Government has given sector ‘breathing space’ with £330m support package but further help needed – and urgently: The chancellor’s £330bn package to help businesses gives the sector “breathing space” but further support for employees is needed – and urgently. That’s the message from UKHospitality and sector operators after Rishi Sunak announced a series of measures to support the economy amid the coronavirus crisis. This included extending the 12-month business rates relief announced in last week’s Budget to all hospitality companies, with the government hinting further support would be made to the industry. Sunak branded coronavirus a “public health emergency but also an economic emergency”. His measures included a package of direct support to businesses that is worth more than £20bn. This includes a new lending facility agreed with the Bank of England for larger businesses and a big extension of the business interruption loan scheme, which was announced last week. There will now be loans of up to £5m available instead of £1.2m, with no interest due for the first six months, and the scheme will be “up and running by next week”. The £3,000 cash grant for 700,000 small businesses in the Budget has been increased to £10,000. Sunak said the government would meet with representatives of those sectors most affected – including travel and hospitality – in the coming days to discuss further support. He added: “For those venues that have a policy that covers pandemics – the government action is sufficient to allow them to make claims.” For the smaller businesses in that sector that don’t have that kind of insurance, Sunak said he would provide cash grants of £25,000 per business to “help bridge through this period”. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The chancellor has clearly been listening and these extra measures represent proper progress on last week’s Budget. The focus now has to be on making sure hospitality businesses can draw down the support loans and other funds while they still have businesses to operate, such are the levels of urgency for most businesses. We will wait with great anticipation and hope the detail on employment support measures live up to the hype but, if they are substantive, this could amount to a really helpful raft of support. This needs to come urgently as jobs are being lost every day. Cash flow is the key focus for companies endeavouring to survive. We only hope this can be enough.” Oakmans Inns and Restaurants chief executive Peter Borg-Neal added: “This is a welcome start but, to put it into perspective, they put in £850bn to save the banks at the time of the financial crisis. I think, and hope, there’s more to come. In the meantime, I urge industry colleagues to remain calm and not to rush to make people redundant and do everything they can to support their communities. The way businesses behave during this crisis will be remembered by their teams and customers for a long time after all this is over.” London Union founder Jonathan Downey said: “This is helpful on rates but there was nothing regarding rent and landlords. Businesses can borrow the money they’re losing but they’ve still got to pay it back – and that’s a big call. Sadly, this will have done nothing to save jobs in some businesses. It will delay unavoidable overhead losses over a period of time but won’t help humans.”
Listed sector companies endure another difficult day: Listed sector companies have endured another difficult day, with the majority of companies seeing a drop in their share price. Loungers saw its share price drop 34.26%, while SSP Group’s share price fell 33.12% as travel hubs suffered a huge loss in footfall. City Pub Group, which said on Tuesday (17 March) it expected a “material reduction” to its expectations for 2020, had seen its shares fall 31.83% when the London Stock exchanged closed. Fulham Shore, which operates Franco Manca and The Real Greek, was down 27.27%. Marston’s price has dropped 21.89% while Mitchells & Butlers shares were down 8.24%, JD Wetherspoon fell 7.46% and Fuller’s decreased 7.25%. Meanwhile, The Restaurant Group, which operates the Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito brands, saw its share price fall 4.06%. Young’s saw its share price rise slightly, by 1.10%, as did Domino’s, which was up 0.91% as consumers opted for delivery. Of the budget hotel groups, Whitbread saw a drop of 6.05% and EasyHotel saw its price fall 2.61%.
Diageo pledges £1m towards bartenders’ wages as part of measures to support drinks industry: Diageo has pledged £1m as part of a suite of measures to support the drinks industry during the coronavirus (covid-19) crisis. The fund is intended for pubs and bars to put towards bartenders’ wages. A similar community fund is being set up in Ireland. Anyone working in the drinks trade will also be given an opportunity to attend a free Diageo Bar Academy training course, consisting of virtual training and online learning. Diageo is also helping to support smaller retailers, pubs and bars by providing flexibility on order size and allowing smaller customers to manage their inventory during the fast-moving situation caused by covid-19. This will be applied across Diageo’s total trade customer base in a bid to help customers access products more easily and manage their cash flow. Dayalan Nayager, managing director Great Britain, Ireland and France at Diageo, said: “The British drinks trade is facing one of its most challenging times ever and we want to help our communities when they need us most. We all need to come together to support the trade and I would urge all my fellow drinks producers to do what they can to help our British pubs, bars and retailers and restaurants over the next few months.”
Manchester-based operators launch Pay It Forward voucher initiative: Hospitality operators in Manchester have united to launch a Pay It Forward voucher initiative in response to the escalating coronavirus outbreak and the government’s advice to stay away from bars and restaurants. The campaign has been set up by Manchester PR agency Roland Dransfield along with Greater Manchester night-time economy adviser Sacha Lord and other key figures in the city’s hospitality sector. It has been created to encourage people to buy discounted vouchers at participating restaurants between now and Easter, with a view to redeeming them from May onwards. For each voucher purchased, restaurants will make a £1 donation to Hospitality Action, the charity that offers assistance to all who work in the UK’s hospitality sector. Specific discounts will be determined by each individual restaurant or hospitality company and will be promoted on their websites and social media under the hashtag #PayitForward. The initiative is also backed by Northern Restaurant and Bar, chef Aiden Byrne, Manchester Hoteliers’ Association and Manchester Hospitality Network, among others. Lord said: “I have spoken to Manchester’s mayor and, while people should heed official government advice and take the necessary precautions, we want people to continue to enjoy the night-time economy. #PayitForward will encourage people to consider how badly some of our city’s best-loved hospitality institutions are suffering and to support them when they most need it.”
Tipjar founders launch Hospitality Workers Emergency Fund: The founders of Tipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, have launched the Hospitality Workers Emergency Fund in partnership with Hospitality Action. James Brown, who is also BrewDog retail director, said: “This industry built so many of us we wanted to do what we could to help in return and we had access to the technology to do so. We have partnered with Hospitality Action and built a platform for businesses and communities to donate funds for workers in their city or town. If they want to raise money for staff in a specific local pub, they can apply to do so. We hoped the government would announce something better and our project would be a waste of our time but, sadly, I’m not sure we got that.” Tipjar chairman Alex Moore added: “We are donating 100% of money raised to Hospitality Action. We would love other organisations and industry bodies to work with us to raise as much money as we can and get it to those who need it most. These are our people and we need to do whatever we can to help them now.” People can request their own town to have its own page or request a donation page to be set up for a specific pub, with Tipjar donating proceeds to pub staff directly.
Trump tells restaurant companies to keep drive-thrus open: US president Donald Trump has told restaurant companies to keep their drive-thrus open. Trump has spoken with executives of the country’s largest restaurant companies about the national response to the coronavirus outbreak. Participants on the call included bosses at Domino’s Pizza, Chick-fil-A, Subway, Restaurant Brands International, Bloomin’ Brands, Yum! Brands, Darden Restaurants, Papa John’s, Wendy’s and Raising Cane’s. McDonald’s US president Joe Erlinger also participated. The chief executives of the International Franchise Association and the National Retail Federation were also on the call, as well as treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, reports CNBC. The White House said the executives all committed to encouraging customers to use drive-thru, pick-up or delivery options. Trump praised the restaurant bosses and said: “They have been fantastic. They’re keeping it open, smaller staff. Very capable people, very capable companies.” At least 19 states across the country have mandated restaurants and bars close their seating areas amid the outbreak. Restaurant companies such as Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and Starbucks have already closed their seating areas in company-owned locations in the US. Mnuchin has since said the administration was working on a large economic stimulus package, reported to be worth $850bn, which will be discussed with Congress. Under the plans, Americans will be allowed to defer taxes worth up to $300bn. It also includes payments to small businesses and loan guarantees. Separately, McDonald’s said it might offer some franchisees rent deferrals as restaurants close or see customer numbers plunge. The company also warned the “negative financial impact” to its results couldn’t be “reasonably estimated at this time”.
CAMRA cancels all beer festivals until end of June: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which runs more than 180 beer festivals in the UK, has cancelled all events until the end of June following the government’s advice on mass gathering. All CAMRA meetings at branch and national level have also been cancelled for an initial three-month period. National chairman Nik Antona said: “We have decided to cancel 45 beer festivals between now and the end of June. We also feel it would be highly irresponsible to continue to promote gatherings of people in pubs, which has been advised against by the government. We will, of course, look into what campaigning measures we can take to support the British beer and pub industry during this unsettling time and would repeat our calls for the government to put together a package to support the pub and brewery trade during this period. We’d like to encourage all beer-lovers and pub-goers to continue supporting the industry, whether that be ordering brews online from independent retailers or supporting pub crowdfunding campaigns to keep afloat.”
Stanley gets Boris in another fine mess over pub ‘ban’: Stanley Johnson has said he will “go to a pub” if he needs to despite advice by his son the prime minister to avoid all social gatherings while the UK battles coronavirus. Speaking on ITV’s This Morningshow, Johnson admitted he would defy guidance issued by the prime minister to steer clear of bars, restaurants and theatres to avoid “non-essential contact”. The government has stopped short of ordering pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops to close, however. “Of course I’ll go to the pub if I need to go to a pub,” the 79-year-old told This Morning hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield. When asked by Schofield what the prime minister would think of such a stance, Johnson replied: “He said we should avoid going to pubs but if I had to go to a pub, I’d go to a pub.”
Las Vegas’ largest casinos close, staff laid off as tourists stay away: Many of the largest casinos in Las Vegas are closing during the coronavirus pandemic, with some already starting to lay off employees, according to reports. MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts both announced plans to close Las Vegas sites on Tuesday (17 March) as the huge crowds that usually flock to the city stayed at home. “It is now apparent this is a public health crisis that requires major collective action if we are to slow its progression,” MGM chief executive and chairman Jim Murren told Las Vegas Review-Journal. MGM has started initiating “significant furloughs and lay-offs”, the newspaper reported, while at least 150 food and beverage outlets have been closed at its properties. Closures include famous venues such as The Mirage, the Bellagio and New York-New York. “These decisions are never made lightly and we deeply regret the hardship it will place on these individuals and their families,” MGM president and chief operating officer Bill Hornbuckle said. It was reported Caesars Entertainment had also started laying off employees at its properties amid the drastic fall in tourism.
Hawksmoor closes all restaurants and reveals redundancies, D&D London shutters UK sites: Restaurant operators D&D London and Hawksmoor will temporary close all their UK restaurants in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The companies said they had taken the decision following prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement advising Londoners not to visit pubs, bars and restaurants to reduce the spread of the virus. In the case of Hawksmoor, which operates eight UK sites, the company revealed it had also had to end the employment of some staff. Founders Will Beckett and Hugh Gott said: “We have tried to treat those people as fairly as possible, paying full notice, and we are trying to give them every guidance on how they can get extra support during these difficult times. We have also told them what has happened today doesn’t prevent them from being part of the company again in the future and we will stay in touch with them to offer any support and information we can. This enables us to make sure Hawksmoor survives – not because of money or profit but in order the thing we have all spent much of our professional lives building can go back to being a place where we can look after as many staff and customers as possible for years to come. We have made these difficult decisions to do what we can to protect the jobs of the hundreds of people we still employ during what may be a prolonged period of closure. This is, of course, tragic and incredibly difficult for everyone. However, Hawksmoor will survive and we will quickly turn our attention to how we get through this period and what we can do to lend our strength to others who may need it.” Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive of D&D London, said: “We fully understand the need to play our part in defeating the spread of coronavirus and the safety of our staff and customers is of paramount importance. We have had to similarly close our restaurants in New York and Paris. Nevertheless, it is a desperately sad day for us and for other UK restaurants that also face closure. Our number one priority now is to work closely with government bodies to ensure the welfare of our staff and their families is managed through this period of uncertainty. We hope the government steps up to the challenge.”
McDonald’s UK removes dine-in option, phasing out Happy Meal plastic toys:McDonald’s UK and Ireland has announced none of its restaurants will offer dine-in or table service as it temporarily changes operations in response to the coronavirus outbreak. All restaurants have closed seating areas and moved to being takeaway, drive-thru and delivery only – the latter being contact-free. The company said toilets and public hand-washing facilities would remain open wherever possible. Chief executive Paul Pomroy said: “While it’s safe to remain open, we want to do what we can to support those services working tirelessly to keep us all safe and well.” Meanwhile, McDonald’s is to phase out plastic toys from its Happy Meals in the UK and Ireland. By 2021, all Happy Meals will contain books, paper toys or soft toys instead. A trial has launched to replace plastic packaging on Happy Meal toys with a paper-based alternative, while McDonald’s staff will allow customers to choose between a toy or book for every Happy Meal sold from May. In the same month, the company will launch a five-week amnesty for unwanted plastic toys, regardless of brand, which will be turned into play equipment for Ronald McDonald House charities. It will also explore alternatives to plastic toys in other global markets.
Greene King delays rent collection: Brewer and retailer Greene King has told its tenants it will delay collecting rent and some associated charges to help them during the coronavirus crisis. The move makes Greene King one of the first of the big six pub companies to take such action. In an email to pub operators, Pub Partners managing director Wayne Shurvinton said the company would delay rent collection and insurance, licensing and maintenance charges for the “foreseeable future”. He added: “Please rest assured these circumstances and the situation we find ourselves in is being treated as our utmost priority. I fully appreciate this is a worrying time, not just for business reasons but also for personal reasons, especially concerning the well-being of our family and friends. My thoughts are with you all at this time as we continue to review the support we’re able to provide while the situation continues to evolve.”
Castle Rock boss cuts his pay to minimum wage level: Colin Wilde, managing director of Nottingham-based Castle Rock Brewery, has told staff he is cutting his take home pay to match the minimum wage. He said the move was part of his answer to the coronavirus crisis that was hitting the pub industry, its people and future. He said: “It is an uncertain future owing to the virus and the precautionary measures announced by the government. We’re doing everything in our power to respond to this and protect the Castle Rock family but there will be difficult decisions ahead. Economic hardship will affect many of our colleagues so it’s only right I shoulder some of that. This won’t make a significant difference but it will allow some funds to be diverted to other, much more urgent areas of the business.” Castle Rock, which owns more than 20 pubs in the East Midlands and Yorkshire, is encouraging customers to continue using its pubs if they feel comfortable to do so and, for those who don’t, it hopes they will support the business by buying gift cards and takeaway beer.
Brighton Pier Group reports revenue and Ebitda boost: Brighton Pier Group has reported turnover increased to £17.3m for the 26 weeks to 19 December 2019, compared with £16.5m the previous year. Group Ebitda before highlighted items was up to £4.2m, compared with £2.9m the year before. Pre-tax profit was up to £1.8m, compared with £1.4m the previous year. The company, which is behind Brighton Palace Pier as well as a number of bars and mini-golf sites, warned the sector faced “unpredictable and difficult” months ahead. Chief executive Anne Ackord said: “I am delighted to be able to report the half year is in line with management expectations with sales, Ebitda and earnings all up versus the prior period. Our two new golf venues, at Rushden Lakes in Northamptonshire and Drake Circus in Plymouth, together with our refurbished bar in Putney, south west London, have all traded strongly and ahead of expectations.” Regarding the coronavirus outbreak, Ackord said: “We are monitoring this unprecedented situation closely but believe we have a strong balance sheet, a supportive bank and a strong team to meet the challenge. Despite the current concerns, in the medium to long term the company’s pier, bars and golf businesses remain well invested, strongly cash generative and well positioned for growth.”
BrewDog launches click-and-collect drive-thru service: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has launched a click-and-collect drive-thru service. Customers can order beer, spirits and food through the company’s Hop Drop app, with the goods brought to their vehicle or picked up at the bar door. The service is being launched with a 30% discount for all and a 50% discount for NHS workers. It is available from all UK BrewDog bars with the exception of Edinburgh airport. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “These are uncertain times but we’re committed to looking after our crew, customers and company. Thinking of new ways you can buy beer from us led to BrewDog drive-thru. At the moment the only thing we can do is batten down the hatches and get through the storm together – and if you’re in the teeth of that storm working for the NHS we’ll proudly give you a 50% discount. We’ll help you keep on keeping on.”
Best Western and Manorview offer beds to NHS: Hotel group Best Western has said it could turn its properties into temporary hospitals if the NHS requires additional bed space during the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak. Best Western Great Britain said it would discuss the move this week and would be willing to take “unprecedented” steps to help. The chain, which is the largest independent hotel group in Britain, said it had seen a significant increase in cancellations during the past month due to the outbreak. Rob Paterson, chief executive of Best Western Great Britain, said: “If the NHS wants additional bed space and we can partner with other companies to provide the right medical equipment and supplies and we can do it safely, we would be willing to start having those conversations immediately.” Meanwhile, Scottish-based boutique hotel and leisure group Manorview has suspended all trading, with the company “uncertain when it will be in a position to reopen and trade as normal”. The company has closed all venues to “protect our teams and customers”. Manorview said it would make no redundancies, while staff would “continue to receive 50% of their average weekly gross earnings until further notice”. Some units will operate takeaway and delivery services, while the company has offered bedrooms to the NHS as a “resource where needed”.
Wells & Co licensee reopens former Yummy pub in Stoke Newington for fourth site: Wells & Co licensee Robert Webster-Shaw, who operates The Anchor & Hope in Waterloo and has business interests in the Canton Arms and The Magdalen Arms, both in Oxford, has reopened The Clarence in Stoke Newington, east London. Yummy Pub Co, led by Anthony Pender, Jason Rowlands and Tim Foster, sold the lease to the gastro-pub in Church Street earlier this month. Webster-Shaw and business partner Jonathan Jones have appointed Harry Kaufman, formerly of St John Bread and Wine, as head chef. His seasonal menu at The Clarence’s two dining rooms includes bacon and wild garlic pie to share, while a shorter menu that includes toasties is available in the bar. An upstairs dining room will be added later. Webster-Shaw told Hot Dinners: “With pubs, we know what we’re doing and we wanted to get out into the neighbourhood. Ten years ago when you wanted to go out for great food you went into central London – but you don’t need to any more.” Yummy Pub Co had operated The Clarence since December 2015. Pender said the sale would allow the company to focus on “continued growth through freehold acquisition”. Yummy Pub Co’s estate now consists of three London pubs and The Wiremill in Surrey, which was the company’s first freehold purchase, in February 2019.
Gloucestershire-based operator takes on second site with Ei Publican Partnerships: Denise Jeffreys-Jones, who operates The Cheese Rollers in Cheltenham, has taken on her second Gloucestershire pub with Ei Publican Partnerships. She has taken on The Woolpack in Stonehouse, near Stroud, after it underwent a £190,000 joint investment, £150,000 of it from Ei Publican Partnerships, the leased and tenanted division of Ei Group. The 16th century pub in High Street features a bar, snug and 36-seat dining area, while the new menu offers pub classics. There is also a children’s menu and Sunday roasts, while the pub offers a pool table, dartboard and live entertainment. Jeffreys-Jones said: “Following my success at The Cheese Rollers in Cheltenham, where I have been publican since 2016, I look forward to working with Ei Publican Partnerships again.” Ei Publican Partnerships regional manager Simon Wilson added: “It is great to work with a successful and experienced publican such as Denise on a second pub and use our refurbishment expertise and investment to help relaunch this pub.”
Fuller’s relaunches Goldilocks-themed Dorset pub hotel following £2m refurbishment: Premium pubs and hotels business Fuller’s has relaunched The Bear Of Burton in Christchurch, Dorset, following a £2m refurbishment. The venue, named in honour of Goldilocks And The Three Bears author Robert Southey, features a horseshoe bar, private dining space, and ten bedrooms with subtle nods to the Goldilocks story. The suites feature four-poster beds and roll-top baths, while the breakfast menu includes three types of porridge. Fuller’s retail director Fred Turner said: “This is a stunning redevelopment in a beautiful part of the country. The view from the terrace is outstanding and I can guarantee any weary bears and humans will find the beds, chairs and porridge in excellent order.” Last week Fuller’s opened The Windjammer at London’s Royal Dock. Fuller’s operates 215 managed pubs, with 1,028 bedrooms. It also operates 179 tenanted pubs and owns The Stable, which operates 14 craft cider and pizza restaurants.
Starbucks to offer staff free therapy sessions: Starbucks is to offer employees 20 free therapy sessions as part of its new mental healthcare plan, which will launch on 6 April. The plan has been created in partnership with mental health benefits provider Lyra Health. The mental health programme is available to all employees and eligible family members, with participants matched with a specific therapist or coach. Sessions will be face to face or virtual, while employees will also be able to purchase further sessions beyond the 20 included in their package. A Starbucks spokeswoman said: “We want to ensure every partner in every store feels supported and knows how and where to seek help for themselves and others.”
Third Wave Coffee Group acquires Bromley restaurant as second site for Daisy Grey concept: Third Wave Coffee Group has secured the former Herbert’s restaurant in Keston, near Bromley, south west London, as a second site for its cafe concept Daisy Grey. Matt and Josie Dickens opened their debut Daisy Grey site in nearby Beckenham. The concept offers breakfast, brunch and lunch, with the intention to expand into dinner. Herbert’s is a detached restaurant that closed in January 2019. Christie & Co director Stewart Harkness, who handled the sale, said: “We are happy to see this popular restaurant have a new lease of life and sure locals will be glad to have a great place to meet again.” Herbert’s sold from an asking price of £850,000.
Supper club Supa Ya Ramen delays debut restaurant launch: Supper club Supa Ya Ramen is delaying the full opening of its debut restaurant, in Hackney, east London, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The intimate 16-cover site was set to open in Hackney Road on Thursday (19 March) offering three permanent ramens and a weekly rotating special. Instead, the venue will operate from a hatch at the site and launch a delivery service early next week. Luke Findlay developed Supa Ya following spells as development chef at Patty & Bun and head chef of Berber & Q in Spitalfields. Findlay said in the wake of the prime minister’s statement on Monday (16 March) he would delay the full opening of the site “until further notice”.
EasyHotel gets go-ahead for Derby site: EasyHotel, the owner, developer, operator and franchisor of “super budget” branded hotels, has been given the go-ahead for a site in Derby. The company has been granted permission by the city council to convert disused Forester House on the corner of Newland Street and Becket Street. The five-storey building will be transformed into a 111-bedroom hotel with its own restaurant and function rooms, reports The Business Desk. In October, EasyHotel signed a franchise agreement with Ushba and said it expects to complete the development by 2021.
Fine dining chef Adrian Martin opens debut solo venture, in Camden: Fine dining chef Adrian Martin has opened his debut solo venture, Wildflower, in north London. The venture has launched at Camden’s new eco market – Buck Street – and claims to be the first fine dining restaurant in London to be housed inside a shipping container. The 30-cover restaurant offers seasonally changing menus inspired by Martin’s County Cavan heritage, with each dish championing a foraged ingredient. Wildflower will also use Buck Street’s communal garden terrace to grow herbs and shoots, while food waste will be composted and used to generate electricity for the market. Wildflower offers an eight-course tasting menu, including scallop with smoked burdock. There are also two and three-course lunch menus featuring “uncomplicated plates” such as deep-fried oysters with sea truffle and harissa. Aged only 28, Martin is a regular face on Irish television and has worked as head pastry chef at Michelin-starred restaurant Bon Appetit and published two cookbooks. Other operators at Buck Street Market include egg in a bun concept Yolk Breaker, a first bricks and mortar site for chef and author Miguel Barclay’s New York-style pizza concept Miguel’s Pizza, and technology-driven coffee house Glass Coffee.