Byron places entire workforce on job retention scheme, directors take pay cut:Byron, the better burger brand led by Simon Wilkinson and backed by Three Hills Capital, has placed its circa 1,200 staff on the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) while directors have taken a “substantial” pay cut. The 51-strong business, which completed a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) in 2018, appointed KPMG last week to explore ways to shore up its balance sheet including options to access emergency funding. Wilkinson told Propel: “Byron has worked with employees during this hibernation period and put everyone on the CJRS. The directors have taken a substantial pay cut to remain with the business and work with KPMG to review options and steer the company through these challenging times.” This week sector peer Carluccio’s, which also completed a CVA in 2018, was placed into administration. Last week both brands held emergency talks regarding a merger, which came to nothing. The CJRS pays up to 80% of employees’ wages with a ceiling of £2,500 a month.
About 20% of Bella Italia sites remain open for delivery and collection: Casual Dining Group (CDG) has kept about 20% of its circa 115 Bella Italia restaurants open for delivery and click and collect, Propel understands. A spokesman for the company, which is led by James Spragg, said: “Staying open to provide this service actually costs us more – we’re definitely not in it for the money. The small team working reduced hours in each restaurant to cook and serve food have chosen to do so and are proud to support their communities. If they choose not to work, we fully support their decision and will be assisting them to access support available to them and enrolling all permanent staff at closed sites on the government’s ‘furlough’ scheme.” Bella Italia is offering two levels of discounts to those using its click and collect service, including 50% off the bill for NHS and other key workers. The company said: “Nothing can repay those who are risking their own safety to keep the wheels of society moving but our small gesture is a discount they can use as many times as they like during these worrying times.”
Veeno – keeping staff key to regaining momentum: Rodrigue Trouillet, owner and director of Italian wine bar business Veeno, has told Propel staff will be key in the company’s attempts to regain the momentum it had before the coronavirus crisis. Trouillet acquired the company out of administration a year ago and said “real progress” was being made before the country was locked down. Like-for-like sales were up 11% in 2019 and Trouillet said it had seen a great start to 2020, with like-for-likes increasing 25% in January and 29% in February. Veeno was still seeing double-digit like-for-like growth in March until the government told people to avoid pubs, bars and restaurants as the coronavirus crisis accelerated. Veeno has consolidated its estate in the past year and now has eight sites, including a franchised outlet in Reading. However, Trouillet revealed the company had been talking to potential franchisees before the coronavirus outbreak and those talks would restart when the crisis ended. He said: “We may have had to shut our wine bars but we have a concept that works and that will really help us when we reopen. At the moment we’re pushing online sales and it’s going well. We have furloughed all our staff because we want to make sure we keep them. They have been terrific and one of the main reasons we’ve been so successful in the past 12 months. Of course I understand businesses need to preserve cash but our people will be key to helping us re-establish our momentum when all this passes. We were getting some really good reviews, particularly around customer service. Even now we’re getting a lot of messages from people saying how much they miss us. We look forward to seeing them again – hopefully soon.” Trouillet said expansion, which he stressed “wouldn’t happen straight away” after restrictions were lifted, would focus on franchising, which was a “win-win situation all round”. He added: “Our model means the capital investment is quite low. We’ve had about 100 expressions of interest in the past four or five months – we have to find the right profile. We’ll use Reading as a blueprint but franchisees have to understand it’s not a money-making machine straight away – it takes a lot of hard work. We need to be realistic about the type of place we look at and find the right balance between what’s a reasonable-sized site but avoiding high rents and business rates. We need to be smart about it but our message is clear – we are here to stay, thrive and expand.”
Shepherd Neame extends licensee support by waiving rent for entire government closure period: Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has extended its programme of support for licensees after announcing it will waive rent for the duration of the government lock-down. The company’s head office team is also helping licensees to access grants and financial support available from the government. The company previously suspended all licensee rents from 23 March. Since rent is payable weekly in arrears, this effectively means Shepherd Neame licensees haven’t paid rent since prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on 16 March to avoid pubs. Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame said: “We are working closely with our licensees during these challenging times and want to offer every support possible to help them preserve the future of their businesses. Our focus is to protect our people, pubs and the company for the long term.”
GBK ends delivery option across selected sites: Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) has suspended the delivery option it was offering from select UK sites. Last week owner Famous Brands stated: “Select GBK and Wimpy restaurants in the UK will attempt to remain open to service the home delivery market but the viability of that option is unclear at this stage. Management will monitor the situation closely for both operations. Given the prevailing instability in our trading markets, it is difficult to project with accuracy the impact of the pandemic on the business. Across our business we’ll continue to enforce the necessary disciplines and protocols required to curb and slow the spread of coronavirus.” GBK has now decided to close all its sites for the time being and suspend home delivery services. The business said: “Our teams have worked tirelessly to provide services to their communities throughout this difficult time and we thank them wholeheartedly.”
Wahaca launches ‘at home’ initiative: Mexican restaurant group Wahaca has launched an online platform to “bring the business into the nation’s homes”. Wahaca At Home will offer recipes, cocktail ideas, playlists, family activities and news of the company’s charitable initiatives. It will include a video series featuring co-founder Thomasina Miers’ Mexican-inspired recipes that will be shown online and on Wahaca’s Instagram and Facebook sites. Miers said: “We look forward to welcoming taco fans back to our restaurants as soon as we can but, in the meantime, hope they’ll welcome us into their homes to shine a few rays of Mexican sunshine and satisfy those cravings for Mexican food when so many of us need to stay indoors.”
Goodbody – new Domino’s chief executive will have plenty to deal with quickly but significant consumer brand and franchisee experience will help: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said new Domino’s Pizza chief executive Dominic Paul will have “plenty to deal with quite quickly” but his “significant consumer brand and franchisee experience” would help. Paul, who was chief executive and managing director of Costa Coffee between 2016 and 2019, will take up the role at Domino’s on Monday (6 April) and join the board on 1 May. Current chief executive David Wild will retire from the board on that date. Ruddy said: “It is pleasing to see Domino’s appoint a chief executive with significant consumer brand and franchisee experience. Domino’s, on a relative basis, is the best placed to navigate its way through the coronavirus crisis and it was encouraging to hear its contactless delivery service is offsetting the lost sales in collection, albeit in a short period. There will be plenty of challenges for the new chief executive to work through including keeping supply chains running smoothly, exiting the loss-making international businesses and, most importantly, repairing franchisee relationships. With Wild stepping down from the board on 1 May, there will be plenty for Paul to deal with quite quickly. Overall, this is a positive development and removes another overhang from the Domino’s investment case following the recent appointment of Matt Shattock as chairman.”
Capital & Regional collects 50% of its second-quarter rent: Capital & Regional has collected 50% of second-quarter rent from tenants, way below the 80% it would usually collect for the period, as only 23% of its tenants remain trading during the lock-down. The company’s seven UK shopping centres remain open as some tenants provide essential services. Capital & Regional stated: “We are in discussions with all our retailer customers on outstanding rent, appreciating these are challenging times. With our larger chain store and multiple unit retailers we’re in dialogue to understand and assess the impact the relief measures announced by the government could potentially have on their businesses and anticipate further collections as we work through these discussions. We are likewise engaging with our smaller independent retailers as to how we are best able to offer support, sensitive particularly to the impact the current situation is having on them.” On Monday (30 March), Hammerson said it had received 37% so far of rent billed for the second quarter. Last week Intu said it had only received 29% of rent due for the second quarter of 2020, compared with 77% received for the same period a year before.