Greggs to remain open during lockdown but expects losses: Food-to-go operator Greggs has confirmed it will remain open for business during lockdown but the period is likely to result in losses. In an update to employees, the company said while sales had recovered to circa 76% of prior year levels during the month of September, the latest restrictions imposed in the UK are likely to see a reduction in demand across its store network. Goodbody leisure analyst Jason Molins said: “Greggs has not provided any guidance around potential losses, however, we estimate that assuming sales fall to 50% of prior year levels during the month of November, this would see profits impacted by circa £10m to £15m. Similar to Wales, which went into full lockdown last week, Greggs expects footfall in stores to decline but expects continued demand from people who cannot work from home. We would also highlight the delivery service through Just Eat is being rolled out across the country, supported by television advertising. Greggs announced the extension of the furlough scheme will help protect critical jobs that will be impacted in the short term by lower demand, but will be needed later in the year when lockdown ends. Furlough pay will be supported by government up to 80% of average pay and Greggs will continue to provide support similar to July when shops reopened, which likely implies pay will not be topped up to 100%. But Greggs cannot utilise the furlough scheme for roles at risk of redundancy. A number of employees were let go at the end of last week and the process is expected to be concluded by the end of this week. For stores that see lower demand during this lockdown, Greggs expects to reduce trading hours and range, and use furlough support for unused contract hours.”
Marston’s to cut rent to 10% for tied tenants and leaseholders during lockdown:Marston’s tied tenants and leaseholders in England will have their headline rent reduced to 10% from Thursday (5 November) until Wednesday, 2 December, as the country goes back into lockdown. In a letter to tenants, operations director Ed Hancock said: “Clearly no one wanted to be back in this position, I know how hard our pubs have worked to make sure they remain safe and enjoyable places for their customers to visit. I also know the determination and creativity our pubs have demonstrated over the past nine months and I have no doubt that our business will bounce back from this most recent enforced closure.” Since the beginning of the pandemic Marston’s has worked on a pub-by-pub basis understanding what help individual tied tenants and leased partners needed. This has included rent holidays, restocking allowance, reopening marketing spend and more recently regional tier support when needed.
Shepherd Neame cuts 10% of staff: Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has cut 10% of its staff as it prepares to shut all 319 of its pub and hotels for lockdown. In an update on the company’s website, chief executive Jonathan Neame outlined the steps the business was taking to support licensees with commercial rent again being waived. He said: “The ongoing restrictions due to covid continue to impact the business, making it difficult, or in some cases impossible, to perform certain functions. The restrictions have also had a significant impact on the operation of our pubs and hotels, resulting in reduced trading levels. It is with great regret, therefore, I can confirm that we have had to let about 10% of our workforce go. We did everything possible to keep this number to a minimum and will continue to look after our teams to the best of our ability. We will also be making some temporary change to our staffing structure and salary levels. We are requesting more than 90% of our people step aside from their current roles on a temporary basis. We will be accessing the latest Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, whereby the government will pay 80% of the wages of those affected up to £30,000 per annum. On top of this, we will fund the wages of all those affected earning above £30,000 per annum so that they continue to receive 80% of their normal pay. Our company’s directors have again volunteered to take a temporary 20% reduction in salary. Our brewery team will continue working to produce beer in a covid-secure environment. The measures will be in place until 2 December, and will remain under review as the situation evolves.” Neame also praised licensees and team members for their “ingenuity and spirit” since the pandemic began.
Friska undergoes CVA, closes Manchester sites: Healthy eating brand Friska has undergone a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which has seen the business close its three sites in Manchester, Propel has learned. The business, which is backed by YFM Equity Partners, is understood to have received 100% approval for the CVA, which has seen it close its sites at Manchester’s University Green, St Peter’s Square and Manchester Science Park. The process leaves the group with nine sites spread across Bristol and a franchise site in Luton Airport. Co-founder Griff Holland told Propel the CVA was a route the business had to go down to make sure it had a future going into 2021. He said: “We are very sad that after building up a good following and brand presence in Manchester over the past three years that we have had to exit the city, especially as, at the start of this year, we were looking to add a further two sites there. What is even sadder is the fact that we have to lose more than 20 of our colleagues, who worked across those sites. We were made to feel very welcome in Manchester and hope to return to the city one day. We hope by taking these steps we have put the business in a position to get through to March next year and push forward from there.” Holland said that the company would open its remaining sites on Thursday and Friday this week for takeaway to gauge levels of trade and whether they would remain open further into the latest lockdown. Friska was founded by Holland and Ed Brown in 2009.
Stonegate announces further support for leased and tenanted business:Stonegate Pub Company has announced further business support within its leased and tenanted business, Ei Publican Partnerships, in response to the new lockdown. The additional support includes rent credits of 90% for rent, tie release fees and fixtures and fittings rental charges for all tied publicans operating substantive agreements in England, during the four-week period. This financial support has created an overall package from the company worth in excess of £42.5m. To further support its businesses, Stonegate Pub Company has also suspended its annual price review meaning publicans continue to operate on tied supply prices that were last increased in April 2019. Ei Publican Partnerships managing director Nick Light said: “We continue to stand by our publicans, and we are taking the responsibility of supporting our businesses very seriously as the trading landscape continues to change.”
Camile Thai reports 50% increase in London sales as it opens cloud kitchen in Canary Wharf: Dublin-based healthy food delivery company Camile Thai has reported a 50% increase in sales in London as it launches a new cloud kitchen in the capital, in Canary Wharf. The company is in the process of raising €10m as part of an aggressive technology-driven strategy, which, in addition to cloud kitchens, includes plans for drone delivery, as well as the automation of some of its operations with kitchen robotics. The new kitchen will allow Camile Thai to deliver to the Isle of Dogs and the north of Canary Wharf, but plans to expand into Poplar and Limehouse in the coming weeks. Founder Brody Sweeney said: “2020 has been a milestone year for Camile. With many restaurants suffering the consequences of pandemic restrictions, we were very fortunate to see a 50% increase in sales in London. We owe this to our largely suburban, delivery-focused business model. This growth has enabled us to proceed ahead of time with our drone and robotics-focused tech strategy.” Due to the pandemic, Camile also decided to adapt its franchising strategy earlier this year, offering flexible options for business owners with underused commercial in regional towns. The first such premises recently opened in Sligo, Ireland, and Camile aims to open five or six such outlets in the medium term. Camile Thai operates 35 outlets, six of which are in London.
German Doner Kebab owner launches healthy eating restaurant Choppaluna:Hero Brands, which operates German Doner Kebab, has opened its debut Choppaluna restaurant in Bloomsbury, central London. The fast, fresh, food-to-go and dine-in brand also plans to open its next store in Berlin by January 2021, before embarking on further growth in London followed by UK growth throughout the next 12 months. Championing healthy eating, Choppaluna is bidding to show salads don’t have to be boring and offers a guilt-free indulgent menu of vegetarian and vegan options, and a huge choice of superfoods morning, noon and night, including delivery. The Choppaluna experience allows customers to choose from more than 60 fresh toppings before watching the brand’s talented team chop live in front of their eyes. The breakfast menu brings low-carb, high-energy options like Breggfast Rolls – scrambled egg wraps – and smoothie bowls. Other menu items include the more filling Big-Rolls where salad meets burrito for lunch and dinner. Co-founder and chief executive Nikras Agha, who conceived the idea in Berlin with co-founder Bijan Azadfard, said: “It’s very exciting to be launching our first restaurant in Bloomsbury. Choppaluna will truly revolutionise the healthy eating space in the UK, bringing customers indulgent healthy options that fit with a fast-paced, on-the-go lifestyle. The opportunity is truly resonating with our franchise network within the Hero Brands group and we will work with them to explore opportunities for growth throughout the UK.” Hero Brands chief executive Athif Sarwar said: “Eating out is changing and younger consumers are demanding a shorter dwell time, great-tasting healthier food and an aspirational-experience that is shareable on their social channels – Choppaluna responds to this trend.”
Zizzi branch shut as police investigate claims staff awaiting covid-19 test results told to attend work: Zizzi, the Azzurri Group-owned brand, was forced to shut its restaurant in Clifton, Bristol, while police investigated reports of staff being ordered to work while awaiting coronavirus test results. One staff member was also allegedly warned, incorrectly, they would not receive statutory sick pay of £92 a week if they stayed home after they expressed anxiety over working due to the suspected cases. The Italian chain restaurant reopened on Monday (2 November) after deep cleaning following its closure on Thursday (29 October), after staff had raised the alarm to police. A source familiar with the matter told The Guardian: “A manager told staff to go to work while awaiting test results. One staff member was also told if they didn’t go to work they wouldn’t receive statutory sick pay. One asymptomatic staff member received a positive test result text while they were at work and didn’t go home.” A spokesperson for Zizzi said: “We acted decisively to voluntarily close the restaurant, with all team members self-isolating, and there is an ongoing internal investigation into the mistakes that were made.”
Pret offers first festive hot food range as part of Christmas menu launch: Pret A Manger is offering its first festive hot food range as part of its Christmas menu launch. The menu will also for the first time be available for delivery as well as takeaway. Veggie Pret has launched two exclusive vegan recipes – the Vegan Christmas Lunch Baguette and the Vegan Christmas Lunch Hot Roll. Pret has unveiled its first hot Christmas range of pigs in blankets. The Christmas Lunch – slices of British turkey with port and orange cranberry sauce, herby pork stuffing and baby spinach leaves, topped off with free-range mayo and crispy onions – has made a return. This year’s meat-free offering includes a new Vegan Christmas Nut Roast, featuring butternut squash, peppery rocket and Christmas pesto, served with a spoonful of vegan sage mayo, crispy onions and caramelised pecans. The Christmas Tiffin and Melvin and Pret’s Melting Gingerbread Snowman are also back alongside Pret’s mince pie which will be an exclusively vegan product this year. Christmas hot drinks will be served in limited edition festive takeaway cups and will include three new offerings – the gingerbread latte, salted caramel latte and the S’mores hot chocolate. Pret and Veggie Pret shops will remain open during lockdown for takeaway and delivery, in line with official government guidance.
Fortnum & Mason appoints new chief executive: Fortnum & Mason, the London department store that has expanded to operate branches in travel hubs such as St Pancras and Heathrow, has appointed Tom Athron as chief executive. Athron will join the business at the start of December, allowing for a month’s handover with Ewan Venters, who leaves Fortnum’s in January. Athron joins Fortnum’s from matchesfashion.com, a global fashion retailer for luxury brands, where he has served as chief operating officer since May 2018. He also spent 12 years at the John Lewis Partnership after working in structured finance and strategic consulting. Fortnum’s chairman Kate Hobhouse said: “A versatile and highly experienced business leader, Tom has extensive leadership experience in digital and physical retail across food, luxury and designer fashion. He is a great fit with the multichannel business that Fortnum’s has become.” Athron added: “Fortnum & Mason is a traditional British business with a truly global outlook, a strong purpose and increasingly desired around the world. I am looking forward to working with the Fortnum’s team on realising its further potential and contributing to the next exciting phase in its long and illustrious history.”
JD Wetherspoon to appoint non-executive director: JD Wetherspoon has announced it intends to appoint Ben Thorne as a non-executive director. The appointment will take effect from 17 December, subject to election as a director on that date at the company’s annual general meeting. Thorne will also join the audit, remuneration and nomination committees of the board. Thorne, who is managing director at WH Ireland, qualified as a solicitor in 1985 specialising in corporate law. He subsequently moved into investment banking in 1987 and has more than 30 years’ experience advising corporates, including, while at Kleinwort Benson, Wetherspoon on a range of capital markets and corporate finance issues. He has subsequently held senior advisory roles at GCA Altium and Panmure Gordon.