Pandemic pushes St Austell to £10m first-half loss, profitable since lock-down easing at lower level: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has reported a “positive” improvement to trading since reopening and a return to profitability – but the first lockdown saw the business lose in the region of £10m in the first half of 2020. The company, which operates circa 180 pubs, inns and hotels, is also in the process of completing a review of the business, which will “inevitably result in some people leaving the business”. Speaking prior to news about the second national lockdown, chief executive Kevin Georgel said: “During the first few months of 2020, our pub estate had delivered like-for-like sales performance ahead of the market and beer sales had also started the year well, once again showing growth on last year. Although we continued to produce and sell our own beer at record levels to supermarkets and through our online shop, the closure of all our pubs on 20 March saw our turnover fall to approximately 10% of expected levels, in the period up to the end of June. Although most of our teams were placed on furlough, which helped to offset some of our costs, we incurred a significant loss in the region of £10m in the first half of 2020. With the help of the temporary cut in VAT and the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, I am pleased to report we have returned to profitability, albeit at lower levels than in previous years. The coronavirus pandemic has been a major challenge for the business and our initial priority was to preserve cash and ensure the survival of the company. I believe the decisive actions we took have achieved this objective. We are now focused on implementing our plans to ensure that we recover strongly, rebuild our profitability and return to our longer-term strategy. However, the markets in which we operate continue to evolve rapidly and customer expectations are ever increasing. We need to ensure we are responding positively to these challenges by building a business that is ambitious, progressive and profitable. We are committed to setting out a clear, fresh direction that ensures we are as efficient and effective as we can be and well placed to realise opportunities as and when they present themselves.” St Austell reported turnover increased 5.6% to a record £189.6m for the year ending 28 December 2019, compared with £179.6m the previous year. Like-for-like sales in its 33-strong managed estate were up 3.3%, driven by a 4.7% rise in drink sales and 4.3% increase in accommodation sales. Like-for-like food revenue was up 1.7%. Overall, total revenue in the managed estate rose 3.9%. The 145-strong tenanted estate saw like-for-like net income growth of 2.9% with Ebitda per pub up 1.4%. Underlying group Ebitda rose 2.5% to £19.6m, compared with £19.2m the year before. Group operating profit before other items remained in line with last year at £13m. Pre-tax profit before other items was down 0.9% to £11.5m from £11.6m the previous year. During the year, the company invested £15.3m in capital expenditure, compared with £13.5m the year before. In February, St Austell added the Royal Castle Hotel in Dartmouth and the Royal Seven Stars in Totnes to its managed business.
Center Parcs secures £139m from parent company to strengthen balance sheet: Center Parcs, which offers 4,300 units of accommodation across five sites in the UK, has secured £139m from its parent company Brookfield to strengthen its balance sheet with a further £21m available, if required. Brookfield has also indicated that additional funding could be made available should the need arise and Center Parcs has a £90m committed liquidity facility that remains undrawn. Center Parcs revealed it incurred residual operating costs of £11m from the period of closure on 20 March to the end of its financial year on 23 April 2020. In the subsequent period to 13 July 2020, when the villages remained closed, costs averaged between £6m and £7m every four weeks. The group stated: “Current trading patterns indicate there remains strong demand for the group’s breaks through the third and fourth quarters of our financial year ending 22 April 2021, with bookings for quarter four significantly ahead of the same time last year as at 15 July 2020. While at this stage it is too early to know the full impact of the pandemic on the financial year ending 22 April 2021, the result and financial position of the company is likely to be significantly impacted by the temporary suspension of operations and the consequent refund of customer deposits.” Center Parcs provided the update as it reported turnover was down to £443.7m for the year ending 23 April 2020, compared with £480.2m the year before. Pre-tax profit before underlying items stood at £45.2m, compared with £84.2m the year before. The occupancy rate for the period was 88% against 97.1% the previous year. Adjusted Ebitda was £200m, compared with £236.6m the year before. The company reported its earnings per lodge per night sold was £194.91 against £191.74 the previous year. During the period, the group incurred exceptional/non-underlying administrative costs of £2.2m.
TRG launches dessert-focused delivery brand: The Restaurant Group (TRG), the Andy Hornby-led company, has added to its virtual delivery brand portfolio, with the launch of the dessert-focused Puddo, Propel has learned. Available out of the group’s Frankie & Benny’s sites and through Deliveroo and UberEats, Puddo features waffles, doughnuts, cookie dough, cakes, ice creams and cheesecakes. Last month, Propel revealed the Wagamama operator had added a further virtual delivery brand to its portfolio called Bao Now. The new pan-Asian concept, which offers “steamed buns and range of tasty fillings”, was launched through the company’s concession’s restaurant and bar site 1751 at the Hilton Hotel near More London. Speaking to Propel last month, TRG chief executive Andy Hornby said he believed there was more in the delivery and takeaway market for the company’s leisure division to go after, especially with Frankie & Benny’s.
McDonald’s to remain open during lockdown, launches 30% off sale: McDonald’s UK and Ireland chief executive Paul Pomroy said its drive-thrus, takeaway and McDelivery via Uber Eats and Just Eat will remain open during the lockdown from Thursday (5 November). During the first lockdown period, McDonald’s shut all its services until 4 July. Pomroy said: “Following the first lockdown, together with our franchisees, we made significant changes to our restaurant operations and kitchens to enhance our health and safety procedures to help keep our customers and our employees safe.” Measures include fewer people working on each shift, additional screens in kitchens and service areas and a reduced menu with some restaurants running reduced hours. Pomroy added: “I am incredibly proud of how our restaurant teams have continued to adapt to the new ways of working and I am also grateful for your understanding as we have all got to grips with a new normal. Once again, as we all adjust, I would ask you to be patient with our teams. We remain committed to enabling our people to come to work safely while we continue to serve the communities in which we operate. In some restaurants, our operating hours and services may vary. As always, we will keep you updated via the My McDonald’s App and our website.” Meanwhile, McDonald’s has started a 30% off sale across its entire menu, which will last for two weeks. The offer began on Monday (2 November) and is due to end on Sunday, 15 November. The offer is available to anyone ordering food through the company’s My McDonald’s app. To take advantage of the offer, customers have to tap on the “deals” section then place an order at a participating restaurant with the discount automatically applied. The offer can be used as often as wanted but will not work in conjunction with other offers or promotions. Users also need to be aged over 16, and have downloaded, registered, and signed-in via the My McDonald’s app.
Camino saved after sale to co-founders: Spanish tapas restaurant and bar group Camino has secured a rescue deal after working with accountancy firm RSM to sell the business to its co-founders. Camino Trading Limited – a newly incorporated company run by co-founders Nigel Foster and Richard Bigg – has agreed to acquire the business and assets from the administrators of Camino Leisure Holdings and Camino Restaurants (the group’s operating entity) following an accelerated sales process. The move to explore its options, as revealed by Propel last month, means the group will be able to continue operating its four restaurants and two bars while saving 77 jobs. After closing all sites in March, the lifting of restrictions enabled a complete reopening in July and August but the shift to home working drastically reduced footfall across central London locations and demand from office workers, the group’s key consumer group. The directors reduced the cost base and drew on the government support measures available but trade was further hampered by the 10pm curfew. The continued uncertainty and a lack of effective sector support led to the need for the directors to seek a restructuring solution. After exploring other alternatives, restructuring advisers RSM launched an accelerated sales process that received interest, however, it resulted in only one offer being made for the business and assets. Managing director Bigg said: “Despite covid-19, our amazing team has made an outstanding effort to continue bringing our vibrant Spanish flavours to the UK. I’m hugely grateful for the team’s commitment and resilience and with the future support of our key stakeholders including our valued suppliers and landlords, we look forward to successfully continuing the Camino story.” RSM joint administrator Damian Webb added: “Despite the commendable support provided by the government, the pandemic and associated lockdown measures have presented significant challenges to the casual dining industry. While trading remains difficult, this deal has secured 77 jobs and will allow the Camino brand to stabilise and grow when market conditions improve.”
Stonegate sells pints for 95p: Stonegate Pub Company has announced a three-day sale of all cask ale beer, with pints for just 95p across its managed estate. The snap sale follows the government’s announcement at the weekend all pubs must close during the national lockdown. Stonegate managing director Helen Charlesworth said: “Once again, the hospitality industry is being told to bear the financial brunt of further regulations in the government’s response to covid-19. Given the short notice, this 95p pint sale is to ensure minimal wastage of product across our estate. Cask ale only has a shelf life of a few days once its tapped and spiled, and in March the British Beer and Pub Association estimated that over 70 million pints of beer were poured down the drain. We also would prefer our customers to enjoy the beer – responsibly, of course – rather than pouring it away. Just like in March, our pubs will continue to be at the centre of their communities during this lockdown and we look forward to reopening as soon as possible and enjoying the Christmas festivities together.
Former JD Wetherspoon retail director joins Windsor & Eton Brewery to lead pub estate growth: Miles Slade has joined the board of Windsor & Eton Brewery and will lead its plan to grow its pub estate. Slade spent 20 years in various operational roles at JD Wetherspoon and sat on the management board of the company from 2012 as retail director. The brewery, which holds a Royal Warrant as brewer to Her Majesty The Queen, operates four pubs and plans to add to that number. Slade will direct this, including opening a new enlarged covid-secure brewery taproom and kitchen in early 2021. The company said this would further enhance its visitor experience and also release space adjacent to production to install on-site packaging facilities. Slade said: “I am delighted to be joining such a prestigious business that I have always admired. Windsor & Eton is a terrific business with a wonderful heritage – I look forward to helping grow the business and becoming part of the team.” Founder Will Calvert added: “I’ve known and respected Miles for many years and always hoped there might be an opportunity to work with him as a partner in the brewery. Entering a second lockdown, it’s obviously a challenging year commercially but we’ll weather the storm to emerge with a renewed sense of purpose and a simple post-covid strategy – of great beer and great pubs for a greater good.”
Everards cancels £3m rents for its licensees: Leicestershire-based brewer and retailer Everards has cancelled £3m of rents for its licensees. Everards managing director Stephen Gould said the business had also credited pubs for beer that they could not sell during the upcoming lockdown. The announcement came as the 170-year-old family business geared up to open a new brewery headquarters opposite Fosse Park shopping centre, near junction 21 of the M1, which will be complete by March 2021 – just seven weeks behind schedule. Gould added Everards still wants to build a 50 to 80-room hotel on the 70-acre Everards Meadow site, which backs onto the River Soar. He also revealed the business would like to further develop the land, possibly working with a local university or health care provider, according to Business Live. Gould said: “The pub estate itself has been tremendously resilient. We have 168 business owners who have been so resourceful over the past few months and they are aware that, with our support, that can continue in the coming months. Right now we have just two vacancies, which is remarkable after seven months of lockdown. Trading levels are volatile and significantly behind last year, but you would expect that with a 10pm curfew and social distancing. A combination of a vaccine and anti-viral drugs will eventually ease that. There have been significant measures taken though. Probably the main thing is since the end of March we have cancelled £3m in rent, and I know our business owners have been hugely appreciative of what the business and the Everards family have done. Over the past eight or so months that probably equals more than 50% of our normal rent roll. We cancelled our rents completely in April and May, and we’ve cancelled many in October and November. With all the cask and keg beer our business owners could not sell, we have dealt with that whole process and credited that back.”
Oowee Vegan to open sixth site: Bristol-based Oowee Vegan will open its sixth site in Brixton village market on Wednesday (4 November). The brand, which offers an entirely plant-based menu including Beyond Meat burgers, vegan fried chicken and sriracha “shrimp”-loaded fries, is quickly increasing its presence in London after the opening its Dalston store earlier this year. Founder Charlie Watson said: “Oowee Vegan is performing really well in all its locations right now and, after the great response we’ve had in east London, we are excited to bring our menu of burgers, dirty fries and sides, south of the river. We love the atmosphere in Brixton village and feel it’s a perfect home for our next London store. We have plans to open more stores in 2021 both in London and major cities across the UK and are actively looking at new locations all the time.”
Chinese hot pot operator Xiong Qi Hot Pot to make London debut: Chinese hot pot operator Xiong Qi Hot Pot is to open its first site in London – in Leicester Square – Propel has learned. Xiong Qi (pronounced “Shong Chee”), which already has a site in Essex Street in Birmingham, has taken on the former Ali Ocakbasi site in Irving Street. The company has agreed a new lease on the premises, which occupies 2,300 square foot over ground floor and basement with outdoor seating. Louie Gazdar of Davis Coffer Lyons, which advised the landlord, said: “Despite the ongoing pandemic and its effect to central London, operators are still keen to gain a foothold in the capital knowing that a favourable deal can be agreed and that the area will eventually become a busy and thriving food and beverage destination once again. Xiong Qi has successfully traded in Birmingham for a number of years and we are pleased to have secured its first site in London.’’ Fay Khan of Next Property Commercial advised Xiong Qi. International Turkish restaurant brand Ali Ocakbasi opened what was its first UK site in 2018. It also operates two restaurants in Istanbul and one in Amsterdam.
Gousto receives £25m investment: Recipe box subscription service Gousto has received £25m of investment. BGF has announced the closure of its fifth funding round in Gousto with the latest investment made in partnership with existing investor Perwyn. It has led to a valuation in excess of $1bn for the business, which has now become only the fourth UK company in 2020 to achieve “tech unicorn” status following on from Synk and fellow consumer-facing businesses Gymshark and Cazoo. The new funds will add additional growth capital to Gousto’s own positive cash flow and is in-line with the business’ strategy of at least tripling capacity by 2022. During this period, there are plans to open three new customer fulfilment centres and create more than 1,000 jobs. The company’s second fulfilment centre in Lincolnshire is scheduled to go live before the end of 2020 and the development of centres three and four are being brought forward to meet the strong ongoing customer demand. Gousto has been profitable since the fourth quarter of 2019 and expects to generate a significant profit in 2020. BGF executive chairman Stephen Welton said: “We’ve worked with Gousto since 2015, delivering multiple rounds of funding over the past five years. We’re thrilled to have supported a business that has grown from an early stage venture to a market-leading scale-up in the highly dynamic meal-kit industry. This latest investment round is reflective of our belief in the sheer size of the market opportunity as well as the management team’s exceptional ability to deliver on its plans and to navigate the complex challenges and opportunities of 2020.” Gousto founder and chief executive Timo Boldt added: “Our obsession with technology enabled us to scale our operations at speed in the first half of the year to meet an unprecedented and rapid increase in demand, with monthly meal deliveries doubling from 2.5 million in January to five million in June. The latest £25m fund-raise will enable Gousto to scale further and faster, triple capacity to serve more families during these difficult times, ensure the safety of our teams and create jobs across the entire business.”
Paul Davies takes reins of Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company as merger completes: Former Carlsberg vice-president of craft and speciality Paul Davies has returned to the UK to take the reins of Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company (CMBC). Davies has been named as chief executive of the £780m joint venture, which has now completed, after working as managing director at Carlsberg Poland. Outgoing Carlsberg UK managing director Tomasz Blawat has returned to his native Poland to pursue other interests but will oversee the integration until the end of the year. Meanwhile, Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay has been appointed as non-executive chairman of CMBC. Davies said: “This is a significant moment for us as we create a new, better beer company, with a sustainable future in UK brewing. We have a rare opportunity to create a unique beer business that combines more than 300 years of brewing heritage and an unrivalled portfolio of brands, each with authenticity and provenance. I am delighted to lead Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company with the support of a new, experienced management team. We would like to thank Tomasz for leading the transaction process over the past 12 months, and we wish him well in his future endeavours back in Poland. Today is the start of our journey towards CMBC becoming the UK’s best beer platform.” Findlay added: “We believe combining our unrivalled brand portfolios with outstanding service will create a stronger business.” Under the terms of the transaction, CMBC will have access to Marston’s pub estate for its beer portfolio, enshrined through a strategic, long-term supply and distribution agreement. The new management team under Davies includes Richard Westwood, previously Marston’s managing director, who becomes chief operating officer, Integration; Adam Stubbs is chief financial officer; and departmental vice-presidents are Sarah Perry, Ramesh Kataria, Chris Pratt, Simon Barnes, Carl Middleton, John Clements, Greg Morris and Bruce Ray.
Shake Shack expands delivery only kitchens with Reading site: Shake Shack is to open its latest delivery-only kitchen, in Reading, on Thursday (5 November). The American burger brand’s offering includes the signature ShackBurger, crinkle-cut fries and classic drinks. The site will operate daily from noon to 10.45pm with customers placing orders directly through Deliveroo. Shake Shack launched its debut Deliveroo Editions site, in Battersea, in May, followed by further London sites in Swiss Cottage and Bermondsey. It also operates a delivery-only site in Brighton.
Starbucks to close another 200 stores: Starbucks is set to shut 100 stores in the US and a further 100 in Canada after the coffee chain posted revenue losses of $1.2bn in the fourth quarter to 27 September. Yet chief executive Kevin Johnson was keen to stress last week the company is recovering “faster than expected”. The company reported a 9% drop in same-store sales both for US stores and globally for the fourth quarter, driven by a 23% decrease in comparable transactions but partially offset by a 17% increase in average ticket prices. Johnson said: “I am very pleased with our strong finish to fiscal 2020, underpinned by a faster-than-expected recovery in our two lead growth markets, the US and China.” The loss of 200 stores is in addition to the 400 closures announced in June. Starbucks chief financial officer and vice-president Patrick Grismer confirmed the company lost approximately $1.2bn in revenue due to the pandemic but that the company is recovering faster than expected. In comparison, five months ago, the company’s same-store sales were down 65%. The company opened 480 net new stores in the fourth quarter, yielding 4% year-over-year unit growth, ending the period with 32,660 stores globally, of which 51% and 49% were company-operated and licensed, respectively.
Usain Bolt’s London restaurant permanently closes: Jamaican bar, restaurant and late lounge concept Tracks & Records, which is backed by Olympic multi-gold medallist and world record holder Usain Bolt, has closed its only site in the UK. The concept was launched in London’s Middlesex Street in October 2018. Split across two floors, the space featured a mix of “bold flavours” alongside sports memorabilia and a soundtrack of reggae and dub courtesy of live DJ sets. The menu included jerk chicken and pork, and fried fish and bammy (Jamaican cassava flatbread), while the rum bar offered more than 150 varieties, 100 of them Jamaican. A spokesperson for AMR Corp, the athlete’s joint venture partner in the business, said: “Unfortunately, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, it is no longer viable to continue to operate Tracks & Records with new trade restrictions in place. We have had some great times here on Middlesex Street and cannot thank enough our customers and those who have supported us over the past two years.” Property agent Davis Coffer Lyons has been appointed to find a new operator for the space by Liverpool Street Station.