Deliveroo pledges 500,000 free meals for NHS workers: Deliveroo has pledged to give 500,000 free meals to front-line NHS workers. The company has secured donations of 350,000 free meals from restaurants to date, led by Pizza Hut, which has pledged 300,000 meals using its network of 700 UK stores. Other meal donations include a substantial offer from healthy Asian food chain Itsu, while Pizza Hut has also donated funding to help cover the cost of deliveries. Deliveroo said it would initially focus on London and Manchester before expanding the service, with any excess funds donated to the NHS. Pizza Hut is also offering free deliveries to hospitals and 50% discounts to NHS staff, while Deliveroo is changing its app to enable customers to buy a meal for a doctor or a nurse. Deliveroo will also continue to deliver free food to the vulnerable during the crisis via London-based charities. Founder and chief executive Will Shu said: “Those in the NHS working night and day to save lives are the real heroes of this crisis and we want to do our bit to support them and the vulnerable who aren’t able to leave their homes. Thanks to our dedicated riders, the generosity of our restaurant partners and their teams, who are keeping kitchens open to serve those most in need, we hope to make a difference.” Pizza Hut UK general manager Neil Manhas added: “Pizza Hut is committed to doing what’s right during these difficult times and using our 700 Huts across the UK to make a difference.”
BrewDog founders to forgo all salary for 2020: James Watt has said he and fellow BrewDog founder Martin Dickie will forgo all their salary for 2020 to protect jobs at the company. Watt tweeted: “In order to protect as many jobs at BrewDog as we can, many of our senior team have volunteered to take pay cuts and myself and my co-founder Martin are forgoing all salary for 2020 – but we haven’t started sleeping in the brewery (yet)”. Last week Watt said the Scottish brewer and retailer had lost “70% of its revenue overnight” following the lock-down, while the business was adapting as it “fought to survive”. He said: “We are 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. 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.”
TRG denies planning emergency rights issue: The Restaurant Group (TRG) has played down reports during the weekend it had been planning an emergency rights issue but has refused to rule out exploring one in the future. Propel understands the company has yet to appoint an adviser in regards to overseeing a rights issue or mandated anyone to approach shareholders about one. The Sunday Telegraph reported the Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito operator had been forced to shelve a £500m debt restructuring as credit markets dried up and was trying to prop-up finances amid the lock-down. This included looking to raise funds via an emergency rights issue. In an update to the City earlier this month, the business stated: “Clearly the situation is evolving rapidly and there’s no certainty around the severity and duration of the impact on the business. The company is continuing to consider its funding options, both equity and debt, on an ongoing basis.”
 
St Austell reveals temporary staffing structure as it sees income drop 90%:Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has announced plans for a temporary staffing structure, protecting the employment and incomes of all 2,000 of its employees. Despite pub closures as part of the lock-down, which has reduced the company’s income by 90%, the company said it hadn’t made a single redundancy. With government support, the group has furloughed more than 75% of its staff across its pub estate, St Austell Brewery and Bath Ales’ Hare Brewery, which it acquired in 2016. All furloughed employees will continue to receive 80% of their normal pay, regardless of salary. Chief executive Kevin Georgel said: “To have the strongest opportunity to safeguard our business and employees for the long term, we’ve made the difficult decision to temporarily move a number of our team into a period of furlough. We’ll continue to keep this under regular review until normal trading resumes and we can all return to work safely.” With increased precautionary measures in place – St Austell Brewery and Bath Ales are continuing to brew for supermarkets, shops and off-licences nationwide as well as delivering to homes.
Douglas Jack – what Domino’s is achieving without full franchisee co-operation ‘shows how well system is still working’: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said what Domino’s Pizza Group is achieving without full franchisee co-operation “shows how well the system is still working”. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 350p, Jack said: “Domino’s has adapted its model rapidly to deal with the covid-19 pandemic. ‘Already high hygiene standards’ have been strengthened and the company has rolled out, and now moved entirely to, contact-free delivery. At company level there has been minimal disruption, with the supply chain working well. Although collection would typically account for circa 20% of sales, the growth in delivery has more than offset the lack of collection sales, with overall trading accelerating. This like-for-like sales growth has been driven by growth in items per order and a higher average price per item, partly due to the shift from collection to delivery (which has higher prices than collection). This is good for franchisee profitability, as is the fact they qualify for the 12-month business rates freeze. Reflecting the higher demand, the company is looking to recruit store colleagues and delivery drivers. Before the UK lock-down, trading in the UK and Ireland was in line with UK like-for-like sales (excluding splits) up more than 3%, driven by volume (order count). The discontinuing overseas territories have continued to underperform. Domino’s net debt was £232.6m as at 29 December 2019 versus £350m of committed facilities. Last year, its net debt/Ebitda was 2.3 times versus a 3.0 times covenant. With the suspension of the final dividend (worth £26m in total by our estimates) and our new assumption there will be no share buybacks, we now forecast net debt to fall by £45m to £187m this year, reducing net debt/Ebitda to 1.6 times. Other than a small upgrade to reflect lower interest costs, we are leaving forecasts unchanged, even though the company is withdrawing guidance. Although Domino’s has operated without full franchisee co-operation during the past two years, what is being achieved at present shows how well the system is still working. We believe focus on the successful UK and Ireland model, improving capital discipline and the recruitment of strong new management should bring a healthy re-rating.”
Castle Rock launches staff hardship fund, stands by suppliers: Nottingham-based brewery and pub group Castle Rock has launched a hardship fund to support its most vulnerable staff during the pandemic. Castle Rock said it also intends to pay all staff and suppliers in March and will be able to cover the 80% pay rate in April – even if the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme hasn’t been received by then. Earlier this month, Castle Rock managing director Colin Wilde cut his take home pay to match the minimum wage. He said: “There remains a lot of uncertainty ahead and we expect to have to make some difficult decisions. However, we’re doing what we said we’d do from the start, which is to look after the Castle Rock family as best we can, try to keep the economy going and support our suppliers and peers. Our bank, Santander, has been very supportive so we thank them for that. We’d like to thank our landlords for foregoing rent payments for three months and the people we have sold to who have been good enough to pay us.” Castle Rock owns more than 20 pubs in the East Midlands and Yorkshire.
JD Wetherspoon to settle supplier invoices: JD Wetherspoon has said it will settle supplier invoices that are due at the end of March. In an email sent to suppliers seen by Footprint, the pub chain said clarification from the government on its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme had “greatly helped our financial planning”. It added: “As a result, we will pay invoices due for payment on Monday, 30 March more or less on time. We’re still not sure about the position for March invoices. We will be working on this in the next few days and weeks.” Earlier this week it was reported Wetherspoon had emailed suppliers asking for a moratorium on payments until pubs reopened. In its latest email, the chain apologised for the “uncertainty the closure of our pubs has created”.
G1 Group retains all staff: Scotland’s largest managed pub, restaurant and hotel operator G1 Group has said it will retain all staff during the covid-19 crisis. In a letter to staff reassuring them of the company’s position, the group said: “Every one of our jobs is safe, including staff with less than two years’ service and those paid hourly. That means more than 1,500 jobs saved, including a 100-strong workforce at our head office. We have committed, with support from the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, to pay 80% of basic wages to every employee for three months, as laid out by the government. While the detail of the scheme is worked through in full, G1 has made arrangements with its banking partners to cover the costs of all its employees’ salaries to ensure no staff member is disadvantaged while waiting on the scheme to formally kick in. For any members of our teams where 80% of their standard salary was above the £2,500 cap, G1 will bear the costs of any required top-up in full, in every case. The safety and well-being of our staff and customers is our primary concern and, in line with government-issued guidelines, our entire estate has been closed. The exception to this is our chain of One O One Convenience stores, which remain open to serve our communities. We have therefore announced an immediate 10% pay rise to all our in-store staff and support teams as a token of thanks.”
 
Boxpark shutters sites including delivery services: Boxpark, the Roger Wade-led business, has completely closed its three sites including any delivery services. The company stated: “Our number-one priority has always been the well-being of our customers, staff and traders. With this in mind, we have made the difficult decision to completely shut our sites until further notice. This also means delivery will no longer be available. As covid-19 continues to spread we must carefully consider the health and safety of our traders and employees who have continued to work. We have a responsibility to look out for them and under the current circumstances we believe it’s no longer viable for them to continue coming to work. Boxpark is a pioneering social dining and retail destination underpinned by great people so we’re confident we’ll survive this. This is a temporary situation and we look forward to welcoming you all back through our doors soon.” Boxpark’s sites are in Croydon, Shoreditch and Wembley.
Chicken & Blues sells 500 NHS pay it forward meal vouchers in first 48 hours:Josh Simons, co-founder of Dorset-based Chicken & Blues, told Propel the company had sold 500 meal vouchers in the first 48 hours of its new “pay it forward” NHS voucher scheme. Customers can buy £5 meal vouchers on website Elite Living for meals the company will prepare and deliver to staff at Poole and Bournemouth hospitals. The move followed an earlier campaign, which saw the company offer half-price meals to NHS workers. Chicken & Blues owns three restaurants – in Boscombe, Winton and Poole.
 
Budweiser UK vows to donate £1m to British pubs through new scheme:Budweiser UK has vowed to donate at least £1m to British pubs after launching its Save Pub Life scheme to support the sector during the lock-down. Pub-goers are being encouraged to buy a gift card to spend at their local when it reopens. All funds will go directly to pubs and bars within two weeks to generate critical financial support during the closure. The scheme is open to all pubs in England, Wales and Scotland. Budweiser, part of the AB InBev brewing group, will match the value of the gift card up to a combined total of £1m. Budweiser Brewing Group will provide marketing materials and social media templates for venues that sign up to the Save Pub Life website. Paula Lindenberg, president of Budweiser Brewing Group, said: “We hope pubs and pub-goers throughout the country get involved to help secure the future of the industry.”
Former Bill’s chief financial officer joins Admiral Taverns: Nick Gray, formerly of Bill’s Restaurants and Fuller’s, has joined Admiral Taverns as chief financial officer, Propel has learned. Gray spent less than six months as chief financial officer at Richard Caring-backed Bill’s, leaving the business last month. Gray, a chartered accountant who trained at PwC, was previously with Fuller’s for four years as head of group finance and strategy until the £250m sale of the company’s brewing business to Asahi last year. He replaces Glenn Pearson at Admiral, who had been chief financial officer since summer 2007. Last week Chris Jowsey-led Admiral wrote to its tenants to tell them it had suspended rent payments until the end of April. The company wrote: “I want to reassure you Admiral Taverns is working hard to support you, your family and your business. Your rent is now cancelled, effective until Thursday, 30 April. We will keep this end date under review. Admiral Taverns is determined to support you through this period and we look forward to pubs reopening as soon as the virus is under control.”
Evans steps down as Tonkotsu managing director: Stephen Evans has stepped down as managing director of ramen restaurant group Tonkotsu, Propel has learned. It’s understood Evans stepped down from the 12-strong group last month to pursue other opportunities. The former Gourmet Burger Kitchen development director joined Tonkotsu as operations director in summer 2016 before becoming managing director towards the end of the year. In 2019, he oversaw a £5m investment from YFM Equity Partners to aid expansion. Tonkotsu, which was founded by Emma Reynolds and Ken Yamada, switched to a delivery and click and collect model at nine of its 12 sites last week before deciding to temporarily close them all until further notice.