Tortilla plans to reopen selected sites from next month: Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed fast-casual Mexican concept, has started planning for the reopening of some of its sites for delivery and takeaway only from next month, Propel has learned. The Richard Morris-led business shuttered its entire 42-strong estate on 23 March, but has started to engage with staff and suppliers about reopening up to 12 of its sites. KFC, Burger King and Pret A Manger recently reopened selected sites for delivery only and more operators are understood to be considering following their move. Morris told Propel: “We feel it’s time to get moving again, albeit in a few locations with strong delivery and take away trade. To reopen a hibernated business takes time and process, so this will get us moving as the lock-down hopefully softens over the coming months. Employees and customers will be the priority, so we will be maintaining social distancing in all restaurants.”
Liberation Group unveils tenant support package: Channel Islands and West Country-based brewer and retailer Liberation Group has unveiled a series of measures designed to support its tenants. The company said it would not collect any rent for the duration of pubs being closed for a maximum of six months. Meanwhile, 50% of headline rent will be cancelled while further measures will be available on an individual basis, which could include long-term deferral of the outstanding rent subject to conditions. Liberation Group said its support was in addition to that offered by the government, which the company was helping tenants access. Tenanted pubs managing director Christine Oxford said: “Our priority is to ensure our tenants not only survive this period of closure but they come through this in a strong position to continue to trade with us in the future. With this in mind we have agreed a significant package of support with the Liberation Group board.”
Pizza Pilgrims reopens Victoria site for delivery, expands meal kits offer: Pizza Pilgrims, founded by brothers Thom and James Elliot, has reopened its restaurant in London Victoria, for delivery only, as it also expands its meal kit initiative to now be available nationally. The business, which shuttered all sites last month, has reopened the Victoria site for Deliveroo orders. It will also be used to prepare its Frying Pan Meal Kits, which it originally trialled last month. The group has put in place a number of systems to make sure social distancing rules are adhered to and to make sure staff are safe. Those who are working have also been given a budget to get taxis to and from work, so they can avoid using public transport; 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 the site. The business has also expanded its Frying Pan Pizza Kit offer, which was available to order through Deliveroo from all of its restaurant sites, to now being available nationally. The kits provide enough dough, tomato sauce and toppings to make two pizzas at home.
Knead Pubs boss reports good support from Barclays, releases hotel rooms for NHS staff: Knead Pubs, the operator of six award-winning pubs and a hotel, mostly located in south Lincolnshire, has reported good support from Barclays. Founder Michael Thurlby said: “We felt we needed a £300,000 loan to see us over this period. I approached our relationship manager at Barclays, Mark Smith, and he obtained this for us in under a fortnight. We have always maintained a strong relationship with him, meeting regularly so he knows, understands and trusts our business. I think this is so important and sometimes overlooked especially when most want to criticise banks. On a separate note, we decided to release some of our rooms at The Crown Hotel to our local NHS. So far we have a young nurse staying with us because she can’t go home due to a member of her family having a very low immune system after treatment. She is from a Stamford family who we wanted to support throughout this difficult time. We also have an anesthetist who was social distancing from her family by sleeping in the study and the director of Peterborough City Hospital’s intensive care unit, who desperately needs to catch up on sleep after working such long hours. We did this by getting an email to the hospital’s ‘powers that be’, saying we would like to help as many NHS staff as we could at this hugely stressful and difficult time.”
Goodbody – Whitbread has access to almost £2bn to see it through ‘long period of distressed revenues’: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said Whitbread has access to almost £2bn to see it through a “long period of distressed revenues”. Whitbread has confirmed it is eligible for the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility, although it has yet to access funds. Ruddy said: “The group has a BBB/F2 Fitch rating. This should entitle it to issue paper of up to £600m. In addition the group has highlighted it has accessible cash reserves of £400m and access to £900m of its existing committed revolving credit facility. These balances were as of 16 April so presumably after quarterly rent was paid. Combined, this means Whitbread has access to almost £2bn of facilities that will see it through a long period of distressed revenues. The quality of its asset base and lowly geared balance sheet is a key positive as the sector navigates this difficult period.”
Hollywood Bowl raises £10.9m in share placing: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, has raised £10.9m in a share placing to help strengthen its finances. The company placed 7.5 million shares at 145p each, representing a premium of 1.4% to the closing share price of 143p on Thursday (16 April). It represents 5% of the firm’s issued capital. Major shareholder Aberdeen Standard Investments acquired in excess of 800,000 shares for £1.2m while executive team members subscribed for circa 63,000 shares between them. Chief executive Stephen Burns said: “The funds will further strengthen our balance sheet, which we believe will enable us to emerge from this period of significant disruption in a robust financial position.” At the end of March, Hollywood Bowl had cash of £15.6m and £30.3m of debt, drawn from its £35m facility. On 2 April, the company said its lenders agreed a £20m extension to its revolving credit facility resulting in the group having £11m undrawn under its facility as at 8 April.
Travelodge calls in restructuring experts: Travelodge has drafted in restructuring experts as Britain’s second-biggest hotel chain haemorrhages cash amid the forced closure of most of its sites, reports The Sunday Times. It added: “Lenders that own the chain of 570 hotels across the UK have hired the investment bank Moelis and the accounting giant Deloitte to thrash out deals with its landlords, which have been asked to grant rent-free periods. Travelodge has closed all its hotels, except 48 kept open for key workers and vulnerable people. The company failed to pay its quarterly rent bills last month, telling landlords its ‘comprehensive plan to stabilise the business’ included asking them to suspend payments.”
M and Gaucho restaurants to provide 1,000 meals per week for NHS staff: M and Gaucho restaurants have partnered with the Hildon Foundation and Deliveroo to deliver 1,000 meals per week to Guys, St Thomas and The Nightingale hospitals in London. A selection of prepared high-quality meals from the M and Gaucho menus will be provided at both lunchtime and dinner for front line workers. The 1,000 meals are designed by M culinary director Mike Reid, and will include some of both brands’ favourite dishes and be delivered to coincide with shift start and end times. All meals will be accompanied by a bottle of Hildon Water. M is also holding a fully complimentary “Appreciation Dinner” for 200 NHS front line doctors and nurses and their partners on 28 September at its Threadneedle Street site. Partners of NHS workers who have lost their lives during the pandemic will also be invited.
Signature Living puts Liverpool hotel into administration: Aparthotels developer and operator Signature Living has put the Shankly Hotel in Liverpool into administration. Matthew Ingram and Michael Lennon, of Duff & Phelps, have been appointed as joint administrators of the Signature Shankly, which is the firm holding the leasehold interest of the site. Ingram and Lennon said the rest of Signature Living, run by Lawrence Kenwright, was unaffected and they expected the hotel to open when the lock-down was lifted. Signature Living stated: “We have been left with no option but to place the property subsidiary of the hotel into administration. The impact of this pandemic on our business has forced us to make some immediate and difficult decisions. The operating company remains completely unaffected. It will be business as usual for the Shankly Hotel as we are fully committed to our staff, suppliers, future events and guests. We look forward to opening as soon as it’s safe to do so.”