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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 18th Aug 2023 - Update: Sunday pub opening hours, Soho House, Everyman, JD Wetherspoon et al
Government backs pubs to open earlier for Women’s World Cup final: The government is encouraging councils in England to get pubs open earlier on Sunday ahead of the Lionesses’ first ever World Cup final. Operators and trade industries yesterday urged Number 10 to allow pubs to serve alcohol early on Sunday, in anticipation of fans flocking to them to watch England take on Spain in the final in Sydney, which kicks off at 11am GMT. The Secretary of State for Levelling Up has now written to leaders of all councils in England asking them to continue doing everything they can to help every pub that wants to host the historic occasion. The government acknowledged that “while many venues will be able to show the game within their usual opening hours, there may be a few who require additional permission where they would like to be able to serve alcohol as well”. It said in cases where an application is being rapidly considered to allow a short extension to licensing hours, it is encouraging local authorities to continue to do everything they can to complete the process in time, working closely with local police forces. Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “The whole nation is ready to get behind the Lionesses this Sunday in what is England’s biggest game since 1966. I’ve asked councils to do everything they can to help pubs get open earlier on Sunday, so people can come together and enjoy a drink before kick-off for this special occasion.” Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: “The nation will be cheering on the Lionesses on Sunday and the next best thing to being in Australia is enjoying the match in the pub or hospitality venue. Many are taking advantage of the fact that they can open to encourage people to come out for breakfast or brunch to get ready for this historic match. Demand from fans has been exceptional, with bookings filling rapidly, and there’s no doubt the day will be a huge boost for the sector, potentially delivering an additional £41 million in sales. It’s been really positive to work with the government to ensure everyone can get a chance to join in the celebrations. I’d echo the government’s support for local authorities taking a pragmatic view to venues opening early to allow people to make the most of this momentous occasion.” Clive Chesser, Punch Pubs & Co chief executive, added: “The entire nation will be rooting for the Lionesses on Sunday and what better way to celebrate this momentous occasion than by watching the game with family and friends of all ages at your local? It is sure to be a time for community and celebration, and the great British pub is always right at the heart of both.” The Home Office is also writing to police chiefs to encourage forces to work together with local councils to ensure as many venues as possible can participate.

Latest Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage released today: The latest Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will feature 64 updated entries and 12 new companies when it is released to Premium subscribers today (Friday, 18 August), at midday. This month’s edition includes 726 companies, listed in alphabetical order, which 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 also received a new database this week – the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database, which is the first time that profiles of 100 of the top food and beverage franchisees have been available in one place in the UK. The go-to database – which features many of the big franchise operators running Costa Coffee, McDonald’s and Domino’s sites – brings together a wealth of information on an increasingly important part of the market, and the first edition features more than 32,000 words of content. The sixth major database exclusive to Premium subscribers, it will be sent out bi-monthly, including new entries and updates to existing entries. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around the company’s background, site numbers and board make-up. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; 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 £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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers are also being given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. They 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.

Soho House set to launch The Ned site in Washington: Soho House, owned by New York-listed Membership Collective Group (MCG), is preparing to launch a new branch of The Ned in Washington. The Financial Times reports that The Ned, which charges members about $5,000 a year and is an upmarket variant of London-based Soho House’s eponymous venues, has partnered with “junk bond king” Michael Milken to launch a new outpost in the heart of the US capital. The Washington location, The Ned’s fourth site after openings in London, New York and Doha, will be on the top three floors of a revamped former bank headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, next to the White House. It is to be housed in a large complex comprising six buildings connected via an underground walkway, owned by the Milken Institute, a non-profit organisation. The project will cost more than $1bn by the time it opens next year, of which less than half of the total will be contributed by Milken himself. Milken, one of Wall Street’s most influential figures of the past three decades, will collaborate on the project with his friend Ron Burkle, the American retail billionaire who is the majority shareholder in Soho House. Plans for a Washington outpost of The Ned were first trailed at the Milken Institute Global Conference in 2019, an elite annual get-together in Beverly Hills. During a session with Milken, The Ned’s managing director Gareth Banner declared that the DC site would “channel the glamour of the 1920s”. The Washington Ned was originally scheduled to launch in late 2020 but was delayed by the pandemic and a longer-than-expected construction of Milken’s 300,000-square-foot complex, which grew in ambition and scale. Planning permission for one of the buildings was only granted as recently as April last year. Much of the site will be occupied by The Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream, Milken’s latest philanthropic project. Unlike The Ned’s other sites, its management is considering making the Washington site accessible only to members, with no restaurants open to the public. The Ned was originally meant to occupy five floors of the complex, but the project was pared back. The Ned is owned by Yucaipa and operated by Soho House under a management contract. It accounts for only a small portion of Soho House’s revenues. In the second quarter, the company generated $74m in revenue from ventures outside of its own members’ clubs, including management fees for The Ned, compared with $289m across the group. Since its listing in 2021, Soho House has lost almost half of its market capitalisation as the group has struggled to turn a profit. But earlier this month, the New York-listed company said its losses had narrowed, and shares have recovered 44% this year.

Everyman agrees new £35m bank loan, reports ‘exceptional’ trading and record admissions in July following first half drop in revenue: Cinema operator Everyman has agreed a new £35m bank loan “to ensure the group is soundly financially structured and well positioned to take advantage of opportunities moving forwards”. The new three-year facility, with Barclays and NatWest, is extendable by a further two years subject to lender consent. It replaces the existing £25m Revolving Credit Facility and £15m Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme held with Barclays and Santander. It comes as Everyman reports “exceptional” trading in July following a drop in revenue and Ebitda in the first half of 2023. The releases of both Barbie and Oppenheimer in the final week of July “delivered record admissions” and saw the group record revenue of £10.6m (July 2022: £7.1m) and Ebitda of £2.6m (July 2022: £1.3m). For the 26 weeks ending 29 June 2023, group revenue fell to £38.3m (2022: £40.7m) against a strong first half of 2022 comparator. It said the majority of key 2023 releases fall in the second six months, leading to a second half weighting to annual financial performance. Group Ebitda also feel to £5.8m (2022: £7.5m), with the prior period benefitting from the reduced rate of VAT in the first quarter worth £900,000 in Ebitda, and popular film releases. Three new venues opened at the end of the first half – in Northampton, Plymouth and Salisbury – taking the group estate to a total of 41 venues. The group expects to open a new two-screen venue in Marlow in October 2023 and the pipeline for 2024 remains “well-developed”. Following the early success of Barbie and Oppenheimer, a strong pipeline of further titles to be released includes Dune: Part Two, Wonka, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Napoleon and Killers of the Flower Moon. Alex Scrimgeour, chief executive of Everyman Media Group, said: “Everyman remains an affordable and popular choice for consumers. The record week of admissions we saw in July demonstrates both the value of original content, and the fact that cinema remains as relevant as ever. Alongside this, we continue to see increasing demand for our high-quality food and beverage offering. The all-encompassing Everyman experience leaves us very well placed to satisfy consumer demand for premium entertainment. None of what we do would be possible without the incredible Everyman team both in our venues and head office. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their hard work and willingness to go that extra mile for our customers. We have added three carefully selected new venues to our estate and we look forward to building on the significant momentum we have seen in July and August.”

JD Wetherspoon corrects Daily Mail article: JD Wetherspoon has corrected “a number of factual errors” in a Daily Mail article of 1 August, which was reissued online on 15 August. The article was headlined: “Wetherspoons delivers a major blow to punters wanting a cheap bite to eat as it hikes food prices by 13% - how much has YOUR favourite meal gone up by?” It went on to review pricing of a number of meals at the company’s Oxted Inn pub in Oxted, Surrey, which Wetherspoon said contained “a number of factual mistakes”. It said the price of a ham and cheddar cheese panini was stated correctly as £5.53 but failed to notify readers that this price also included a free soft drink. The price of an all day brunch with an alcoholic drink was stated as £11.11 when the correct price is £10.82. Reference was also made to “pint prices at the chain’s airport and certain city pubs were revealed to have rocketed to an eye watering £7”. The company said that while one draught pint product (Leffe Blonde) has increased in price to over £7 at one pub in London (The Moon under Water, Leicester Square), no other draught product has, and that it is “misleading and inaccurate to state that Wetherspoon pint prices are now £7 in city pubs”. The article also contained a statement from Martyn James, described as an independent consumer champion, who said it remains to be seen if Wetherspoon will retain its customers now it’s the same price as everywhere else. The company said this statement is incorrect and that Wetherspoon “is not the same price as everywhere else”. It said while the company’s prices do vary from location to location, a price survey carried out in April 2023 showed that the competitors’ drinks prices were, on average, 43% more expensive and competitors’ food prices, on average, 33% more expensive than Wetherspoon’s. Chairman Tim Martin said: “Wetherspoon has identified a number of errors in recent Daily Mail articles. It is important for the press to maintain a reputation of providing accurate information for the public.”

Middle Eastern big spenders shunning London due to ‘tourist tax’: Big spenders from the Middle East are shunning London because of the “tourist tax” in Britain, the head of a large British casino chain has claimed. John O’Reilly, chief executive of Rank Group, which operates Grosvenor Casinos, called on the government to scrap VAT charges on international visitors. “The base is no longer London in the way that it was,” O’Reilly told The Telegraph. “Many of these customers will play, but it’s a weekend rather than being here for eight weeks. That’s driven in large part by the fact that they can shop tax-free in Paris or Milan, but not here. The absence of tax-free shopping since Brexit has had a material impact.” O’Reilly said while high rollers from the Far East had been coming to casinos at almost pre-pandemic levels, other players were absent. He said: “Middle Eastern customers have not returned in the same volumes. If I go back five years, customers from Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi UAE would come to London for the whole summer.” London revenues at Rank, which also owns Mecca Bingo, are 26% below 2019 levels. Eight of Rank’s 51 British casinos are in London, but they provide about 35% of revenue. Tourists from the Gulf cut their spending in the West End by 17% in the three months to June compared with 2019, according to research by the New West End Company, despite a 7% rise in flight bookings. The tax has been the subject of a campaign by retailers, who say it leaves the UK at a competitive disadvantage. A study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, commissioned by the Daily Mail and the hotelier Sir Rocco Forte, claimed the economy would be £10bn a year better off if the VAT refund was reinstated.

Damian Aspinall loses stake in family casino empire: Damian Aspinall has lost his stake in the family casino empire he revived two decades ago, reports The Daily Mail’s Eden Confidential column. The banking group Investec is understood to have taken control of Aspinall’s 35% stake in Aspers after he failed to repay a £6m mortgage. Aspinall is said to have a fortune of around £200m and his stake in Aspers was “worth about £50m at one point”, the newspaper said. A spokesman for Aspers, which operates casinos in London’s Westfield Stratford City, Northampton, Milton Keynes and Newcastle, confirmed that Aspinall is no longer a board member of Aspers UK Holdings and its operating companies. Gaming club Aspinalls – nicknamed “Aspers” – was set up in Mayfair in the 1960s, and in 2000, Damian revived the Aspers name in conjunction with Crown Resorts, the Australian gambling group latterly run by billionaire James Packer. US private equity giant Blackstone bought the wider Crown Resorts group in a deal worth £4.5bn last year. A spokesman told the newspaper: “Aspers management continues to operate the business as normal, reporting to the board which represents all current shareholders.”

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