UKHospitality – catastrophic move means government has shut sector without support: The government has effectively shut the hospitality industry without any support by telling people to avoid pubs, restaurants and hotels in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, UKHospitality has said. Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the move as part of measures to “start avoiding all unnecessary social contact” to try to prevent the rapid spread of the virus. However, he stopped short of ordering hospitality venues to close – leaving the industry “in limbo”. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls called the move “catastrophic” and said it would lead to “thousands of businesses closing for good and hundreds of thousands of job losses”. She said: “Over the past few weeks the industry has suffered unprecedented drops in visits and many business are already on their knees. This latest advice leaves the industry in limbo, with no recourse to insurance. The government must act now to stop them going under and protect jobs. These venues play a unique role as community hubs and it’s in all our interests to protect and preserve them so they are still there once we emerge from this crisis. We need immediate and far-reaching support from the government and meaningful business continuity measures.” Meanwhile, calls have been made for the government to delay increases to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Sector leaders attacked HM Revenue & Customs over its “incredibly poorly timed” email reminder about the rise at the start of April given “many industry businesses are figuring out if they can afford to even keep their team in employment”. The National Living Wage is set to rise 6.2% – from £8.21 to £8.72 an hour for over-25s and from £7.70 to £8.20 for those aged 21 to 24. The National Minimum Wage for 21 to 24-year-olds will rise 6.5% to £8.20. For 18 to 20-year-olds, it will increase 4.9% to £6.45 and for under-18s there will be a 4.6% increase to £4.55. Meanwhile, apprentices will see a rise of 6.4% to £4.15. Charlie McVeigh, chairman of The Breakfast Club, tweeted: “This needs to be delayed or there won’t be any jobs paying the new rate.” He told Propel: “This is an easy win and an effective way of helping businesses. The government needs to keep the economy going and this is one way of doing that – the alternative is unthinkable.” Busaba managing director Terry Harrison added: “An absolute kick in the teeth from this government. Outrageous dithering! Can you imagine running a business on ‘advice’ rather than a clear decision. Force us to close our restaurants, Boris.”

Urban – M&B would repeat Ego joint venture with right partner:
Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) chief executive Phil Urban has told Propel the company’s joint venture with 3Sixty Restaurants and its Ego in a Pub format is something the company would look to repeat with the right partner. The Running Mare in Chelmsford will become the 23rd Ego site when it opens in May. Last year 3Sixty Restaurants chief executive James Horler told Propel M&B sites converted to Ego were seeing an average 80% uplift in sales. M&B formed the partnership in August 2018 when it bought sector investor Luke Johnson’s minority share in 3Sixty. Urban said: “It has worked really well. We are very hands off and it’s a case of feeding the sites into the Ego team. It’s a nice model, so that joint-venture approach has a lot of appeal for me. Creating brands is hard, so if you buy into something that has already gone through that growth phase it’s a big tick. Doing it with someone you can learn off is also a big tick and creates a win-win situation with our ability to scale brought to the table. Doing them is quite hard, finding the right partners, and we have had a couple of close calls over the past couple of years, which haven’t come to anything. It’s certainly a vehicle I would repeat if we found the right partner.” Urban admitted joint ventures also create competitive tension and spawn a lot of innovation in M&B’s other brands and teams. He also believes there is plenty of room for new concepts in the group’s stable. He said: “We are still opportunistic in terms of investing in smaller brands. In terms of any significant portfolios we would obviously look at a quality freehold estate but that would be highly contested. Even if something like that came to market we would have to be careful we didn’t cannibalise our existing businesses.”
Inn Collection Group bolsters pub with rooms portfolio with fourth Lake District pub, 14th site in total: The Inn Collection Group has bolstered its pubs with rooms portfolio by acquiring Cumbrian coaching inn The Swan in Grasmere. The deal brings the group’s portfolio to 14 following its acquisition of The Black Swan in Helmsley, near York, in January and the group remains on target to double its estate of freehold pubs by 2022. The Swan offers 38 bedrooms and is the group’s fourth venue in the Lake District. The pub will trade as normal ahead of a major redevelopment to reopen under the company’s pubs with rooms brand, which operates under the “eat, drink, sleep and explore” banner. The Inn Collection Group managing director Sean Donkin said: “We are thrilled to have added this superb venue to our collection. We look forward to investing significant capital into realising the full potential of this phenomenal site for the community of Grasmere and visitors to the Lake District alike to eat, drink, sleep and explore from. We have a proven track record in repurposing and enhancing historic inns and we look forward to turning our attention to The Swan as we continue to widen our customer base, group presence and visibility across the north of England.” The Alchemy-backed group’s other Lake District pubs include The Ambleside Inn, which recently reopened in Ambleside following a major refurbishment, and The Coniston Inn, which is set to reopen in Coniston at the end of April. The Inn Collection Group also operates sites in Northumberland, Durham, Sunderland and Yorkshire. The group was advised by Ward Hadaway on the Grasmere transaction, with Jones Lang Lasalle on pre-acquisition diligence alongside Clive Owen.
I am Doner stopping service every 30 minutes to clean, Primeur team halves restaurants’ capacity: I am Doner, the Think Hospitality Ventures-backed better kebab brand, is currently stopping service every 30 minutes to thoroughly clean its restaurants. The company has also removed what limited seating it has in its sites and gone cashless to reduce contact during the coronavirus outbreak. It is also offering contactless delivery. I am Doner operates sites in Leeds city centre, Headingley and Harrogate. Meanwhile, Jeremie Cometto and David Gingell, who are behind London restaurants Primeur, Westerns Laundry and Jolene, have halved the capacity of their restaurants to create the recommended safe distance between customers. Regarding other measures, they posted on Instagram: “We will only take card payments to avoid contact with physical money. You can also purchase vouchers now to redeem at a later date and every voucher over £100 purchased between Friday (20 March) and 31 Maywill be matched with an extra 20% from us. This is a crisis we need to manage together with as much positivity as we can and we’d love to hear any suggestions you’d like us to adopt for your peace of mind in these critical times.”
Prezzo enlarges Challenger’s role to chief services officer: Karen Jones-led restaurant chain Prezzo has expanded the remit of its finance director, Dean Challenger, under the new role of chief services officer. Propel understands Challenger was appointed chief services officer from the beginning of March, a year after becoming Prezzo’s finance director. He already had IT, procurement, risk and finance reporting in to him, with the new role adding property to his remit. In finance, Challenger is assisted by a team led by Prezzo head of finance Steve Gardner. Challenger joined Prezzo last year after 13 years with David Lloyd Leisure, including stints as group financial controller and head of finance.
BrewBroker launches £300,000 crowdfunding campaign for second-stage expansion: BrewBroker, the online market place for the global brewing industry, has launched a £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to launch “version 2.0”. The company is offering 7.32% equity in return for investment, giving BrewBroker a pre-money valuation of £3.8m. Chief executive Daniel Rowntree and chief technical officer Ben Morgan-Smith launched BrewBroker in September 2018 to enable businesses to search, sell and buy brewing services from each other. The platform directs users to fill out their tenders, which are then matched to suppliers based on volume, style and requirements. The pitch states: “In July 2018 we launched our beta, which helped brewers trade capacity – a practice known as “contract brewing”. Within 18 months, one-quarter of the UK’s brewers became members – 750 signed up and completed 373 tenders on the platform. Now we are launching version 2.0 of the platform to serve the entire industry from end to end. As well as brewers, we believe our Intelligent DealFlow system can foster opportunities in more markets within the beer industry. For suppliers, ingredients, equipment, logistics services and more will be traded via the platform. For end-buyers, retail tenders, white-label contracts and more will be secured via the platform. We now deploy a subscription model for suppliers and brewers but remain free for buyers to maximise opportunities to do business. The number of UK breweries reached 2,274 in 2018, up 68% from 1,352 in 2013. The market is becoming increasingly challenging. We believe BrewBroker is a historic innovation for the entire industry. Investment will enable us to scale marketing and onboard more clients.” BrewBroker launched in the US in March 2019.
Cosmo temporarily closes three sites: All-you-can-eat brand Cosmo has temporarily closed three of its sites because of fears surrounding the spread of coronavirus. The 19-strong company has temporarily closed its sites in Derby, Edinburgh and Romford. The company stated on its website: “The health and well-being of all our staff and customers is our priority and we will still continue to monitor the situation closely and follow all government guidelines stringently. Thank you for your support. Stay safe.” Earlier this year the company said it was returning to the expansion trail after securing three sites, while it was seeking a further five for 2020. It recently closed its site in Glasgow Silverburn for a “long-awaited decoration project”.
Former Flank head chef launches Cambodian concept in London Fields: Former Flank head chef Kaneda Pen has launched Cambodian concept Mamapen in London Fields. Mamapen has started a long-term residency at The Prince Arthur pub, which recently reopened in Forest Road. The concept offers a short menu that includes Khmer-style barbecue skewers, sour pineapple curry with sweet potato and pickled mango, and a house steak sandwich. It also offers traditional Sunday roasts. Prince Arthur landlord Jonathan Mercer told Hot Dinners: “We spoke to a lot of chefs about taking full responsibility for our kitchen but felt an affinity with the guys at Mamapen. They share a lot of our values about strength of community and having a good time. It’s not traditional pub food but we believe sharing dishes are what a pub should be about.”
Derby Brewing Co opens debut micro-pub: Brewer and retailer Derby Brewing Co has opened a debut micro-pub for its fifth site. The Hole In The Wall has launched at a former NatWest bank branch in Mickleover on the corner of Station Road and Uttoxeter Road. The 50-cover venue offers ale, craft beer, spirits, wine, and tea and coffee alongside homemade bar snacks. Derby Brewing Co managing director Paul Harris told Derbyshire Live: “It is our take on a micro-pub. We’ve wanted to have a pub in Mickleover for a long time. It’s a great location and the public interest has been amazing. What we’re trying to do is what we do with all our pubs – provide a range of our own beer and guest beers.” Derby Brewing Co’s other sites are The Tap and The Greyhound, both in Derby; The Kedleston Country House, a bar, restaurant, boutique hotel and wedding venue in Quarndon; and The Pig in Lichfield.
Big Smoke Brew Co reopens Wokingham pub for fifth site: Surrey-based brewer and retailer Big Smoke Brew Co has reopened The Raglan in Wokingham, Berkshire, for its fifth pub. The venue in Denmark Street had been closed for more than a year but has relaunched under its original name, The Lord Raglan, following a £350,000 investment. Big Smoke Brew Co is known for teaming up with local breweries and focusing on real ale and cider. Its food menu includes burgers, ribs, salads and sharing plates. Rich Craig and James Morgan founded Big Smoke Brew Co in 2014. Esher-based Big Smoke Brew Co has undergone a period of rapid growth, especially in the past 18 months, and operates a brewery, gin distillery and four other pubs – The Antelope in Surbiton, The Albion in Kingston, The Flintgate in Weybridge, and The Hole In The Wall in Chichester.
Pizza Pilgrims opens Camden site featuring convertible restaurant and training academy: Pizza Pilgrims, founded by brothers Thom and James Elliot, has launched a convertible restaurant and training academy in Parkway, Camden. As revealed by Propel earlier this year the company, which opened its 12th venue in London’s Victoria in January, acquired the 40 Zero site from Various Eateries. During the day the site houses a 20-cover restaurant and two training rooms, transforming in the evening to a 100-cover restaurant. As well as training staff, the space will also host talks by experts from inside and outside the sector. The Elliots said they hoped the academy would champion the hospitality industry and provide people with a range of skills to pursue a long-term career. Thom Elliot told Propel: “The academy will offer training to anyone who wants to build a career in the sector, whether that’s someone who is homeless or an ex-offender as well as delivering training for Pizza Pilgrims employees. We also want to put on talks for people in the sector but outside our own business. Moving into a ‘village location’, we know we won’t need to offer a traditional restaurant space during the day, with delivery set to play a bigger part, so we can concertina the space from 20 covers in the day to 100 in the evening.” The company operates 11 sites in London and one in Oxford. Stonebrook London acted on the Camden deal.
EasyHotel reports reduction in forward bookings but ‘too early’ to estimate coronavirus impact: EasyHotel, the owner, developer, operator and franchisor of “super budget” branded hotels, has said it is currently experiencing a reduction in forward bookings for the next three months as a result of the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic. The company said it expected the situation to have an adverse impact on occupancy levels at the group’s estate. It added it was “too early” to estimate what the full impact from covid-19 would be on the group’s performance for the current financial year but the board was “assessing the actions” it could take to respond to “unprecedented” market challenges. The company added: “Our key priority is the health and welfare of our staff and guests and we’ll continue to monitor the situation closely.”
KFC pauses ‘finger-licking’ campaign: KFC has paused its “Piano” campaign two weeks after its launch following growing concerns surrounding coronavirus. The advert shows people eating KFC’s signature chicken before licking their fingers with the tagline: “It’s good.” The campaign launched on 24 February and was set to include out-of-home activity. A KFC spokesman told Campaign: “It doesn’t feel like the right time to be airing this campaign so we’ve decided to pause it for now – but we’re really proud of it and look forward to bringing it back at a later date.” The Advertising Standards Authority said 163 people complained about the advert as it encouraged “behaviour that might increase the chances of coronavirus spreading”. A spokesman said: “We have been in touch with KFC, which had already taken the decision to withdraw the ad before we had informed them of the complaints. On that basis, we won’t be taking any further action.”
Highbury-based laksa bar Sambal Shiok opens ‘economy rice’ takeaway: Laksa bar Sambal Shiok, which launched its debut bricks and mortar site in Highbury in north London in June 2018, has launched an “economy rice” takeaway next door. Owner Mandy Yin opened the Malaysian-focused venue in Holloway Road at a site formerly occupied by Mexican restaurant Amigos. Her new takeaway offers affordable Malaysian rice boxes inspired by economy rice eateries, with each box around the £5 mark. Yin told Hot Dinners: “My mission in life is to introduce as many people as possible to Malaysian food. I think I have done my job with laksa, now it’s the turn of economy rice with its wide variety of hearty Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes resulting in an endless combination of flavours in one meal. It is exactly the food I want to have when I finish work – food my mum would cook for me that I don’t have to cook myself. I want to feed people a convenient, but highly nutritious, balanced meal at an affordable cost.”
Campari Group donates €1m to fight coronavirus: Milan-headquartered Campari Group has donated €1m (£908,000) to ASST Fatebenefratelli Sacco, a centre for the research and treatment of highly contagious and dangerous diseases based in its home city. The money will be used to finance an intensive care operational unit to treat patients with coronavirus and supply a negative pressures system equipped with ten resuscitation kits. A Campari Group spokeswoman said: “Milan, you are the symbol of a region and country where passionate teams of doctors and health workers are working tirelessly with professionalism and extreme dedication to heal the deep wounds the coronavirus emergency is inflicting on all of us. Campari Group is by your side in these difficult times. We look forward to celebrating together with you and all of Italy at the end of this emergency, when safety and serenity will be restored.”