Pret A Manger to close ‘5% to 10%’ of UK estate: Pret A Manger chief executive Pano Christou has said the company could close “5% to 10%” of its UK stores as it suffers amid the coronavirus crisis. Sales at its site in Paternoster Square, near St Paul’s Cathedral, are thought to be down 90%, while the cafe below its head office in Victoria had average daily sales of £1,000 last week compared with the usual £6,000. In Manchester and Liverpool trade was said to be 70% below normal levels and 60% down in Bristol. Pret expects sales to creep up to no more than 60% of normal levels in the coming months. The week before last it had sales of £2.7m, compared with £16.5m in normal times. Christou told The Sunday Times he was having “sleepless nights” about having to tell staff of impending job losses. “There’s no easy way round this,” he said. “It depends come September if the business recovers or not. Clearly we can’t keep people on what we would have if business was back at 100%. We could see 5% to 10% of our stores close in the UK.” Since May, the company has been working with professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal and property agent CWM to examine the best options to “adjust its business model in a new retail environment”. It’s thought up to 45 of Pret’s 434 UK stores are at risk. Last week the firm closed two stores, in Newcastle and Gateshead, deemed “no longer financially viable”. Last month, in a leaked video Christou told staff of the JAB Holdings-backed business an announcement regarding its job situation would be made on 8 July. As reported by Propel last week, Pret is trialling evening delivery from seven shops and a new hub kitchen in north west London. The evening menu will be available from 5pm and feature new salad bowls, hot items and Pret’s Heat Me At Home range.
Welcome Break to roll out click and collect: Welcome Break, one of the UK’s leading motorway service operators, has launched its first click-and-collect ordering and payment service. The offering is available at the Burger King site at South Mimms service station on the M25 and will lead to a wider roll-out across more brands and sites during the summer. The service allows customers to browse the menu and pre-order meals and drinks via the Welcome Break app before selecting their collection time and paying for their order. During pick-up, customers display the order number sent to their app to collect their meal. The company said the introduction of click and collect at South Mimms made Welcome Break the first motorway service company in the UK to offer this kind of digital ordering experience. It said the move would lead to a “better customer journey, increased convenience, and improved health and safety for customers and teams by reducing queues and making it easier to maintain social distancing”. Welcome Break chief information officer Kash Ghedia said: “Our number-one aim is to give our customers a safe place to stop while providing a best-in-class hospitality service. We want our customers to have a seamless, stress-free experience when they visit and, following a successful trial, we look forward to rolling this service out across all our sites over the summer.”
Leon starts reopening sites for dine-in: Natural fast food brand Leon has started a gradual reopening of its UK estate for dine-in. The John Vincent-led company began the reopening programme during the weekend at five of its sites – Bankside, Brunswick, Ludgate, Southwark Street and Spitalfields. The company said the seating areas at the sites see tables spaced two metres apart. The group said it would also introduce track and trace QR codes across its estate during the next few days.
Former Bill’s and Black Sheep Coffee HR director joins Qoot: Marco Reick, former HR director at Bill’s and Black Sheep Coffee, has joined Qoot Restaurant Group, which operates a number of fast-growing brands in London. Reick, who stepped down as HR director at Black Sheep Coffee earlier this year after almost a year and a half with the business, has been appointed Qoot’s director of people and talent. Reick has also been people director at Leon and HR director at Bill’s. Before that he spent more than six years as head of recruitment at The Restaurant Group. Qoot’s UK brands include By Chloe, Lebanese Bakery and The Gentleman Baristas.
Whitbread begins reopening pub estate: Whitbread, operator of the Brewers Fayre, Beefeater, and Bar + Block brands, has started the gradual reopening of its circa 400-strong pub estate. The company opened its Bar + Block in Whiteley, Fareham, on Saturday (4 July) as a trial site. It plans to open the rest of the brand’s 13 sites in five batches, starting on Tuesday, 28 July. The company reopened 14 Beefeater sites at the weekend and will reopen the rest of the brand’s circa 170 venues in seven batches up to Wednesday, 5 August. The company reopened six Brewers Fayres at the weekend and will reopen the rest of the circa 155 sites in seven batches up to 5 August.
Emeny urges 15% VAT cut to prevent thousands of sector job losses: Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny has urged the chancellor to temporarily lower VAT from 20% to 5% to prevent thousands of job losses in the hospitality industry. As the UK’s pubs start to reopen, Emeny said cutting the levy on goods and services would be vital to entice consumers back to their local and avoid wholesale redundancies. Fuller’s opened only 27 of its 215 own-managed inns on Saturday (4 July), the remainder should all be open by the end of next week. Emeny told the Mail: “If we’re going to bring all these employees back to work, we’re going to need the government to bring in stimulus. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has come under pressure to cut VAT in his emergency summer statement on Wednesday (8 July) in which he will lay out plans to kick-start the economy. Sunak is thought to have cooled on the idea of a VAT cut for hospitality but will study how England reacts to pubs reopening before making a final decision. If there’s evidence of pent-up demand, a VAT cut may be deemed unnecessary. On Friday (3 July), Fuller’s announced a second delay to its full-year results after auditor Grant Thornton said it required additional time. The auditor blamed “complexities surrounding covid-19 and related abnormal working arrangements”.
Nando’s to open ten UK sites for dine-in this week: Nando’s has announced it will open ten of its UK sites for dine-in on Wednesday (8 July), with new health and safety measures in place. The company posted on Facebook: “We are starting to open our doors for eat-in at ten Nando’s restaurants across England from 8 July. To make sure everything is as safe as possible when you visit, we’ve made a few changes to our service style. We’ve put a new queuing system in place. Instead of lining up outside the restaurant, all you need to do is scan the QR code you’ll see when you arrive and we’ll text you when your table is ready. Order and pay from your table. Simply scan the QR code using the camera on your phone and get ordering. You can still collect Chilli Points using your Nando’s Card (you can’t redeem Rewards just yet but we’re working on it). We’ve socially distanced our tables and will be operating at a reduced capacity. With social distancing taking place in our kitchens, we’ve got a limited menu right now. Most of the Nando’s meals you know and love are still there though! We’ll bring everything to your table, including sauces, cutlery and napkins. Just say the word. There will be sanitiser stations around the restaurant for you to use.” The ten sites opening on 8 July are Birmingham Bullring, Beckton, Bluewater Winter Garden, Bolton, Bromley St Mark’s Square, Leeds J27, Liverpool ONE, Manchester Trafford Centre, Park Royal in north west London, and Westfield London. The company has been operating delivery and click and collect from more than 200 sites in the UK out of its 422-strong UK estate since June.
Black and White Hospitality to exit covid crisis ‘at a sprint’: Nick Taplin, chairman and chief executive of Black and White Hospitality, which owns the franchise rights to eight Marco Pierre White concepts, has said the company is ready to exit the coronavirus crisis “at a sprint”. He said the company had been able to sign up two new venues during the lock-down, in Swansea and Salisbury, which would both open later this summer. He added that Black and White Hospitality also had a “steady pipeline of new enquiries”. Taplin said: “To say the past few months have been challenging would be an understatement but, because of our set-up and outstanding team, we’re ready to come out of this pandemic at a sprint. Even in the current lock-down situation we have been able to sign-up two new venues, in Swansea and Salisbury, which will open later in the summer. We also have a steady pipeline of new enquiries so our franchise model is clearly working.” Taplin and White founded the company in 2013 and it is approaching its 50th venue in the UK. Following the launch of Black and White International, the business has also opened two restaurants in Abu Dhabi with “more venues in the pipeline”, Taplin said. He added: “Fifty restaurants was always our target and we’ll now work harder than ever to secure more venues. It is incredible to have achieved all this from an office in north Somerset.” Meanwhile, the company scooped the franchise business of the year category in the Amazon Scale Up Business Awards.
Peach secures £1.5m financing facility to support business: Gastro-pub operator Peach has secured a £1.5m overdraft increase from HSBC UK. Peach, which has 19 sites across England, six of them offering boutique hotel accommodation, has used the package to support its staff and surrounding communities through charitable initiatives while its properties are closed. During the past two and a half months, Peach has embarked on its social enterprise initiative, Pub Hub, to support hospitality companies that donate meals to front-line NHS staff and vulnerable people. The food hubs at its pubs have helped to donate more than 8,000 meals to those in need. All pubs are now beginning to reopen in line with government guidance, operating through table service only. The HSBC support has allowed the company to invest in additional safety measures, including screens and temperature checks and masks for staff. The funding will also continue to cover lost income while the pubs are operating at reduced capacity. Hamish Stoddart, managing director and co-founder of Peach, said: “We finished a major £750,000 refurbishment of our newest pub location, The Boathouse at Boulters Lock (in Maidenhead in Berkshire), earlier this year, which opened for one day before the UK went into lock-down. This could have been a significant issue but HSBC UK still provided the finance within days, allowing us to pay all the builders and contractors on time. The funding has been instrumental in helping us survive the pandemic and I’m confident Peach will see a strong reopening.”
Parkdean hires record 1,500 new staff as bookings continue to boom: Holiday park operator Parkdean Resorts, which is led by former Casual Dining Group chief executive Steve Richards, has hired a record 1,500 staff to cope with consumer demand. The company said it had already experienced a surge in bookings for the peak summer months and expects to be at 100% capacity for July and August. It is forecasting record bookings for September and October. The new job roles are spread across the career spectrum, including accommodation, food and beverage, and security. The new recruits take the group’s total number of employees across the UK to almost 8,000 – a company high. Parkdean has also launched its biggest marketing campaign so far to coincide with the reopening of its 67 UK holiday parks and capitalise on the expected demand for staycation holidays this summer. The £4.5m campaign aims to put the excitement back into holidays with the message: “Ain’t no holiday like a Parkdean Holiday.” The campaign showcases family holiday scenes from the company’s parks across Britain. Earlier this year, Parkdean announced its largest ever investment in its estate, with £80m committed towards buildings, facilities, maintenance, health and safety, and environmental areas. The company is also testing a “parks of the future” initiative in four locations to create state-of-the-art amenities including accommodation, park facilities and children’s activity-based entertainment such as the Bear Grylls Survival Academy. Last month Parkdean agreed the terms of a refinancing with its private equity owners, Onex, and major debtholders. The new deal sees the company secure a £25m equity injection and an 18-month covenant waiver.
Parogon Pub Group secures £2m to meet immediate cash flow issue: Staffordshire-based Parogon Group has secured £2m of funding to meet immediate cash flow needs as it reopens its sites. The eight-strong group received the funding from Santander UK as part of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). The funds were provided to support the business as it furloughed all its staff but needed to continue to pay suppliers and meet contractual obligations. This support provided includes a CBILS loan, capital repayment holiday on an existing loan and a small overdraft. Parogon managing director Richard Colclough told the Express & Star: “The covid-19 crisis has brought the country to an economic standstill and along with that an immediate liquidity issue for Parogon, which was the biggest challenge our company has faced. With the help of our Santander relationship team we have managed to meet our payments on time and also set the business on the right footing to tackle the next challenging period of trade.” Parogon is a privately-owned, independent company that was founded in 2007 and is led by five local directors. The group comprises The Seven Stars, near Stafford; The Red House at Lilleshall; The Wayfarer in Stone; The Swan With Two Necks at Blackbrook in Staffordshire; The Orange Tree in Stoke-on-Trent; Blockhouse At The Sheet Anchor in Whitmore; and The Boars Head in Walgherton, near Nantwich. The company has also commenced work on its eighth site – The Broughton Arms, near Crewe.
Greene King gives tenanted pubs and free trade customers access to order and pay app: Brewer and retailer Greene King has partnered with order and pay app Round to benefit its 1,000 tenanted pubs and free trade customers. The partnership will give its leased and tenanted pubs access to an order and pay app for their customers and Greene King is also signposting its free trade customers to the app. Greene King’s partners and customers have been given the opportunity to register with Round, with pubs that sign-up to the app receiving a free Samsung tablet to process orders. Round will work with the venues to train and support staff, while the app also offers a customised menu. Greene King Pub Partners managing director Wayne Shurvinton said: “It is clear that a lot of customers will be expecting to be able to order via an app when they visit pubs now so I’m pleased we’ve been able to put a solution in place.” Greene King is set to reopen 1,294 of its managed pubs from Monday (6 July). A spokeswoman told The Mirror: “Not all our pubs will be viable to open immediately, even with the reduction in social distancing guidance to one metre alongside additional measures, but we expect to open 1,294, more than two-thirds of our managed estate, in phase one. We are working on the reopening date for the second phase and will confirm it as soon as we can. The safety of our team and customers is our top priority and we’re confident the measures we’re introducing will mean our pubs will operate safely for customers and team members.”
High Spirits Leisure Group adds eighth site: Cumbria-based High Spirits Leisure Group has added an eighth site to its portfolio. The company, owned by Alex Mauro and Colin Monk, has agreed a lease to take over The Fulling Mill in Ambleside. The four-storey building will feature dining on two floors and a bar downstairs. Following a refurbishment to put the group’s own stamp on the venue, Fulling Mill will open on Saturday (4 July). Mauro told The Business Desk: “We plan to bring the same approach we have across all our venues but with all the necessary public health restrictions for as long as they are needed.” High Spirits also operates The Flying Pig, Caffe Riva, and The Arts Bar & Grill in Bowness; The Yewdale Inn and Enzo’s in Coniston; The Flying Fleece in Ambleside and the Howbeck Retreat hotel in Windermere.
Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan delays London reopenings: Two Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan has decided to delay reopening his London restaurants Roganic in Marylebone and Aulis in Soho until later in the year. Staff at both venues will remain on furlough. However, Rogan has started the phased reopening of his Lake District venues. L’Enclume, Rogan & Co, and Aulis reopened on Saturday (4 July), while Henrock – which opened last year and overlooks the banks of Lake Windermere – will open on Thursday (9 July). Rogan has always maximised use of Cumbrian produce at his Lake District venues, especially from his own farm, while socially distanced dining has been implemented across the estate. Rogan & Co features chef Tom Barnes, who won the BBC’s Great British Menu in the spring. A Simon Rogan Restaurants spokesman told Harden’s: “Roganic and Aulis will remain closed for the time being with current plans being to resume trading later in the year.” Earlier this month the group launched delivery service Simon Rogan At Home, which offers veg boxes, baked goods, beer and three-course weekly-changing set menus. The company will soon launch Chefs At Home, which will see one of Rogan’s chefs cook personally for guests in their home or holiday cottage. Rogan is chef proprietor of eight restaurants and is also Bocuse d’Or UK president.
Kitchin Group to reopen three restaurants but Southside Scran stays shut for now: Kitchin Group, led by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin, is planning to reopen three of its sites – but one will remain closed for the foreseeable future. The first to reopen will be The Bonnie Badger in Gullane, East Lothian, which will welcome customers on Wednesday, 15 July. Edinburgh gastro-pub the Scran & Scallie will reopen the following day. Michelin-starred restaurant The Kitchin, which is also in Edinburgh, will be the final restaurant to reopen, on Tuesday, 28 July. Each restaurant will have safety guidelines in place to combat the spread of coronavirus. However, Kitchin Group’s Southside Scran venue will remain closed due to the pandemic but with hopes it will reopen next year. The Bruntsfield restaurant was the latest addition to Kitchin Group, launching in December 2018. In a statement on its website, Kitchin Group said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we are devastated it has come to this situation. The safety of our amazing guests, our loyal suppliers and our hard-working team remain our priority.” At the end of last month it was announced Castle Terrace in Edinburgh, the restaurant Kitchin opened with chef Dominic Jack ten years ago, wouldn’t reopen after the lock-down as it was “no longer financially viable”.
Jamie Oliver takes cookery school online: Jamie Oliver has launched a version of his cookery school online. A statement on Oliver’s website explained that because of the coronavirus outbreak, classes had moved online and the cookery school would offer “interactive sessions”. Classes will cover North Indian thali, Vietnamese street food, pasta master, Mexican street food, fragrant Thai green curry, South Indian curry, a flying visit to Spain, and Thai feast. Oliver said anyone around the world could join in the small classes to learn skills in the kitchen and promised his chef trainer cooks would give participants a “brilliant result at home”. Oliver’s bricks-and-mortar cookery school has been closed since 21 March but is scheduled to reopen in the future when “safe to do so”.
Alternative events venue The Depot to reopen Wales’ biggest beer garden as street food social space: Cardiff-based alternative events venue The Depot is to reopen its outdoor space on Monday, 13 July. The more than 15,000 square foot space, thought to be one of the biggest beer gardens in Wales, will host a series of “street food social” events that will feature up to eight independent street food traders, socially distanced seating and a fully licensed bar. Pork Society, Dirty Bird, Ffwrnes and Brother Thai are all scheduled to appear in the coming weeks, with more traders to be confirmed. Customers will have to book tables in advance and will be permitted to stay for a maximum of three hours per visit. Deep cleaning of the venue will take place after every three-hour sitting. Depot founder Nick Saunders said: “We’re excited to welcome people back and give some of our independent street food friends a chance to trade too. There will be clear social distancing measures in place that everyone will need to abide to but we’re confident we can host people in a safe, welcoming and hygienic environment.” Street Food Social will take place daily during the first week and then from Thursday to Sunday weekly.
Oxygen 56 acquires Surrey village pub: Oxygen 56, which operates a number of pubs in Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, has acquired a site in Surrey. The company has exchanged on The Castle in the village of Outwood. The deal was brokered by Nick Earee, of agent Fleurets. Oxygen 56 director James Collins said: “Given the current licensed sector turmoil we were advised by Fleurets’ agents to review any property that may not have exchanged with a view to an unconditional immediate exchange/completion. One of these was The Castle. We managed to exchange within a week in an environment where everybody was working from home, making the situation much more problematic.”
Lake District-based operators take on second site: Lake District-based operators Joshua Macauley and Chris Moss have acquired their second site. The pair own Ye Olde Fleece Inn in Kendal and have taken on The Duke Of Cumberland in the town. The pub in Appleby Road, which has been shut during lock-down, will reopen on Wednesday (8 July) featuring a main bar, snug, beer garden and large function room. Macauley said minor work would take place before opening including redecorating, new lighting and fixtures, and improvements to the beer garden. A planned second investment will include new toilets, refurbishment of the kitchen, and new signage. After acquiring Ye Olde Fleece Inn, Macauley and Moss carried out a renovation project costing almost £1m before reopening it in March 2019. Macauley told The Business Desk: “We are really excited to take on a second venue. We want to take on more sites in the South Lakes area if the demand is there.”
Fledgling leisure brand Bike & Boot Inns to open debut site this month, hopes it will be ‘first of many’: Fledgling leisure brand Bike & Boot Inns will open its debut site this month and hopes it will be the “first of many”. Former Devonshire Hotels & Restaurants managing director Simon Rhatigan and wine merchant and restaurateur Simon Kershaw will open the property in Scarborough on Monday, 20 July. The former Mount Hotel has been overhauled and rebranded into a new 65-bedroom property that was acquired in January last year. The new venue is aimed at walkers, cyclists, surfers and dog owners. The facilities will include secure bicycle storage, drying rooms (for surfers) and a dog washing room. As well as a bar and grill restaurant there will also be an in-house film club and private guest retreat. To protect the health and well-being of staff and guests during the coronavirus pandemic, Bike & Boot has implemented extra precautions. These include contactless check-in and payments, minimised contact, and increased hygiene measures. Kershaw told Insider Media: “It goes without saying this has been a trying time for every business so to be almost ready to open our hotel doors is absolutely fantastic. Hopefully, this is the first of many Bike & Boot hotels.”
Apex to monitor how major cities recover before deciding on its reopening plans: Apex Hotels will monitor how activity recovers in Edinburgh and London as lock-down restrictions are eased further to assess consumer demand as it begins a phased reopening of its sites. The Edinburgh-based group will reopen four of its ten properties across the UK to guests from Monday, 20 July – in time for “staycationers to make the most of the summer”. The Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa in Dundee, Apex Grassmarket Hotel in Edinburgh, Apex Temple Court Hotel in London and Apex City of Bath Hotel will open on 20 July. Chief executive Angela Vickers said: “We will continue to make use of flexible furlough to ensure we best accommodate the ebb and flow of business across the four hotels reopening later this month.” Asked about the other six properties – the Apex City of Glasgow, Apex City of Edinburgh, Apex Waterloo Place in Edinburgh, Apex Haymarket, Apex City of London and Apex London Wall – Vickers told Herald Scotland: “Our plans to bring back our remaining hotels in waves are in progress – but exact dates have yet to be confirmed. With a number of hotels in Edinburgh and London, much will depend on how those major cities recover as lock-down restrictions ease further.” Last month Apex, which employs about 1,100 staff at its hotels and head office, entered into a redundancy consultation with employees because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on trading. The company said it was too early to know exactly how many jobs could be lost.
Yorkshire-based startup craft brewer secures funding to launch pub and online shop: Yorkshire-based startup craft brewer Amity Brew Co has secured funding to launch a pub in a historic mill in Leeds and an online shop. The company has agreed a ten-year lease for space at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley following an injection of £50,000 from the Business Enterprise Fund. It also raised £25,000 from family and friends. The 2,500 square foot brewery and bar, due to open in the autumn, will be at Sunny Bank Mills’ Festoon Rooms and feature a paved beer garden overlooking the newly developed £2m Weavers Yard. Amity Brew co-founder and director Russ Clarke previously gained experience at Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, North Brewing Co and Beer Hawk. Clarke said: “We are inspired by the US model of a brewpub, making limited-batch beer on-site and getting it into the hands of the community fresh and fast.” John Gaunt, joint managing director of mill owners Edwin Woodhouse and Co, added: “Just as the mill was home to manufacturing some of the best cloth in the world, we can’t wait to see Amity Brew Co brewing and selling high-quality craft beer at Sunny Bank Mills.”
C&C Group strengthens relationship with Budweiser Brewing Group over Irish distribution: Drinks company C&C Group has strengthened its relationship with Budweiser Brewing Group, the UK arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev, which sees C&C Group assume exclusive distribution of Budweiser in Ireland. C&C now has exclusive distribution of Budweiser Brewing Group’s complete beer brand portfolio across Ireland, including Stella Artois, Beck’s, Corona, Leffe and Hoegaarden. Ireland will be the launch market for Budweiser’s new brand visual identity, which will include new packaging and a new “Cadillac” bottle with twist-off cap. The new brand identity will be rolled-out together with a range of investments in Irish pubs including new glassware and bar taps. C&C has been working with Budweiser Brewing Group since 2009 and has been responsible for brewing and distributing a selection of the brewer’s brands in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.