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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 26th Jun 2023 - Update: St Austell FY update, Cineworld, businesses halting growth ambitions
St Austell shrugs off hangover from covid: South west brewer and pub company St Austell Brewery has reported that total revenue for latest financial year reached £209m, up 34% on 2021 and 10% better than the £190m of pre-pandemic sales. The Times reports that on an underlying basis, the group generated earnings of £18.1m, up from £17.9m in 2021, while operating profit before one-off items edged up from £11.3m to £11.4m. The group’s pubs, inns and hotels division lifted revenues by 40% to £87.4m, with its managed sites up 41% and its tenanted pub estate up 38%. It has 41 managed pubs and 133 tenancies. St Austell’s beer and brands division, which owns beers including Tribute pale ale and Proper Job IPA, increased revenues by 29% to £121m. While the top line was “in good health”, with revenues back above pre-covid levels, chief executive Kevin Georgel told the newspaper that the bottom line was more of an issue. “But I think that our performance even at the profit level compares well in the market,” he said. Profitability was not quite back to pre-pandemic levels because of inflationary cost pressures. “These include the extraordinary increases in energy costs, the highest rate of inflation for over 40 years, shortages in the labour market and reduced visitor numbers in our region.” While St Austell’s pubs are located in the West Country, its beers are sold nationally and are exported to countries and regions including France and Scandinavia. Although best known for its traditional cask ales, Georgel has taken steps to create a more balanced portfolio. In 2021 he relaunched its Korev lager, then last year the company took a foothold in the craft beer sector by acquiring a 36% share in Harbour Brewing Company, based in Bodmin. “It gives us a position in the modern craft category, which is in growth,” he said. Georgel said that despite the challenges, he was targeting growth in its pub division, both through investment in the existing estate and acquisitions, although expansion beyond the West Country was unlikely. He said it was important not to let the economic headwinds get in the way of the core purpose of a pub. “We remain committed to ensuring that a visit to one of our pubs, or drinking one of our beers, represents good value and does not become an occasional treat. Therefore, we have sought to mitigate the cost increases as best we can to improve the overall experience.”

Four days to go before release of updated Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, 16 businesses being added: A total of 16 new multi-site companies, operating 99 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, which will be released on Friday (30 June), at midday The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes regional pub operators, growing restaurant brands, and expanding franchise operators. Premium subscribers will also receive a 1,300-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. The database now features 2,869 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 7 July, 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 2,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; and the Who's Who of UK Food and Beverage. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Cineworld to file for administration as part of restructuring: Cineworld Group has announced it will file for administration as part of a proposed restructuring plan. The proposed restructuring will involve the release of about $4.53bn of the group’s funded indebtedness, the execution of a rights offering to raise gross proceeds of $800m and provision of $1.46bn in new debt financing. The company said: “It is envisaged that, once administrators have been appointed, they will take steps through which substantially all of Cineworld Group plc’s assets will be transferred to its wholly owned subsidiary, Crown UK Holdco Limited, and a newly incorporated company to be controlled by the group’s lenders will become the sole owner of Crown, with Cineworld Group plc ceasing to have any interest in Crown or the rest of the group. As such, although the plan is intended to allow the business of the group to emerge from the Chapter 11 cases as a continued going concern, it will not achieve a rescue of Cineworld Group plc itself. As a consequence of this and following an application by Cineworld to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), it is expected that the listing of Cineworld Group plc’s ordinary shares on the premium listing segment of the official list of the FCA and the admission to trading of the Shares on the London Stock Exchange plc’s main market for listed securities (the Admission to Trading) will be suspended shortly following any decision by the board to make an application to appoint administrators in respect of Cineworld Group plc, currently expected to take place in July 2023. Cineworld further confirms that the listing and the admission to trading are expected to be cancelled at 8.00am on the business day following the actual appointment of administrators in respect of Cineworld Group plc. Cineworld continues to expect to emerge from the Chapter 11 cases in July 2023. The Group Chapter 11 Companies are seeking to confirm the plan on an expeditious timeline. Certain creditor approvals, among other requirements, will need to be obtained in order for the bankruptcy court to confirm the plan. Cineworld continues to operate its global business and cinemas as usual without interruption and this will not be affected by the entry of Cineworld Group plc into administration. The group and its brands around the world – including Regal, Cinema City, Picturehouse and Planet – are continuing to welcome customers to cinemas as usual. The group continues to honour the terms of all existing customer membership programmes, including Regal Unlimited and Regal Crown Club in the United States and Cineworld Unlimited in the UK.”

Lack of access to capital halts growth ambitions: Nine out of ten businesses are halting growth plans because of problems accessing capital, forcing almost a quarter to scale back expansion or make redundancies. The Times reports that in a survey of 500 mid-sized businesses by BDO more than half cited inflation and increasing operating costs as the biggest challenges in the next six months. As a result, businesses were considering new sources of financing, notably private equity, as they called on the government to help to improve their access to cash. The survey found that 24% were being forced to make cuts, including reducing employee numbers, with 22% unable to finance expansion plans. Another 20% were struggling to invest in new technology or software. Even if companies manage to avoid job losses, 20% said they were unable to raise salaries and 24% were struggling to invest in benefits or schemes to retain existing staff. The survey highlights this as a big concern, given that 24% of businesses cite staff and skills shortages as one of their biggest challenges over the next six months. While access to capital is a growing worry, inflation and operating costs such as energy, rent and payroll were highlighted by 56% of businesses surveyed. Improving cashflow, generating new sources of revenue or raising new financing from existing funding sources were the top priorities for 44% of companies over the coming months. To tackle the economic headwinds, 40% of those surveyed said they would have to find new funds over the next 12 months, with a further 33% saying 13 to 18 months. Private equity was the top source of finance for 32%, equity capital markets for 28% and government schemes for 25%.

York chef who closed both his venues in city last year returns with new restaurant-with-rooms: York chef Josh Overington, who closed both his venues in the city within a month of each other last year, has returned with a new restaurant-with-rooms. Overington and his sommelier wife Victoria ran the Michelin-starred Le Cochon Aveugle in Walmgate for nine years until its closure last November. Their sister outlet, pizza and wine bar Cave du Cochon, also in Walmgate, closed in December. In the meantime, they have operated Josh Overington at Home, where they visit customers’ homes to cook a six-course meal. But they are now returning to the bricks-and-mortar scene with Mýse, which will open on Thursday, 29 June in the former Malt Shovel Inn in Hovingham. It will also offer three bedrooms, starting at £250 (including breakfast), which must be booked alongside dinner for two at Mýse. “We loved our time at Le Cochon Aveugle and think back on it fondly but outgrew the space,” Overington told the Yorkshire Post. “This is our chance to create something more ambitious, and a reflection on our incredible Yorkshire surroundings. I grew up here, and it has been home to Victoria for ten years, so we wanted to create a welcoming, homely spot, with each dish a nod to dinners my Yorkshire grandmother would cook for me, but elevated and refined.” Similar to Le Cochon Aveugle, Mýse will be offering a tasting menu, while the wine list will be curated by Keeling Andrew & Co, the importers from the team behind Noble Rot, working closely with Victoria.

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