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Wed 6th Apr 2022 - Update: Calorie labelling, covid illnesses hit business, services rebound
Diners in England will see calories on menus when they eat out from today: Restaurants, cafes and takeaways in England with more than 250 staff must print how many calories are in meals on their menus, websites, and on delivery platforms from today (6 April). The new rule is part of government plans to tackle obesity by helping people to make healthier choices. Some restaurants fear it will increase their costs, while an eating disorder charity says it could contribute to harmful thoughts and behaviours. Under the new rules, large food and drink businesses in England with 250 or more employees must display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drinks. Some High Street chains already publish information about the calorie content of their food on their menus, such as Wetherspoons pubs and The Real Greek restaurants. McDonald’s has been doing it for more than a decade. Mark Selby, co-founder Mexican-style street food restaurant Wahaca, told the BBC the chain was “completely up for being clear and transparent” to customers on food and drink information. But he said the focus on counting calories was a problem. “It tells part of the story but I think it slightly misses out some quite important fundamentals around food – be it nutrition, fibre, all those things – which potentially we feel might be more relevant or certainly need to be considered,” he said. Selby said he believed people visited Wahaca as “a treat” and wouldn’t look at the menu from a calorie point of view. He also said creating a system to ensure chefs were accurately using the right amounts of the 250 ingredients they use across the restaurants every day had “obviously had an impact” on the business and increased costs. The company said it used the change to also add the carbon footprint of meals to measure the climate impact of each dish. Masterchef winner Sven-Hanson Britt tweeted the change was a “terrible thing to happen to the hospitality industry”. He warned the regulation “could end creativity, spontaneity and lead to boring tick-box cooking”. Kate Nicholls, boss of the industry group UK Hospitality, said the new rules came at the “worst possible time for thousands of businesses struggling to survive”. She said: “It’s completely unfair to expect businesses devastated by covid to all of a sudden introduce complicated and costly new labelling when they’ve much more pressing matters to attend to – recouping their losses of the past 24-months for a start.”

Host of street food concepts continuing UK expansion in post-pandemic era added to next edition of The New Openings Database, 19,100-word report included: A host of street food concepts continuing their UK expansion in the post-pandemic era have been added to the next edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock. The database will show the details of 386 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published on Friday (8 April) at midday. The database, which is published monthly, shows the details of which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location. There will also be a website link to the businesses so you can find out more about them. The next edition of the database features Vietnamese street food concept Pho, which is opening a new site at the Royal William Yard scheme in Plymouth later this year. Also added is Korean street food concept Bunsik, which has opened its second site in central London, near Embankment tube station. Meanwhile, US street food brand The Halal Guys, which has lined up a new opening in the Wood Green area of London, will be featured. In addition, Indian street food concept Mowgli, which has openings in Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh and Glasgow lined up for this year, is included. Premium subscribers will also receive a 19,100-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to two other databases. The latest Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, was sent to Premium subscribers last Friday (1 April). The database contained 69 new companies, bringing the total number of businesses listed up to 2,407. The 496 sites run by those 69 new additions means the entire database of sites has reached 64,884 sites. Premium subscribers also received a 5,000-word report on the new businesses added. The go-to database 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. There is also a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Premium subscribers also receive the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month, 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 this 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 27,000 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 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. 

Big surge in covid illness hits business: Retailers, hospitality groups and housebuilders are under strain from a rise in covid-related staff absences. Businesses across a range of sectors are facing disruption from staff unwell with the virus after record infections were recorded in Britain last month. The Times reports that Moss Bros, the menswear retailer, has reduced the opening hours at some of its 130 stores as a result of staff testing positive for covid. UKHospitality said that its members were starting to experience increased absences due to illness, exacerbating underlying staff shortages. “The situation is not as severe as it was last summer, or in the lead up to Christmas, but absences are beginning to tick up and cause challenges.” Kate Nicholls, chief executive, said a quarter of its members had adjusted their opening hours in February because of staff shortages, resulting in a fall in sales of between 17% and 20%. She said that the rise in infections, combined with the cost-of-living crisis, was contributing to a softening in consumer demand. The Federation of Small Businesses reported that nearly one in seven businesses were not trading fully. Martin McTague, the chairman, said “Absences are hitting against a backdrop of surging input prices, supply chain disruption and widespread labour shortages. Small firms aren’t like large corporates, they don’t have big teams that enable easy redeployment of staff when team members are off.”

Services sector continues to rebound despite gloomy outlook: Output in hospitality, retail and other services rose last month to its highest level in ten months despite plummeting confidence among businesses, according to a closely watched survey. The Times reports the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for the services sector, compiled by S&P Global and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, rose for the third consecutive month to reach 62.6, up from 60.5 in February. The figure is higher than flash estimates and far exceeds the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction. The rebound in consumer demand after covid restrictions were lifted at the end of January has continued, according to the panel of 650 services companies surveyed between 11-29 March. However, businesses’ expectations for sales in the year ahead fell for the second consecutive month after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, and were at their lowest since October 2020. “Weaker optimism was mainly linked to the war in Ukraine and subsequent economic uncertainty,” according to the report. Severe cost pressures also hit firms’ confidence in their earnings for the next year and led to a rapid rise in prices, suggesting that inflation caused by global energy shocks is filtering through to the prices of a wide range of goods. Inflation in the rate of prices charged by businesses was at its highest since the index began in July 1996. Martin Beck, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said that the relationship between the PMI survey and official data on economic activity had been “loose” in recent months, adding that growth was likely to have slowed between the last three months of 2021 and the first three months of this year. The squeeze on household finances would intensify in the coming months and further weaken growth in the next quarter, he added. The results, however, show that the strong start to the year may help the UK to avoid a recession, Beck said. “Momentum in the economy at the start of the year means warnings of recession presently look overblown.”

Job of the week: Award-winning hospitality, leisure and events group Boxpark has two job opportunities within its marketing department. The business is seeking an experienced head of marketing with an events and music background who can deliver strategic and impactful marketing campaigns from conception to completion. Responsibilities will include planning and delivering monthly and seasonal campaigns, managing and developing Boxpark’s Black Card digital loyalty programme, developing a CRM strategy and overseeing all digital, social, and PR campaigns. In addition, Boxpark is looking for a digital marketing manager with a hospitality, entertainment or sports background who can manage all digital channels and data analytics, drive email marketing campaigns, and develop SEO and pay-per-click strategies. This is a specialist role, and the ideal candidate will have experience using marketing automation tools, CRM software and CMS platforms. Boxpark is a fast-growing, ambitious company and candidates must be able to work flexibly in a dynamic, start-up style environment. For further information, and to apply, click here.

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