Papa John’s investigates alleged Eat Out To Help Out fraud by franchisee: Papa John’s is investigating allegations taxpayer cash was fraudulently claimed during the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Franchisee Raheel Choudhary claimed more than £250,000 in non-existent meals during the scheme, the Daily Mail has alleged. Choudhary has denied all the allegations. Papa John’s said it was investigating the allegations “thoroughly”. A spokesman told the BBC: “All of Papa John’s UK stores are run by franchisees and we made it very clear to all franchisees we felt it unlikely they would be eligible to participate in Eat Out To Help Out.” The Mail said it conducted its investigation with the help of several whistleblowers who worked for Choudhary’s stores. The Mail claimed Choudhary instructed staff to process thousands of fake meals under the scheme across 57 of the 61 branches he owns, resulting in hundreds of thousands of pounds being wrongly claimed. It added Choudhary had instructed his staff to record payments made by “phantom covers” as voucher payments. A representative for Choudhary disputed the value of the claims made under the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, stating it was £185,015 and not the alleged £250,000. Choudhary said: “Of my 61 franchises, 40 have seating capacity, and we implemented the Eat Out To Help Out Scheme in all of those 40 stores from Monday to Wednesday throughout August. All customers who benefited from the scheme ate in store and we are confident we were fully compliant with the criteria set by the government.” Franchisees are bound by agreements that require them to follow all guidelines issued by Papa John’s GB, as well as abiding by and meeting ethical standards and regulatory obligations. It is also understood the digital tills software, which is frequently remotely updated by the head office, has never included an Eat Out To Help Out scheme voucher button.
Greene King extends rent concessions for tied tenants until Christmas: Brewer and retailer Greene King has announced its tied pub tenants will receive at least a 40% rent reduction up until Christmas, with sites closed under government measures receiving a 90% discount. It brings its estimated financial support for its 975 tied tenants to more than £25m since the covid-19 pandemic closed the UK’s pubs. The new support announced by Greene King Pub Partners is backdated to 27 September and is tiered as follows – from 27 September to 24 October, tied partners will receive a rent credit of 50%; from 25 October to 21 November tied partners will receive a rent credit of 45%; and from 22 November to 26 December tied partners will receive a rent credit of 40%. An existing discount on barrels purchased from Greene King will now run until 27 March 2021, with tied tenants receiving a trade credit of £35 per barrel. Additionally, any pubs that have to close under a government lock-down will receive a 90% rent discount while they are closed, for up to four weeks. This includes all sites in Scotland, which are prohibited from selling alcohol indoors for the next fortnight. If pubs are still closed after four weeks, this will be reviewed and balanced against any additional financial support announced by the government. Once this next wave of support is coming to an end, there will be a review of whether additional support is required into 2021. Greene King Pub Partners managing director Wayne Shurvinton said: “Even pubs in areas with lesser restrictions are seeing their trade greatly impacted by the 10pm curfew and the worry is this will only worsen throughout the winter. This additional rent support for our tenants shows our commitment to supporting UK pubs as we all try to weather this storm together.” Meanwhile, Greene King’s commitment to promoting social mobility across its 38,000 employees has been recognised at the UK Social Mobility Awards, with the company handed the Leadership of the Year prize.
Douglas Jack – clearance of joint brewery venture will increase Marston’s net asset value and push down debt: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has argued Marston’s will see an increase in its net asset value and push its debt down after the Competition and Markets Authority approved the joint brewing venture with Carlsberg. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on Marston’s shares with a target price of 95p, Jack said: “The brewery transaction – resulting in Marston’s owning 40% of the joint venture – is taking place at a multiple of 13 times EV/Ebitda, and at circa £380m above book value. Without any associated tax liabilities, this brings a £239m reduction in net debt (less any fees) and a 60p increase in net asset value per share. Net debt/Ebitda should fall by one times, to circa five times under normal trading conditions, in comparison to which 89% of the pub estate is freehold. Marston’s will update on FY20 trading on 21 October. In our view, its estate is positioned to outperform the sector. We estimate sector like-for-like sales are down 16% since 4 July, with pub restaurants at minus 7% and wet-led pubs (excluding bars) at minus 18%, with food-led sites benefiting more from the VAT cut. Marston’s estate has a high orientation to community locations and only a little exposure to central London. The estate is well balanced (circa 65% of managed sites are food-led, and a similar share of non-managed are wet-led), but the key to its outperformance is its location and ability to adapt. Marston’s should, therefore, have traded profitably since 4 July, resulting in the company paying down debt, in addition to the windfall expected at the end of this month (from the brewery deal). Over the long term, we expect this debt reduction to transfer into equity value. Our 95p per share target price equates to nine times 2022E EV/Ebitda versus a ten-year historic average of 9.7 times.”
Drayton Manor owed more than £20m before £15m sale: The company behind Staffordshire theme park Drayton Manor owed more than £20m to creditors before it fell into administration and was then acquired for £15m, new documents have revealed. Mike Denny and Peter Dickens, of PwC, were appointed as joint administrators in August and the business was subsequently sold to Looping Group, which owns 15 parks in Europe, including West Midlands Safari Park and Pleasurewood Hills in the UK. The transaction includes all of the business and assets of the group, with 599 employees transferring across to the new business. According to the administrators’ progress report, secured creditor NatWest was owed £18.7m, which the administrators said would only be 71% to 75% repaid. Lombard NC, which was also owed £400,000, is expected to make a recovery. Unsecured creditors were owed more than £2.4m. Drayton Manor had been operated by the Bryan family since it was established in 1950.
Vue appoints advisers as it looks to shore up balance sheet: Cinema operator Vue has appointed Deloitte to work on options to shore up its balance sheet. Vue, which is run by Tim Richards, operates about 90 cinemas in the UK, employing roughly 9,000 staff in 10 countries across Europe. Its debts were refinanced in June last year, and none of its borrowings are due to be repaid until 2025, reports Sky News. Vue had been in the process of exploring its options, including a sale, prior to the pandemic, but this has now been put on hold. It is majority-owned by two Canadian funds – the Alberta Investment Management Corporation and Omers, an Ontario-based pension fund manager.
Tim Hortons plans to open a site in ‘every major city and town’ in UK as sales soar: Canadian café and bake shop Tim Hortons has said it wants to open an outlet in “every major city and town” in the UK as it announced a 37% leap in year-on-year sales in the UK and Ireland. As reported, the business has announced plans to open a drive-thru in Milton Keynes as it moves south in England. Tim Hortons UK & Ireland chief commercial officer Kevin Hydes said: “Despite challenging times for the sector, our drive-thru and flagship locations have delivered exceptional performance and our model is proving to be well attuned to the evolving needs of customers at this time.” The business believes if it reaches its full potential, more than 2,000 jobs will be created by 2022. Tim Hortons is owned by fast food giant Restaurant Brands International (RBI), which also owns Burger King and Popeye’s Chicken. Collectively, the company has more than 27,000 restaurants across the world, which it operates through a franchise model. It has been pushing to expand, especially outside the US and Canada. RBI chief executive Jose CIl said: “We cannot predict exactly when the dust will settle, but we’re confident that we will be well positioned to capitalise on opportunities for growth as we emerge from the crisis and continue toward the 40,000-restaurant goal we talked about last year.” Sales at RBI dropped more than 20% in the three months to July during lock-down. At Tim Hortons, which has more than 4,900 locations globally, sales fell more than 30%. Tim Hortons opened its first site in the UK in 2017 and now has 23 locations.
Cineworld staff retained on zero-hours contracts ‘unable to claim redundancy’:Staff at Cineworld have claimed being retained on zero-hours contracts is preventing them from taking redundancy. The closure of Cineworld sites means there are no shifts available yet mothballing employees means they can’t take possible redundancy payouts, reports The Guardian. One employee said: “People want the option to take redundancy but that doesn’t seem to be what the company wants to do. It feels like they’re holding us hostage.” In an email to its zero-hours contractors, Cineworld chief executive Mooky Greidinger said he hoped its theatres, which closed temporarily on Thursday (8 October), would be shut for the short term only and the company would be “able to offer you new shifts again”. One cinema manager said: “Cineworld plans to keep them on, which means they don’t have to give them any holiday or redundancy pay,” explained one cinema manager. Most of Cineworld’s 5,500 staff working at its 127 UK sites are on zero-hours contracts.
The Italians bistro and wine bar targets November opening: The team behind Chiswick pizzeria and deli, The Italians, is gearing up for an opening in Marylebone in November. This version will be a bistro and wine bar in Devonshire Street, reports Hot Dinners. An all-Italian wine list leads the way with fresh focaccia baked in-store daily. Customers can expect more Italian specialities including cheeses and cured meats. Early signs suggest some products will be available to take away, including the seasonally changing wine.
Ollie Dabbous finds permanent home for Hideaway cafe: Michelin-starred chef Ollie Dabbous will open a permanent location for his Hideaway concept in November. Hideaway, a cafe that was born from his restaurant Hide, has enjoyed residencies at Burlington Arcade and Chelsea Barracks but will now settle on Mount Street in Mayfair. The site, which was previously occupied by Mount Street Deli, will be open all day serving coffees and pastries in the morning, and dishes such as oysters and champagne, lobster rolls and salads later in the day, thanks to current Hide sous chef Andrew Alu. Wines will be from Hide’s partner at Hedonism Wines and customers can also pick up jams, chutneys and pickles to take away.
Home comforts delivery service to launch from Snackbar in Dalston: Snackbar, the Dalston-based cafe founded by Freddie Janssen and Anais Van Manen, will launch a lunchtime delivery service targeting those working at home. The service begins on Wednesday (14 October), and is a reworked version of the delivery service used during lock-down. According to Hot Dinners, Snackbar at Home will offer items such as The Snacky Meal: a SnackMuffin filled with house-made pork sausage, a fried egg and American cheese with a dill pickle hash brown and freshly made lemonade; a baguette loaded with coronation chicken salad and pickles with poppadoms; and Vegan Sloppy Joe: a sesame bun with pickled shiitake mushrooms and freshly made mushroom crisps on the side. Bread will come from Spence Bakery in Stoke Newington and cheese from Neal’s Yard plus ice cream sandwiches from Happy Endings. Cocktails will use Empirical Spirits and Snackbar will also deliver its own soft drinks and wines. Snackbar at Home will operate Wednesday to Sunday between noon and 3pm and will deliver within a two-mile radius of its east London base. The business unveiled its 30-cover cafe in August 2019 after raising £20,000 funding on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Snackbar first set up shop in 2016 and has held residencies at Borough Market, The Laughing Heart and Legs.
Burger giants team up to launch Patty Shack DIY kit: Patty & Bun and Shake Shack have teamed up to launch a DIY at-home burger kit. The better burger brands both have make-at-home offers already but have joined forces to make the Patty Shack DIY kit. The boxed delivery contains Patty & Bun’s signature beef blend in four Shake Shack “Smashed” style patties; Shake Shack’s classic potato buns, Patty & Bun’s pickled cucumbers; American cheese; and Shake Shack’s caramelised onions, smoked cheddar mayo, ketchup and American yellow mustard, reports Hot Dinners. Patty & Bun’s Joe Grossman said that Shake Shack was “one of my original points of inspiration” and that collaborating with the Danny Meyer-led brand “to create something very, very special that highlights and reflects the style and flavours of both brands is super exciting”. The Patty Shack is available from Monday (12 October) for two weeks only.