Sector operators begin ramping up reopenings, Greggs plans limited trial: A number of sector operators, including Burger King, Pret A Manger and healthy fast food brand Leon, have begun ramping up reopening parts of their estates. The Alasdair Murdoch-led Burger King, which earlier this month reopened four drive-thru sites, plans to reopen ten more sites a week for deliveries, including sites in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee and London’s Merton. The brand, which operates circa 550 sites in the UK, has seen strong demand at the sites it has so far reopened. The Sunday Times reported Leon plans to reopen six London restaurants for delivery and click-and-collect, in addition to the 16 it has kept open and in part turned into grocery stores. Propel understands the John Vincent-led brand is also gearing up to open its third delivery kitchen in a link with Deliveroo Editions, in Manchester. Leon opened its first delivery kitchen in Reading last month, with a further site opening in Leeds a week ago. Pret reopened ten of its London-based sites earlier this month and now plans to open a further ten nationwide this week. Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell has reopened sites in Plymouth, Cardiff and in Devonshire Street, Sheffield, for delivery only through Deliveroo, having shuttered its 46-strong UK estate in March. Responding to reports it will reopen some of its sites in a limited capacity in the UK and Ireland in May, McDonald’s said on Facebook: “We promise we will update you here as soon as we have confirmed our plans. Stay safe, stay at home and we will see you soon.” Greggs is also looking at ways to reopen select sites. A spokesman told The Sun: “We want to play our part in getting the nation back up and running again so we are planning to conduct a limited trial with volunteers to explore how we can reopen our shops with new measures in place that keep our colleagues and customers as safe as we can when we reopen at scale.”
Admiral Taverns to start collecting rent again from tenants in receipt of government grant but caps amount: Admiral Taverns is to start collecting rent again – but only from tenants that have received a government grant and the amount will be capped. The company cancelled rent and associated non-beer charges until the end of April to “give licensees time to apply for the relevant financial assistance under the retail and hospitality grant scheme”. Where licensees receive a £10,000 grant, rent and other charges will be capped at £1,500 per month in May and June – inclusive of VAT. Any charge above the cap will be cancelled, to ensure debt does not build up for licensees during this period. Where licensees receive a £25,000 grant, rent, insurance and service charge will be charged for May and June “but licensees will be left with the majority of their grant in their hands”. Admiral Taverns did not specify the capped level for those licensees. For all licensees, other rental charges, including fixtures and fittings rental and tie release fees, will be cancelled for May and June. If grants have been confirmed but not yet received, Admiral Taverns will defer collection until the grant has been received. A spokeswoman told Propel: “We continue to monitor the situation closely and will review our support again as we approach the end of June. Our primary focus remains on ensuring our licensees can emerge from this crisis energised and motivated to re-establish great community pubs, not weighed down by debt and fear about the future. We are closely following the government advice regarding the lock-down restrictions but would urge the government to consider more targeted support to the UK pub industry.”
Merlin aims to raise €500m lifeline through bond market: Merlin Entertainments is raising €500m in new bonds, with the private equity-backed company seeking urgent funding to see it through a near total shutdown of its theme parks and attractions. The company announced plans on Friday (24 April) to raise money from debt investors, with the proceeds earmarked for working capital, funding operational costs, capital expenditures and paying the £12m-a-month interest bill on its debt pile of more than £4bn. The funding would represent a liquidity lifeline for a company suffering from the coronavirus pandemic that has closed all but nine of its 130 sites. Merlin has already made use of government schemes to lessen its cost burden. Last year equity firm Blackstone, Canadian pension firm CPPIB and Kirkbi, a company operated by the Danish family that controls Lego acquired Merlin in a £6bn deal. But the bond’s documents include stark warnings about the company’s ability to weather the coronavirus crisis, including a so-called “going concern” warning from auditors KPMG. Merlin has already secured benefits worth more than £20m from a UK government scheme to cut taxes for companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic, according to an investor presentation seen by the Financial Times. It has also deferred paying rents, introduced voluntary pay cuts and furloughed about 80% of its staff around the world. Merlin is burning through £50m a month. It plans to use the extra funds from the bond sale to buy itself more time, as the money raised should leave the company with about £1bn of cash in hand.
Burger & Lobster reopens Mayfair site for delivery: Burger & Lobster has reopened its Mayfair restaurant for delivery. The company, which shuttered its sites on 19 March, has reopened the outlet in Binney Street. The original burger, 1.25lb lobster and its lobster roll – all served with fries – are available via Deliveroo, reports Hot Dinners. Meanwhile, George Bukhov-Weinstein and Ilya Demichev, who are behind Burger & Lobster and Goodmans, have launched a takeaway service for their Mediterranean concept Wild Tavern in Chelsea. The menu is available from the Elystan Street restaurant between Wednesdays and Saturdays from noon to 6pm. It includes cuts such as USDA prime rib-eye on and off the bone and a rack of lamb alongside its fresh pasta and sauce for cooking at home. Drinks feature wine and ready-made cocktails. Bukhov-Weinstein and Demichev launched the concept in December.
Titanic Brewery secures £1m through CBILS: Titanic Brewery has secured a £1m financial lifeline to help it survive the coronavirus pandemic. The company has received the loan from Barclays as part of the government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Bosses at Titanic said the funding would help them to “reboot” the business after the crisis – and secure the jobs of about 200 staff. Co-founder Keith Bott said: “Coronavirus struck just as were moving into the busy spring season and suddenly all our income disappeared overnight. The bank loan has helped us ensure supplier relationships are maintained as well as helping us pay our staff and creditors. I think it’s important during this difficult time to make sure our whole supply chain stays on its feet. As well as honouring our payment terms, it means we will all be better placed for when the time comes to reboot our business after the crisis.” Titanic Brewery was founded in 1985. It operates 13 pubs and cafe bars across Staffordshire and produces in excess of three million pints every year.
Landlords of 150 Travelodge hotels unite to organise payment proposal after rent cuts rejected: The landlords of about 150 Travelodge hotels have united to come up with a payment proposal after the hotel operator’s call for rent cuts was widely rejected. Travelodge, owned by investment bank Goldman Sachs and New York hedge funds Avenue Capital and GoldenTree Asset Management, asked landlords for rents to be slashed by between 25% and 80% at its most exposed locations. A number of landlords rejected this plan, with Secure Income Reit saying it “was not in keeping with either the nature or the spirit of the proposals made by any of our other tenants who all engaged with us constructively and at an early stage”. Viv Watts, managing partner at Oasis Holdings and a landlord for Travelodge, is working on behalf of other owners to reach a workable solution with the hotel operator, reports Property Week. In the original proposal, seen by Property Week, Travelodge divided its properties into three categories based on economic performance, recovery prospects and strategic importance. It proposed paying 50% of the rent on the most vulnerable “category C” hotels until December 2021 if it could reopen its hotels by 1 July. If it could not reopen them until after that date, it demanded rent cuts of 80% until the end of 2020, moving to 50% in 2021.
Company holding various freehold and leasehold interests of Signature Living goes into administration: Signature Living Hotel, which holds the various freehold and leasehold interests of aparthotel developer and operator Signature Living, has been placed into administration. Matthew Ingram and Michael Lennon, of Duff & Phelps, have been appointed joint administrators. Earlier this month Duff & Phelps was appointed as administrators of Signature Shankly, which is the firm holding the leasehold interest of the Shankly Hotel site in Liverpool. One of the company’s lenders, Henslow Trading, called in administrators. Signature Living Hotel includes the building from which the Shankly Hotel trades, Millennium House, in Victoria Street. The company also provides corporate guarantees to various secured and unsecured creditors of the group, including the various bedroom investors. Lennon said: “The steps taken by Henslow Trading to protect its investment in the Signature Shankly has necessitated a need to appoint the joint administrators to protect the freehold interest in Millennium House. The trading operations of the Signature Living Group are unaffected by the various administrations and we understand all trading will recommence at the earliest opportunity.”