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Thu 14th Sep 2023 - Update: Chick-fil-A targets 2025 for UK relaunch, aiming for five sites within first two years
Chick-fil-A targets 2025 for UK relaunch, aiming for five sites within first two years: US fast food brand Chick-fil-A has targeted 2025 for a relaunch in the UK and is aiming for five sites within the first two years. Propel revealed in August that Chick-fil-A had begun reaching out to landlords and seeking to secure sites as it gears up to make a return to the UK market. The company, which has more than 2,800 restaurants in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, is understood to have retained property firm Newmark Group, which acquired Harper Dennis Hobbs in 2019, to help it with its expansion in the UK. The Financial Times has now confirmed that the business is planning to relaunch in the UK just a few years after closing its first UK pop-up store following protests by LGBT campaigners over its founding family’s support for Christian organisations opposed to gay rights. It said the Atlanta-based chain plans to launch a new UK outlet in early 2025 and expand to five sites within the first two years, creating between 80 and 120 jobs per store. Over the next decade, Chick-fil-A intends to invest $100m in the UK, it added. The fried chicken outlet launched its first UK restaurant in Reading in 2019, but just eight days after the launch, the shopping centre housing the store announced its lease would end after six months following a backlash from LGBT activists. LGBT campaigners took issue with the founding Cathy family’s historically anti-gay stance. The store’s Christian owners previously donated to Exodus International, an organisation advocating gay “conversion therapy”, before it closed in 2013 and issued an apology to the gay community for “years of undue judgment”. The Cathy family also gave money through its charitable foundation to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which opposed same-sex marriage. The restaurant was founded by Samuel Truett Cathy in 1946, who “based his business on biblical principles”, according to the company’s website. In 2012, the founder’s son Dan Cathy, who was chief executive at the time and now serves as chair, told the media he was “guilty as charged” when asked about his support for traditional family values, adding that he believed in “the biblical definition of the family unit”. Dan’s son Andrew has been chief executive since 2021. In its first foray into the UK since 2019, Chick-fil-A is hoping to draw a line under the episode, having overhauled its philanthropic policy in 2019 to focus its giving on education, homelessness and hunger, according to people close to the company. “From our earliest days, we’ve worked to positively influence the places we call home, and this will be the same for our stores in the UK,” said Joanna Symonds, Chick-fil-A’s head of UK operations. Chick-fil-A is hoping to attract UK franchise partners with what it bills as a “unique” owner-operator model, which requires just $10,000 of investment from the franchisee. Four in every five franchisees will operate just one site, Chick-fil-A added. Anita Costello, Chick-fil-A’s chief international officer, said the franchise model would bring “one-of-a-kind access to entrepreneurial opportunities”. “We are excited our restaurants will bring new jobs and opportunities throughout the UK,” she added.

Next Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage to feature 25 updated entries and five new companies, released tomorrow: The next Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will feature 25 updated entries and five new companies when it is released to Premium subscribers tomorrow (Friday, 15 September), at midday. This month’s edition includes 730 companies and 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 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.

Jamie Oliver’s last Australian restaurant closes owing $1m: Jamie Oliver’s last Australian restaurant has closed down while still owing $1m. Jamie Oliver Pizzeria at Pacific Fair went into voluntary administration after four years in the Gold Coast location. It was the first of the famous British chef's restaurants to open in Australia. Hallmark Hospitality Group, the owners of the restaurant, told administrators it had just $7,336 in the bank when it closed shop. It had accumulated just over $1m in debt including $91,000 in rent and $915,00 owed to other parties. It is the last of the celebrity chef’s restaurants to shut their doors in Australia, with Jamie’s Italian restaurants closing in four cities during the covid lockdown in 2020. Hallmark Hospitality Group owns a number of Queensland nightclubs and restaurants, including Finn McCool’s and Retro’s in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Anne Meagher and Matt Bookless of SV Partners were appointed as administrators to oversee the process. Speaking to the Gold Coast Bulletin, Bookless said it appeared all payments had been made towards employees prior to closure. He indicated the company’s failure was due to a squeeze on consumer pockets during the cost-of-living crisis which has directly impacted business. “We know the Jamie Oliver brand is loved by patrons locally and internationally, and we are currently seeking new location opportunities for Jamie Oliver's Pizzeria restaurants,” a statement on behalf of the company reads. “We want to thank our customers, employees, suppliers, and the Gold Coast community for their support of the Pacific Fair venue.” The restaurant’s website states there is a new location coming soon. Oliver is set to make his return to the UK restaurant industry in November with the opening of Jamie Oliver Catherine Street, in London’s Catherine Street. It follows the collapse of his restaurant empire, which included Jamie’s Italian, Barbecoa and Fifteen, into administration in 2019. He still has franchised restaurants in countries around the world, including in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, and Jamie’s Deli in Europe – but since 2022, his only new outlet in London has been a pop-up in Soho.

Young people turning their backs on traditional part-time jobs: Young people are turning their backs on traditional part-time and Saturday jobs in hospitality and retail in favour of making a quick buck through their own ventures, a survey suggests. Almost three fifths of the 1,000 Generation Zs polled by GoDaddy, the website and hosting company, said they would pursue their own “side hustle” rather than take part-time salaried work. Almost seven in ten said they thought they could make more money this way, reports The Times. Omar Meho, 26, a DJ and music trainer who earned £50,000 last year, said he had tried working in shops and offices as a teenager but found it all “extremely stagnant”. He added: “Like other young people, in my late teens I could have gone out and got a job at a local pub or supermarket. But I think those industries are less appealing now than they’ve ever been. Not only are the wages usually unattractive, the hours involved are often at weekends or in the evenings — times when we’d rather be out living life.” Official statistics show a decline over the last 20 years of school leavers in full and part-time employment. There were 74,000 16 and 17-year-olds in the south west of England registered as employed in the run-up to Christmas 2001, which fell to 57,000 last year. The number fell from 64,000 to 36,000 in Yorkshire and the Humber, and from 49,000 to 24,000 in London. The trend away from Saturday jobs is recognised by James Mulvany, founder of Manchester-based Radio.co, which helps people to produce online music radio shows and podcasts. Mulvany himself shunned a salary in the noughties in favour of selling crafts online, and later turned to web design and coding services, all from his bedroom. “Friends would get part-time jobs in McDonald’s, but I was quite happy for a period being stuck in my bedroom figuring out search engine optimisation, web design and selling products,” said the 36-year-old, who now employs 45 people.
 
Women more likely to work full time since introduction of hybrid working: Professional women have become more likely to work full-time since the pandemic in sectors where hybrid and remote working are now standard practice, according to research based on official UK data. Analysis of Office for National Statistics microdata by the consultancy Public First offers some of the strongest evidence yet of benefits flowing from homeworking for individuals and the wider economy. The proportion of women in employment in the UK who work full-time has risen from 56.5% in 2019 to 58.7% this year. But Public First found the increase had been much bigger in sectors where many companies had adopted hybrid work policies, reports The Financial Times. Rachel Wolf, a founding partner of Public First, said the findings amounted to “convincing evidence that the stuff that was accelerated by covid is really beneficial to a chunk of the labour force that has high human capital and doesn’t work as many hours as men”. While other reasons could explain why mothers are working longer hours, including cost of living pressures or fathers taking on more childcare, the research shows a clear contrast between sectors where home-working is easier and those where workers still need to be largely on site. In lower-paid fields, there was also a big increase in the proportion of women on full-time hours in administrative and support services, where remote work is common. By contrast, there was a sharp drop in hospitality, where labour shortages have forced many employers to offer more family-friendly shifts. The boost to women’s working hours is all the more important given the extent to which the UK’s overall workforce has shrunk since the pandemic. ONS data published this week showed the proportion of working-age adults who were neither in a job nor looking for one had ticked up to 21.1% in the latest three-month period, with a record 2.6 million saying ill health stopped them working.

Cash payments rise for first time in a decade: Payments made with cash rose for the first time in a decade last year as consumers struggled with rising prices. But the number is still dwarfed by debit card use, which accounted for half of all payments, its highest ever level. Consumers often say they find it easier to manage their money using cash, reports the BBC. But UK Finance, which compiled the data, said it expected cash use to decline over the coming years, once the current financial squeeze has eased. Even during cost-of-living pressures and the emergence from lockdowns, it said nearly 22 million people only used cash only once a month or not at all last year. That compares with just under one million who mainly used cash. People are still most likely to pay for things using a debit card. Part of the reason for that is people use them to make contactless payments for low value buys in shops, whereas in the past they might have used coins. The typical amount spent for each contactless card payment was £15.10. Debit card use rose last year to account for half of the 46 billion payments made by consumers and businesses last year, according to the UK Finance data. Among consumers, debit cards were used in 57% of transactions. Some of the rise was driven by people working part of the week at home and only commuting on the other days. People are travelling to the office less but making more transport payments. “There is a wide variety of payment methods available in the UK and each provides specific benefits to the people using them,” said Adrian Buckle, head of research at UK Finance. “During 2022, we saw increased use of contactless, online banking and mobile payments, although cost-of-living challenges meant that some people preferred to use cash to help with their budgeting.”

Bank bosses urged to stop hiking interest rates as recession fears sparked: The Bank of England has been urged to stop hiking interest rates after a summer economic setback raised recession fears. Official figures showed GDP shrank by 0.5% in July after a 0.2% fall had been predicted, reports The Daily Mail. US investment bank Goldman Sachs cut its forecast for UK growth this year after the report, which came amid mounting evidence that higher interest rate hikes are squeezing households and the wider economy. Interest rates have been hiked 14 times since December 2021, and they are expected to go up again – to 5.5% – next week. Kitty Ussher, of the Institute of Directors, said: “Today’s data supports our call for the Bank of England to keep interest rates steady next week to give time for its medicine to work rather than risking an overdose.” Suren Thiru, of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, said: “The Bank of England risks damaging our economic prospects further by overshooting on rate hikes, given the long time-lag between rate rises and their effect on the real economy.” July GDP data, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), came after the economy grew by 0.5% in June. The ONS said the broader picture remained positive, with GDP growing 0.2% in the three months to July. Ed Monk, of Fidelity International, said: “The UK has suffered a blow in its fight to avoid recession this year. Another rate rise looks likely, but today's GDP reading adds to the Bank’s case for waiting to see how much demand has weakened.” Neil Birrell, a fund manager at Premier Miton, added: “The speed of the slowdown could be indicating that recession is around the corner.”

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