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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 13th Sep 2023 - Update: Loungers opens 200th Lounge site, Wendy’s confirms next six UK openings
Loungers opens 200th Lounge site, expects to create in excess of 1,000 new jobs in current year: Cafe bar operator Loungers has opened the 200th site under its Lounge concept and said it expects to create in excess of 1,000 new jobs in the current year. The landmark site – the Verdetto Lounge on the ex-M&Co site in Market Hill, Buckingham – will offer all-day food and drink, with a real focus on making a positive impact on the local community. The business said each new Lounge opening results in an investment of nearly £1m into the local high street and the creation of up to 30 new jobs on average. Once open, the Lounge team work hard to make close connections in their local area, working with community groups and nurturing charity partnerships. This includes facilitating and organising up to 10,000 events per year held within its Lounges, from parent and baby groups and coffee mornings to quiz nights and painting classes. Loungers recently stated its firm belief that there is scope for at least 600 Lounges across the UK, and also announced that it intends to open 34 new sites across its three brands in the current financial year alone. The 200th Lounge opening brings the total estate size up to 238, including 35 Cosy Clubs and three Brightsides. Alex Reilley, chairman and co-founder of Loungers, said: “We are hugely proud of the positive impact that our sites have had on local communities right across the UK since opening the first Lounge 21 years ago. We are determined to continue playing a major role in breathing new life into high streets, as well as creating and sustaining much needed local employment. Time and time again we've seen that the opening of a Lounge has a really positive knock-on effect on the businesses around it and, of course, on the local employment market. Last year alone we created around 1,000 new jobs through new site openings and are on course to comfortably exceed that figure in the current year. To be opening our 200th Lounge is a fantastic landmark, but there is lots more for us to go for. We firmly believe that there is scope to have at least three times that number of Lounges in the longer term, and we are more ambitious than ever before about our plans for the future.” Last month, Loungers opened its first site in the north east, in the Northumberland town of Morpeth. It is also set to open further sites in the north east when it launches Muro Lounge on the former Argos site in Hexham in October, and Costello Lounge, in the Manor Walks shopping centre, Cramlington, in December. Loungers features in the Propel Turnover & Profits BlueBook, the latest edition of which was sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (8 September). Its turnover of £283,500,000 for the year to 16 April 2023 is the 33rd highest in the database. Its pre-tax profit of £7,300,000 is the 92nd highest in the database. The Blue Book ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. 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.

Next Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage to feature 730 companies, released on Friday: The next Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will feature 730 companies when it is released to Premium subscribers on Friday (15 September). This month’s edition includes five new companies and 25 updated entries as well as more than 195,000 words of content. 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 also receive access to five other databases: the Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee 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 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.

Wendy’s confirms next six openings in the UK: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, is to continue its expansion across the UK after confirming a further six openings for this year. The brand, which made its return to the UK two years ago, will open new sites in Derby, Leeds, Peterborough, Guildford, Cambridge and Middlesbrough over the next few months, creating circa 240 jobs in the process. The business currently operates 30 sites in the UK, through a mixture of restaurants and delivery kitchens. Abigail Pringle, chief development officer for The Wendy's Company, said: “As we continue to expand across the country, we are excited to bring more Wendy’s to more people. We have an exciting pipeline of restaurant openings that will bring Brits fresh options where they work, live and play.” Wendy’s has so far approved six franchisees in the UK, who will take on territories including Scotland and Wales. Last month, Todd Penegor, chief executive of Wendy’s, said the brand’s UK business has been “growing like-for-like sales really nicely”. 
Stonegate draws backlash over ‘dynamic’ beer pricing: A campaign group representing pubgoers has criticised the move by Stonegate, Britain’s largest pub company, to hike the price of pints during its busiest trading hours in some of its venues by 20p to offset high costs. Stonegate said it had introduced a “dynamic pricing” system on drinks in around 800 of its venues during evenings and weekends to help cover the cost of extra staffing, licensing requirements and additional security. The pub group, which has 4,000 managed, leased and tenanted pubs across the UK, previously introduced surge pricing in some of its venues during the 2018 and 2022 football World Cup tournaments, but it has now made the move permanent. Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale, called the move “troubling”, adding that it could undermine transparency on price for pubgoers if the message was not clearly displayed. “We know pubs and brewers are having a difficult time at the moment, but we don’t think an extra charge penalising customers that want to support the industry is the right solution,” Stainer told the Financial Times. “Our fear is that it could convince people to stay away.” Stonegate said the use of “dynamic pricing” also allowed it to offer deals to customers during less busy trading hours, including two-for-one cocktails and discounts on food and drink. Steven Alton, chief executive of the British Institute of Innkeeping, which represents the independent pub sector, said the move was “indicative of the reality of operating costs right now where pubs are trying to find any opportunity to deliver decent margins”.

Strikes called off at UK’s biggest sandwich maker: Strikes have been called off at UK’s biggest sandwich maker. Hundreds of workers at Greencore, which supplies  retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Boots and Marks and Spencer, were due to walk out over pay this week. Its products can also be found in coffee shop chains such as Starbucks and Caffe Nero, and petrol station convenience stores. However, a “last-chance saloon” offer from Greencore encouraged the Unite union to suspend the industrial action. Some Greencore factory workers currently make £10.53 an hour, only slightly more than the £10.42 national minimum wage, reports The Daily Mail. Unite regional officer Andy Shaw said: “Greencore has finally come back to the negotiating table after the threat of strike action by our members. As a goodwill gesture, we have called off industrial action while we put this new offer to our members.” Greencore’s latest accounts show it banked profits of more than £15m last year and made 975 million sandwiches and other food-to-go products at its 16 factories. The firm said 52% of its sandwiches are sold as part of a meal deal.

Rick Stein defends £2 fee for condiments at Padstow chip shop: When you buy fish and chips from a celebrity chef’s restaurant you might expect to be on the hook for a hefty bill, but Rick Stein’s customers in Padstow have decried the rise in price of condiments to £2 a pot. The seafood chef, whose culinary empire is centred in the Cornish fishing village, has blamed “skyrocketing costs” for the increase in cost of mayonnaise, tartar sauce and mushy peas. Stein’s Fish and Chips in Padstow charges £1.75 for condiments if customers take away but adds 25p if they eat in, reports The Times. The condiments, which include gravy, mayonnaise, aioli, Goan curry sauce, mango chutney and raita, cost £1.25 in 2017. Stein said he had not put up the price since 2020 but inflationary pressures had forced him to pass on some of the costs. A takeaway cod and chips at the restaurant is £14.90 while sea bass and chips is £16.90. One visitor said on TripAdvisor: “Having had excellent takeaway from here last year, we decided to treat some visiting friends to fish and chips in the restaurant — we were so disappointed. On top of the £16 for cod and chips, you were expected to pay an additional £2 for condiments such as tartare sauce or mayo.” Another said: “When we paid the bill, we discovered that the tiny pot of mushy peas was £2 extra, as was the tartar sauce, as was the curry sauce. Unfortunately, I don’t think we will be returning!” A spokeswoman for Stein said: “Our homemade condiments using Rick Stein’s special recipes are prepared in Padstow by our team of chefs. Food inflation and energy costs, along with rising wages, have driven up the cost of production significantly. We have held our condiment prices since 2020, but with skyrocketing costs, we have reluctantly, along with many others, had to pass on some of the costs to our customers.” Stein’s Fish and Chips opened in 2004. 

Gym chain looking at ex-Wilko sites, installing fewer treadmills as women swap cardio for weights: One of Britain’s largest gym chains has said it would consider taking on sites owned by collapsed discount retailer Wilko as it expands across the UK. The Gym Group, which runs 230 sites across the UK, opened two new gyms in the first half of the year, with plans for a further five by the end of 2023. At least ten more will follow next year. Founder John Treharne told The Telegraph: “We’ve been very successful over the last 16 years in terms of converting existing buildings. More recently, we’ve done a lot of retail park development. We will be looking very closely at any opportunity, and certainly Wilko will be part of the assessment.” Treharne added that the group is installing fewer treadmills as a growing number of women swap cardio for weightlifting. “A lot more women are interested in free weight training these days,” he said. “I think you’ve seen that sort of cultural change. There is definitely a shift away from the predominance of [cardiovascular] equipment. If you looked at one of our gyms ten years ago, we would have had 35 treadmills, a high proportion of cross trainers and so on. The treadmill is still the most popular machine in the gym, but we don’t have as many today as we would have done. But the free weights area will probably be three times the size, the functional training area will have been introduced.”

Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat sign TfL’s road safety charter: Delivery platforms Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat have signed a charter with the Transport for London (TfL) authority which pledges to make the companies’ motorcycle couriers and other road users safer in the capital. Reuters reports that the voluntary charter comprises ten road safety principles such as legal requirements for riding and working in Britain, riding safely and realistic delivery schedules. TfL chief safety officer Lilli Matson said: “People are tragically losing their lives in avoidable motorcycle collisions, which all too often also injure or kill other road users. This is why we’re working closely with delivery, courier and servicing companies to address these sources of road danger and protect the lives of riders and everyone else on London’s streets.” Matson added that a surge in motorcycle deliveries cannot come at the expense of safety. In addition to the food delivery companies, the voluntary charter was also signed by groceries company Getir and delivery company Stuart.

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