up and it’s going to mean something to people’s lives, it’s not about ten-year infrastructure projects and free ports and things like that. It's going to be about how your high street looks, how your community works, whether there’s lots of empty shops, whether you’ve got businesses there. The opportunity is about describing to the government that if it wants to level up in the next two years, it needs to get behind the engine of growth, which is hospitality – which can do it in spades, in all parts of the country. But it isn’t going to be able to do it while we’ve got this millstone of debt around our neck, and while we are stagnating in terms of growth and demand. We’re not going to be able to do that as quickly, so free us up a little bit and we can do it much more rapidly.” Meanwhile, UKHospitality has hailed the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill as a positive step for the sector as it looks to continue its recovery from the pandemic. The new law, introduced on Thursday (24 March), helps resolve remaining commercial rent debts through an arbitration process for tenants and landlords. This follows the ending of the moratorium on commercial evictions on the same day. Nicholls said: “These are very welcome new laws for the hospitality industry. The bill is decisive government legislation to deal with the £7bn-plus rent debt accrued during the pandemic by businesses across all sectors. And as our sector tries to recover, it’s imperative that rent debt is dealt with, otherwise it’ll hamstring our recovery.” UKHospitality will be producing detailed guidance on how tenants should approach the arbitration process and urging arbitrators to seek to preserve businesses and jobs. “At the same time, landlords should take a pragmatic approach to the arbitration process,” Nicholls added.
 

Industry News:

Variety of cafe bar operators set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A variety of cafe bar operators are among the 69 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 (1 April), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features Mia Group, which operates nine restaurants and cafes in Edinburgh. Also added is four-strong Yorks Cafe, which was founded and is owned by Simon Ford, and is set to open its fifth site in Birmingham’s Paradise development in the spring. In addition, Wakefield-based The Capri Group, which has been owned and run by Paymen Karimi and his family since 1996, and now has five sites, will be featured. Meanwhile The Dowry, a cafe-bar based in the Shetlands, which is led by Stuart Fox, and is set to double up by opening in the Shetland Museum in May, is included. Premium subscribers will also receive a 5,155-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 eighth edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday, 8 April, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The eighth edition also includes a 17,000-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. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to a new database early next month. The UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database will be an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and be updated every two months. The first edition will feature more than 100 companies, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details. The first edition provides almost 25,000 words of content. 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.

Baron Pub Company owner lands Greene King multi-operator prize: Clive Price, owner of the 11-strong Surrey-based Baron Pub Company, won the multiple operator of the year award at the Greene King Pub Partners’ licensees Night of Excellence awards. Price was recognised for his proven track record in turning pubs into thriving locals at the heart of their communities, at the ceremony in Towcester’s Whittlebury Hall. Triple winner The Barologist, in Leith, near Edinburgh, picked up the pub of the year, spirit pub of the year and innovation pub of the year awards. The Barologist is run by Discovery Group, which operates eight sites in Scotland and made its English debut last year, in Newcastle. The Drumming Snipe in Mayford, near Woking – part of the four-strong Brucan Pubs portfolio – won pub capex of the year for its £380,000 transformation into a leading destination pub complete with outside kitchen area and orangery. The James Street Tavern in Oxford – run by the same team who operate fellow Oxfordshire pubs The Old Bookbinders and The Crown – won pub garden of the year for its outside bar, ping-pong table and weatherproof covers.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a leisure business looking to hire a chief financial officer to oversee all elements of finance, technology, and HR. Initially, the officer will have a team of about ten, but this is expected to grow substantially over the next few years. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “In the ideal world, we are looking for someone who has dealt with yield management, limited capacity operations and dynamic pricing, seasonal businesses, systems, funding, expansions, openings, multifaceted businesses, and private equity.” The ideal location for candidates is the M4 corridor/home counties/south west area. Anyone interested can email Oliwia@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken signs deal with UK’s largest Costa franchisee: South west-based operator Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken has secured a franchise partnership with Scoffs Group – the largest Costa Coffee franchisee in the UK, Propel has learned. Miss Millie’s, which is led by Carl Traill and backed by HBM Investments, said the new ten-site deal, encompassing Southampton and the south east region, cements its “vision and growth plan” for the brand. Traill said: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such a dynamic and passionate group. This partnership will see us expand our geographical reach into the south coast region for the first time. We’re confident that Scoffs’ significant expertise and knowledge of the local communities is the perfect complement to ensure we can continue to deliver the awesome Miss Millie’s chicken experience. We have imminent plans to grow the Miss Millie’s brand into other regions, and we look forward to welcoming Scoffs Group on board this exciting journey.” Miss Millie’s currently has 11 sites, with a further three in the pipeline to open this summer. Propel understands it has a further 15 sites planned over the next two years. Last November, the brand made its London debut with an opening in Walthamstow. Propel revealed last month that Scoffs Group, which is led by Antony Tagliamonti, had passed through the 100-site mark with Costa after acquiring a further nine stores from the global coffee brand. The nine stores based in Cornwall were previously owned and operated by Costa as “equity” stores. Miss Millie’s features in a new database, The UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which will be an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and updated every two months. The first edition, which will be sent to Premium subscribers early next month, features more than 100 companies and provides almost 25,000 words of content. 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.

Loungers lines up three new sites for Cosy Club brand: Café bar operator Loungers has lined up three new openings for its Cosy Club brand. The Nick Collins-led brand is understood to have applied to open a Cosy Club on the ex-Jamie’s Italian site in Silbury Arcade, Milton Keynes, which closed its doors in 2018. At the same time, it is believed to be in advanced talks to take on the ex-Cross & Hamblin retail unit in the centre of Canterbury. Finally, Propel understands the company has applied to Harrogate Borough Council for a premises licence at 37 Cambridge Street in the town. The group has already secured an opening for Cosy Club in Chester later this year. It currently operates 31 sites under the brand across the country. Last week, the company opened its 162nd Lounge (and 193rd site overall) in Matlock, when the Ostello Lounge opened in the former JD Wetherspoon in the town.
 
Greene King appoints Assad Malic as chief communications and sustainability officer: Greene King, the Nick Mackenzie-led pub company and brewer, has appointed Assad Malic to the newly created role of chief communications and sustainability officer, Propel has learned. Malic will join the company in May and sit on its executive board. In addition to being accountable for all corporate affairs and communications activity, Malic will be responsible for the development of Greene King’s sustainable strategy. He has been group director of corporate affairs and strategy at Currys Plc, where he led its sustainability strategy, and before that spent 17 years in investment banking. His arrival will follow chief strategy officer Paula Kerrigan’s departure, at the end of March, to join Saga Plc in a more operationally accountable role. The business said Kerrigan, who has worked at the pub company and brewer for two and a half years, has been instrumental in the shaping and development of Greene King’s strategy. Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, said: “The importance of becoming a truly sustainable business is a challenge companies are facing across all sectors, and the appointment of Assad’s role to the executive board is a demonstration of our commitment to rise to that challenge. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Paula, who has successfully helped us to become a more strategic, forward-looking business and built our transformation capability to allow us to turn our strategy into action.”
 
Miznon concept eyes London launch: Miznon, the Mediterranean-inspired street food concept created by chef Eyal Shani, is eyeing a launch in London. Propel understands the concept has applied to open on the former Pret A Manger site at 8-12 Broadwick Street, Soho. The application is from a company called The Sababah Company Ltd, which includes Ramy Goldstein, the former vice chairman of UBS, as a director. Earlier this year, reports in Israel said that Shani planned to open 150 restaurants in Europe over the next five years. The chef, who currently operates eight Miznon sites around the world, including in Paris, New York, Tel Aviv and Singapore, said he was setting his sights on European capitals such as Lisbon, Copenhagen and Madrid. Two-thirds of the future restaurants will be Miznon restaurants run by local franchisees. The remainder will be Salon-style establishments operated mostly out of hotels belonging to SMB Capital group, which is partnering with Shani in his European endeavour and is headed by Israeli hospitality entrepreneur Liran Wizman. His restaurants in Israel include the original Salon, Malka, North Abraxas, Port Said and Romano.

Derry – I’ve never known a more difficult time to be an employer and restaurant operator: Mark Derry, executive chairman of Brasserie Bar Co, has said that in all his time in the hospitality industry, he’s “never known a more difficult time to be an employer and restaurant operator”. Writing in the Sunday Times, Derry said: “Businesses have a reputation for grumbling, but after last week’s budget — sorry “spring statement” — who can blame us? While there was some thin gruel for hard-pressed consumers and the odd special interest group, business got practically nothing. Taking VAT from 12.5% to 20% is going to be a big bucket of cash coming out of our business at a time when we’re facing some really astonishing inflation already. The cost of steak from our suppliers has gone up 38% in the past two months. At 20%, VAT will add nearly £3 to the price of our £15 burgers. I’m concerned that this 7.5% VAT rise is going to kill off many restaurants, particularly the smaller ones that don’t have our economies of scale. We’ll be okay as the revenues from our pubs and restaurants are about 25% higher than most in our sector — people spend a bit more with us and we’ll have perhaps 100 covers where others have 75. Consumers are suffering high inflation and we want to help them afford a good lunch or dinner. Restaurants and pubs who put their prices up are going to struggle to keep customers coming through the door. As a rule of thumb, the fixed costs — rent, energy, staff — on a restaurant or pub like ours mean that we need to turn over £20,000 a week before we make any money at all. We don’t even start breaking even until we’ve served the first 500-600 customers. So small wonder we cannot afford to lose a single one.”

Wagamama to open first site in Washington DC: Wagamama has secured a further site with its US joint venture, and its first in Washington DC, and will open a 5,100 square-foot restaurant at 2950 Clarendon Boulevard later this summer. Earlier this month, parent company The Restaurant Group (TRG) said it expected to open three to four new US sites under its joint venture partnership, with the first two sites expected to be in Atlanta and Tampa. Richard Flaherty, co-chief executive of Wagamama USA, said: “We couldn’t be more excited to open our first location in Northern Virginia and introduce Wagamama to Clarendon and the entire Washington DC region. Our modern, pan-Asian cuisine will fit right in with the dynamic international community of the DC area.” Wagamama currently operates five sites in the US – two in Boston and three in New York City. It had initially signed a deal to open in Washington DC’s Penn Quarter back in 2009, but the site never opened. In February 2020, Wagamama entered a new partnership with Conversion Venture Capital (CVC2) as financial partners, and Robert Cornog Jnr and Flaherty as operating partners, as part of a joint venture to aid its growth in the US. Under the terms of the agreement Cornog Jnr and Flaherty, who most recently led Punch Bowl Social, one of the “hottest” concepts in US, assumed majority ownership and lead operations of Wagamama’s existing US business as part of a 20:80 joint venture partnership, with TRG as minority partner. While the joint venture board will decide the scale of the expansion plans, Wagamama expected the new partnership to be opening between 30 and 40 restaurants over a five to six-year period. TRG retains the option to repurchase the remaining 80% of the business starting in 2026.
 
Drake & Morgan making ‘robust recovery’ and seeing ‘strong return in trading levels’, expecting return to pre-covid profitability: Drake & Morgan, the London-based bar and restaurant group, says it is making a “robust recovery” and has seen “a strong return in trading levels” following last year’s CVA. The group’s directors also said they are expecting profitability to return to pre-pandemic levels during FY22 into FY23, in a statement accompanying its accounts for the year ending 28 March 2021. The accounts revealed a decrease in turnover from £50m in 2020 to £5m, while a pre-tax loss of £2m in 2020 rose to £12m and adjusted Ebitda fell from +£4.4m in 2020 to -£10m. Following its CVA last May, and the easing of covid restrictions that same month, the company said “sales began to increase, and alongside the adjusted cost base as a result of the CVA, the business established a solid cost base on which to build a solid recovery”. Despite Omicron then “significantly impacting trading levels during the key Christmas trading period and continuing into January”, the company said “we have seen a strong return in trading levels”. It said support from key suppliers, landlords and lenders, combined with government grants, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, a business rates waiver and reduced rate of VAT, all helped the company “successfully navigate the difficult period of lockdowns”. Alongside the CVA, the business extended the maturity of investor loan notes and banking facilities from April 2022 to December 2023, while banking covenants were also reset. “These actions, alongside additional funding provided by the company’s majority shareholder, Bowmark Capital LLP, interest deferral from the secured lender and a number of payment plans…has resulted in the directors’ belief that the business is well placed to manage it financing and other business risks,” the company said. “They have reasonable expectations that the group has adequate resources and cash liquidity headroom to continue in operation and withstand potential downside scenarios for at least the next 12 months.”
 
Pair of London-based pubs let to Stonegate acquired for £5m: A pair of pubs based in central London let to Stonegate Group have been acquired by a private investor, in an off-market deal valued at circa £5m. The properties were both subject to long, index-linked leases, with the price reflecting a yield of 3.5%. Jack Silvani, director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, who acted on behalf of the purchaser, said “These properties were targeted following a mandate from a private client looking to increase their exposure to the pub sector. Since the lifting of covid restrictions, managed pub companies have reported strong, consistent trade, with the majority of monthly like-for-likes ahead of 2019 levels. This performance has buoyed investor appetite in the sector and, coupled with the lack of quality stock, resulted in increased pricing. We expect this pricing to hold while demand continues to significantly outstrip supply.” Meanwhile, Stonegate Group won the Best Employer of the Year category in the British Credit Control Awards at The Royal Lancaster, London, on Thursday (24 March). Dave Ross, chief financial officer at Stonegate Group, said: “I am extremely proud of this win for our credit control team. We are dedicated to delivering the best possible working experience to all our team members, and we want to keep building on those pillars of support we are already offering. Stonegate is a company built on its people, and we fully intend to continue to show the same loyalty and commitment to our teams as they show to our business.”
 
Spaghetti House operator sees turnover plummet, forecasts ‘cautious recovery of trade’: London restaurant company Lavval Group, owned by the Lavarini family and operating the Spaghetti House brand, saw turnover plummet from £10.6m in 2020 to £1.2m, its accounts for the year ending 28 March 2021 revealed. The group, which operates ten sites in London, saw a pre-tax loss of £864,000 against a pre-tax profit of £1.3m in 2020 and received £1.9m in government grants. A report accompanying the accounts said: “The covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the restaurant business and the cashflows of the company. The company has been working hard to stabilise the financial position and performance with the support of the directors. While the directors have forecast a cautious recovery of trade, the timing and extent to which the London economy will return to pre-pandemic levels makes precise forecasting extremely difficult and therefore consider there to be a material uncertainty in respect of the company’s ability to continue as a growing concern.”
 
Marston’s increases all hourly paid workers rates ahead of national living wage rise: Marston’s is increasing wages for its hourly paid workers above the government’s recommended national living wage increase, which comes into effect on Friday (1 April). The company will pay its bar, kitchen and front-of-house staff 7.7% more, compared with the recommended 6.6%. Liam Powell, group HR director, said: “Rising cost of inflation and living costs are impacting us all and have put pressure on everyone, and we know this is important to our teams. We are proud of the work our teams have done welcoming guests back to pubs, and we are keen to attract people to work in hospitality and stay there. This is reflected in the increase, with our lowest paid earners will receiving increases of just over 12%.” The company is also launching a reward programme for its pubs, based on guest experience and environmental health officer scores, across its whole estate on Friday.

Burger King opens ten UK restaurants in ten days: Burger King UK is opening ten new restaurants in ten days as part of its growth plans. The openings spree began last Sunday (20 March) with sites in Bristol, Glenrothes and Newtown. These are being followed with openings in Ayr, Bourne (where three new restaurants will open), Belfast, Colindale, and Weston-Super-Mare by Tuesday (29 March). Four of the new restaurants are being operated by franchise partners, while the Colindale site is a dark kitchen. Combined, the openings are creating around 300 jobs and brings Burger King UK’s total number of restaurants to 519. Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK, said: “Burger King UK, together with its franchise partners, is driving continued growth across its UK estate with these latest openings. The new restaurants form part of the significant restaurant expansion the brand has planned for 2022 and beyond.”

Robin Gill to open fifth London restaurant this summer: Chef entrepreneur Robin Gill will open his fifth London-based restaurant this summer – inspired by his time working in the south of Italy. Maria G’s, which will launch in Kensington in June, will be a relaxed neighbourhood restaurant offering “Italian classics made with the best British ingredients”, using seasonal produce from a close network of suppliers. It will join Brentford’s Rye by the Water and south London stalwarts Darby’s, Sorella and Bermondsey Larder in Gill’s estate. The menu will include house-cured rosemary and Sicilian orange bresaola, and Penzance red mullet with Amalfi lemon and wild fennel aioli. With sustainability at its core, the restaurant will use in-house baking and fermenting techniques rather than heavy food processing. Gill has previously worked at Marco Pierre White’s The Oak Room, Don Alfonso 1890 on the Amalfi Coast, Noma, Frantzén and Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons.

Former world pastry champion to open Harrods outpost: Parisian pastry chef Angelo Musa, who won the World Pastry Cup in 2003, has signed a partnership with Harrods to bring his award-winning creations to the London store this spring. Angelo Musa at Harrods is set to open in May. Ashley Saxton, Harrods’ director of restaurants and kitchens, said: “Welcoming Angelo Musa to our repertoire is an honour. He is a true visionary in the culinary world, who showcases the utmost craftmanship in pastry.” Musa has worked for Pâtisserie Bourguignon in Metz, the Relais Desserts Oberweis in Luxembourg and the Palais du Chocolat in Troyes. Since 2007, he has held the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France, and since 2016, he has been executive pastry chef at the Plaza Athénée Hotel in Paris.

Cardiff-based ramen concept to go from pop-up to permanent: Cardiff-based ramen concept Matsudai Ramen is to go from pop-up to permanent. James Chant is opening his first bricks and mortar site in early summer by taking over the 1,700 square foot former NatWest Bank in Clare Road in Grangetown. The site, which will be subtitled “Matsudai Ramen at The Bank”, still has the original vaults in the basement, and has most recently been used as a coffee shop and co-working space operated by Lufkin Coffee, which will rent a room and continue to operate a part-time roastery. Following a refurbishment, the site will hold a maximum of 70 covers, including ten seats at the bar overlooking an open kitchen. As at Matsudai’s pop-ups, the menu will feature an eclectic mix of ramen styles that will change with the seasons. Matsudai Ramen was first launched in September 2019. Since then, its pop-up events have taken over kitchens in London, Manchester and Bristol, and the business also offers freshly prepared DIY ramen kits across the UK. Chant said: “Thanks to the audience who found us through our kits, we’ve been able to do sell-out pop-ups all over the UK, but the plan was always to open the first permanent Matsudai Ramen shop in my home town of Cardiff. It’s where everything began for us.”

First three operators revealed for £3.5m Gloucester Food Dock development: The first three operators have been revealed for Gloucester Food Dock, a new £3.5m waterfront dining destination in the city. Sibling Distillery, Strip Steak Bar and Wholly Gelato will be among 15 artisan food and drink businesses to welcome customers when the development opens this summer. Cheltenham-based Sibling Distillery will be opening a cocktail and champagne bar – its debut retail site. Strip Steak Bar is a new fast service concept by Arthur Knights and Ross Sanders offering “premium quality certified black Angus strip loin served rapidly to your liking”. Wholly Gelato will open its first retail site, offering Italian-style gelato. Launched by the Hobbs family, the concept will use milk produced by the family’s own free-range herd at Elmore, near Gloucester. “We’re thrilled to introduce these three very different food concepts, which are excellent examples of the type of creative businesses we’re looking for, and that totally encapsulate the ethos of Gloucester Food Dock,” said co-founder Sarah Mansfield. “They are all family businesses with a strong emphasis on high quality, creative fresh food and sustainability – and what they each deliver is exceptional.”

Hollywood Bowl to make Northern Ireland debut: Hollywood Bowl will open its first Northern Ireland site with a £2.4m family entertainment centre in Belfast next month. The 20-lane venue will open in the Titanic Quarter of the city’s Odyssey complex on Thursday, 14 April, including a Hollywood Diner and an amusement area. Craig Turnball, centre manager at Hollywood Bowl Belfast, said: “We’re thrilled to be opening our first centre in Northern Ireland, this is a major milestone for Hollywood Bowl. While the last few years have been tough for Belfast’s hospitality and leisure industry, there are strong positive signs of normal life returning, and we can’t wait to welcome friends and family from across the city.” Hollywood Bowl is part of the Hollywood Bowl Group, which manages 66 centres operating under the Hollywood Bowl, AMF Bowling and Puttstars brands. Puttstars is the group’s mini golf concept, which launched at three locations in 2020 – Leeds, York and Rochdale – followed by Harrow in February.

Kent-based boutique wine hotel plans approved for leisure and hospitality veteran: Richard Balfour-Lynn, whose 40-year track record in hospitality includes operating Hotel Du Vin, Malmaison and De Vere hotels, has received the green light to create a boutique wine hotel in Maidstone, Kent. Maidstone Borough Council has accepted a proposal from the Balfour Winery owner to develop the venue in the historic 12th century Archbishop’s Palace, which has extensive gardens and outbuildings. The plan is to create three new buildings for luxury bedrooms in the grounds, alongside restaurants and bars and state-of-the art wedding and conference facilities. At the heart of the development will be a wine educational centre, with the focus on Kent-based producers and locally sourced food. Balfour-Lynn, who has an exclusive six-month contract to develop the plans with the local authority, said: “The Archbishop’s Palace will become both the champion and beating heart of Kent wine, spirits and local food produce. Part of our plans will be to run tutored wine tastings, as well as wine making and viticultural courses, from the venue, with The Palace becoming the centre of the Kent wine tourist sector. Authenticity will lie at the heart of the offer.” Balfour Winery was established on the Hush Heath Estate in Staplehurst, Kent, in 2002 by Balfour-Lynn and his wife, Leslie, who also operate a growing estate of London country pubs and inns under the Balfour brand. Balfour-Lynn also founded property and leisure group MWB, which included the Malmaison and Hotel du Vin hotel chains as well as the Pub du Vin brand extension, but stepped down as chief executive last year.

GLH Hotels reports revenue down 92% and losses of £72m: GLH Hotels, which operates 16 London hotels under its Clermont, Guanon, Thistle, Thistle Express and Hard Rock brands, has reported a 92% decrease in revenue for the year ending 30 June 2021. Turnover fell from £183m in 2020 to £14m, while a pre-tax loss of £33m in 2020 more than doubled to £72m. A report accompanying the accounts said: “Notwithstanding the impacts of covid-19, the group continues to focus on driving value from its portfolio of hotels both through operational excellence and asset transformation. During the year, the Amba Charing Cross and Amba Hotel Grosvenor were rebranded as The Clermont Charing Cross and The Clermont Victoria, respectively.” The group has loan borrowings of £212m (2020: £153m) and drew down £60m of its revolving credit facility (2020: £10m). The company also made use of a business rates holiday and the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and underwent a “substantial restructuring exercise” to control costs and move to a more flexible workforce. The report added: “Following reopening of the hotels, average room rate continues to be competitive, with a predominantly domestic customer base. However, average room rate is expected to improve as international travel corridors reopen.

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