Company News:

Stonegate launches own version of Eat Out To Help Out with no spending cap:Stonegate Pub Company has launched its own version of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme – but with no spending limit. Customers will be given 50% off their bill when they dine at any Stonegate site on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. The offer will be automatically applied to customers’ bills on all food, tea and coffee orders. The scheme will operate until the company switches to Eat Out To Help Out next month. Stonegate has opened the majority of its estate with new safety measures including enhanced cleaning regimes, single-use menus, contactless payment, hand-sanitiser stations and revised layouts. Customers have been encouraged to book because of reduced venue capacity. Stonegate managing director Helen Charlesworth said: “I am excited to launch this campaign two weeks ahead of the government initiative. We’re committed to providing the best possible customer experience and this is just the start of many initiatives and campaigns that will roll out across Stonegate in the coming weeks and months to benefit our customers.” Meanwhile, Stonegate will reopen the majority of its cocktail bar chain Be At One this week. Be At One has already reopened five of its 39 sites, four in London – in Greek Street, Regent Street, Russell Street and Shoreditch – and its bar in Birmingham. The company will open a further 23 venues on Friday (24 July), while the Be At One in Cardiff will reopen on Monday, 3 August.
Whitbread to have entire restaurant portfolio open by 5 August as it signs up to Eat Out To Help Out scheme: Whitbread has said it will have reopened its entire portfolio of more than 750 restaurants by Wednesday, 5 August. The company said brands including Bar + Block, Beefeater and Brewers Fayre would also participate in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. The discount scheme, which gives guests 50% off their bill up to £10 per person when dining from Monday to Wednesday, will run alongside Whitbread’s current restaurant loyalty schemes, meaning guests can still earn points when dining. Whitbread said there would be plenty of additional offers coming up for loyalty members in August that could be used from Thursday to Sunday. Whitbread Restaurants managing director Phil Birbeck said: “Our restaurants have introduced a range of measures to keep our guests and teams safe so, when our guests are ready, they can dine with us in confidence and feel assured their well-being is of utmost importance to us.” Since the start of July, Whitbread’s restaurants have been opening in a phased approach and, in preparation for welcoming guests back, have been working to create a gold standard set of measures called A Generous Serving Of Safety. Meanwhile, Whitbread has appointed Leo Burnett London as its creative agency for Premier Inn following a four-month competitive pitch process that mainly took place virtually. The agency will be responsible for Premier Inn’s above-the-line advertising as the hotel company continues the phased reopening of sites. Incumbent agency Lucky Generals declined to repitch for the account, ending its four-year relationship with the hotel group earlier this year, reports Campaign.
Andrew Stones appointed interim managing director of Vagabond: Andrew Stones, the former managing director of Be At One, has been appointed interim managing director at the Imbiba-backed wine bar business Vagabond. Stones worked with Be At One’s founders and private equity partners to grow the company from ten to 39 sites before managing a trade sale to Stonegate Pub Company in 2018. He joined sector investor Imbiba last year, and sits on the board of the eight-strong Vagabond. It is thought long-term the group will look to hire a permanent managing director. Founder Stephen Finch told Propel: “What became pretty clear to me early in the lock-down was there were a number of important strategic projects I believed would create value for the business that had not really moved beyond my head into practice. The day-to-day management of the business had not afforded me time to focus on these projects, and it is easy to get stuck in that mindset. Speaking with the company’s board it quickly became apparent I should not be still doing that day-to-day role anymore. So it was a case of let’s get a proper, experienced managing director to do the day-to-day management and free me up to take those strategic projects forward, and also provide an overall direction and tone for the business. So we have brought Andrew, formerly of Be At One, who already sits on our board, in to be our interim managing director. He has taken the reins quickly and is running with it and it has freed me up to do what I need to do, and I couldn’t be happier.”
McDonald’s to reopen 700 restaurants for dine-in: McDonald’s has said it will reopen about 700 restaurants for dine-in from Wednesday (22 July) in a move that will allow some venues to take part in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. The company said following a trial at four sites the reopenings would involve restaurants across the UK apart from Wales, which has yet to lift eating-in restrictions. McDonald’s has already reopened UK sites for drive-thru and takeaway after they temporarily closed in March. Social distancing measures will be in place at reopened venues with the number of customers carefully managed to prevent congestion. Venues will operate table service only, with orders taken through the McDonald’s app or at tills and kiosks. Customers will be asked to use hand sanitiser at the sites alongside other safety measures. Customers who dine in will also be asked to leave contact details via their smartphone. McDonald’s said the move would enable “some restaurants” to take part in the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, halving dine-in bills by up to £10 per person on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August. Last week McDonald’s said it had recommended franchisees cut the price of popular items and meal deals after the government slashed VAT on hot meals from 20% to 5% for the next six months. It said it intended to reduce the price of Happy Meals by 30p and breakfast meals by 50p, with price cuts also recommended for Big Macs, Quarter Pounders and McNuggets.
YO! to reopen some sites for table service only as it continues new contactless format roll out: YO!, the Richard Hodgson-led global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group, is to open some of its restaurants yet to convert to its new contactless format for table service only due to customer demand, Propel has learned. YO! will begin by reopening its Bromley, Nottingham and Windsor restaurants on Wednesday (22 July), but without the conveyor belt in operation. The phased reopening will see another six sites open by Saturday (25 July). Five more restaurants, including Brighton, Milton Keynes and Exeter, will reopen for table service next week followed by Leamington Spa on Wednesday, 5 August. Propel understands YO! has taken the decision to offer table service after receiving a huge number of requests on social media. Meanwhile, the company is continuing to roll out its new and improved “kaiten” conveyor belt providing guests with a personal, contactless dining experience. Guests can take a picture of a QR code and order and pay for their food through the digital menu on their phone via a platform powered by Vita Mojo. Dishes are prepared in each store’s kitchen and arrive on the kaiten belt in front of customers. The interactive traffic light system turns amber to tell customers when their food is on its way and green when it arrives. Having piloted the format in Guildford, it has now been rolled out to eight sites, with its restaurants at Harvey Nichols in London and Cheltenham following this week. The company plans to continue rolling out the format across its 70-strong estate at a rate of roughly three sites a week.
Boparan Restaurant Group confirms first UK franchise partner for Slim Chickens:Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) has confirmed JRK Restaurants as the first UK franchise partner for Slim Chickens, as it seeks to accelerate the growth of the “better chicken” brand. BRG has entered into a franchise development agreement with JRK Restaurants under which the new partners will open initially five outlets across the south coast. The first site will be located within Southampton’s Westquay Shopping Centre and is due to open next month. Propel revealed in February that Karim Kassam, the founder of hotel operator Ziz Hospitality, was one of the directors behind JRK Restaurants, and BRG was looking to go down the franchise route to expand Slim Chickens in the UK. BRG currently operates seven sites under the brand in the UK. Judd Williams, BRG’s franchise director, said: “We are delighted to partner with JRK in what is a significant move for everyone associated with the Slim Chickens brand. As a result of this new signing, we have taken the first steps in our ambitious sub-franchise plans to fast track the roll out of Slim Chickens and introduce the brand to more towns and cities across the UK.” Kassam added: “Slim Chickens is undoubtedly one of the most exciting new brands in the market and we are pleased to partner with BRG to increase Slim’s presence across the UK.”
Starbucks to update loyalty programme and app: Starbucks has announced plans to update its loyalty programme this autumn by giving members more payment options and ways to earn stars through the Starbucks app. The update to Starbucks Rewards will begin in company-operated stores in the US and Canada, with members able to scan their app and then pay by cash, card or select mobile wallets to earn stars towards free items. Members will also be able to save their preferred payment methods in the app to earn stars when paying. The enhancements will be in addition to the current option of earnings stars by paying with a Starbucks Card in-store and within the app. Starbucks chief marketing officer Brady Brewer said: “Our customers shared with us they would like more options to pay and earn stars in the app as a Starbucks Rewards member in addition to the Starbucks Card. We expect the expansion of payment options will appeal to an even wider customer audience and deepen engagement with our members.” Meanwhile, as a continuation of the company’s commitment to a more sustainable future, Starbucks has joined the new Transform to Net Zero initiative as a founding member. Comprised of nine founding members, the Initiative’s objective is to accelerate the transition to a net zero global economy no later than 2050.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen begins reopening sites for dine-in: Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) has begun reopening its restaurants for dine-in. The company has reopened 14 of its 72 sites so far, including Bath, Bluewater, Guildford and Watford, and is working to welcome customers back to further outlets. In May, GBK appointed advisors to assess its options going forward. The Famous Brands-owned business had appointed Deloitte to oversee this process, with speculation increasing the group would need to be placed into administration after Famous Brands announced in April it was pulling the plug on its investment.
TGI Friday’s launches UK premium meat delivery service: TGI Friday’s has launched Butcher’s Boxes, a premium meat delivery service in the UK. The move is part of the company’s Fridays At Home range. There are three boxes to choose from – The Famous, The Signature and The Legends – with each box delivered frozen as they contain enough meat for “several meals”. Meat includes slow-cooked, marinated baby-back pork ribs, Cumberland and barbecue sausages, burgers made using brisket and chuck steak from British and Irish farms, and PGI-certificated Scottish 12oz ribeye steak or 10oz sirloin steak. Each box also contains cooking and handling instructions, with the first available delivery on 30 July. Chief executive Robert Cook, said: “We have been working tirelessly to bring the Friday’s feeling to our fans’ homes through click and collect and delivery. We’re excited Butcher’s Boxes are the latest addition to the Friday’s At Home range. We’ve made a significant investment in the quality of our meat. Each box contains an accompanying brochure that includes essential care, preparation and cooking information to give them the full Friday’s experience” Earlier this week, TGI Friday’s revealed more details of its simplified and enhanced menu, which is available at six UK restaurants. The Famous At Friday’s menu pays homage to “what made Friday’s famous” when it launched in 1965 and is set to cut food waste.
Heavenly Desserts to open debut Manchester site and second London outlet:Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts is to open its debut site in Manchester and is set to add another outlet in London to its estate, Propel has learned. The company also launched sites in Coventry and Rochdale this month, while it will open its fourth store of 2020, in Walthamstow, east London, shortly. Heavenly Desserts made its debut in the capital earlier this year with a site at International Quarter London – Lendlease and London & Continental Railways’ £2.4bn development in Stratford. The company is also strengthening its presence in the north west of England having secured its first site in Manchester. The restaurant in Wilmslow Road is due to “open soon”. In March, Heavenly Desserts appointed agents to find it prospective stores in London and the south of England in a bid to accelerate expansion plans. The business, which operates circa 25 stores in the UK, is looking to ramp up its presence in the south. It aims to open further outlets in London with Shepherd’s Bush, Hounslow and Wembley among the areas on its radar.
Watch House to launch Maltby Street roastery, plans further expansion as coffee shops start reopening next month: Edition Capital-backed coffee concept Watch House is to launch a roastery to supply its five London coffee houses, which will start reopening next month. The company said it would also continue with its “calculated expansion plans across London and further afield”. The roastery will launch under the arches of Maltby Street on Saturday, 1 August offering Watch House’s own house blend coffee while housing the company’s training lab and head office. The brand’s coffee houses in Bermondsey Street, Spitalfields and Tower Bridge will reopen on the same day. The Bermondsey Street site was the debut venue for Watch House, founded by chief executive Roland Horne. The 19th century former watch house will reopen featuring a new look. Horne said he decided to keep all his coffee houses closed during July as he felt they couldn’t offer the “full customer experience we are known and loved for, with community at the core”. He said: “We are really excited to be reopening to our community and coming back using our own coffee roasted in our new roaster, which will serve as our academy for our coffee teams. Our home at Bermondsey also gets the 2.0 treatment while staying true to its honest principles of design and history. We reopen Watch House cafes focusing on these silver linings to ensure 2021 is our most exciting year yet.” Watch House said it would announce reopening dates of its Somerset House and Fetter Lane sites in the “coming weeks”.
Danny Meyer brings back tipping: Union Square Hospitality Group, the New York City operator owned by Danny Meyer, is allowing tipping again at its restaurants. Meyer said he was ending the company’s Hospitality Included system in which menu prices were raised to cover higher pay and benefits for servers, with tips politely refused. He added the tip-free system he implemented had always gone against cultural norms and against the “precarious and unpredictable backdrop” of the pandemic so he was allowing tipping again. In an interview with The New York Times, Meyer said he didn’t want to deny extra money staff might be able to earn. He said: “We don’t know how often people will be eating out, we don’t know what they are going to be willing to pay. We do know guests want to tip generously right now.” When Meyer announced the elimination of tips he said he was doing it to create a more equitable system in which back-of-the-house staff could be compensated similarly to those front-of-house staff, noting servers, in effect, got raises any time menu prices went up. He added: “We’ve come to believe it’s the inability to share tips that’s the problem, not the tips themselves.” The jurisdictions where the company operates – New York City and Washington – don’t allow tips to be shared with back-of-house employees, although federal law does allow it at restaurants that pay servers the full minimum wage, according to a United States Department of Labor Ruling last year. “Our ultimate goal is for your tips to be shared among our entire team, so both kitchen and dining room teams can benefit when a guest has a great experience,” Meyer wrote on LinkedIn. “That will take a shift in public policy and we are actively doing all we can to persuade state and federal lawmakers to make that change.” In the meantime, he said, the company’s restaurants would provide a share of revenue to kitchen staff and “will be increasing total compensation by an average of 25% across our full-service restaurants.”
EasyBite heads to East Midlands as it secures fourth site, in Nottingham: Food-to-go operator EasyBite is heading to the East Midlands as it prepares to open its fourth site. The company has secured a vacant unit in Nottingham’s Beastmarket Hill in a deal brokered by Box Property. EasyBite has two outlets in Birmingham and one in Leeds. Frankie Labbate, a director at Box Property, told The Business Desk: “There are very few deals to national operators happening in the city, so this is a positive letting.”
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal to launch debut at-home offering and garden terrace: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, the two Michelin- starred restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel, is to launch a dine at home offering for the first time in its nine-year history. The service will launch on Friday (24 July) and include some of the restaurant’s most famed dishes such as Meat Fruit. The service will operate from Friday to Sunday and offer three special four-course menus, with meals available to collect from the restaurant. The menus have been inspired by historic British gastronomy. The Vivendier Menu dates to circa 1430, while the Forme Of Cury menu is from 1390. Both menus will feature a pairing of meat and fish, alongside the sambocade dessert, a medieval-inspired cheesecake. The Royal Cooking Menu (circa 1716) is a vegetarian option and will feature a truffle version of Meat Fruit. The restaurant’s dining room will remain closed until 1 September but its new Garden Terrace will launch on Saturday, 1 August, offering views of Hyde Park and opening from midday to 7pm daily.
Domino’s Pizza embarks on box recycling programme in US: Domino’s Pizza is partnering with its primary box supplier in an effort to increase cardboard recycling in the US. The Don’t Trash The Box programme has been created with Domino’s box supplier WestRock and includes a website with recycling information and a guide for customers in communities that might not accept pizza cardboard for recycling. Tim McIntyre, Domino’s executive vice-president of communications, said: “Because almost everything that leaves a Domino’s store leaves in a corrugated box, we know we have an opportunity to make a difference when it comes to packaging and recycling. Our goal is our customers will set aside any misconceptions they have around the recyclability of pizza boxes, read the facts and put their empty box in the recycling bin.” Domino’s worked with WestRock earlier this year to increase the recycled content in its pizza boxes from 40% to 72%.
YouTube star to open second Brighton site for plant-based delivery kitchen concept: YouTuber Mikey Pearce is to open a second Brighton site for his plant-based delivery kitchen concept, Clean Kitchen Club. Having launched the concept a month ago, Pearce will open the venue on Saturday (25 July) at Shelter Hall Raw, the debut venture by Sessions Market, the ethically-driven and immersive food hall concept backed by Imbiba and led by former Deliveroo managing director Dan Warne. Clean Kitchen Club dishes include the Clean Burger (homemade patty, lettuce, tomato, gherkin, vegan cheese, vegan mayo and ketchup), and the Cheat ‘N’ Clean (double homemade patty, homemade mushroom bacon, double vegan cheese, lettuce, tomato, vegan mayo and ketchup). Pearce said: “We have sold out of our most popular burgers almost every day since opening and need to open a second site to keep up with the incredible demand. We’re currently looking at how we can develop our menu and will launch a number of new plant-based treats.” When he launched the concept last month, Pearce said he planned to grow the business with childhood friend Abe Garman and open delivery kitchens in major UK cities including Edinburgh, London and Manchester.
London casino sale boosts full-year profits at Genting UK: The sale of a London casino has boosted the full-year profits of Genting UK after a slight fall in revenue, newly filed accounts have revealed. The announcement comes after the business revealed plans to cut 1,600 jobs because of the pandemic. Genting UK reported pre-tax profits of £41.3m for the year ending 31 December 2019, up from £1.9m the year before. The surge comes after the group’s sale of Coastbright, which owns and operates Maxims Casino London, was completed in March 2019 for more than £36m. Revenue dipped slightly from £322.1m to £318.2m during the same period. The company operates 36 casinos, five of them comprising the “high end” division in London and 31 casinos throughout the UK – its “core” division. It also operates a casino in Cairo as well as Resorts World Birmingham, which includes the Resorts World Casino, Genting Hotel, Santai Spa and Gym, an 11-screen cinema, the Vox conferencing facility and a number of shops, restaurants and bars. The business also runs a hotel in Mayfair, London, in addition to other land and property interests. In October 2019 the group acquired Authentic Gaming and Authentic Gaming Malta, providers of live online casino services, for €15m. In their statement accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “While trading conditions have improved for the ‘core’ division, the ‘high-end’ market segment has continued to be volatile in 2019, with a decline in business from Middle Eastern customers owing to the changeable political and economic climate in the region. The UK business has remained resilient against this challenging backdrop as it continues to benefit from strategic changes implemented in previous years.” The results come after Genting UK revealed 1,642 of its staff are at risk of redundancy because of the pandemic. Genting UK is a subsidiary of Genting Malaysia Berhad, a company incorporated in Malaysia and listed on the Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad.
Ten Entertainment Group to reopen English estate on 1 August: Ten Entertainment Group is to reopen all its bowling centres in England on Saturday, 1 August. Modifications have been put in place in each of the 39 centres, which represent 91% of the group’s turnover. The company said its three centres in Wales and three in Scotland were “fully prepared for reopening once government restrictions were lifted in those countries”. The group will unfurlough staff in England, who will undergo a retraining programme prior to restarting work. All staff will receive personal protective equipment for work, while other safety measures will include a new web-based ordering platform that will allow customers to order food and drink directly to their lane or table via a QR code. During lock-down, Ten Entertainment offered a free game to NHS workers when its venues reopened to show appreciation for their dedication, with more than 6,000 workers registering for the offer. Ten Entertainment Group interim executive chairman Nick Basing said: “We are fully prepared and look forward to delivering fun and entertainment in a safe way. The government has delivered extraordinary levels of support, enabling businesses such as ours to endure the crisis and emerge intact to restart and rebuild.” In March, Ten Entertainment Group raised £5m through a share placing for “contingency” funds in light of the coronavirus outbreak. A total of 3,250,000 new ordinary shares of 1p each were placed at a price of 155p per share. Among the investors were majority shareholder Harwood Capital, which subscribed for 554,123 shares, equating to £0.86m.