BrewDog has ‘lost 70% of revenue overnight’ and is ‘adapting in fight to survive’:James Watt, co-founder of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, said the company had lost “70% of its revenue overnight”, while the business is adapting as it “fights to survive”. Speaking on the Ian King show on Sky News, Watt said: “It is a very difficult time and our thoughts are with everyone – it’s also a difficult time for our business. We essentially lost 70% of our revenue overnight and we’re doing all we can to adapt and think about our resources differently to try to survive and save as many jobs as we can. We’re also trying to help the country as we do this so we’re using our distillery to make hand sanitiser and giving it away. It’s going to come at a cost to the business but I think it’s the right thing to do at this time, which is a challenging time for everyone. As well as doing our best to survive we want to do what we can to help the country get through this quickly and in the best shape possible. We’ve been using some of our team members to go into supermarkets and help keep beer on the shelves. We’ve been using our bar network as delivery hubs so people can get beer on demand at home. We’re also doing a lot of online virtual beer tastings to maintain a sense of community and togetherness.”
 
Honest Burgers makes wage pledge, closes 12 sites: Active Partners-backed Honest Burgers has pledged to pay its staff a “coronavirus retention wage” equal to 50% of their basic average earnings guaranteed until 23 April, Propel has learned. The business has also temporarily closed 13 of its sites in London and switched 18 to delivery only. The group’s seven regional sites remain open as usual. In an internal message to staff seen by Propel, the business said: “Firstly, a big thank you for your continued patience, hard work and support during these challenging times. Last week we announced a coronavirus sick pay rate equal to 50% of basic average earnings. The top-up of SSP (statutory sick pay) was an investment we wanted to make as a way to ease the financial burden of being sick and unable to work. Then we were all told to work from home, stay away from restaurants and bunker down for the ‘peak’ to hit. Scary times! The answer? That’s right, we’re going on the offensive. You will be paid a coronavirus retention wage equal to 50% of your basic average earnings, guaranteed until 23 April. We have also been working hard in the background to unlock opportunities for you to find work away from Honest. This would be temporary during the crisis with companies desperate for labour such as Amazon and Ocado.” The company said it would give employee options to take voluntary unpaid leave and salary sacrifices. It also said it would make provisions for staff meals and look to make this available via restaurants kept open for delivery only. The company continued: “You need to be available to work as and when needed but everyone will be at the ‘coronavirus rate’ if you’re working or not working – we’re in this together. Whether your restaurant is operating or partially operating (delivery), you will paid coronavirus pay wage if you’ve not been given any hours to work. While we expect the government to come to the industry’s aid, specifically our ability to cover all people costs, at this point it’s unclear and we don’t feel like you can wait for that clarity. That’s why we’re triggering our Corona 50% wage. To be clear, though, if the government creates a pot of money for us to improve that 50% Corona Wage it goes without saying you will be moved over to that wage with immediate effect. We don’t have a crystal ball and if the situation worsens we may need to make some difficult decisions on staff levels. This will be done in an Honest way based on what’s required for the future and you will have loads of notice if this is needed. Please know we have every intention of fully reopening all our restaurants as soon as we possibly can and get the Honest family back together.” Propel understands Honest’s stance on employee pay has been whole-heartedly supported by backer Active.
Hawthorn Leisure boss – no other sector has pulled together like this, company has cash to ride out pandemic: Mark Davies, chief executive of Hawthorn Leisure, the pub operations arm of NewRiver, has told Propel no other sector has pulled together over the coronavirus crisis the way hospitality has. He also said the company was in a strong position financially so it could ride out the pandemic for the “foreseeable future”. He said: “I am so impressed by the resilience and dedication of our teams and the industry in the way it has pulled together to deal with this. I haven’t seen this in other sectors in the same way. We’ll get through this together but, in the meantime, we’ll knuckle down and do what we can to support our pubs.” The company has only had to close three of its 723 pubs so far – two for staffing reasons and one that was “due to close anyway”. Davies said with the estate effectively consisting of community wet-led pubs outside London, it was still seeing people visit. Like-for-like sales in its circa 100 managed pubs were up 10% on Tuesday (17 March), although it was St Patrick’s Day, but they did drop off by about 10% the following day. Although food-led pubs account for only 1.5% of Hawthorn’s portfolio, Davies said those venues were “getting hit hard”. He added the company was doing everything it could to support tenants and make sure they were aware of financial support available from the government. In terms of deferring rents and other charges, Davies said these were being considered on a “case by case” basis. He added: “Hawthorn has no debt and is in a strong financial position. It means we haven’t had to have conversations with the banks like so many other companies. We have adequate cash flow to ride this out for the foreseeable future. We are in a really strong position – but we aren’t complacent.” Davies added that the company’s dark kitchen project had “fallen down the priority list” in the wake of the outbreak.
PizzaExpress agrees new £70m loan facility: Hony Capital-owned PizzaExpress has agreed a new £70m loan with investment firm HPS Investment Partners. HPS Investment Partners is providing a super senior facility agreement for the Zoe Bowley-led chain, which will be used to repay in full and cancel its £20m revolving credit facility and a £10m facility to Hony, which were both due to expire in August. The rest of the loan will also be used to fund PizzaExpress’ “general corporate and working capital requirement”. The move provides further cash flow for the business as it comes under pressure from coronavirus’ impact on trading. Hony, which acquired PizzaExpress in 2014, acquired £71.9m of unsecured bonds in December at a price of 40p in the pound. The move came as PizzaExpress struggles to repay £1.1bn of loans amid spiralling losses. Of those, £660m is owed to bondholders. The first tranche of senior bonds – amounting to £460m – is due to be repaid by August 2021, while the junior bonds – amounting to £200m – are due to be repaid by August 2022.
Prezzo, Remarkable Pubs, TGI Fridays and Tossed among latest to close sites:Prezzo has closed all its restaurants. Chairman Karen Jones said: “We need to do this to protect the health of our teams, our customers and communities. After the government said people should avoid restaurants, it was always going to be question of when, not if, we would need to close for a time. Our Prezzo people will work in their usual committed fashion to temporarily close our restaurants down in an orderly and planned manner. Those same Prezzo people are at the centre of my thinking and planning. We appreciate the support of all stakeholders. I want us to return stronger than before and with renewed determination to deliver our mission – every customer leaving wanting to return – and return we will.” Meanwhile, TGI Friday’s will close all its UK venues from 9pm on Friday (20 March). Remarkable Pubs, the predominately east London collection of 16 privately owned pubs, has closed its sites to “protect our customers, managers, staff and suppliers” as has Zest Food, which operates Tossed and Vital Ingredient. London-based Brindisa Kitchens said its five restaurants would shut by the end of the week, while German beer hall brand Bierschenke has shut its two London venues, in Tower Hill and Liverpool Street. Meanwhile, Thai Leisure Group brand Thaikun is shutting its sites in Guildford, Intu Metrocentre in Gateshead and Glasgow Silverburn, with its restaurants in Aberdeen, Bath, Manchester, Oxford and Southampton becoming delivery and collection only. Japanese ramen bar concept Bone Daddies said its Shack-Fuyu and both its Flesh & Buns sites had closed but its Bone Daddies restaurants remained open. It said all surplus food would go to its team and The Felix Project, which distributes food to those who need it most.
CMA launches merger inquiry into Just Eat and Takeaway.com deal: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a merger inquiry into the deal between Just Eat and Takeaway.com. The CMA issued an initial enforcement order last month against the companies, with Takeaway.com set to take over Just Eat in a £5.6m all-share merger. The CMA said it has now notified both companies of the inquiry and the deadline on whether to refer the matter to a phase 2 investigation has been set at Tuesday, 19 May. The two businesses must continue operating under separate management and branding until the investigation is complete. The CMA investigation centres on whether Takeaway.com might have re-entered the UK market it quit in 2016, something the company refutes. Takeaway.com declared its takeover of Just Eat unconditional in January. Its all-share offer for Just Eat, worth 916p per share, beat a rival 800p-per-share cash bid from technology investment giant Prosus.
Pub and restaurant operators roll out takeaway services: A number of pub and restaurant operators have launched takeaway services after the government relaxed restrictions during the coronavirus crisis. Brewer and retailer Greene King will have rolled out its new takeaway service to 50 Greene King and Hungry Horse pubs by the end of the week, with the intention to increase that figure to 500. The menu features pub classics such as fish and chips, steak and ale pie, and burger and chips, alongside bottled beer, wine and soft drinks. Chief executive Nick Mackenzie said: “Providing our locals with a pub food takeaway service has been in planning for a while but we’ve accelerated it due to the impact coronavirus is having on our communities.” Greene King already offers delivery in its Loch Fyne restaurants, Metropolitan Pub Company pubs and some of its London-based venues. East Anglian-based pub and restaurant company The Chestnut Group has launched a takeaway menu from eight of its 11 sites ahead of a full roll-out as the estate remains open for the time being. The new menus are available during current opening hours with last orders at 8.30pm. Guests staying at a Chestnut venue can have food delivered to their room. Chestnut Group founder Philip Turner said: “We are here to support our communities to the best of our ability. We have an important role to play in these uncertain times.” Indian fine-dining concept Ambrette Restaurants, which has venues in Margate and Canterbury, has postponed its gastro tour of India set for this year but introduced takeaway menus for the first time in its ten-year history. It has also partnered with Deliveroo. Chef owner Dev Biswal said: “Ambrette has never offered takeaways because my style of cooking and presentation could never survive transportation. Now I’ve developed new dishes that travel. Having read industry reports predicting significant growth in the delivery market, it’s something I’d given serious thought to for some time. The crash in footfall surrounding covid-19 means I’ve brought those plans forward.” Ollie Dabbous’ Michelin-starred restaurant Hide will launch a delivery service on Monday (23 March) after partnering with the Supper app. The service will include wine from Hedonism. The restaurant in Mayfair remains open but with reduced hours and menus. Brigade Bar + Kitchen, a social enterprise restaurant in London Bridge, is giving 500 freshly cooked meals a day to vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community affected by the outbreak.
Comptoir Group expects ‘material reduction’ in financial expectations for 2020 as it shuts sites: Comptoir Group, the owner and operator of Lebanese and eastern Mediterranean restaurants, has closed its restaurants with immediate effect and expects a “material reduction” in financial expectations for 2020. The company stated: “Trading in January and February was in line with the board’s expectations. Trading over recent days has, however, been increasingly affected by covid-19. Following continual guidance provided by the UK government and the prime minister’s announcement this week repeating advice to avoid unnecessary gatherings, including restaurants, the board of Comptoir has taken the decision to close its restaurants with immediate effect until further notice. The health of our staff and customers is the board’s highest priority. It’s difficult to accurately assess the extent to which covid-19 could have an impact on our trading and financial performance at this time. However, we expect a material reduction in our financial expectations for 2020. The company is taking all appropriate action to reduce the impact on the group, including a reduction in employee costs at head office and site level and in other variable costs where possible. As of 18 March, the company had net cash at the bank of £6.0m. The directors have always adopted a prudent approach to cash management and believe this will keep the company in a good position as it enters this period of uncertainty.” The company intends to release its financial results for the year ended 31 December 2019 in April.
Kerb launches Keep The Wheels Turning campaign to support traders: Kerb, which closed all its street food markets indefinitely from Wednesday (18 March), has launched a campaign entitled Keep The Wheels Turning to support its traders. The campaign includes an online shop offering vouchers and street food experiences; survival guides for traders and independent businesses; offers of support and assistance; and trading opportunities for its traders such as catering and deliveries. Kerb states on the campaign website: “These are testing times for a previously buoyant and brilliant London food and hospitality industry and a vital part of our city’s fabric. The other day we made the heart-wrenching decision to cancel all our markets and our biggest project yet, the recently opened Seven Dials Market. Across this, 120 independent businesses lost their primary source of income and thousands of amazing people face losing their jobs. We’ve been buoyed by the level of support from the wider community, with many asking how they can support financially. We have also been contacted by many traders asking for guidance and support on their next steps at such an uncertain, rapidly developing time. We’re bringing both these groups together under one roof and calling the campaign Keep The Wheels Turning.” For more details, email hq@kerbfood.com
Dishoom switches to delivery-only and collection model: Indian restaurant concept Dishoom has become the latest operator to switch to delivery-only and collection. The company said it was closing all seven of its restaurants for the foreseeable future and postponing the launch of its site in Birmingham’s Paradise Development. It will offer collection and delivery options out of its five London sites and the ones in Manchester and Edinburgh instead. Co-founders Shamil and Kavi Thakrar said: “We are still struggling to understand a world with no restaurants in it. The industry we’ve proudly been part of for the past decade is likely to change permanently. Most of our friends and neighbours have already closed and we hope and pray they will make it to the other side of this severe storm. We’ll be there too, on the other side, welcoming you back with big smiles, pots of chai and enormous warmth. It’s going to take some doing and a fair wind behind us but we’ll be there, firing up the stoves, opening the doors and waiting for you.”
Carver launches Cheese Trucks to offer ‘self-isolation survival kits’: Mathew Carver, founder of The Cheese Bar and Pick & Cheese, is using his trucks – Audrey and Alfie – to deliver cheese around London during the coronavirus lock-down. The trucks will offer “self-isolation survival kits” featuring British cheese and wine. The kits include cheeseboards for two to three people to share. The Big Boy includes individually wrapped wedges of Quicke’s mature cheddar, Perl Las and Edmund Tew, while the Meaty Boy features achari-spiced salami, rum-glazed ham and smoked coppa. All kits come with a selection of crackers and condiments, with the option to add a bottle of small-producer wine. The kits are also available to pre-order. The trucks will travel to four London locations, which will be regularly updated on The Cheese Bar website and social channels, with customers able to request locations. Carver said: “In times like this it’s easy to focus on the negatives but that isn’t going to help us in the long run. We’re fortunate that while our restaurants may close we have the trucks – if people can’t come to us for cheese, we’ll bring cheese to the people!” The Cheese Bar and Pick & Cheese are both based in Camden Market. Carver is set to launch the Cheese Barge in April, a restaurant moored on the Grand Union Canal at Paddington Central.
Hollywood Bowl keeps lanes open but implements social-distancing measures:Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, is keeping its alleys open but with social-distancing measures to “ensure guests and team members remain safe”. An email to customers stated: “We have introduced several initiatives to maintain space between guests as they move around our centres by imposing gaps for greater social distancing. These include only opening alternate lanes; a minimum of two metres between bar and diner tables; ensuring all operational machines in our amusement areas are at least two metres apart; and restricting the use of cash. We have significantly increased the frequency of cleaning throughout the day, paying particular attention to areas customers and team members come into contact with regularly, including bowling balls, ramps, amusement machines, bathrooms, door handles, and bar and diner areas. We want to stay open to provide a happy and fun experience for our guests but we will always act in accordance with the government and health authority directives and may be required to make further changes in the near future.” Hollywood Bowl launched its mini-golf concept, Puttstars, in Leeds last week.
Bidfresh launches free produce delivery service for consumers: Fresh food supplier Bidfresh has launched a free direct-to-consumer produce delivery service from its UK depots. Customers can order meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables, dairy and other products. The service is running alongside normal Bidfresh operations to make use of produce as many foodservice venues close amid the coronavirus pandemic. Home delivery has already launched from Oliver Kay in Bolton, R Noone in Manchester, Knight Meats in Essex, and Henson in London, with other sites to be added. Products available vary from depot to depot, with delivery carried out by the business’ own drivers and couriers. Bidfresh marketing manager Jane Aukim said: “We are continuing to take orders from customers in the foodservice sector but the current situation means many of them need less produce or are closing altogether, resulting in cancelled orders. At the same time, there’s clearly a need for consumers to be able to access fresh food. Offering home delivery alongside our established business will hopefully ensure as much of the food as possible in our supply chain is used.”