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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 18th Sep 2023 - Update: Pub numbers, WFH impact, John Vincent, Nando’s
Last orders as pubs closing at faster rate across the country: The number of pubs being demolished or converted for other uses has risen by more than 50%, figures show. The Times reports that in the three months to June 30 there were 230 pubs that disappeared from communities in England and Wales. In the preceding quarter the figure stood at 153. Among the uses for converted pubs are housing, offices and nurseries. The 383 demolitions or conversions in the first half of 2023 is also a sharp acceleration compared with the figures for last year when 386 pubs suffered the same fate. The overall number of pubs in England and Wales, including vacant ones, now stands at 39,404. The statistics were compiled for the government by Altus Group, which specialises in commercial real estate. Alex Probyn, its president of property tax, called on Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, to cut business rates for the sector in his autumn statement in November. Companies that pay business rates — the property tax affecting those on the high street — face an inflation-linked increase next April. This is expected to add more than 6% to bills next year. Probyn said: “With energy costs up 80% year-on-year in a low-growth, high-inflation and high-interest-rates environment, the last thing pubs need is an average business rates hike of £12,385 next year.” Pubs currently get a 75% discount on their business rates bills for the 2023-24 tax year, up to a cap of £110,000 per business. However, this is not set to continue in the next tax year.

Fast growing dessert concepts among 56 new businesses joining updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A number of fast growing dessert concepts are among the 56 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released on Friday, 29 September, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features London operator Urban Chocolatier, which has nine sites and is aiming for 50 UK stores by 2030. It also includes US brand Insomnia Cookies, which has 230 sites across America, has now debuted in the UK with a double opening in Manchester along with Canadian pancake brand Fluffy Fluffy, which is aiming for 25 UK sites by 2025 as it works towards an eventual estate here of 100. Also featured is the After School Cookie Club, described as the “first vegan and gluten free cookie brand”, which has the backing of John Vincent, co-founder and former chief executive of Leon. Premium subscribers will also receive a 4,000-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 2,983 companies. Premium subscribers are also to receive access to all the videos from this month's Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party. They will be sent 12 videos on Friday, 29 September at 9am. Premium subscribers also receive access to five other databases: the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with Virgate; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee 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 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.

The winners and losers of London’s work-from-home economy revealed: The pandemic may have ended, but the lasting work-from-home culture has changed how people splash their cash – and invariably it’s on a Thursday now. Empty restaurants, but heaving happy hours in pubs, is the perhaps biggest shift for the hospitality sector as consumers change their habits to meet a new work-life balance. City AM reports that a new report from MasterCard lifts the lid on key trends – and while many pubs, bars and restaurants may have struggled to adapt, it’s certainly not all doom and gloom. The data shows that card spending during happy hour is up by more than 10% from the pandemic. Office workers are shunning lunches and breakfasts during the day, which are down 18% and 15% on pandemic levels. While the trend suggests pubs will be benefiting from increased drinking, it’s also clear that it peaks on Thursday, where bars are heaving at the end of the week. In the City and Canary Wharf, the share of London’s restaurant spending only ever nears pre-pandemic levels on Thursdays, whereas beforehand it rose every weekday from Monday, peaking on Friday. In 2023, spending is concentrated between Wednesday and Friday, peaking on Thursday, which has become the most popular day for working in the office. MasterCard’s figures paint a grim picture for restaurants in the Square Mile, with restaurant spending in the City and Canary Wharf plummeting by 16.6% of all spending in London, down from 20.1% before the pandemic. Perhaps the biggest loser from the pandemic shift has been Mayfair, which has seen one of the biggest falls in restaurant and bar spending for any postcode. It showed the fall was driven by night-time spending, declining from 6.4% in 2019 to 4.2% in 2023. According to the figures, affluent residential areas in south-east London, such as Blackheath, Denmark Hill, Dulwich and Greenwich, have benefitted. Suburban workers are more likely to work from home, and restaurants and bars in these areas have picked up most of the share of spending, rising from 3.7% in 2019 to 6.5% in 2023. Areas like Covent Garden and Bloomsbury have become more popular, driving up their market shares, driven by brunches and lunches. Meanwhile, parts of central London have kept their own when it comes to restaurant and bar spending. In particular trendy areas like South Bank, Bankside, Bermondsey and Waterloo maintained their share of spending from 12.1% pre-pandemic.

All Saints and Leon founders launch upcycled clothing and food firm: Stuart Trevor and John Vincent, the co-founders of the fashion retailer All Saints and the fast-food chain Leon, respectively, have teamed up to launch a sustainable clothing and food venture which they hope will be bigger than their previous companies. The Times reports that the pair opened a pop-up store in central London last Friday and, after trading for a period online, will begin selling their upcycled fashion and plant-based food range in former department stores across the capital. “Both of us want to build something bigger than Leon or All Saints,” said Vincent. “We think there’s a massive space for a business that does sustainability properly.” The new venture, known as Stuart Trevor, will start by selling upcycled vintage clothing and new items designed by Trevor and other artists using “deadstock” fabrics, ordered by manufacturers but surplus to requirements and usually destroyed. It will also initially sell some T-shirts, hoodies and underwear made with virgin organic cotton. “There are 100 billion items of clothing made every year. We think we never need to make another pair of jeans ever again.” Trevor added. The food offering will follow in the new year, Vincent said. Vincent said the plan was to self-finance the business, experimenting in the first 12 months and then expanding into physical retail. Both founders lost control of their original businesses after selling majority stakes to private equity firms. “It’s one of my lessons from Leon. I wish I had retained more ownership of it,” Vincent said. He sold Leon in 2021 to EG Group, run by the Asda-owners Mohsin and Zuber Issa, in a deal valuing the 70-strong chain at about £100m. He received £13m for his 15% stake. The business was majority-owned by two private equity firms, Active Capital Partners and Spice Private Equity. The pair had originally planned to develop their own separate retail ventures; Trevor’s called Impact and focused on fashion and entertainment; Vincent’s called Ava and championing food, alongside entertainment.

Nando’s celebrates ten years of its food donation programme: Nando’s is celebrating ten years of No Chuckin’ Our Chicken – its food donation programme. Since No Chuckin’ Our Chicken’s inception in 2013, the company said it has donated 4.3 million meals to charities and community groups across the UK and Ireland. This financial year alone, the business is on track to have its most successful totals yet, donating over 500k meals in six months, that’s over 20,000 a week, over 2,900 meals a day, around 124 meals every hour. Sam McCarthy, head of sustainability at Nando’s, said: “One of our goals at Nando’s is to change lives – in fact, it is part of our DNA. Our No Chuckin’ Our Chicken programme is one of the many ways we support the communities in which we work, with the aim of materially changing the lives of those we help. I am so proud of the work and the impact this programme has had over the past decade. It was born out of an idea from one our team members, who saw an opportunity to help others and to reduce their restaurant’s waste at the end of the day. Ten years later, what a journey we’ve been on, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds, there is so much more to come from No Chuckin’ Our Chicken.” No Chuckin’ Our Chicken operates in every Nando’s restaurant across UK and Ireland with daily donations to local charities, community groups, food banks and soup kitchens. This year, Nando’s has also donated £106,000 to 36 charities across Scotland and Wales as part of the government’s mandatory paper bag donation money in restaurants, supporting grass-roots projects. Earlier this year, Nando’s also announced that it was expanding No Chuckin’ Our Chicken to include an employability programme, connecting jobseekers with employment opportunities across Nando’s restaurants throughout the UK and Ireland. So far, the business said a number of recruits have come through this programme and two of these team members have recently been promoted to buddy roles.

World’s best pizza chef runs west London restaurant: Naples and New York would probably be the top destinations on the list for anyone seeking the world’s best pizza. But before getting on a plane, it is worth paying a visit to Chiswick. The Telegraph reports that Michele Pascarella, head chef and founder of Napoli on the Road in west London, has been crowned Global Pizza Maker of the Year, having fought off fierce competition from all over the world. It is the first time in the history of the prestigious 50 Top Pizza Awards – akin to the “Michelin guide for pizza” – that the accolade has been handed to a British restaurant, with Italy and America often fielding swathes of contenders for the title. “While Italy is renowned for its authentic Italian food and pizza, you can find excellent Italian cuisine and pizza in many places around the world,” he said. “In 2023 many talented chefs and restaurants outside of Italy take great pride in offering high-quality Italian dishes and pizza.” He was just 11 years old when he started working in his local pizzeria, spending around eight years there before moving to the UK to start his own venture. He initially set up restaurants in Plymouth, Truro and Newquay, before heading to work at Sartori, the famous Italian restaurant in London’s Soho. But his eatery, Napoli on the Road, is where he developed the pizzas that won him the title of world’s best. It began as a food truck in 2019, which he would take to markets around London, but evolved to become two budding restaurants. The pizzeria’s focus is on experimentation and innovation, while using top quality, locally sourced ingredients to create distinctive flavours, an ethos that has earned him the accolade as a pioneer of contemporary dishes.

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