Gunewardena – use this time to rethink your business: D&D London chairman and chief executive Des Gunewardena has said the covid-19 lockdown is a one-off opportunity for operators to rethink their businesses. Speaking as part of Propel’s “navigating the coronavirus” series, Gunewardena said: “It is an old saying but never waste a good crisis. This is your one-off opportunity to look at every one of your restaurants – use this time to really rethink your business. In our business we have got 43 restaurants, some are successful and some are not so successful, so now we have this time to rethink and change all those things that didn’t work, which during normal times might have been a bit of an evolution and taken some time. If there are restaurants where the existing concept cannot pay the rent, look to get that reduced or say to the landlord you will have to take the lease back.” Gunewardena said the company was trying to create “our post-covid ideal restaurant” and the detail in whether people had to stay two metres or one-metre apart would be crucial. At two metres Gunewardena said capacity would be down to as much as 35% to 40%, which “is very hard to make the numbers work even if you don’t pay any rent”, whereas at one metre, it would by a more manageable capacity reduction to 60% or 70%. He added: “We are not from the school who say it won’t be worth opening until social distancing is over. The economy can’t afford for people to take that view, and we can’t keep people unemployed financially and mentally until a vaccine appears. We are very pragmatic and we will figure out how to open, even with the two-metre rule.” Gunewardena also said the sector should look at what is happing in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, where plans have been set out to turn the city into a vast open-air cafe by giving over much of its public space to hard-hit bar and restaurant owners so they can put their tables outdoors and still observe physical distancing rules.
McDonald’s moving out of ‘crisis’ phase as it prepares to reopen US dine-in areas: McDonald’s has said it is moving out of the “crisis” phase of the coronavirus pandemic as it starts to reopen dine-in areas in its US restaurants. US vice-president of communications David Tovar told Business Insider the company was now thinking about its recovery phase, though the virus may once again “rear its ugly head” as some areas face outbreaks and experts warn of a potential second wave. McDonald’s is setting national minimum standards on measures such as social distancing and other safety procedures. If franchisees meet these standards and local regulations allow, they can decided if it is safe to reopen dine-in areas. Changes in these locations include new seating layouts, making sure staff have sufficient masks and gloves, and closing self-serve drink stations. But the company is continuing to push its drive-thru business first and foremost. “The sort of mantra we’ve been using internally is that we’re going to move slowly and judiciously, because we certainly don’t want to move too fast and then put either our employees or any customers at any additional risk,” Tovar said.
Restaurant Brands International boss – ‘never been a better time to embrace a business model that serves tens of millions of people a day with speed and limited contact’: José Cil, chief executive of Restaurant Brands International, has said there has “never been a better time to embrace a business model that serves tens of millions of people a day with speed and limited contact”. It comes as the company, parent to the Burger King, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Tim Hortons brands, enhances operational procedures as it reopens more than 1,000 dine-in areas in North America. The three brands have also expanded digital capabilities, including adding hundreds of sites into delivery apps, improving the drive-thru experience, introducing mobile order and pay and offering kerbside pick-up. To create the new operations guidelines, Cil said 30 of the company’s most senior restaurant leaders from around the world have participated in daily morning calls for the past two months. In an open letter, Cil said: “We benefit from a business model inside our restaurants that has minimal contact with anyone other than your friends and family who you are sitting with. The operational changes were designed to establish confidence in the dine-in experience. I believe we have the right balance between implementing essential procedures for the here and now. We have fully embraced the notion that parts of our restaurants need to change – certainly, for the foreseeable future and possibly forever.” Self-serve drinks machines have been turned off and extra condiments and trays are being provided from the behind the front counter. Tables and chairs are being cleaned after each use and hand sanitiser is being made available in dining areas.
The Chesterford Group considers mixed trading model for new Eastbourne site:The Chesterford Group (TCG), which operates 40 sites under brands including Churchill’s and Bankers Fish & Chips, has secured a site in Eastbourne, which is said it may consider for a “mixed-brand, quick service, click-and-collect, delivery model”, complete with its new virtual brand Chicken Punk, Propel has learned. The company has completed on a 1,800 square foot unit at the Langney Centre following on from the shopping centre’s redevelopment earlier this year and will join Coca-Cola owned Costa Coffee and Home Bargains. TCG chief executive James Lipscombe said it had been negotiating on the unit for more than two years. He added: “As we now get used to a new normal, we are considering the most profitable business format to operate in the unit. We already have one virtual kitchen brand, Serial Griller, running in a number of stores that has proved very successful and we have been working over the past couple of weeks on our new virtual kitchen brand: Chicken Punk – which brings the best wings, chicken burgers, tenders and boneless chicken to our customer’s homes. We are considering our options to ensure the new unit is as profitable as possible and that may well be through a light-kitchen, mixed-brand, quick service, click-and-collect, delivery model using Serial Griller, Churchill’s fish and chips, and Chicken Punk to offer customers even greater choice. We are in no rush to open the site, we are going to take our time to get the model right.”
The Sea, The Sea set to expedite expansion plans with retail revenue now outgrowing deficit from suspension of dine-in trade: Alex Hunter, founder of Chelsea fishmonger and seafood bar The Sea, The Sea, has said its retail revenue has now outgrown the deficit from the suspension of dine-in trade, which previously accounted for 65% of the company’s revenue. Hunter said as a result the company had attracted “a new audience” and was set to expedite its growth plans off the back of the pandemic. As well as daily fresh wet fish and shellfish, The Sea, The Sea also sells a range of “ready to eat” and “oven ready” dishes inspired by its seafood bar evening menus from executive chef Leo Carreira, with the offer set to grow further. Hunter said: “Prior to covid-19 we were known as a seafood bar with an auxiliary fishmonger but the pandemic has brought our retail offering to the forefront. We’ve got a new audience that is enjoying our produce at home.” Hunter said the home menu and own-brand product range were a prelude to growth plans that will take shape later this year. He added: “These plans were actually in place before covid-19 hit but the pandemic and the changes it has brought to the way we eat have made it even more current, so we’re expediting our growth to fulfil demand.” Hunter, who also co-owns Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack in Fitzrovia and is set to open Claro with Carreira in Soho, said one permanent effect of covid-19 will be an increase in cooking at home as customers have access to better local and seasonal produce and a wealth of recipes and demos online. He added: “The aftermath of this crisis will give us the opportunity to rethink the supply chain, challenge rents and business rates and find better ways to manage the staffing shortage in the sector. We must use this to find ways to operate more efficiently, create a better working environment for staff and a better dining experience for guests.”
Moto to reopen 27 Burger King sites for takeaway as it brings catering brands back into operation: Moto, the UK’s largest motorway service area operator, is to reopen 27 of its Burger King restaurants for takeaway only. Eight sites will open on Thursday (14 May), initially just for HGV drivers, to give Moto an opportunity to ensure safe working practices for restaurant teams and customers. A further 17 restaurants are planned to open to all customers on Thursday, 21 May. Moto chief executive Ken McMeikan said: “This is another significant step forward to reopening our catering brands and we look forward to opening more in the coming weeks.”
M&S to open 49 cafes for takeaway hot drinks: Marks & Spencer is reopening 49 of its cafes for takeaway hot drinks only from Thursday (14 May). The stores that will open their cafes which may be branded Marketplace or Coffee to Go, are located next to Foodhalls. It follows a trial at five of the locations, including High Street Kensington Coffee to Go and Maybrook Canterbury. The M&S cafes will reopen with strict safety measures in place, including Perspex screens at tills, extensive hygiene rules and clear signage to help customers social distance. One colleague only will also work behind counters and contactless payment is encouraged.
Cosmo reopens Derby site for delivery and takeaway: Buffet concept Cosmo, which closed its entire 18-strong estate in March, has reopened its site in Derby for delivery and takeaway. The company said it had devised a safe collection scheme that included two metre-markings on the steps outside and minimal contact with customers and delivery drivers, and is offering three set menus. A spokesman told The Derby Telegraph: “We have simplified the menu, but our customers can order a selection of our most popular dishes. This is a first for the group and we hope customers are as excited as we are.”
Luckin Coffee fires CEO and COO amid fraud allegations: Chinese coffee company Luckin Coffee has fired its chief executive Jenny Zhiya Qian and chief operating officer Jian Liu in the midst of a fraud investigation against the company and has removed them from the executive board. Jinyi Guo, a director to the board and a senior vice president of the company, has been appointed acting chief executive. The board also announced the appointment of senior vice-president Wenbao Cao and vice-president Gang Wu as board directors to replace the ousted executives. Luckin also stated six other employees “who were involved in or had the knowledge of the fabricated transactions” have been placed on suspension or leave. Luckin, which competes with Starbucks and is listed on the Nasdaq, previously said its investigation had found fabricated sales from the second quarter of last year to the fourth quarter amounted to about 2.2bn yuan (£250m). That equates to about 40% of its estimated annual sales.
Las Iguanas and Open House London provide meals for front line workers: Las Iguanas, part of Casual Dining Group, has joined the Feed Our Frontline campaign and will be providing 1,800 hot meals a week for NHS workers at the Birmingham Heartlands and Queen Elizabeth hospitals. The initiative, which will operate out of the company’s Temple Street branch in Birmingham, will see meals delivered three days a week and incorporate a range of its dishes. Feed Our Frontline, which is spearheaded by natural fast food brand Leon, brings together a coalition of well-known restaurants and food providers to provide free meals for front line NHS workers. Meanwhile, Open House London, the group behind The Lighterman and Percy & Founders, has so far donated more than 7,700 meals to local NHS hospitals in partnership with Hospitality for Heroes. The team is currently making 2,700 meals per week from The Lighterman kitchen in King’s Cross. And Millie’s Cookies has donated almost 100,000 cookies to NHS workers in London and the south east thanks to a partnership between transport hub foodservice specialist SSP UK, Delice de France, Electrolux Professional and London-based events caterer Food Show.
Coal Exchange hotel becomes latest Signature Living site to fall into administration: Administrators have been appointed to the Coal Exchange hotel in Cardiff, the latest of aparthotel operator and developer Signature Living’s properties to do so. Kelly Burton and Lisa Hogg, of Wilson Field, have been appointed joint administrators and will be issuing proposals within eight weeks that will provide further details for creditors. The 200-bedroom Exchange hotel opened in 2017, following a £42m investment into the Welsh capital’s former Coal Exchange building. Administrators have already been appointed to five other parts of Signature Living’s business although its trading operations are unaffected.
Deliveroo works with restaurants to offer Iftar meals for Ramadan: Deliveroo is working with more than 200 restaurants across the UK to offer special Iftar bundles to Muslim households during Ramadan this year. Operators including German Doner Kebab and dessert parlour operator Creams are offering family dining bundles. All deliveries will be contact-free to ensure safety. Customers will be able to search for these bundles under the tag “Ramadan Bundles” and will be available in 42 towns and cities across the UK. Patty & Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossman, has also rolled out a new halal menu in time for Ramadan, available to order on Deliveroo from its sites in London Fields, London Bridge, Notting Hill and Brighton.