Ministers identify 22 June as re-opening date for pubs and restaurants serving customers outdoors: Ministers have identified 22 June as the date when they hope to reopen England’s pubs and restaurants serving customers outdoors, amid fears of mass job losses if the hospitality sector misses out on the lucrative summer season. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is among half a dozen ministers – calling themselves the “save summer six” – seeking to accelerate the reopening of the economy, according to the FT. The hospitality sector was not due to open until 4 July. Downing Street said no date had been set for the reopening of beer gardens, terraces and marquees, but three senior Whitehall officials said the target date was 22 June. The cabinet will discuss the plan on Tuesday. Business secretary Alok Sharma has been asked by the prime minister Boris Johnson to make the case for cutting Britain’s 2m social distancing rule to allow for more customers to be served in commercial premises. The business secretary spoke to his Danish counterpart on Sunday to discuss the operation of that country’s 1m rule. Robert Jenrick, housing and local government secretary, is reviewing planning rules to make it easier for pubs and bars to use outdoor areas. Cabinet office minister Michael Gove, transport secretary Grant Shapps, and culture secretary Oliver Dowden are also involved in the “save summer” project. Sunak is among those who would like to see a full reopening of pubs and restaurants before 4 July, with social distancing rules in place.

Company News:

Revolution Bars Group raises £15m, identifies trial sites for reopening: Revolution Bars Group, the operator of 74 bars trading under the Revolution and ‘Revolución de Cuba brands, has raised £15m to resume its refurbishment programme and “take advantage of opportunities that may arise in the near term”. A total of 75,017,495 new ordinary shares are to be issued at a price of 20p per share following the placing and open offer. Directors of the company subscribed to a total of 660,000 shares in the placing. Revolution Bars Group also plans to delist from the main stock market and move to AIM. Chief executive Rob Pitcher said: “The fund-raising will ensure Revolution Bars Group has a more appropriate capital structure as we emerge from this uncertain period and will allow the group to resume its successful refurbishment programme and take advantage of potential opportunities which may arise in the near term. We are now focused on reopening our bars, when safe to do so, to meet the pent-up demand from our young customer base and get back to creating fun and memorable experiences for our guests and our teams to return Revolution Bars Group to growth.” According to an email to staff seen by the Manchester Evening News, Revolution Bars Group is set to trial reopenings at its Revolución de Cuba outlets in Manchester and Derby and its eponymous sites in Bristol, Brighton, Huddersfield and Liverpool. The email reportedly said it would “help the group to test new procedures and policies put in place to operate safely in a covid-19 world”. The sites will have safety measures including screens, personal protective equipment for staff, hand sanitising stations, disposable menus and would be cashless. Although the email to staff suggests a July reopening could be on the cards, Revolution Bars Group has said its current “base scenario” is to reopen in August. Due to social distancing restrictions, its August sales are estimated to be about 55% of the same month in 2019.
McDonald’s to add delivery at 500 sites this week: McDonald’s is to add delivery back at more than 500 sites this week. UK chief executive Paul Pomroy said in a letter to customers: “We will switch McDelivery back on in more than 500 restaurants, with the help of our delivery partners UberEats and Just Eat. As with our drive-thru operations, it might take a little longer. We expect demand to once again be high and both of these factors might impact service times. But I know you’ll continue to show the patience we’ve seen and I thank you again for your understanding. We are working hard behind the scenes to open for longer and offer more services. I hope within a few weeks we will be able to start trialling breakfast service. Please continue to bear with us. Employee safety remains my top priority and we will only move forward with new services and menu items when we’re confident we can do so while still enabling a safe working environment. Adjusting to our new safety and well-being procedures is our top priority, but it isn’t easy, and I am particularly grateful to the patience and kindness you have shown our employees as we get used to the ‘new normal’ at McDonald’s. Smaller teams, limited menu, reduced hours, face coverings and Perspex screens have all impacted how we do our jobs – but these measures are there to help keep our teams and our franchisees’ teams safe.”
Leon appoints MD for Feed Britain service: Natural fast food brand Leon has appointed Laura Riches as the new managing director of its online delivery service Feed Britain, Propel has learned. Riches was previously at Naked Wines, where she was marketing director. The company, which has been offering the delivery service inside the M25, extended it to Brighton and Oxford last month. The service offers a range of boxes containing “essential grocery items as well as restaurant quality meals” while also giving a helping hand to the catering industry. The company said Feed Britain provides a route to market for suppliers whose revenues have been severely impacted by coronavirus. Up until this point the initiative came under the remit of Leon UK managing director Shereen Ritchie. However, Ritchie’s focus is believed to have moved to looking after reopening more parts of the brand’s core estate. Last week the company reopened a further five sites, to take its opened estate to 21. It also launched a menu with 15 new dishes, saying it was its “most affordable menu ever”, with no dish above £5.95. It also reduced its breakfast meal deal to £4.50.
Island Poké begins expansion into Europe: Island Poké, the White Rabbit Fund-backed concept, will begin its expansion into Europe this week, with the opening of its first site in Paris. The company, which announced plans to become the key consolidator in the European poké market earlier this year, opens a site in Rue Saint-Honoré in the 1st arrondissement of the French capital on Monday (8 June). It is also on-site for a second opening in France, in Montpelier. Under a new joint venture agreement, the company plans to open 42 sites in the next five years in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, with the majority of sites in France. The James Porter-led business plans to open 13 sites in the first year under the new agreement, ten in the second and 12 in the third. The company, which has yet to reopen any of its eight sites in London, launched a DIY home kit at the start of last month.
Columbo Group lines up Manchester opening: The Columbo Group, led by Steve Ball and Riz Shaik, has lined up the first regional opening for its The Blues Kitchen concept, in Manchester. Propel has learned the company has secured the former Walkabout site in Quay Street, in the Deansgate area of the city. Columbo Group, which was founded in 2006, currently operates three sites under the bar, restaurant and live music concept – in Camden, Brixton and Shoreditch. The company’s other London-based venues include the Jazz Café, XOYO, Phonox, The Old Queens Head and The Camden Assembly. Nick Garston, of the Found Agency, acted for Columbo Group on the Manchester deal.
Wagamama ‘not in a race’ to reopen rapidly: Emma Woods, chief executive of The Restaurant Group (TRG)-owned Wagamama, has said it is “not in a race” with its rivals to reopen restaurants rapidly, stressing diners will only be welcomed to dine in restaurants when it is “absolutely safe”. Woods said Wagamama was working towards July for the first reopenings but stressed its schedule will be dictated by “safety and feedback from staff and customers”. “It’s important to be clear that this is not a race,” she told PA. “Our priority has been safety throughout this process and that won’t change. Like our delivery operations, we’d expect to start a small trial and open in a phased way but don’t want to have false start by rushing. We hope all Wagamamas will be open in the next six or nine months but it is very early days.” She also said not all sites would be able to reopen under current two-metre social distancing guidelines, with a small number of restaurants “too small”. However, Woods said she was “encouraged” the government has started to talk about the possibility of one-metre distancing, in line with the World Health Organisation. Woods spoke as Wagamama launched a click-and-collect service and also plans to expand its delivery operations to 100 restaurants nationwide. Last month Wagamama announced plans to reopen 67 sites nationwide for delivery after shutting all its restaurants in March due to the lock-down. The company said click-and-collect was available at all the reopened sites and would expand to 18 more outlets on Thursday (11 June) and another 15 sites by the end of July. Customers are able to pre-order and select a collection time to avoid a queue at the restaurant by using the click-and-collect service. All of its the delivery and collection sites operate daily with reduced opening hours of 4pm to 9.30pm. On Sunday (7 June) Propel revealed TRG has begun negotiations with landlords regarding the future of its circa 290-strong leisure division, with a company voluntary arrangement believed to be one of a number of options being looked at. Wagamama, TRG’s airport concessions business and Brunning & Price are not affected by the discussions.
West Berkshire Brewery hits £750,000 target on Seedrs: West Berkshire Brewery, the David Bruce-chaired group, has fulfilled a £750,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to support its growth, including an “ambitious plan” for the Maverick Pubs portfolio. The company is offering 9.35% equity in return for the investment, giving the business a pre-money valuation of £7.27m. Propel understands the company had seen revenue increase to £6m-plus before the coronavirus pandemic hit, with revenue collapsing 85% by the end of March. However, it is understood the business has subsequently managed to recover, mainly through online beer sales and through packaging work from other bigger regional brewers. The company is now thought to be doing 65% of pre-coronavirus sales without any pubs being open, which accounted for most of its revenue, and without its own pubs and brewery bar.
Rare Restaurants reopens Gaucho in Richmond for delivery and click-and-collect, booking lines back for all sites: Rare Restaurants – the Investec and SC Lowy-backed parent company of Gaucho and M Restaurants – has reopened its Gaucho site in Richmond, south west London. It is the fourth Rare Restaurant outlet to reopen and is offering delivery through Deliveroo and UberEats as well as click-and-collect. As well as offering its classic menu, the site will be trialling “some new grab-and-go items as well soon”. Both Gaucho and M Restaurants have opened their booking lines with the company hoping to open in a month’s time, on 4 July. The group said it has been working hard to implement new safety measures and has introduced new reduced contact “mindful dining” service standards across all Gaucho and M Restaurants. Mindful Dining will see in-restaurant social distancing measures enforced, along with offering reduced contact. The company is also introducing “service distancing” for guests who would like a no contact service when visiting the restaurants. Additional measures include foot-powered hand sanitisers at the door, and temperature checks and face masks for staff, who will change into uniforms only once they arrive. Leather-bound menus will be replaced by disposable ones and salt and pepper shakers will be available in sachets on request. All restaurants will be reduced by 30% in capacity. Despite the changes, chief executive Martin Williams said he was confident people have missed the hospitality industry and restaurants would be busy, which Gaucho and M Restaurants are prepared for and able to accommodate.
Crieff Hydro announces redundancy risk for 241 employees: Scottish independent hospitality company Crieff Hydro has announced 241 jobs are at risk of redundancy from the start of August. The company is reportedly planning on cutting more than a quarter of its workforce across its seven hotels. Chief executive Stephen Leckie said a consultation was under way with his employees, and the final number of redundancies could change depending on further support for the hospitality industry and how the lock-down restrictions currently in place are eased. The company had taken steps in an attempt to reduce costs, and has been using the UK government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. But revenue lost during the closure of its hotels during the coronavirus outbreak is expected to amount to £17m in the current financial year. Leckie said: “For every month we’ve been closed with zero income, we’ve had to pay £500,000 just to keep our buildings safe and secure. This would have a profound effect on any business. When we closed at the end of March, it was one of the darkest days in our 150-year history and this is another. As a family-run business built on the strength of our people, discussing potential redundancies is the toughest step we’ve ever had to consider.”
Coqfighter launches burger concept: Chicken and beer concept Coqfighter has launched burger concept Goodburger. The concept has initially opened for delivery from the company’s new outlet in Brockley, south east London, but plans are in place for dine-in once lock-down restrictions are lifted. Known for their fried chicken outlets, founders Troy Sawyer, Deacon Rose and Tristan Clough have now expanded into beef at the premises in Coulgate Street. The menu includes a cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, green chilli burger, blue cheese burger as well as chicken salt fries. The site is also offering the traditional Coqfighter menu. Coqfighter operates a restaurant in Soho and has outlets at the Boxpark sites in Croydon and Shoreditch. Since the pandemic hit, Coqfighter has shut them all and is instead running deliveries from commercial kitchens in Finsbury Park, Hackney Wick and Shoreditch. Originally from Melbourne in Australia, Sawyer, Rose and Clough moved to London in 2013 and launched Coqfighter in 2015 as a pop-up in The Star By Hackney Downs. From there they moved on to pop-ups and residencies in pubs across London before opening their own sites.
Goodbody – Whitbread well placed to help wider hotel market recover after lock-down: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has argued Whitbread is well placed to help the wider hotel market recover after lock-down. He said: “Whitbread was arguably one of the few leisure stocks that looked healthy from a liquidity position as we moved through the coronavirus crisis. As such, it was somewhat surprising to see the group undertake a £1bn rights issue alongside its full-year results, though the equity raise is solving for leverage not liquidity. The rights will essentially ensure Whitbread will emerge from the current crisis in ‘the strongest possible position’ and will allow it to take advantage of the structural opportunities that it sees in UK and Germany. Overall, Premier Inn looks well placed to partake in the recovery relative to the wider hotel market.”
Six Shepherd Cox hotels put into administration after failing investors: Six hotels belonging to property company Shepherd Cox have been placed into administration after investors became concerned about their returns. Shepherd Cox operates a range of properties around the country. The six hotels – in Bicester, Chesterfield, Darlington, Hartlepool, Manchester and Sedgefield – called in administrators from Quantuma earlier this month. Each of the Shepherd Cox companies is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that owns a hotel and sold hotel rooms to investors with the promise of a guaranteed fixed return. The SPVs were unable to meet these guaranteed payments and were held by the High Court to all be insolvent. Law firm Crowell & Moring has been appointed to the case. Partner Paul Muscutt said: “The ruling of the Insolvency and Companies Court is the right result for the investors who can now begin to get answers in relation to the management and running of their investments. In the next phase, our team will be advising the administrators in investigating the affairs of the companies and the directors and realising assets to maximise returns to the creditors.”
Michelin-starred Fitzrovia restaurant Pied à Terre launches ‘vegan feast’ delivery service: Michelin-starred restaurant Pied à Terre in Fitzrovia, central London, has launched a “vegan feast” delivery service. Owner David Moore is currently offering the service on Saturdays only with delivery available within a five-mile radius of the Charlotte Street site. Orders have to made by 8pm on a Friday. Collection is also available from the restaurant. The menu includes mushroom spelt risotto and coconut rice pudding with mango puree.