Douglas Jack – majority of Loungers’ sites can reopen profitably under two-metre social distancing: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has argued the majority of cafe bar brand Loungers’ sites can reopen profitably under two-metre social distancing. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 200p, Jack said: “Management believes the company’s strong culture has been enhanced. It remains in regular communication with employees, supported by a new app that allows teams to communicate more easily. Customer engagement has continued with competitions and acts of kindness in the community. Its customer survey indicated out of 6,000 respondents, only 2% of customers said they would not be comfortable resuming their normal visits when government restrictions are lifted. The company has incorporated feedback into its physical distancing and hygiene measures. Loungers is trialling order-at-table technology and going cashless, which may make a minority of customers feel more comfortable. Smaller menus are likely to be adopted while the kitchens are operating under physical distancing restrictions. The company has opened 17 Lounge sites for takeout and plans a further ten sites over the next week. This should enable employees to return and the supply chain to get back up and running without incurring the huge costs and brand risk of delivery. It is being considered as an additional revenue stream once the estate is reopened. To date, ‘it has been a big success’. The use of Loungers-style screens (not Perspex) and the utilisation of outdoor areas (available in more than 70% of Lounges and about half of Cosy Clubs) could enable larger sites to operate at 50% to 60% of capacity. Under a one-metre rule, they could operate at almost full capacity. Under normal conditions we believe the estate typically trades at circa 50% capacity through most days, and rarely at 100%. In our view, its value for money, all-day and suburban/market town positioning is ideal for increased home working and the flexibility that brings. With ample liquidity and being naturally expansive, we believe Loungers should thrive as and when the market fully reopens.”
Former Jamie’s Italian staff win payout over redundancy consultation failure:More than 60 former employees of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant group, which went into administration last year, have been awarded eight weeks in lost pay after an employment tribunal ruled the organisation failed to consult with them ahead of their redundancy. Former staff at Jamie’s Italian, Fifteen and One New Change, which traded as Barbecoa, will receive 56 days’ lost pay. The 64 claimants alleged the companies failed to properly consult with them about their job losses ahead of the group going into administration in May 2019. By law, organisations wishing to make 100 or more staff redundant must begin a consultation period at least 45 days before the dismissals take effect. More than 1,000 jobs were lost when 22 of the group’s restaurants closed. Three restaurants at Gatwick airport continued to trade until they were brought out of administration by UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP Group in June last year, saving about 250 jobs. The Central London Employment Tribunal agreed Jamie’s Italian, Fifteen and One New Change had breached section 188 of the 1992 Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act by not holding a redundancy consultation period. It ordered staff were paid 56 days’ wages from 21 May 2019, which was the date on which the first of the dismissals took effect. If the money is unavailable from the businesses’ assets, it would likely come from the government. The judgment does not state how much each employee would be owed or how much the total award would be. At the time off the job losses, Oliver, who put £4m of his own funds into the businesses in order to save them, said he appreciated how difficult the decision was for everyone affected. KPMG said the organisation had no suitable investment options and had struggled through a “very difficult trading environment”.
Tim Foster – thinking outside the box will be key: Tim Foster, co-founder and head of being awesome, of the four-strong Yummy Pub Co, has said thinking outside the box and about “what your communication is outside of the four walls of your business” will be key as the sector looks to reopen. Speaking as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Foster said innovation and “making noise about your brands” will be vital as the sector enters a new trading landscape. He said: “People’s time will become precious. There has been a reconnection with family time. So, we will keep the click-and-collect shop at The Wiremill in Surrey, which we launched during lock-down, so people can then come for a pint and we can help with the groceries, although this will probably be more treat driven than focused on the basic. The kitchens will not go back to what they were at the Victoria in Mile End and the Gorringe Park in Tooting. We will run a number of concepts through them, which will feed into the pubs. We will start another one out of the Vic in the next two weeks, so we can learn about running two alongside each other. We are also expanding across more delivery platforms, so not just exclusive with Deliveroo.” Over the past month, the company has also launched a “Gastro-to-Go” range of ready meals out of The Wiremill, and Foster said that would help sustain the business as it gets back up and reopen. On looking ahead, Foster said: “It’s pointless looking at the huge amount of money we have lost not being fully open – that is now gone, we have to look forward. We are going to borrow money through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – we have no choice, but we are going to invest properly, in infrastructure, in the dream stuff we have always wanted to do, to drive the business forward.” Foster will share more of his thoughts in the video, which will be released on Friday (5 June).
Crussh to begin reopening stores, expands delivery range for online shop:London-based healthy food and juice brand Crussh is to begin reopening its estate, starting with its Notting Hill site on Friday (5 June). The outlet will offer takeaway, click-and-collect and delivery and follows a significant review by the company of its store operating model to ensure it can open safely for teams and customers, and comply with government guidelines. The first reopening will be used to test and learn, allowing Crussh to then apply these learnings to other stores. Meanwhile, Crussh has launched its newly improved online grocery shop, selling a range of essentials including fruit, vegetables, meat, and pre-made boxes, healthy snacks and drinks. Delivery zones have been expanded to bring the business to a new audience outside the capital, including East Sussex, Essex, Greater London, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and West Sussex. Brand director Helen Harrison said: “We believe the online shop will form part of the permanent Crussh offer going forwards, certainly as people continue to work from home and avoid unnecessary supermarket trips. We will continue to evolve and expand the offer over the coming weeks.” Meanwhile, Crussh said it will have supplied 55,000 meals and 5,000 cold press juices to the NHS through the Feed Our Frontline initiative when it comes to a close next week.
Bauer-led consortium deal for Vapiano business approved, Hall to step down as chair: The Mario C Bauer-led group has had its deal for the main part of the Vapiano business and its subsidiaries in Germany approved. The consortium, which is backed by Sinclair Beecham, the co-founder of Pret A Manger, will take over the business in a mixed asset/share deal for a total purchase price of €15m. The transaction includes 30 restaurants operated by Vapiano in Germany. In addition, the national and international franchise business and the associated franchise companies as well as the shares in the joint ventures in Münster/Osnabrück, Bielefeld, Ulm and Australia are being sold. The remaining assets of Vapiano SE, which includes the UK arm, are still to be sold. The brand operates seven company-owned sites in the UK, comprising five in London, plus restaurants in Edinburgh and Manchester. It is thought the new venture might look to take on some of these sites going forward. The consortium had already submitted an irrevocable offer for the brand’s 29-strong French business two weeks ago; the purchase price for this business has now been increased by €3m to €25m. The offer is expected to be accepted in the next few days. Meanwhile, it was announced Vanessa Hall, the former YO! chief executive, who was appointed chief executive of Vapiano SE in September 2019, will step down form the company at the end of this month. She had been a member of its advisory board since September 2018, and subsequently chair of the business.
Costa reaches 500-store mark for reopenings as further 181 sites start offering takeaway: Costa Coffee, which is owned by Coca-Cola, reopened a further 181 stores for takeaway on Thursday (4 June), taking the total to 501. The company, which has already reopened all its drive-thru sites, has been gradually reopening its estate over the past month, having initially reopened four sites – in Manchester, Bristol and Mansfield – two of which were delivery only and two drive-thru. Costa said: “A massive thank you to all of our team members for their hard work and passion to get these stores reopen.”
McDonald’s reopens remaining closed drive-thrus and eight more sites for delivery: McDonald’s reopened its remaining 261 drive-thrus in the UK and Ireland that were closed as well as eight more sites for delivery on Thursday (4 June). The reopenings take the number of McDonald’s outlets back in operation to more than 1,000. Restaurants in Northfield, Birmingham; Blake Street in York; and Lord Street in Liverpool are among those that have reopened for delivery. To manage the anticipated demand, McDonald’s said it would only release the locations of the restaurants reopening on the day. It comes after the company was forced to shut some drive-thrus last month due to overwhelming demand with huge queues “impacting local communities or the safety of our people or customers”. There is a £25 cap per vehicle on drive-thru orders as the business adjusts to smaller teams and social distancing in its kitchens. Perspex screens are fitted at drive-thru windows and all employees are wearing personal protective equipment. In car parks, dividers will be in place, while security teams will patrol zones to ensure visitors comply with safety laws.
Honest Burgers and Thunderbird make Foodstars debuts: Honest Burgers and Thunderbird Fried Chicken have become the latest operators to take space at a Foodstars kitchen. The Active Partners-backed Honest Burgers is now delivering out of the Foodstars kitchen site in Colindale. Aside from the Colindale site, Honest has now reopened 25 sites out of its 37-strong estate for delivery, including Delivery Edition units in Canary Wharf and Swiss Cottage. Meanwhile, Thunderbird Fried Chicken, the wings and fried chicken concept backed by TriSpan, has taken space at the Foodstars kitchen in Shoreditch. Last month, Bone Daddies started delivering out of the Foodstars facilities in Kentish Town and Wandsworth. Giggling Squid is also currently working out of the latter kitchen site.
Nando’s reopened estate passes 150-site mark: Nando’s has reopen a further 50-plus sites for delivery across the UK, Propel has learned. As of Thursday (4 June), the company had just over 150 sites open for delivery out of its 422-strong UK estate. Meanwhile, it has expanded its click-and-collect option to circa 90 sites across the UK. The group said changes it has made to its safety procedures include checking in with staff before they work a shift to make sure they feel fit and well enough to come to work; reducing opening hours and its menu; daily hygiene briefings and increasing cleaning practises; providing customers and delivery riders with hand sanitiser; and face coverings being available for team members who wish to wear them.
Hakkasan launches Casa Calavera pop up in London: The Hakkasan Group has launched a pop-up version of its Mexico-based Casa Calavera restaurant in London. Operating out of the Sake no Hana kitchen in St James’s, Casa Calavera London is described as a “first-of-its-kind virtual culinary pop up”. It marks the first addition to Hakkasan’s UK portfolio since the company opened HKK in Hackney eight years ago. Available to order via Deliveroo and UberEats, Casa Calavera London features a menu that combines “authentic Mexican cooking techniques, recipes, and ingredients with contemporary, innovative and sophisticated twists”. While Hakkasan initially closed all its London sites due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has since reopened its Mayfair restaurant for takeaway and delivery via Deliveroo, UberEats and Supper. The group’s contemporary dim sum restaurant Yauatcha, and modern-Japanese concept Sake no Hana, are also both operating delivery and takeaway services.
Coconut Tree secures funding to withstand coronavirus disruption: Sri Lankan restaurant group The Coconut Tree has secured funding to withstand the ongoing disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. The business has received a £60,000 loan from not-for-profit company SWIG Finance, supported by Triodos Bank and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. The cash boost will help safeguard 160 jobs and sustain the business during the coronavirus crisis. After opening its first restaurant in Cheltenham in 2016, the business has expanded and now operates six restaurants across the south of England and Wales, including two in Bristol. Having launched its latest restaurant in Bournemouth in December, tentative plans are in place to continue to expand post-pandemic. Business owner Mithra Fernando said: “This funding will go a long way in ensuring the business can continue trading in a post-covid-19 environment.” The Coconut Tree has reopened four of its restaurants for takeaway and delivery.
Operators up reopening programmes: Operators, including Franco Manca and Pho, have reopened further sites across their estates. The Fulham Shore-owned Franco Manca, which reopened 31 sites by the end of last month, has added a further seven over the past few days. It reopened its sites in Cambridge and Ealing on Tuesday (2 June), and followed that up by opening its sites in Soho, Oxford, St Paul’s, Birmingham and Bath, on Wednesday (3 June), for delivery, takeaway, and order and collect. Fulham Shore chairman David Page told Propel last month the company many not reopen all of its sites under the 52-strong pizza brand before July, especially those in central London near office blocks, which would have “little or no trade”. Vietnamese concept Pho, which reopened its sites in Balham, Battersea, Chiswick, Islington, Spitalfields and Brighton last month for delivery and collection, has from Thursday (4 June) added its sites in Wimbledon and Ealing. Hubbox, the south west-based burger and barbecue concept led by Richard Boon, reopened its sites in Bristol and Truro in May. It has now followed this up with the reopening of its sites in Exeter, Plymouth and St Ives, the latter for takeaway only. Meanwhile, Nottingham-based coffee roaster and retailer 200 Degrees has reopened its Liverpool site for takeaway. It follows the company reopening its two Nottingham sites as well as the Colmore Row outlet in Birmingham and its Lincoln branch.
Travelodge CVA proposal ‘will result in a £23.4m rent reduction’: Secure Income REIT, Travelodge’s largest landlord, has said the budget hotel chain’s company voluntary arrangement (CVA) proposals will result in a £23.4m rent reduction. This is the equivalent to a total of ten months’ rent spread for two years across Secure’s entire 123 hotel Travelodge portfolio. The landlord said the proposed rent reductions represent 68% of rents otherwise receivable from Travelodge from 1 April to 31 December and 26% throughout 2021. Rents will be restored thereafter to the levels set out in the existing leases. The Travelodge CVA has no proposed hotel closures or permanent rent reductions that persist beyond 31 December 2021. The proposals also state leases relating to £23.5m of the current passing rent on the hotels will be extended by three years and £1.5m of the current passing rent by five years. Travelodge has been locked in a battle with its landlords since the end of March when it refused to pay rent for the second quarter of the year. All but a handful of its 564 hotels have remained closed during the lock-down. Travelodge is owned by investment firms including Goldman Sachs, Avenue Capital and GoldenTree and has £100m in cash reserves. Its shareholders have pledged to inject up to £40m in new equity into the business and raise £100m in new debt as part of a turnaround plan.
Oowee Vegan opens debut London site: Oowee Vegan, which started as a virtual brand of burger joint Oowee Diner in a Deliveroo Editions site, has opened its first bricks and mortar site in London. The company, which operates two sites in Bristol, has opened in Stoke Newington Road for delivery only through Deliveroo. The concept, which was first tested at the Deliveroo Editions Kitchen in Canary Wharf, was previously awarded both the Deliveroo Vegan Restaurant of The Year award, as well as the overall Restaurant of the Year. The business plans to open further Deliveroo Editions sites and another site in the capital within the next year.
Ravinder Bhogal to launch virtual vegetarian restaurant concept: Food writer and chef Ravinder Bhogal is launching a virtual vegetarian restaurant concept. Bhogal and partner Nadeem Lalani are launching Comfort & Joy on Thursday,11 June, which will be a sister brand to the Jikoni restaurant in London’s Marylebone. Comfort & Joy will offer vegetarian meals for delivery within a five-mile radius of Fitzrovia. There will be six meal boxes that are available to order on a biweekly rotation. Each can be either ordered ready to eat, or ready to heat. The food containers will be 100% compostable and for every box ordered a meal will be donated to west London-based charity Nishkam SWAT’s homeless project. Bhogal said: “We wanted to lead the way with a well thought out, sustainable, vegetarian home delivery brand.”
German Doner Kebab secures Nottingham site: German Doner Kebab, the flagship brand of Hero Brands, has secured a site in Nottingham. The company is moving into the former Spar unit in Upper Parliament Street in a deal brokered by FHP Property. The 2,400 square foot site is now set to be transformed into a restaurant. Oliver Marshall, of FHP Property, who acted on behalf of the private landlord, said: “While Spar still had a lease in place it had closed the premises and on behalf of the landlord we took a proactive approach to take the property back and secure new tenants.” German Doner Kebab, which launched in Berlin in 1989, operates about 40 sites in the UK.
Emilia’s Crafted Pasta reopens sites for takeaway and delivery: London-based Italian restaurant Emilia’s Crafted Pasta has reopened both of its restaurants for click-and-collect, takeaway and delivery. The company, which was founded by Andrew Macleod, operates sites in Aldgate and St Katharine Docks. The company is working with Deliveroo, but has also launched an in-house service with a larger, more customised, delivery radius. The company said: “This was launched to keep as many of our team in work as possible (and off furlough) and deliveries are made using eco-friendly green electric tricycles.”
The Genuine Dining Co reopens Feng Sushi sites, launches office delivery offer:Catering company The Genuine Dining Co has reopened its three-strong Feng Sushi business. Launched on Wednesday (3 June), Feng Sushi now offers delivery through UberEats and Deliveroo, and collection from its West Hampstead, Fulham and Notting Hill Gate sites. Genuine acquired the then eight-strong London-based Japanese sushi restaurant and delivery company in April 2017. Meanwhile, Genuine has launched a new food delivery service for businesses that have employees returning to work but don’t have in-house catering facilities. Available daily, the service offers a range of locally produced food, made with locally sourced products. All produce comes from local suppliers and is made within Genuine’s central London kitchen.
Golden Union to reopen Soho site for delivery and collection: Soho-based fish and chips concept Golden Union is to reopen on 16 June for delivery and click-and-collect. To coincide with its reopening, the Poland Street-based site will launch a new buttie menu that will sit alongside its traditional offering of beer-battered fish ‘n’ chips, pies, sides and saveloys. Delivery will be through Deliveroo and click-and-collect through Orderswift.
Former Chiltern Firehouse head chef brings seventh-floor Stratford restaurant down to the ground: Former Chiltern Firehouse head chef Patrick Powell has brought back his Allegra restaurant in Stratford, east London, with a difference. With the restaurant on the seven floor of the Manhattan Loft Gardens skyscraper closed, Powell has come back down to the ground to team up with The Stratford restaurant in the same building. Powell is in charge of the pizza oven on the terrace where he serves Roman-style pizzas. There are also weekly-changing ice-cream sandwiches as well as an outdoor bakery, deli and greengrocer. There are also seasonal British vegetable boxes, finish-at-home pasta kits and a daily offering of Allegra’s summer wine, reports Hot Dinners.
Petersham Nurseries launches takeaway picnic service: Petersham Nurseries has responded to the recent government relaxation of lock-down restrictions by launching a takeaway picnic service. Available from its Café and Teahouse site in Richmond-upon-Thames, each picnic box is suitable for two people and includes a large bottle of water. Each box is made to order, and includes options such as faro and fresh pesto salad with roasted Datterini tomatoes and salted ricotta, and Haye Farm sausage roll with rhubarb chutney.
Fever-Tree expects gradual on-trade sales growth: Fever-Tree has said it expects on-trade sales to gradually resume depending on how lock-downs are lifted in different countries. The company, which had £128m in the bank at the end of December, is continuing to invest in its growth, especially in marketing. The off-trade channel rose 24% in the UK in the first month of lock-down and almost doubled in the US during April and May. However, both markets were hit by a slump in the on-trade channel, which accounts for 50% of UK revenue and 70% of US sales. Chairman Bill Ronald said: “While the on-trade remains fully or partially closed across many of our regions, the group’s performance across the off-trade continues to be very encouraging. Management remain focused on delivering our long-term strategy and we are confident the group will be well placed once the current period of uncertainty ends.”