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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 22nd Feb 2023 - Update: Fish and chips are yet to reach price peak, Irish VAT rate, female entrepreneurs, Starbucks
Lipscombe – Fish and chips are yet to reach price peak: The boss of one of the UK’s largest fish and chips chains has said that industry prices are stabilising but yet to reach their peak. James Lipscombe, chief executive of the 38-strong The Chesterford Group, told Sky News: “We’re paying 50% more for cod and haddock than this time last year... That has been driven by a supply and demand facet but also the war in Ukraine. Russia supplies about 40% of the white fish that comes into the UK... and the government has put a tariff on that, forcing us to go elsewhere and driving prices up.” The company now ships its cod and haddock directly from a fishing business in Iceland, rather than buying it through wholesalers. “We had to implement five price increases over the past year to offset the cost increases coming into us. We’ve had to raise our prices by about 14% because the cost increases from our suppliers are as much as 40% higher across the business.” Cooking oil was up by 75%, while potatoes were heading north of £400 per tonne due to increased fertiliser costs and the effects of the hot summer last year, he said. But he added: “We’ve seen prices stabilise. We have seen a reduction in demand in the sector as a whole... particularly for fish. What I am not seeing is a flattening out of wider food inflation, with things like pork and chicken nuggets both up 10% this year already.” Lipscombe said another price rise for his customers was on the way in April as a looming hike in the minimum wage rules means the business was facing having to find an additional £250,000. “We try to be leaner at what we do, more efficient, but the levers are limited,” he admitted. He added that if he had to agree a new energy deal for the business it would add a further £1m to his costs at current prices. On the prospect of customer costs continuing to rise, he said: “I think [they] will do. It still represents very good value for money. We’re still saving the same customers in terms of amount. The price point has damaged fish demand but we’re still serving. Fish and chips has a very strong future but we have to work hard to keep customers coming into our shops. A stabilisation of prices, around these levels, is ahead but we haven’t seen the peak quite yet.”

Propel Premium subscribers to receive three updated databases next week: Propel Premium subscribers are to receive three updated databases next week. The next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies will be released on Monday, 27 February, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, will feature 21 new multi-site companies, taking the total to 2,789. 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. Meanwhile, the next edition of the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will be sent to Premium subscribers next Tuesday (28 February). It is the first database where full profiles of 650 of the UK’s top food and beverage operators are available in one place. There are 46 updated entries, while 16 new companies have been added. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 3 March, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 5,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of 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.

CMA clears Capco and Shaftesbury merger: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has cleared the proposed £3.8bn merger between West End landlords Shaftesbury and Capital & Counties (Capco). Shaftesbury and Capco shareholders voted in favour of the merger last July. Shaftesbury – which has a portfolio spanning parts of Soho, Chinatown and Carnaby Street – has a market capitalisation of £2bn while Capco said the valuation of its Covent Garden estate was about £1.82bn. The structure of the deal will see shareholders in Shaftesbury, excluding the quarter of the business held by Capco, owning 53% of the combined company, with Capco shareholders owning the remainder. It is intended the combined group will be called Shaftesbury Capital on completion and retain Capco’s listing on the stock exchange. On the CMA clearance for the merger, Capco said: “The court sanction hearing is expected to take place on 2 March 2023 and subject to the satisfaction or waiver (if capable of waiver) of the remaining conditions, the merger is expected to complete on 6 March 2023.”

Special 9% VAT rate for hospitality sector in Ireland extended until September: The special 9% VAT rate for the hospitality sector in Ireland has been extended for a final six months. The hospitality VAT rate will return to the standard 13.5% rate from September. The Irish government also announced that its Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS) would be extended until the end of May. In order to help more firms to qualify for it, the threshold for qualification will be cut from the current 50% increase in electricity or gas costs compared to the same period a year ago, to a 30% increase. Those changes will apply retrospectively from the start of last September. The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) welcomed the decision to extend the reduced 9% Vat rate for hospitality for the next six months. RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins said the continued reduction will provide the necessary support to the restaurant and hospitality sector as they continue to recover from the covid crisis as well as battling high rates of inflation plus increasing pressures on their margins. He said: “An increase in the VAT rate would have added to inflation in the country. We’re thankful to the government for the extension.”

Big rise in businesses founded by women and more on the way: A government-backed review on female entrepreneurship has pledged to create three million places for women to access business support over the next three years. The Times reports the Rose review, led by Dame Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest Group, which was launched by the Treasury in 2019, said in its latest annual progress report that women had established 151,603 companies, up by 6,332 on the previous year. They represented 20% of all incorporations, compared with 16.7 in 2018. Six thousand more companies were set up by women in 2022 than in the year before, with young entrepreneurs the most active, review found. Entrepreneurs aged under 25 were the largest group, setting up 17,489 businesses last year, compared with only 785 in 2018. The review found that breaking down barriers faced by women entrepreneurs could boost the economy by £250bn. Rose said: “It’s testament to the resilience and entrepreneurialism of female founders that they are creating more companies than ever before.” Kevin Hollinrake, the small business minister, added that 40% of the government’s Start Up Loans had gone to support women entrepreneurs and that its 12-week Help to Grow management training was “providing business leaders with the skills they need to succeed”.

Starbucks launches olive oil coffee drinks range: The world’s largest coffee chain Starbucks says it is launching a line of olive oil-infused drinks in Italy. Chief executive Howard Schultz told the BBC olive oil’s “unexpected, velvety, buttery flavour... enhanced the coffee and lingers beautifully on the palate.” Starbucks is among the major US businesses that have faced obstacles as they tried to expand into the Italian food and drinks market. Italy’s coffee scene is famous for its independent and often family-run cafes. Starbucks currently has around 20 stores in the country. “Now, there’s going to be people who say, olive oil in coffee? But the proof is in the cup,” Schultz said. “In over 40 years, I can’t remember a moment in time where I’ve been more excited, more enthused,” he added. The firm plans to bring the selection of hot and iced drinks to stores in Southern California in the US this spring. The UK, Middle East and Japan are set to follow later this year. The Oleato range, which will be launched on Wednesday in Italy, features an iced shaken espresso and a latte with olive oil “steamed with oat milk”. There will also be a cold brew coffee in which “a silky infusion of Partanna extra virgin oil with vanilla sweet cream foam... slowly cascades through the beverage”.

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