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Tue 8th Nov 2022 - Update: PizzaExpress’ insurance battle, Time Out Market and Gary Usher
PizzaExpress told covid cases ‘not an emergency’ in £200m insurance claim: PizzaExpress has been told it cannot recoup lockdown losses of around £200m by claiming on its insurance policy because it was not dealing with an emergency. PizzaExpress is suing its insurers Axa and Liberty Mutual in the High Court for failing to pay out on its business interruption insurance. PizzaExpress said it needed to close outlets after discovering more than 540 cases of coronavirus on its premises and it felt it had to react to the public health emergency. But the insurers have argued while the pandemic as a whole was an emergency, the individual cases of the virus were not, reports The Times. The defence filing said an emergency was a “serious, often dangerous, unexpected happening that is identifiable, is known about at the time and necessitates immediate action” and that individual cases did not fit that description. The insurers also contend they did not need to pay out on the policy because PizzaExpress did not construct physical barriers preventing customers entering its restaurants. The defence filing said: “On its proper construction, the phrase ‘sealing off of the premises’ means the putting up of a barrier intended to prevent and having the effect of preventing physical access to or egress from all or a discrete part of the premises.” PizzaExpress has calculated one section of its insurance policy should deliver a payout of £82.1m and another section should pay out £178.1m. The company has, however, said there will be some overlap in the claims and a final sum would have to be finalised separately. The City regulator won a test case against insurers in 2021 relating to pandemic claims. The case led to more payouts but did not cover all types of policies. A number of businesses have been forced to sue their insurers for not paying out of policies despite the regulator’s intervention. Greggs has sued its insurer Zurich over a £150m claim and Stonegate Pub Company has sued MS Amlin, Liberty Mutual and Zurich for £1bn. The City regulator has criticised insurers for how they have handled pandemic claims from businesses and signalled it could take enforcement action to address disputes. The Financial Conduct Authority has identified a number of failings from insurance companies, saying they have mistreated vulnerable customers, kept a poor record of events, and delayed processing claims. The regulator has now said senior managers must change any procedures that fail to “mitigate the risk of customer harm”.

Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows sector slowly on road to recovery as percentage of profitable companies increases: The next edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows the sector is slowly on the road to recovery as the percentage of profitable companies increases. The Blue Book shows 54% of the industry’s 656 biggest multi-site companies are making a pre-tax profit ­– up from 50.1% in October. The Blue Book reveals 354 sector companies are reporting total profits of £2.1bn while total losses of £4.0bn are being reported by 302 companies. The 656 companies are turning over a collective £33.6bn. Premium subscribers will receive the latest edition of the Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, on Friday (11 November), at midday. An additional 18 companies have been added to the Blue Book, which is updated every month and provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database, and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. 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.

Time Out Group signs deal to open in Vancouver under management agreement: Time Out Group has entered into a management agreement with QuadReal Property Group and Westbank to open a new Time Out Market at Oakridge Park in Vancouver. The company stated: “This is the company’s seventh management agreement as the global expansion continues. The growing portfolio includes seven open locations with a further six signed with expected opening dates between 2023 and 2025, in addition to several other locations that are currently in advanced negotiations. Time Out Market Vancouver is expected to open at the end of calendar 2024 in Oakridge Park, Vancouver’s designated new town centre being developed in partnership by QuadReal Property Group and Westbank. Located across two levels spanning 69,000 square foot, Time Out Market Vancouver will showcase the city’s best food, drinks and culture. The first level will feature a curated mix of 17 live cooking kitchens, three bars, a coffee shop, a stage, art and cultural spaces and an open-air patio. The mezzanine will include a cocktail lounge, an event space and a demonstration kitchen. With approximately 1,400 seats (including the event space), guests will have a variety of indoor and alfresco dining options. Under a management agreement, Time Out Market receives a share of revenues and profits (subject to a guaranteed consultancy fee) but does not contribute to the capital cost of the site.” Chris Ohlund, chief executive of Time Out Group, said: “Time Out Market is a success with both consumers and landlords as our growing pipeline of locations demonstrates. As food halls become increasingly popular, we continue to spearhead this global trend by constantly evolving our proven concept. As such, the design for the site in Vancouver will feature a number of innovations, while staying true to what makes Time Out Market such an exciting destination.”

Chef Gary Usher closes Kickstarter campaign after raising £223,748: Chef Gary Usher has closed his latest Kickstarter fundraising campaign after raising £223,748 from 1,352 investors in less than a week. The chef hit his target of £200,000 in less than 24 hours of the campaign’s launch. The chef launched the new campaign after cancelling an equity raise through Seedrs. The funds raised will go towards opening Usher’s first pub, The White Horse pub in Churton, Cheshire, which the chef is currently refurbishing. Launched through Seedrs in August, Usher was looking to raise £750,000 for his north west-based Elite Bistros business to go toward the “purchase of our first pub; up to £1.5m – develop the new concept, ‘Joya Tapas’ with the aim of opening two sites; £1.5m-plus – further develop our first product line for retail and commercial sales”. The chef, who has previously crowdfunded more than £700,000 on a non-equity basis, was offering 3.61% of equity in the business. The company subsequently acquired the freehold of The White Horse with the aim of creating a successful dining pub with rooms. However, despite raising more than £500,000 towards its target, the Seedrs campaign was cancelled late last month. The chef is now looking to open the pub in the new year with the rooms on hold with a target of launching them in 2024.

Britvic CFO to step down: Britvic has announced chief financial officer Joanne Wilson is to step down to take up the role of chief financial officer at global media firm WPP next year. Wilson will remain chief financial officer of Britvic until the end of her notice period in May 2023. The company stated: “Joanne joined Britvic in September 2019 from dunnhumby, and in her time with us her strong finance and leadership capabilities have helped successfully steer us through a challenging external landscape, particularly the global pandemic. In her role as chief financial officer and chair of Britvic’s environmental, social and governance committee, Joanne is surrounded by some exceptional talent at Britvic and should be rightly proud of the legacy she will ultimately leave. The process for Joanne’s replacement is now underway, and this will be the subject of a future announcement.”

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