Pret in talks to raise ‘€100m urgent loan’: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-owned business, is seeking a “€100m urgent loan from global banks”, reports the FT. The company is reportedly in discussions for the emergency loan as part of measures to make up for lost sales once stores reopen after the coronavirus crisis. Pret chief executive Pano Christou told the FT that Pret had enough cash to make it through the current lock-down but it needed funds for a “test and learn stage” to develop the operation once restrictions have been lifted. He said: “As a business coming out of this, we might look different, possibly smaller. I wish I could tell you in six months what size Pret will be. What I can tell you is Pret will still be there.” He also stated Pret had not attempted to access any government loan schemes. The FT said it was likely BNP Paribas, HSBC and Santander were in discussions with Pret, after the three banks helped to fund JAB Holdings’ £1.5bn-takeover of the business in 2018.
Wahaca working with advisors on financing options: Mexican restaurant brand Wahaca is working with advisers to review its financing options, including its ability to tap into funding schemes launched by the government in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The 25-strong company is working with PricewaterhouseCoopers to advise it on assessing what measures it could tap into, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Sky News said the company, which employs about 1,000 people, would examine a number of financing options in the coming weeks, with other alternatives likely to involve seeking a new investor or another form of restructuring. Co-founder Mark Selby told Propel an outright sale of the business was not part of the conversation and the company had sufficient funding in place to see out the lock-down. He said: “We felt it was prudent to seek the best advice about how we navigate our way through the coming months and to see how we could use some of the funding options that are available to us. I don’t think there is a business out there at the moment who isn’t having similar conversations in terms of their finances.” Earlier this month, Selby told Propel: “We know we are going to come out of this but we don’t know when. Cash concerns are growing and landlords need to wake up to the fact they need to be looking at the long-term scenario to make sure they still have tenants. Operators are not going to be able to pay while there is no money coming through.” Last month, Byron appointed advisers as it looks to shore up its balance sheet. The company appointed KPMG to explore options to access emergency funding. This was thought to also include its ability to tap into the new funding schemes launched by the government to help cope with the coronavirus crisis.
Mouna puts plans to step down as Remarkable Pubs MD on hold: Elton Mouna has put plans to step down as managing director of east London-focused pub collection Remarkable Pubs on hold in light of the coronavirus crisis, Propel has learned. Mouna was due to leave his role at the end of the company’s financial year in June. He said: “To leave mid-crisis would show a lack of integrity to the Remarkable team I have worked so closely with for the past five years. Yes, I will be leaving to follow my passion of radio broadcasting, podcasting, writing and sharing my knowledge to a wider audience, but I have agreed to remain in position, beyond our year end of 30 June, and until Remarkable Pubs is back up and running.” Mouna joined Remarkable Pubs in 2015 from Fuller’s, where he held senior board level roles including head of marketing and head of PR and corporate communications.
BrewDog waives franchise fees for six months, offering free pint when bars reopen: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has waived fees for its franchisees for six months, Propel has learned. The company is also offering support to franchisees with restocking their cellars with beer when it comes to the time of reopening. Meanwhile, BrewDog has committed to giving a free beer when bars reopen. People can sign up for their free pint of Punk IPA or Punk AF via BrewDog’s website that can be redeemed at any of its bars in the UK as well as in Germany, France, Spain and Ireland. Customers must be of legal drinking age in their country, and will be issued with a QR code that can be taken into a BrewDog bar in return for a beer. Co-founder James Watt said: “Like always, we believe in the power of our community and that good beer has always brought people together. Looking to the future, we want to make sure that when this is all over, whether you’re in Aberdeen or Berlin, you can celebrate with friends and family, over a beer. Until then, stay home. Stay safe, and look after each other, see you on the other side.”
Chilango reopens two sites: Mexican restaurant brand Chilango has reopened two of its sites, Propel has learned. The company has reopened its Islington and London Bridge outlets to offer delivery via Deliveroo and in the coming weeks pre-ordered collection. Propel understands Chilango will look to open further locations should demand present itself and the sites can operate safely. The restaurants have been reorganised and set up to ensure social distancing, extensive cleaning and strict hygiene guidelines are in place. Personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser is provided for staff and delivery drivers; while a contactless system has also been set up for drivers collecting orders from each location. Staff have also been given a travel budget, so they can avoid using public transport. Chilango is working with Deliveroo to help feed NHS and keyworkers in areas local to each location, by offering 150 free meals weekly from each site. Managing director Richard Franks said: “We – like many of our fellow operators – think it is important to reopen to support meals for key workers and allow us to learn from the new measures in place and continue to look for ways we can be ensuring our staff are safe at all times now and over the coming weeks.” Chilango closed its sites on 26 March, having initially offered delivery-only following the government ordering hospitality venues to close a week earlier.
KFC reopens further sites for delivery: KFC has reopened further sites in the UK for delivery. The company reopened 11 sites earlier this month and has now added more to the list, including four in London – Enfield, Hammersmith, Mornington Crescent and Putney. Staff at KFC have returned on an opt-in basis, and only those who can travel without the use of public transport have been asked to work. The company has implemented a number of measures to observe social distancing including placing tape on the floor to create designated working zones two metres apart and operating with just one person per station and fewer team members. The restaurants are serving a limited menu to prevent the need for team members to cross stations and staff packing orders are wearing gloves. Similar procedures have been put in place for delivery drivers with contactless payment in place. KFC has also committed to providing 100 free meals from each open restaurant every Tuesday to those on the front line as well as continuing to deliver meals to NHS staff and key workers as part of the restaurant partnership with Deliveroo.
Moto boss – the focus is on what the ‘new normal’ will look like: Ken McMeikan, chief executive of motorway services operator Moto Hospitality, has told Propel the business was not working on a return to normal but on what a “new normal” would look like. Speaking as part of the “navigating the coronavirus” video series, McMeikan said: “We have been thinking around how consumer behaviour will change. That is forcing us to think through everything from pre-ordering to management of queues, because social distancing will remain in place for some time. We also believe consumer behaviour will want a degree of social distancing until there is some support from the medical profession around vaccines. Until we get there, people are still going to be nervous how we socially interact, so we have been thinking about how would that change the way you interact with a motorway service area? That is from the moment you get in a vehicle, to ordering your product, so when you get on to one of our sites it is more about a click-and-collect experience. When you are on-site and haven’t done a pre-order, we are also thinking about how you queue and whether you will wait in a separated, specially-dedicated area.” McMeikan said the business was also looking at the potential of its number of drive-thrus. He said: “We already have drive-thru Costa sites in some locations, but will be looking at whether we do more drive-thru options in the future because we believe people’s habits will change and there might be a higher demand for them.” He said more importance will be placed on a combination of technology – in terms of pre-ordering, social distancing, and ways of working within a brand. On the latter, he said: “For years we have been trying, operationally, to make things as efficient as possible, for example tills being moved closer together, but in the new world it will also be about keeping colleagues safe and putting distance between them, as well as your customers. So, there needs to be a huge rethink about new ways of working for a new normal.” McMeikan will share more of his thoughts in the video, which will be released on Friday (24 April).
Domino’s Pizza reports global sales up 4.4% in first quarter: Domino’s Pizza has reported global sales increased 4.4% in its first quarter ending 22 March 2020. Like-for-like sales were up 1.6% in the US while the international division saw like-for-like sales grow 1.5%. The figures marked the 105th consecutive quarter of international like-for-like sales growth and the 36th consecutive quarter in the US. Total revenue in the quarter increased to $873m, compared with $835m the year before. The company added 69 stores during the period – 39 internationally and 30 in the US. Diluted earnings per share in the quarter was up 39.5% to $3.07. Chief executive Ritch Allison said: “We can’t predict the full impact of coronavirus on the broader economy and we don’t know how consumer behaviour and restaurant purchasing patterns may evolve coming out of this crisis. What I do know is our franchisees and teams will remain focused on safely serving our customers and our communities in this time of need. I have great confidence in our people and our ability to manage through this crisis, and I remain optimistic about the long-term potential of the Domino’s brand.”
Heineken launches dedicated website to support pub licensees and on-trade partners: Heineken has launched a website dedicated to supporting its Star Pubs & Bars licensees and on-trade partners through the lock-down period. The Pub Collective provides licensees with advice, guidance and inspirational stories to support them through the period as well as how to hibernate their business and prepare for reopening. It also offers free learning resources and case studies from operators that are adapting their offer. Heineken UK on-trade sales director Stephen Watt said: “It’s a worrying time for everyone and we are doing all we can to support our on trade customers and Star Pubs & Bars licensees. This pop up website makes it easy for them to access all the information they need in one place.” Last week Star Pubs & Bars announced it would provide rent reductions to its pubs on an individual basis and has suspended rent collection until at least June.