Wendy’s begins building team for UK launch: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, has started building its team ahead of a proposed UK launch early next year. Propel understands the company, which operates more than 6,000 sites worldwide, has appointed Michael Clarke, formerly of Pizza Hut Restaurants and Firezza, as UK director of operations. At the same time Rhodri Jones, former property director at Soho House joint venture Quentin Restaurants, has joined Wendy’s as UK real estate manager. Propel revealed last year the company had started searching for sites in the UK to “kick-start a broader expansion plan across Europe”. The group has been working with property agent Savills to find sites and has submitted plans to open a site in an empty unit in Station Road, Reading. A Wendy’s spokeswoman told Propel: “We plan to enter the market with company owned and operated restaurants in early 2021. The brand is excited about the future as we enter this market.” The group attempted to break into the UK market before the end of the last millennium but surrendered ten leases in 2000.
YO! delighted by weekend trading at new-format sites: YO! chief executive Richard Hodgson told Propel he was delighted with trading at the five sites the group reopened at the weekend, which feature its new fast-casual, covid-safe format. The global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group reopened its sites in Ashford, Cheshire Oaks, Guildford, Leeds and Newcastle Grainger Street on Saturday (4 July). Hodgson told Propel: “I was delighted with our weekend trading in the five sites we opened and our customers appeared to really like the new concept.” Hodgson said the company would reopen its sites in London Southbank and Liverpool under the new format this week, with its sites in Selfridges (Manchester and Birmingham) and Belfast set to reopen next week. As previously revealed by Propel, the sites will feature a 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. Delivery through Deliveroo and click-and-collect options are also available.
Stonegate sets out reopening safety measures: Stonegate Pub Company has set out the safety measures it has implemented across its estate. The Slug and Lettuce, Be At One and Walkabout operator’s measures include safety videos on display panels; floor tape and screens to differentiate areas and provide distancing and directional marking; an app for customers to order via phone or tablet; staggering arrivals, with disabled customers encouraged to call ahead so teams can assist them on arrival; and changing staff rotas to enable teams to work in bubbles where practical. Stonegate’s venues reopened in England at the weekend. Managing director Helen Charlesworth said: “Our pubs and bars play a major role within their communities. Not only are they hospitable places to enjoy meeting friends and celebrating occasions, they support and raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities as well as supporting local people in need. We employ more than 17,000 people so it’s important we support them and get them back to work to minimise the impact not working has on mental health and well-being. Within our leased and tenanted estate, pubs are operated by individuals whose livelihoods depend on their business being open. It goes without saying the safety of our staff and customers is our number-one priority and strict measures have been put in place within our pubs along with practical help and guidance for our staff and customers so they can work and socialise safely.”
McDonald’s brings breakfast back to another 1,250 restaurants, reopens 55 more sites for takeaway: McDonald’s will extend breakfast to another 1,250 restaurants from Wednesday (8 July) and reopen another 55 sites for takeaway. It means only 92 of the company’s 1,421 restaurants in the UK and Ireland have yet to open – they will come back into operation later this year. McDonald’s has rolled the breakfast menu back out across the estate, having trialled the offer at 42 restaurants last month. Of the 55 sites reopening for takeaway, 32 will offer the breakfast menu with the other 23 doing so from a later date. A spokesman said: “Our breakfast menu will still be limited. We will unfortunately not be serving bagels, wraps or porridge for now. Our opening hours continue to vary.” Last week, McDonald’s said it was “not quite ready” to reopen its restaurants for dine-in.
Itsu to reopen second phase of sites this week: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, is to continue the gradual reopening of its circa 70-strong UK estate by opening nine sites on Friday (10 July). The company, which reopened six sites for delivery and takeaway on 26 June, will reopen venues in Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Camden, Ealing, Wimbledon, Richmond, Oxford Cornmarket and Westfield White City. The business has added a number of safety measures such as sanitising stations, limiting capacity, staying closed for dine-in and only taking card and contactless payment. It will also offer contactless delivery through Deliveroo, UberEats and Just Eat.
SA Brain – we’ll only reopen managed pubs when they can do so fully: Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain has decided not to reopen its managed pubs on Monday (13 July) when hospitality businesses in the country will be allowed to open their outdoor spaces only. The company stated: “During lock-down we’ve been working incredibly hard to be ready to reopen our pubs, indoors and outdoors, safely for the benefit of our team members and customers. We’re waiting to be given a date and guidelines for the full reopening of pubs from the Welsh government, which we hope will be as soon as possible. We want our customers to be able to use all the facilities in our pubs come rain or shine and to receive a warm welcome back in safe surroundings. We won’t be able to do that by opening outdoors only from Monday so we’ll not open any of our managed pub gardens on that date. We look forward to welcoming back our customers when we are given the green light to open fully.”
Brewhouse & Kitchen begins staggered reopening of estate, care programmes helped staff cope with lock-down: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the 22-strong brewpub group, has started a staggered reopening of its estate, while chief executive Kris Gumbrell has said the company’s care programmes helped its staff to cope with lock-down. The first Brewhouse & Kitchen venue opened in Southbourne, near Bournemouth, followed by the brewpub in Southampton. The company is opening a brewpub each day during this opening week, followed by two per day next week. Brewhouse & Kitchen is reopening its sites on weekdays and encouraging guests to book their visit to ease the pressure during peak trading periods. New safety measures include order and pay at table, full table service, click and collect, and hands-free and foot-operated doors for all toilets. There are also disposable menus, hand-sanitising stations and marked areas to main social distancing. All staff will undergo temperature checks, with masks and visors available. Commissioning nationwide research to support its reopening plan, three-quarters (75%) of respondents said they would feel comfortable drinking at Brewhouse & Kitchen sites within three months of reopening as long as the welfare of guests and staff was a “top priority”. Gumbrell said: “These months during lock-down have been incredibly difficult for everyone – but in particular for those in the hospitality sector. To overcome these difficulties and try to get to a new normal we are reopening calmly and considerately, making sure the well-being and safety of staff and customers is the main priority. As one of the first hospitality groups to go into lock-down – before government legislation – we hoped to ensure our staff were taken care of in the best possible way. Our programmes allowed us to do that. The Being Human series, Five Pillars Of Wellbeing seminars, bereavement services and mental health awareness activities gave us the means to ensure our employees were coping in the best way they could. On reopening we hope our customers and staff feel welcome and safe at our brewpubs and we will endeavour to do our utmost to maintain this feeling of community and care.”
Rockfish secures more than £1m to safeguard future: Rockfish, the south west-based seafood restaurant group run by Mitch Tonks, has secured more than £1m to help safeguard its future. The company has received the funding package from HSBC under the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Rockfish has used the funding as working capital, enabling changes to be made to the restaurants to adhere to new government guidelines, employing additional members of staff for dedicated anti-coronavirus roles and to support the business through a lower period of revenue. The company’s nine seafood restaurants will now open in a “staggered approach”, with its Plymouth site already open in line with government guidelines. The group will reopen its Seahorse restaurant in Dartmouth on Friday (10 July). Its other Rockfish restaurants, including those in Exeter, Exmouth and Poole, will open soon once “all feedback and processes are considered”. Its flagship site in Brixham will reopen once a refurbishment project, which will include a fishmongers, has been completed. Tonks said: “The past three months have been a challenging time for the food and drinks sector but HSBC has done a fantastic job of understanding and accommodating our finance requirements and putting a package in place that has helped safeguard the future of our business.”
Boxpark bringing competitive socialising to Croydon as part of strategic shift towards leisure: Boxpark is bringing competitive socialising to its Croydon site as part of a strategic shift towards leisure. The company’s debut leisure concept launched at Boxpark Wembley last year and features a dedicated space with activities such as Bad Axe (axe throwing), Meetspace VR (virtual reality gaming), and a PlayBox area with shuffleboard, table tennis, pool and table football. Boxpark said it was looking for “fun and unique leisure concepts” for Croydon as indoor leisure facilities are set to reopen in mid-July. Chief executive and founder Roger Wade said: “Despite over 12 weeks of closure we’ve remained optimistic about reopening our sites and realised how crucial it is to adapt your business to survive these trying times. We’re constantly evolving and looking for new ways to attract and entertain customers. Now, we are shifting towards the leisure space to continue building our sites into landmark destinations with culture, entertainment and community at their heart.” On Saturday (4 July), Boxpark launched a click-and-collect service from its sites after partnering with mobile order and pay company Wi5. It also resumed the delivery operation it launched at the start of lock-down via Deliveroo, UberEats and Just Eat. A select group of its street food traders are also running table service for those who wish to dine-in.
The Ivy Collection to reopen four more London sites next week: Richard Caring-backed The Ivy Collection will reopen a further four of its London restaurants next week. The company, which reopened 17 sites on Saturday (4 July), said it would open The Ivy Soho Brasserie, The Ivy Kensington Brasserie, The Ivy St John’s Wood and The Ivy Tower Bridge on Wednesday, 15 July. All four restaurants will open daily from 11.30am for lunch and dinner. The company reopened 14 of its regional sites, including those in Bath, Brighton, Guildford, Dublin, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Tunbridge Wells, at the weekend. As previously announced, the 35-strong group reopened The Ivy Asia in St. Paul’s, Brasserie Of Light in Oxford Street and The Ivy Chelsea Garden on Saturday. The company said all its restaurants would implement the “highest standards of health and safety”, ensuring guests and employees dined and worked in “confidence and a safe environment”.
Buzzworks to begin phased reopening of venues next week: Scottish bar and restaurant operator Buzzworks Holdings is to begin the phased reopening of its 12-strong estate next week. Buzzworks’ flagship Ayrshire venue, Vic’s & The Vine, in Prestwick, will reopen on Wednesday, 15 July as well as Lido Troon, Scotts at Largs Yacht Haven and Scotts South Queensferry at Port Edgar Marina. Scotts at Troon Yacht Haven, The Coach House in Bridge of Weir, The Mill House in Stewarton, The Corner House in Kilwinning and The Tree House in Ayr will all open on Wednesday, 22 July. In the final phase of Buzzworks’ plan, The Duke and The Long House, both in Kilmarnock, and Lido Prestwick will reopen from Wednesday, 29 July. New safety measures include reduced capacity, contactless payment, sanitiser stations and single-use or digital menus. Buzzworks Holdings managing director Kenny Blair said: “The teams have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure all venues provide a safe and secure environment that safeguards the health and well-being of our customers and colleagues. In recent weeks we’ve been operating a takeaway service from select venues and we’ve been overwhelmed by the interest and uptake. It’s humbling to recognise the fantastic community network we’ve built in towns where we operate and, although it has been a difficult time for all, we look forward to once again providing fantastic food and a world-class service within a safe and welcoming environment.”
Shoryu Ramen reopens two sites for dine-in: Shoryu Ramen Restaurant Group, which specialises in Kyushu cuisine from the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, has started a phased reopening of its estate for dine-in. The company has reopened its Carnaby and Regent Street sites in London. Its other eight locations in the capital and its Manchester and Oxford outlets will follow during July and August. New safety measures include temperature checking for customers and staff, hand-sanitising stations, and condiments and cutlery given out with meals rather than laid at the table. Tak Tokumine founded Shoryu Ramen in 2012. It also has a site in Japan. During lock-down the company launched a DIY ramen kit, which sold out within 20 minutes of going live on its website.
Brindisa Kitchens begins phased reopening for dine-in: Spanish restaurant group Brindisa Kitchens has begun a phased reopening of its sites for dine-in. The company has reopened its outlets in Battersea and London Bridge having operated them for takeaway and delivery since the end of May. Co-founder Ratnesh Bagdai told Propel the opening weekend in Battersea was “very encouraging”, although the site is part of a residential-led development. Casa Brindisa in South Kensington has been given a “mini-makeover” to bring it in line with the rest of the six-strong estate and will reopen as Tapas Brindisa South Kensington on Thursday (9 July). Bagdai said all three sites benefit from outside seating, with London Bridge seating extending into Borough Market from 6pm, Monday to Saturday, and from 2pm on Sundays. Brindisa’s Soho and Shoreditch sites will reopen in the coming weeks. Bagdai said the business had managed to agree terms with its landlords for the March and June quarters and would assess matters thereafter.
Old Amersham Hotels and Redesdale Holdings secure £500,000 CBILS funding: Old Amersham Hotels, which operates three hotels in Buckinghamshire, and sister company Redesdale Holdings, which runs two hotels in the Cotswolds, have secured £500,000 from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme through Cynergy Bank. The facility amount is £250,000 per company and has been provided to support the businesses with their working capital requirements during the pandemic. Ben Bradley, finance director at Old Amersham Hotels, said: “We were struggling to access support with other banks so we were pleased to agree a facility with Cynergy Bank to help us through this difficult period.” Steve Crosswell, relationship director at Cynergy Bank, added: “Cynergy Bank is delighted to have supported Old Amersham and Redesdale with £500,000 of new money to ensure this successful group is able to reopen and continue to thrive.”
Fatto a Mano opens fourth pizzeria in Brighton and Hove as Sessions Market debut proves a hit: Brighton and Hove-based pizzeria Fatto a Mano has opened its fourth site in the seaside city. The brand was among a number of operators to open 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. The seafront venue, which launched on Saturday (4 July), has undergone a design overhaul to meet social distancing and safety guidelines. Alongside Fatto a Mano, the 15,000 square foot Victorian building houses Lost Boys Chicken, Carlito Burrito, Brighton Coffee Works, Toasted By GB Charcuterie and Smorls. Sessions Market chief executive Dan Warne said: “The support of the Brighton community was overwhelming in making the launch of Shelter Hall Raw a success at the weekend. With 2,000 pints served from local partners UnBarred, Brighton Bier and Abyss, 500 coffees from Brighton Coffee Works and hundreds of visitors, we can see a clear demand for community-driven dining concepts that champion local talent, an integral part of our ethos.” Fatto a Mano’s other sites in the city are in Church Road, Gloucester Road and London Road.
Pint Shop’s Cambridge site sold after company goes into administration: The Cambridge site of beerhouse concept Pint Shop has been sold after the company went into administration, Propel has learned. The move comes after Gerald Krasner and Ian Kings, of Begbies Traynor, were appointed joint administrators of the two-strong Pint Shop earlier this month. Co-founder Richard Holmes said: “Lock-down has had a devastating effect on our finances. The collapse of revenue has sadly not been mirrored by a reduction in overheads, meaning we simply ran out of cash. Over the past few months we’ve explored every possible option but were unable to reduce all our lease costs or access fresh funding. We’ve run out of time and sadly administration was the only option available to us. The Cambridge site has been sold and will continue to trade as Pint Shop, continuing the employment of the 31 team members. The Birmingham site will remain closed, with the loss of 19 jobs.” Pint Shop closed its Oxford outlet in February 2019 after “throwing everything” at the site to make it work.
Deliveroo launches campaign to support independent restaurants: Deliveroo has boosted its support of independent restaurants by launching a direct-tipping function on its app as part of a new campaign. The Love Your Local campaign has seen Deliveroo introduce a service that allows customers to tip restaurants on the app when they place an order. The company said this would make it easier for customers to support their favourite local venues, with 100% of the tip going directly to the restaurant. When customers pay at ‘checkout’ they can also round-up their bill or tip the restaurant from a selection of predetermined amounts. Deliveroo said more than 4,000 local independent restaurants had joined its platform since lock-down began in March out of a total of 7,000 new restaurants. It also said local restaurants saw a near 50% increase in customer orders compared with pre-covid levels. As part of the campaign, Deliveroo is also helping small restaurant partners enforce social distancing by offering 25,000 in-restaurant signs free to 5,000 venues. Signage includes floor stickers for safe distancing, hand-washing signs and bag-seal stickers. Deliveroo has also launched Love Your Local Tuesdays, in which any customer who orders from a selection of local favourites on a Tuesday are automatically in with a chance of winning free Deliveroo for a year. In total, 80 winners will receive free credit for a year, with ten customers a week awarded the prize during the eight weeks of summer. Deliveroo chief executive Will Shu said: “Deliveroo wants to play a significant role in helping the growth of local independent restaurants during covid-19. That’s why we’re proud to launch Love Your Local to encourage customers to order from and support restaurants in their neighbourhood. Independent restaurants are at the heart of so many communities and they’re at the heart of Deliveroo. We’re constantly looking for new ways to support their success and make sure more people can order their amazing meals.”
City Pantry partners with Mindful Chef as part of packages service: City Pantry, the business-to-business catering market place owned by Just Eat, has partnered with healthy recipe box service Mindful Chef to deliver recipe boxes to employees’ homes. Each box contains pre-portioned ingredients and instructions to cook three recipes for two people. Customers can choose between meat, fish and vegan options. The company said since lock-down enquiries from customers looking for recipe boxes via the City Pantry website had increased 175%, following the trend that more than one-fifth of Brits are now cooking every meal from scratch, compared with only one in eight before lock-down. In response to demand, Mindful Chef is the latest partner added to City Pantry’s Pantry Packages home delivery service, which launched in April. Pantry Packages allows businesses to deliver meals, gifts and perks directly to employees’ homes. City Pantry managing director Ben Carter said: “With much of the country continuing to work from home, the nation has rekindled its love of scratch cooking – and it’s here to stay, even as lock-down begins to ease. We’re delighted to partner with Mindful Chef, helping us meet the surge in demand we’re seeing for recipe boxes and as a way for employers to keep connected with their employees working from home.” Mindful Chef co-founder Giles Humphries added: “As a B Corp-certificated business we prioritise our own employees’ well-being so it’s great to know we can have a positive impact on our wider community through this partnership.”
Ottolenghi to reopen Rovi on Thursday: Chef Yotam Ottolenghi will reopen his Fitzrovia restaurant Rovi on Thursday (9 July). The venue in Wells Street will open daily, with dinner on offer from Monday to Saturday and lunch from Wednesday to Sunday. The addition of new tables outside, a reduction of tables inside and a virtual queuing system for walk-ins are a just couple of new social distancing measures that will be in place. Diners will be able to instruct their waiter on the amount of involvement they feel comfortable with, for example whether or not to pour the wine. Head chef Neil Campbell has created a new menu, with a slightly reduced version available in the opening weeks. It will have vegetables at its heart but with a revised focus on fermentation and cooking over fire. Dishes will include Jerusalem mixed grill with onions, pickles, pita and tahini; and whole grilled lemon sole with spiced butter and tabbouleh. The team will continue to offer its Rovi At Home dinner kits it launched during lock-down alongside a new picnic box for pick-up. The venue will also feature an outside bar offering bottled cocktails. Campbell said: “As much as I’ve enjoyed turning my garden into an organic vegetable patch over the past few months, we can’t wait to be back as a team, with our customers and behind the grill!” Meanwhile, fine dining chef Adrian Martin will reopen his debut solo venture, Wildflower, on Saturday, 18 July. The venture launched at Camden’s eco market – Buck Street – in February and claims to be the first fine dining restaurant in London housed inside a shipping container. Leeds-based Nomadic Beers will reopen its taproom this week. Before the lock-down the taproom only opened monthly but it will now operate every Friday and Saturday with social distancing measures in place.
Merlin Entertainments to donate 10,000 tickets to UK emergency and front-line workers: Merlin Entertainments is to donate 10,000 tickets to UK emergency service and front-line essential support workers. The initiative – The Big Merlin Thank You – will see 30,000 tickets made available globally. The majority of tickets in the UK will be made available via Blue Light Tickets, a new platform where front-line workers can register to secure free tickets for venues and events. Blue Light Tickets have been donated via Merlin’s dedicated charity arm, Merlin’s Magic Wand, which gives days out to children and families facing adversity. The charity will allocate tickets across the majority of its UK sites including Alton Towers and Legoland Windsor to front-line workers such as NHS, emergency workers, teachers, supermarket workers and takeaway delivery drivers.
Stuart Ralston to reopen Edinburgh restaurant Aizle in new location with bigger space: Scottish chef and Gordon Ramsay protégé Stuart Ralston is to reopen his Edinburgh restaurant, Aizle, in a new location and larger space. Ralston launched the venture with wife Krystal Goff in St Leonard’s Street in 2014. Now it will reopen on Wednesday, 22 July in the city’s Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel. Aizle will be in the hotel’s central garden and will open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday. It will offer a six-course tasting menu using local, seasonal ingredients and an optional drinks pairing. There will also be a 14-cover private dining room. Ralston said: “I am delighted to announce this exciting new chapter for Aizle. We’ve had six outstanding years at St Leonard’s Street and I’ll be sad not to return there – but the time is right for change. I’m looking forward to having a bigger space and being able to offer more covers. It’s great I can bring all my staff out of furlough and guarantee them a job, which I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.” Kieran Quinn, general manager at Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel, added: “The space is ideal for Aizle, an oasis at the heart of our hotel. With Baba also reopening on 30 July, this brings our restaurant and bar offering to a truly exceptional level.” Ralston also operates all-day casual dining venue Noto in nearby Thistle Street.
Online auction raises more than £225,000 for hospitality charities: UK chefs, restaurants, cafes and pubs have raised more than £225,000 for Action Against Hunger and Hospitality Action via an online charity auction. Money raised will be split evenly between the charities. Today’s Special, an industry fund-raiser spearheaded by Huw Gott (Hawksmoor) and Libby Andrews (Pho), saw donations of more than 150 money-can’t-(normally)-buy prizes such as Jason Atherton and Claude Bosi cooking in your home or an exclusive cookery course with Dishoom’s executive chef. In a world’s first for a hospitality initiative, the live auction was streamed on Zoom. It was hosted by Great British Menu judges Andi Oliver and Oliver Peyton, auctioneer Tom Best and comedian Tom Allen. Hospitality Action chief executive Mark Lewis said: “We are staggered at the speed with which Today’s Special gained momentum, bringing hundreds of operators together to raise much-needed funds for those hardest hit by covid-19.” Jean-Michel Grand, executive director of Action Against Hunger, said: “Today’s Special has been a phenomenon – a celebratory campaign that has been able to overcome the constraints of lock-down to raise an incredible sum of money.”