Pubs and restaurants show signs of recovery in May as they adapt businesses:Pubs and restaurants showed signs of recovery in May as more sectors adapted to social distancing restrictions to keep their doors open, according to the latest Barclaycard data. While eating and drinking saw an overall decline of 70.3% year-on-year, there was a smaller fall in spending than in April, when it was down 79.1%. This coincided with more restaurants, pubs and cafes being able to offer delivery and takeaway services. More than one in ten (14%) of Brits are now buying food and drink from a pub or restaurant, and 10% are purchasing takeaway coffee. Overall, consumer spending contracted 26.7% compared with the previous year. Consumers have remained loyal to local specialist food and drink outlets, such as greengrocers and independent convenience stores, with the category seeing growth of 42.5% – the highest increase since restrictions were introduced. Spending on essential items growing slightly by 0.9%, bolstered by a 24.5% rise in supermarket spend. The upsurge in supermarket expenditure helped to offset a 49.7% fall in fuel. Spending on non-essentials decreased 36.9% compared with the year before. However, this drop was less steep than April’s, which saw non-essential spend contract by 47.7%. Online purchases at specialist retailers – including sports and outdoor outlets – and general retailers rose 96.3% and 85.8% respectively as people bought items to help them exercise and keep fit while gyms remained closed. While consumer spending is increasing month-on-month across some categories, overall confidence in the UK economy remains low – indicating the road to recovery may be a long one, said Barclaycard. Just 20% of UK adults feel positive, though those aged 18 to 34 are noticeably more upbeat than those aged over 35. More than two thirds of Brits (67%) remain confident in their households, with 37% of those citing having enough savings to support them as a key reason for this positivity. Barclaycard director Esme Harwood said: “While the restrictions continue to have a significant impact there are glimmers of hope. There’s a positive shift for the cafes, pubs and restaurants beginning to open up again, as well as retailers.”

Heartstone Inns makes £4.6m from pub sales, including seven to Punch:
Heartstone Inns made £4.6m from the sale of eight of its pubs – including seven to Punch – earlier this year, Propel has learned. The Cricketers, The Diggers Rest, The King Alfred, The Owl, The Pelican, The Bathurst Arms and The Talbot – all located in the south west of England – were sold to Punch in January for an undisclosed sum. Meanwhile, the Hunters Inn in Hampshire was sold to a private buyer in March. The deals followed an internal review in mid-2019 where the company decided to focus on developing its core estate of eight larger food-led managed sites. Heartstone Inns said it was now working on its reopening plans. As well as making use of the government’s furlough scheme, all supplies and services have been suspended or renegotiated in order to limit expenditure during lock-down. The details were revealed as Heartstone Inns announced its results for the year ending 30 December 2019, which it described as a “difficult 12 months”. Sales during the full-year fell 3.4% to £10.7m, although the retained pubs saw like-for-likes increase 1.2% – the 11th successive year of growth. Pub Ebitda stood at £1.6m, representing a margin of 15.2%, compared with 16.7% the year before, with the reduction “largely attributable to the loss of consumer confidence caused by Brexit”. Net debt was £6.9m at December 2019, which represented 33% of property assets. However, taking into account the disposal proceeds, which were received after the financial year end, the adjusted net debt position is significantly reduced to 11%. Company Ebitda came in at £1.0m, representing a margin of 9% of revenues compared with 10% the year before. As a result of the sale of the pubs after the year end, a provision for impairment of £2.0m was recorded in the 2019 accounts to reflect the cash consideration received. The eight pubs retained by the company were independently valued in December 2019 at £21.0m. Over the course of 2019, the company kept a tight control on cash flow and only invested £300,000 in capital additions. However, since the year end it has completed a development project to add four guest bedrooms, a new restaurant and function room at the Cockhaven Arms in Devon and is currently adding ten guest bedrooms to the Blathwayt Arms near Bath. In addition it has a number of further developments at various stages of the planning process that it intends to progress over the next 12 to 36 months. The company benefits from a loan facility of up to £13.7m. Managing director James Birch said: “The company’s historically low gearing coupled with the sale of eight pubs in early 2020 has given the company the financial resources to get us through the enforced closure period and to withstand the reduced trade levels that will inevitably follow for a period of time. We are looking to continue developing our estate and to make selective acquisitions while, once we are able, recommencing dividend payments and providing liquidity for shareholders via our internal share trading scheme.”
Star Pubs & Bars extends rent reductions: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has extended its rent reductions for its leased and tenanted pubs. The company has already cancelled a significant proportion of rent for licensees. Since 20 March, two thirds of its core leased and tenanted pubs have received a rent concession of 50% to 75%, while a-third have received a concession of 75% or more. Star Pubs & Bars has confirmed licensees will continue to receive the same level of those individual rent reductions throughout July and August. The company said it means more than £21m will have been invested into the pub estate since lock-down in March, directly benefitting licensees’ businesses. Other measures of support already in place include a commitment to replace pubs with fresh stock when pub reopen and giving licensees access to payment and loyalty app Swifty, which enables consumers to order from their table. Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “We hope that the extension of the concessions offered can provide a degree of certainty to our pubs, as we all turn our collective focus on the complex task of reopening.”
Pret to reopen Veggie Pret estate for takeaway and delivery: Veggie Pret will launch delivery for the first time this week, in partnership with Deliveroo. Shops in London and Manchester will reopen on Thursday (11 June), after being closed throughout the coronavirus pandemic. All ten Veggie Pret shops will reopen for takeaway, with new safety and social distancing measures in place and a reduced menu of their vegan and vegetarian favourites. Seven of the ten shops, including the Manchester location, will offer delivery for the first time. Clare Clough, UK managing director of Pret A Manger, said: “We are excited to be reopening all ten of our Veggie Pret shops this week. We know many of our customers are working from home and missing their plant-based favourites, so partnering with Deliveroo means more customers can access our extensive veggie and vegan menu. I want to thank the amazing teams who are reopening our Veggie Pret shops – we couldn’t do it without your support.” This week also sees the further reopening of Pret shops around the country. On Monday (8 June) the company reopened several shops situated in railway stations, such as King’s Cross, Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds for takeaway. From Monday, 15 June, several of its shops located in shopping centres around the country will also begin to reopen.
PizzaExpress appoints new customer strategy director: PizzaExpress, the Hony Capital-backed group, has appointed Simon Clough as its new customer strategy director to help the business successfully navigate the post-covid-19 customer landscape, Propel has learned. Clough has been consulting with the company since February and has now joined the company on a permanent basis. He joins from Clear, M&C Saatchi’s strategy arm, where he was chief strategy officer and was the external lead for its brand repositioning work in 2018. PizzaExpress chief executive Zoe Bowley said: “Simon brings a wealth of experience and a critical customer lens to our brand, which is needed now more than ever. I am delighted he has joined PizzaExpress and will play an integral role in leading our FutureExpress strategy in the future.” Last month the company said while planning for the future it will undertake a comprehensive review of its business. It was responding to reports the business was mulling a company voluntary arrangement, which would allow it to shutter some or all of its loss-making branches. It was also reported the company was appealing to lenders for permission to delay its accounts and had instructed financial restructuring specialists to identify the names of bond investors owed £1.1bn. Last month the company began reopening a select number of sites for delivery only. It open 13 restaurants for delivery in “London villages”, including its sites in Balham, Fulham and Notting Hill.
Hall & Woodhouse confirms business partners’ rent cancellation period extended to cover pubs’ reopening phase: Dorset-based brewer and retailer Hall & Woodhouse has confirmed the rent cancellation and loan suspension period for its business partner estate will be extended to cover the pubs’ reopening phase. Publicans will now be exempt from paying rent for eight weeks after the government confirms pubs can reopen, and service charges will commence after the first four weeks. After the initial eight-week rent cancellation period, the subsequent five weeks’ rent will be charged at 50% of the normal levels. Loan repayments for fixtures and fittings will remain suspended and will recommence from October. Repayment of any existing trade or rent balances from prior to the lock-down will be suspended until March 2021. Head of business partnerships Chris Chapman said: “As pubs begin to enter the reopening phase, we acknowledge that our financial support must continue beyond the closure period. Our business partnerships are built on solid foundations and long-term commitment and it was the only option to support them through this.” Hall & Woodhouse originally suspended these payments in response to prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday, 16 March, where restrictions were placed upon pubs, restaurants, theatres, office environments and non-essential travel in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Ei Publican Partnerships to roll out contactless order and payment app across estate: Ei Publican Partnerships, the leased and tenanted business of Ei Group – now owned by Stonegate Pub Company – is support its publicans with a contactless order and payment app across the estate. Once pubs reopen, customers can download the Round app, search for their local Ei Publican Partnerships pub and order and pay for food and drink at the table straight from their phone. Each pub will have its own individual menus that customers will be able to choose from. The integration of Round into the estate comes as a response to the coronavirus crisis. Pubs will also be able to promote offers and incentives through the app, exclusive to their customers. Nick Light, managing director of Ei Publican Partnerships, said: “This is an exciting venture for us and one of several initiatives we have been working on to help support our publicans.”
Halal Guys places UK debut site on the market: US street food brand The Halal Guys has placed its debut UK site on the market, Propel understands. Restaurant operator ITICO F+B, which owns franchise rights for The Halal Guys in the UK, has appointed CDG Leisure to market the site near Leicester Square. The site opened last spring, with a second site in Earl’s Court following later the same year. ITICO F+B previously said it was targeting 20 Halal Guys sites across the UK within five years.
Wahlburgers permanently closes debut London site: Wahlburgers, the US burger chain run by chef Paul Wahlberg in partnership with his brothers Mark and Donnie, has permanently closed what was its debut European restaurant in London’s Covent Garden – little more than a year after it first opened. The company cited the financial impact of the ongoing coronavirus crisis as the reason behind the closure. Propel revealed in December the company had begun marketing the site at 8-9 James Street, with a premium of £2m thought to have been placed on it. It is thought the franchise company behind the UK launch has gone into administration leading to the permanent closure of the site. At the time of its opening last May, the business spoke of planning to open 15 restaurants in five years in London and the wider UK. Wahlburgers communications director Katie Piepiora said: “Wahlburgers Covent Garden is situated in a very busy shopping and entertainment hub that attracts many locals and tourists. Our franchisee had to make the difficult decision to close this location due to the financial impacts of the pandemic on the restaurant industry, as well as the uncertainly of consumer behaviour post pandemic in a location such as this.”
Staycity replaces breakfast buffets with takeaway food and drink as part of reopening protocols: Aparthotel operator Staycity is to replace breakfast buffets with takeaway food and drink as part of its “Stay with Confidence” reopening message, backed up by a comprehensive set of health and safety protocols. Operating under World Health Organisation and local authority guidelines, each apartment will be deep cleaned to prior to arrival – including all touchpoints – with loose items such as irons, hairdryers and remote controls marked with a “just sanitised” label. Throws and cushions will be removed and rooms will be sealed with a door sticker once they’ve been cleaned. No staff will enter the apartments after cleaning or during the guests’ stay, with anything required by the guest to be left outside the door. Public areas will be sanitised regularly with an electrostatic disinfection system and markings will be in place to indicate social distancing requirements. Protective screens have been erected at reception and disinfectant spray, disposable roll and hand sanitisers will be freely available. and seating areas will be closed off. Gyms will also remain shut. Guests will be encouraged to contact staff via email or phone, use card payments instead of cash and make use of the express checkout key box at the end of their stay. Each property team has an appointed “hygiene champion” to ensure rigorous implementation of all measures and checks. Staycity chief executive and co-founder Tom Walsh said: “The covid-19 crisis has been devastating to the global hospitality sector, but we are certain we will be able to return to some sort of normality in time. For now, as we reopen our properties and business and leisure travellers start to return, it’s important we can reassure guests their safety is our prime concern and that we’ve done everything we can to minimise risk.”
Nando’s reopens 61 more sites, offers free delivery: Nando’s is reopening 61 more sites for delivery and click-and-collect this week. From Monday (8 June), free delivery is also available across all its restaurants currently open for delivery, if the order is placed through Nando’s own website. The new openings take the group’s total of sites operating to 216 branches in the UK and Ireland.
Galvin brothers bring ‘at-home’ experience to London: Michelin-starred chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin are bringing their “at home” experience to London. Having launched a few weeks ago at its Essex pub and restaurant, Galvin Green Man, the service is being extended to the Michelin-starred restaurant Galvin La Chapelle in Spitalfields. Prepared by the Galvins, the three course menu changes weekly. Orders are taken between 9am on Sunday and midnight on Tuesday with customers able to collect their meal from the venue in Spital Square on Friday or Saturday from 11am to 5pm. Dishes require “very simple” finishing at home with video tutorials by Jeff Galvin. Chris Galvin said: “We trialled Galvin at Home at Galvin Green Man to great success and found many of our guests traveling from London so we wanted to make it available for pick-up in Spitalfields.”
OYO rolls out new operational procedures to prepare hotels for reopening: OYO Hotels & Homes is rolling out new operational procedures at its independently-owned hotels to prepare them for reopening. The new procedures will focus on a minimal-touch experience, ensuring stringent levels of hygiene and accounting for the ongoing need for social distancing. OYO will also introduce a “sanitised stays” tag that will be displayed on online property descriptions, indicating staff are fully trained in the new processes. Measures include markings being placed on the floor to enable social distancing; disinfected movables such as room keys and TV remote controls being presented to guests inside ziplock bags; and hotel staff refraining from handling guests’ luggage unless there is a particular need. Hotels will be asked to maintain stocks of hand sanitiser, masks and disposable gloves for the use of both staff and guests, with OYO negotiating bulk pricing on these items wherever possible. In addition, OYO is developing the technology for app-based remote check-in, and exploring digital key boxes so guests can collect their key outside their room rather than at reception. OYO has more than 200 small and mid-sized properties under its brand across the UK.
Bubala launches delivery boxes offer: Middle Eastern vegetarian concept Bubala, which opened its first permanent site in London’s Spitalfields last year, has launched a delivery box offer. The concept, which is the brainchild of Berber & Q founder Marc Summers and chef Helen Graham, who has worked at The Palomar, The Barbary, The Good Egg and Ottolenghi, is offering a Shakshuka brunch kit. The kit serves two and will include one Bubala shakshuka sauce, four eggs, one Bubala hummus, and two Laffa breads, plus illustrated instructions. The Shakshuka kit costs £20 plus delivery and consumers can order on the company’s Instagram or through its website. It is currently delivering within a three-mile radius from Spitalfields.