Steamin’ Billy boss – restrictions have left business’ future looking ‘very bleak’:Billy Allingham, managing director of Leicestershire-based Steamin’ Billy Brewing, has told Propel the restrictions on the sector have left the future of the business looking “very bleak”. Steamin’ Billy operates eight traditional pubs across the county, three of which are wet-led. Seven of the eight sites have now reopened and trade had been steadily rising to 65% of last year’s like-for-like sales. However, Allingham said the introduction of the 10pm curfew has seen like-for-likes at its wet-led pubs drop to 50.6% of last year and are down 35.9% at the food-led outlets. Allingham, who also operates the Caddyshackers crazy golf concept in Leicester, has secured £1m from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and also received £200,000 in grants in a bid to keep the business afloat. But he said: “At this rate, survival as we currently operate doesn’t look viable. Why should I take on an extra £1m of debt to my existing borrowings knowing we are losing between £50,000 to £70,000 a month? For three months, with grant support and furlough it looked achievable but for 12 months… what’s the point? We have had to make some head office staff redundant, take salary cuts and forego dividends for 2020. Where relevant, our landlords have given us rent deferment holidays. The situation is setting us back three to five years with a very different customer requirement going forward.” The Parcel Yard at Leicester train station is still closed with commuter numbers at 5% of last year and Allingham hopes the site will reopen in March. He added: “Boris is telling people to work from home, there are no crowds at the city football or rugby and the 10pm curfew is in force. Our trade is lunchtime office workers, after-work commuters, sports fans and 9pm-to-midnight-thirty-somethings enjoying a night out – all of which are prohibited.” Allingham said he was also looking to convert the function room at Caddyshackers into shared office space with 12 desks to rent by the day with a separate meeting room, healthy juice bar and break-out spaces and a class-led gym facility for 12 to 15 guests.
Rare Restaurants give staff paid day off as part of mental health awareness month: Rare Restaurants, owner of Gaucho and M Restaurants, has launched Mindfulness Month – a programme of wellness and meditation for all its employees. The annual initiative will bring awareness of World Mental Health Day on Saturday (10 October), in an industry “where mental health and well-being were already under significant strain, now, of course, exacerbated by the recent pandemic”. The scheme allows all Rare employees a “Mindful Day” that encourages all 750 members of staff to take an extra paid day off to look after themselves and fellow team members during October. Chief executive Martin Williams said: “We appreciate the strains that the past months have placed on our people. Our HR manager Agata Maninni has created a great month of celebration and support for our fantastic teams at Gaucho and M Restaurants, to promote well-being, health and happiness at a time when all too many restaurant groups have been ‘laying off’ staff and detrimentally affecting mental health in their people.” Initiatives include daily meditation sessions over video conferencing that, week by week, covers different themes from “building a healthy self-image”, “the genius in me”, “releasing stress and anxiety” and “gratitude and kindness”. Additionally, all employees will be given resources to tips and helpful links and will have access to group and personal therapy opportunities.
Wagamama launches student support society: Wagamama, owned by The Restaurant Group, has launched a student support society called Noodle Union. It features free online cooking lessons called “wok from halls”, locked-down food drops and giveaways for those returning to student life. The new cooking show, created in partnership with student channel MOB kitchen, will teach university students how to cook Wagamama classics on campus. Presented by Wagamama executive chef Steve Mangleshot, it has been created specifically with students in mind, using ingredients they should be able to access easily or already have in their cupboard. Wok from halls will be released on Tik Tok, Facebook, IGTV and Snapchat, and also be available on MOB kitchen social media and website. With some students currently locked down in their halls due to localised restrictions, Wagamama has arranged for food drops to be delivered to a selection of university campuses across the UK. Wagamama chief executive Emma Woods said: “Students are a massive part of Wagamama, with hundreds working and eating at Wagamama every day. This year has taken a lot away from this group and, as a business, we are passionate about supporting them.”
Platform reopens in Shoreditch with six-figure loan support, looking to secure second site: Gaming restaurant/bar concept Platform has reopened its site in Shoreditch, east London, after securing a six-figure Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme through HSBC UK. The funds have safeguarded 11 jobs at the venue in Worship Street that opened last year. Platform is now seeking interested partners within the video gaming industry to participate in its flagship site, which is set to open during the second quarter of 2021 in the West End. Co-founder and chief executive Tomaso Portunato told Propel: “While the present is still looking pretty grim in terms of trading and performance, we have been working tirelessly to secure the livelihood of our team, to resume operations and to continue our growth trajectory. We hope to be able to share more details about our flagship opening soon, which is set to be a unique proposition for experience seekers coming to London.”
Cineworld lenders bring in advisers over £6.2bn debt mountain: Lenders to cinema operator Cineworld have brought in advisers for urgent talks on the company’s $8bn (£6.2bn) debt mountain as it mothballs circa 660 sites in the UK and US. A syndicate of banks has appointed FTI Consulting to negotiate with the operator, reports Sky News. City sources said, on Monday, the announcement about the temporary closures, which sent its shares crashing by more than 50%, was likely to presage a formal debt restructuring. Lenders are also expected to raise the prospect of a company voluntary arrangement. Cineworld will close the sites from Thursday (8 October) because of the delay to key film releases. No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond, was due to open next month but has been pushed back by MGM, the studio behind it, until next April. In a stock exchange announcement on Monday (5 October), Cineworld said it continued to “assess several sources of additional liquidity and all liquidity raising options are being considered”. Some 45,000 employees will be affected by the mothballing plan, although the number of permanent redundancies is unclear. Cineworld has seen its balance sheet particularly hard-hit because of the debt-fuelled acquisition spree that has transformed it into one of the world’s largest cinema operators over the past decade.
Incipio converts former rugby player into culture consultant: Incipio Group, operator of venues including Pergola Paddington, The Prince and Lost in Brixton, has appointed former rugby professional Chris Wyles as a culture and performance consultant. Wyles, who started on Thursday (1 October), enjoyed a ten-year career with Saracens where he won four Premiership titlesand two European Cups – he also represented USA Eagles and earned 54 caps, taking part in three World Cups. Since retiring from professional sport in 2018, Wyles has grown Wolfpack Lager, a business he co-founded with ex-Saracens team-mate Alistair Hargreaves in 2014. Wyles said: “I’m incredibly excited to join the Incipio team. It’s a business that I’ve admired for a long time. If this year has taught us anything, team culture and resilience can, ultimately, define a company. I cannot wait to bring some of the lessons I’ve learnt from business and high-level sport to the Incipio Group.” Incipio Group chief executive Ed Devenport added: “We are delighted Chris has agreed to join us at Incipio, bringing with him a wealth of experience in leadership, culture and team development. I am looking forward to seeing our team of more than 200 benefit from his experience and insight on what makes an award-winning team by helping us develop our core values and cultivating an award winning culture.”
Odeon to shut quarter of its cinemas during week, Vue eyes temporary closures:Odeon cinemas will shut a quarter of its sites during the week, blaming a lack of Hollywood blockbusters and the uptick in positive covid-19 cases. Meanwhile, Vue cinemas hinted it could temporarily close some of its venues. Odeon, which operates 120 cinemas in the UK and Ireland, has contacted some of its subscription customers to tell them some venues will move to a weekend-only operation. AMC Theaters, which owns Odeon among its circa 1,000 cinemas worldwide, cited the dearth of major films. Odeon told customers in an email: “We look forward to reopening full time when the big blockbusters return. But, in the meantime, we promise to bring you a great choice of big-screen films to enjoy at the weekends.” Vue cinemas chief executive Tim Richards told Sky News the business is looking at all options, which included the temporary shuttering of some venues. He also told BBC Radio 4’s Today show: “We’re likely going to make it through. We came into this a very strong industry. We just need to make it through the next three or four months where there are no movies.”
Subscription delivery service launches for cook-at-home dishes from star chefs:Recipe box delivery subscription Wild Radish has enlisted eight leading chefs to launch its service on Monday, 12 October. Each box will contain ingredients, easy-to-follow recipes and tips from the chefs so customers can create “restaurant-quality dishes at home”. The chefs involved are Philip Howard (Elystan Street), Alyn Williams (Petrus, Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley and Alyn Williams at The Westbury), Anna Hansen (The Modern Pantry), Mark Kempson (Kitchen W8), Marianna Leivaditaki (Morito Hackney Road), Richard Galli (The Goring’s Dining Room), Daniel Fletcher (28 Market Place) and Sam Ashton-Booth (The Ledbury). Wild Radish co-founder Anthea Stephenson said: “I want people to feel inspired about cooking again and feel confident they can treat themselves without the guilt, hours in the kitchen, or half-empty never-to-be-used-again jars of obscure ingredients. Before this year’s events, we all spent so much time running around, many of us lost track of what’s important. This is about encouraging you to slow down and reconnect.” Example recipes for October include spiced glazed duck breast with orange-braised fennel by Galli; baked gurnard with casserole vegetables, butternut bisque, lime and black garlic relish by Williams; and celeriac, potato and pear gratin with wilted greens, chanterelles, brown butter and butternut by Howard. The recipe box with a matched bottle of wine for each meal) is £65 (£50 without the wine). Delivery for the weekly box is only available in London.
Arora Group secures £50m loan from OakNorth Bank: Hotel, construction and property investment company Arora Group has secured a £50m loan from OakNorth Bank. The business, which was founded by Surinder Arora in 1999, has a portfolio of 30 properties across the UK, including the InterContinental at The O2, Fairmont Windsor Park, and more than a dozen hotels across Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports. Arora Group founder and chairman Surinder Arora said: “Covid-19 has, inevitably, presented numerous challenges for our sector but, as we found during the 2008 financial crisis, unique opportunities arise in times of economic turmoil. This loan from OakNorth Bank provides us with the liquidity to take advantage of these opportunities and focus on playing for the upside, when many others will be distracted trying to protect the downside.” Ben Barbanel, head of debt finance, and Mohith Sondhi, senior debt finance director at OakNorth Bank, added: “The 20-year track record of the group speaks for itself and despite the challenges covid-19 is presenting to the sector, Arora Group is still being able to identify interesting opportunities to grow its portfolio.”
Mobile contactless ordering at Costa Express machines to launch: Costa Express is to roll out mobile contactless ordering across more than 9,000 of its UK machines. The company claimed this is a UK first for the coffee machine industry, which enables limited physical contact with machines. It works through the Costa Coffee app. Customers open the app, scan a QR code on the machine, choose and customise their drink, place a cup below the drink dispenser and tap “make drink” – payment details are then shown on the touchscreen. Costa Express managing director Scott Martin said: “Costa Express is synonymous with exceptional coffee on-the-go, so we’re delighted to roll out this state-of-the-art mobile contactless ordering system. The technology is nothing short of a gold-standard level of innovation – a UK first for the coffee machine industry – and we’re proud to lead the charge as our customers enjoy a new and exciting way to order their favourite machine crafted, barista-quality coffee.”
London-based restaurants reopen with discounts in place: London-based restaurants Orient London and Bella Cosa have reopened – and with discounts in place. Orient London in Chinatown, which specialises in seafood and freshly made dim sum, is offering 30% off food and soft drinks on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday during October. Meanwhile, Bella Cosa, the Italian restaurant on the Isle of Dogs, is giving customers 50% off food and soft drinks – up to £10 per person – from Sunday to Fridayuntil the end of November. It is also offering 20% off takeaway. The menu includes homemade tagliatelle and fresh truffle, butter, sage and pistachio; and pumpkin and peccorino ravioli. Meanwhile, French-inspired neighbourhood bistro Augustine Kitchen, in Battersea Park, has reopened following a refurbishment during lock-down with a new wine cellar. It showcases the bottles on the 45-cover restaurant’s extensive list – especially those specifically from Savoie. Owner and chef Franck Raymond’s menu includes escargots with garlic cream and parsley butter; a lobster bisque; and rack of lamb with gratin Savoyard.
Interactive children’s leisure complex Fun Street opens at Scottish leisure park:Fun Street, a two-level interactive family entertainment centre – which houses a 120-cover restaurant – has launched its debut site at Scottish retail and leisure park Silverburn. As part of a phased opening, 75% of the 14,000 square foot independently owned venue has opened. Fun Street caters for children aged up to 12 and offers an interactive playground based on a magical storybook town. The site is formed of six zones, it has a tropical beach zone for younger children, Fun Street town on the lower level – which inspires lots of imaginative play and creativity – plus an “i-zone” space upstairs for older children that features digital gaming walls and interactive animation screens. Role play houses, party rooms, a home cinema and music elements all encourage interaction between parents/carers and children, and the different zones address imagination, physical play, cognitive development, and pure entertainment. Fun Street features a 120-cover restaurant – Erina’s Kitchen – which has an all-day menu serving brunch, homemade pizzas, pasta, pancakes and pastries, plus healthy, organic and vegetarian options. Fun Street owner Dr Usman Qureshi said: “We have a complete offer for the whole family, jam-packed with activities and all-day restaurant for parents to relax in while their kids have fun in a safe environment.” Iain Mitchell, UK commercial director of real estate business Hammerson, which owns Silverburn, said: “Fun Street will bring something unique and exciting to Silverburn, at a time when creating memories with your friends and family has never been more important.”
Mapal announces trio of senior hires: Mapal Software, the European hospitality software developer behind Edinburgh’s Flow Hospitality Training, has welcomed three senior hires to its ranks, strengthening the global executive team. Dereck Manners joins as chief customer officer from Fourth, where he was vice-president. Prior to this he had been senior at Starwood Hotel & Resorts in global business improvement and guest experience roles. His role at Mapal will lead the customer success, onboarding and support function of the business, where he will be focused on senior level engagement and strategic planning with key clients. James McLuckie joins the Flow Hospitality product team as chief learning officer, having previously worked with an agency developing content and learning strategies for international brands including Google, Virgin and Heineken. Martina Baletkova joins as director of global business development, leading the relationships with major global accounts. She previously held similar hospitality focused roles at NCR Corporation and Zonal. The hires follow a significant investment in the firm in 2019 by Providence Strategic Growth, the growth equity affiliate of Providence Equity Partners, and a number of subsequent acquisitions by the firm in hospitality technologies.