Monday 11th January 2021 Weekly Briefing

The Beverage Standards Association brings you Peter’s Monday 10th January 2021 Weekly Briefing every Tuesday morning.

Monday, 10th January Weekly Briefing

The Pub industry and its current situation

Mitchells & Butlers, the major pub operator, has just over two months available reserves before the Company runs out of cash. A pub needs three things to succeed: product place and people.

Product & Place

The product is beer, as for place, whatever else COVID does, it does not attack buildings and that means pubs, as buildings, will survive. It is people I want to focus on.

People

People are organised into communities. The Oxford English Directory provides 11 separate – but closely allied – definitions of the word “Community”. In essence they boil down to two, the first being “the condition of sharing certain attitudes and interests”. The second definition is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common”.

Read the report full report here.

Thank you for reading part of the Monday 10th January 2021 Weekly Briefing and full edition can be found at Weekly Briefing Report.


Peter provides consultancy on the eating out market and opens eyes to brand new ways of thinking about the sector and its multiple opportunities for success.

(E) peter@peterbackmanfs.com  (w) www.peterbackmanfs.com


Monday 11th January 2021 Weekly Briefing

Monday, 4th January Weekly Briefing
Giving & Taking

Differences was a recognition that covid has both taken some things away and given us others. In terms of taking things away: there has been little need to hit the monthly “numbers” because, when survival is the objective, hitting some target set in a former world is no longer relevant; and the need to look “perfect” has been taken away because it’s OK to be in a Zoom meeting from what looks like a broom cupboard.

At the same time, covid has provided new ”gifts”. The gift of not having to spend three hours a day commuting, and the gift of freedom and creativity to think of new things because the old things are no longer workable. The things that have been taken away, plus the gifts that have been added, provide a different space in which to try out ideas, to connect with people in ways that we hadn’t tried before, and, probably most significantly, permission to be “ourselves” in a work environment.

Foodservice will respond

What does this have to do with foodservice? Only this, that in the wider, general sense, the sector like many others has been able to revert to earlier times when life was simpler, when there were perhaps fewer “demanded and perceived” obligations, but more that were “innate and real”. Through this lens, we can catch glimpses of a time, (if it existed), when it was possible to be seen as we would like ourselves to be seen rather than as we are expected to be seen. When the fear of covid is removed, we will probably revert to the world as it was just before the first lockdown. But maybe, we will look back on this disturbing period with nostalgia as a time when we allowed ourselves to be “ourselves” for a while.

The numbers

Vaccination brings immunisation. Immunisation brings confidence. Confidence brings a return to normality. Vaccines are on their way – so a return to normality is on its way too. There are questions though. How long will this take? What hurdles lie in wait? Read the report here.

Thank you for reading part of the Monday 4th January 2021 Weekly Briefing and full edition can be found at Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 21st December Weekly Briefing
The numbers

I am confused. Do not eat in a restaurant. Why? Because I say so. That’s not a grown up way of talking to, well, grown-ups. Please give me a reason. On the one hand, there are people who point to PHE statistics that show “3% of cases” arise from “restaurant settings” (which is actually of a misreading of some modelling of incidences which is the “most difficult modelling to get right” in the words of Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser); others have produced figures that show no infection information across large pub estates; some people claim that politicians and / or scientists are acting illogically, even with malice, to ruin the UK restaurant and pub business for no clear reason.

Not only the UK

On the other hand, it’s not only in the UK that restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes are closed – it’s a feature in almost every country around the world. So,there must be something going on beyond any capricious reason. For example, Japan follows a policy of avoiding san-mitsu “the 3Cs”: closed spaces, crowded places, close-contact settings. And that pretty much defines hospitality. The result: Japan has had 2,643 covid deaths (and as of 15 December, that is one twenty fifth of the 64,908 deaths in the UK).

Data around Hospitality

And in the UK, listen to Sir Patrick Vallance again, giving evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on 9 December. In response to a question about the variable application of lockdown conditions, he said “If you look at the data around hospitality, there is a series of environmental factors, such as the fact that people cannot by definition wear masks; you are meeting lots of people you would not normally mix with; you are in an indoor environment; and, in some cases, ventilation may not be adequate and so on”. In other words, the conditions in which we enjoy hospitality are ripe for the spread of covid.

Poor Communication

It seems to me that the reasons why restaurants are locked down are not articulated clearly or at all by those imposing the lockdowns. So,we are left with a sense that conditions are imposed capriciously when, in fact, there may be sound reasons. I would ask the politicians to be clear and open, so that grown-ups can understand why the hospitality sector is locked down. And if the reason is, as I suspect it may be, there is no hard evidence but a great deal of well-argued and well-supported, but nevertheless, circumstantial evidence, then we should all be treated as sufficiently grown up to understand that.

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Monday, 14th December Weekly Briefing
The numbers

Last year, tourists from overseas spent £2.8 billion eating and drinking in the UK, having doubled over the last 15 years, according to my annual analysis of the hospitality and leisure market which valued the total overseas tourist spend at £25 billion. But, I was asked the other day, how much of this was spent in pubs –and how have pubs suffered as a result of falling tourist numbers at a time when they have lost, and are still losing, business while lockdowns and tiering regimes are in place?

Pubs suffer

While I haven’t yet been able to answer these questions definitively, based on what I know, and doing the maths, it would appear that overseas tourists spend in the range of £0.6-0.9 billion on food and drink in pubs(with food probably accounting for 60% to 70% of the total). This is a relatively small proportion – likely 3 or 4% – of total pub income. However, for some pubs in central London, central Edinburgh, Stratford upon Avon, Windsor, and other places where overseas tourists make a point of visiting, the hit might be particularly hard, especially in what are already very testing times.

Will foreign tourists return?

Still, there is always the future to look forward to. But is there, in the case off foreign tourists? It is probably too soon to forecast what will happen as covid starts to become less feared.Will overseas touristsvisitin their former numbers next summer (almost certainly not before then)? Or must we wait until 2022 –or later –or perhaps never? How may covid change holiday patterns? Will these changes be the same around the globe or will they be different? And how will tourist numbers and spending be affected by Brexit?

Time will tell if the UK maintains its high position as a destination that overseas tourists want to visit. I believe it will.

Pressing questions for the future

Nevertheless, pubs that have a high level of income from tourists are faced with some pressing questions about their future. And I fear that the answers will not be on the positive side. The numbers of pubs involved in this particular situation are not large, but they often occupy noteworthy sites – and their loss will be especially obvious in what, anyway, are likely to be a denuded town and city centre landscape. But hope springs eternal, and over the years, pubs have been great at reinventing themselves. Let’s hope they can pull it off again.

Thank you for reading the Monday 14th December Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 7th December Weekly Briefing

Many restaurant, pub and quick service businesses faced an existential crisis in the face of the effects of the November lockdown.

Tier Lockdown systems arrive

And now they must face the introduction of various tiered lockdown systems throughout the UK, not forgetting the partial lifting of restrictions over the critical Christmas period. But even for the worst hit operators the emergence of effective vaccines may be bringing a brighter glow on the horizon. And that is encouraging many businesses to begin to ask me: what does the future look like?

Looking to the past

In my answers, I often point to the past and show that there are lessons we can learn. I am exceptionally fortunate that I have been around since the early 1980s to assess, in real time, how past recessions have impacted the foodservice sector. I have the data and reports to prove it and this information sheds light on what the future might look like. One significant factor has been that each recession (they have come along more or less every ten years from 1981) has influenced the types of companies that thrive in the restaurant, pub and quick service sectors.

Growth sectors incuding franchised businesses

These growth sectors have included franchised businesses (from 1981) and the emergence of PE-fuelled casual dining (from 2011). Other sectors have changed; contract catering was boosted into education and health care after the 1991 recession and pubs evolved into significant suppliers of cooked food in the same decade. At the same time, the supply chain had been transformed during the 1980s with the growth of large scale wholesalers – Booker McConnell, Brake Brothers, DCL, Fitch Lovell and others. And the next decade saw the emergence of contract distributors – such as Holroyd Meek, Excel Logistics and Hays.

Thank you for reading the Monday 7th December Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 30th November Weekly Briefing

This week, the government issued its, several times delayed, summary of the results of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme that it ran during August.

Topline numbers

The topline numbers revealed were in line with, or slightly below, those the government had published shortly after the scheme had ended.

Did the EOTHO scheme meet its objectives?

But the key question seems to me to be “Did the EOTHO scheme meet its objectives?”. At its launch, the government said that the scheme was intended to boost spending in restaurants, and the Chancellor enhanced that by saying that its objective was to boost the sector back into long-term growth. How did the scheme do on that score? Sales were undoubtedly high in August, helped by warm weather, and they were within touching distance of a year earlier after allowing for the many sites that remained closed. So on that measure, yes the scheme succeeded.

But what about the long term boost?

That is much more problematic. Many operators felt that the scheme was sufficiently successful for them to continue to fund it themselves, in some form or other, into September. But, with the onset of autumn and the end of summer holidays, sales started to slide and this continued into October, traditionally a slower-trading month. This was exacerbated during the month, by the many, seemingly haphazard, regional lockdowns which, amongst other things, precluded eating out; and it became increasingly clear that there would be a second national lockdown. As a result, sales faltered in October and during the November lockdown, they seized up altogether.

What can the Government claim?

Can the government claim that EOTHO was successful in boosting the restaurant sector into growth when three months after the scheme, dine-in sales were at zero? I think not.

Thank you for reading the Monday 30th November Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 23rd November Weekly Briefing
Thursday and two headlines

Last Thursday, two headlines appeared. They purported to say the same thing, but the details were almost contradictory. That’s the way things go sometimes. And they set me thinking. The first headline, jointly from UKHospitality, British Beer and Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping, said “72% of hospitality and pub businesses face closure in 2021”; the other, from the ONS (based on the Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey) said “Covid: One in three UK hospitality firms fear collapse”.

So, which is it – one in three or 72%?

The answer is quite likely both. As always it probably depends on definitions – what is included within the sectors that each headline covers? And as important, what timeline does the question on which the headlines are based, actually cover? Did respondents look at the next month? The next six months? Longer than that? What was it?

The pain for Hospitality will continue

As I have pointed out many times since the start of covid, the real pain for the sector, in the form of corporate failures and lost jobs would speed up in the last few months of the year. And so it is coming to pass. And that means that the real answer to the question of how many jobs will be lost is “a lot of jobs”. No doubt there will be plenty of discussion and disagreement over the precise number – both now and when the effects of covid are long past.

Thank you for reading the Monday 23rd November Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 16th November Weekly Briefing
Two weeks into Lockdown 2.0. How is it going?

Specifically, how are they going for the restaurants sector? I’ve been talking to some operators and, as always, I’ve also kept my eyes and ears open to the bigger picture too. There are two major differences between this lockdown and the earlier one, that provide a certain resilience.

Firstly, restaurants that are around now have the confidence that comes from having made it through the first lockdown. And the second difference is that there is (or appears to be) a time limit to the current lockdown – it has just two more weeks to run. A timetable with a reasonably firm end date creates a stronger mindset.

It’s hurting financially

Preliminary numbers from my next Ones to Watch report reveal that 12% of sites run by smaller, previously fast growing, Bubbling Under brands, have closed in the last six months. Operators are probably more worried than they’re letting on. They have been racking up debt since the start of Lockdown 1.0 – there are almost four quarters of unpaid rent on most books; utility bills have to be paid; and any VAT backlog is to be repaid next spring.

What next financially?

Some larger operators raised loans or equity in the early stages of lockdown, and those funds will probably be enough to see them through to the other side of the pandemic. But for most operators, finances are a worry. They are kept going through government-backed interventions, such as the furlough scheme. To the accusation that such businesses are zombie companies and should be exposed to the rigours of the economy, I would say that many (probably most) restaurant businesses are operated on a sustainable business model (that was certainly the case before covid struck), and they will return to health in due course, but in the meantime they need the financial help that is on offer to stay afloat.

Thank you for reading the Monday 16th November Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 9th November Weekly Briefing
Marcus Rashford gets to change government policy

It’s not often that a footballer, even such a high profile and respected footballer as Marcus Rashford, gets to change government policy. And yet that’s what happened on Saturday, to the tune of about £400 million.

School meal history

In 1906 parliament passed the Education (Provision of Meals) Act which allowed, but didn’t require, LEAs to provide free meals to elementary schoolchildren. Over the years, these provisions were extended together with mandated nutritional guidelines. Additionally, a fee was charged to all but needy children, and more recently, those in Key Stage 1. Other countries have similar laws and regulations. In the USA, the National School Lunch Program was established in 1946 to provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or no-cost lunches to children. In 2016 it served 30.4 million children. And in France, the government has just rolled out the provision of free breakfasts and €1 canteen meals to 200,000 young children.

School meal provision

The provision of school meals recognises that the nation has a responsibility to ensure the young are fed. But up to now, in the UK vulnerable children have been denied free school meals or vouchers during the holidays. Nevertheless, childhood poverty and hunger remains a real issue that needs to be addressed 365 days a year, not just in term time. To its great credit, the foodservice industry is very aware of this problem and charities such as Meals and More press home this point. Earlier this year, the issue received an unexpected ally in the form of covid which shone its harsh light on the problem. Operators, such as Brewdog, Tom Kerridge and many other independent have been making a difference by providing free warm meals over the latest half term. And now, Marcus Rashford has used his considerable influence to help make it clear to government what needs to be done.

Thank you for reading the Monday 9th November Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 2nd November Weekly Briefing
Here we go again

But it won’t be exactly as it was in March. There will be pluses and minuses.

Let’s start with a plus. It won’t be totally uncharted territory – we will have learned how to do things and what to expect. So, for example, we have learned that delivery and takeaway are not only perfectly acceptable – but are much in demand from customers.

Operators will need to pivot

So, operators who pivoted to delivery and stuck with it, are in a good place (indeed their place seems to be specifically protected under the forthcoming lockdown rules). Operators who pivoted to delivery and then pivoted back to dine-in can brush off the operating models that stood them in good stead six months ago. Although, I would note, that the world of delivery and click and collect has moved on and it might be necessary to look again at products, pricing and packaging to ensure they are still relevant.

A month’s time limit

Another plus: the new lockdown has a month’s time limit. Or has it? What happens if the numbers don’t move as far as the government would like? Will there be an extension?

Thank you for reading the Monday 2nd November Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 26th October Weekly Briefing
The 2021 menu

Perhaps the last thing operators have on their minds right now is their 2021 menu. But there are still some potential issues that they, and especially their suppliers, can be thinking about this far ahead as they fill up their NPD pipeline.

Google Trends showed a huge spike in searches for “loss of taste” and “loss of smell” in March. In some cases, early indicators of a covid infection were loss of taste and smell, which caused people to begin searching for more information on these topics.

Loss of taste & smell

Roll forward to autumn and we find that, in addition to being an indicator, in many cases loss of these senses also outlasted the infection. There are already many instances of people who, having contracted covid, lost their sense of taste totally. Suddenly, that gin and tonic tastes like tap water. Others recovered only a bit of the lost senses, perhaps only 10%, perhaps more.

These conditions are already known to science and have names, anosmia (the absence of the sense of smell) and parosmia (a distorted perception of smell). But reasons for the link with covid are not yet known with any certainty.

Thank you for reading the Monday 26th October Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 19th October Weekly Briefing
Coffee Shops hit the headlines

Turn the clock back to the late twenty tens. One sector hitting the headlines was coffee shops. They catered for lunchtime trade, the travelling public, workers needing a low cost office to work from for the price of a latte and students walking down the corridor of their uni.

The reasons for this burgeoning trade puzzled many observers: just what is it that drives so many people to have a coffee so frequently? Many reasons were put forward: it was available everywhere you turned, replacement of the pub for a drink, the zeitgeist and many more. And these reasons haven’t deserted the coffee shop sector.

Coffee Shops today and tomorrow

Recently Tim Horton’s announced a drive into southern England from its Scottish and north of England heartland, while Watch House, an artisan coffee shop based in London is adding new sites to its existing estate. Both of these will feature in my forthcoming Ones to Watch report – indeed Tim Horton’s has been rising through the ranks for the last couple of years.

Operators are already working their way around these changes. Pret, again, has launched its subscription model to encourage well-established customers to retain their Pret coffee-drinking habits. Artisan coffee shops are now springing up in the suburbs, forsaking their former city-centre location as they address the working at home trend.

Thank you for reading the Monday 19th October Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 12th October Weekly Briefing
Regionality

With Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday night, the regions likely to be impacted account for about 5% of the UK restaurant and pub sector by food sales, but other than that I don’t intend to comment on the cataclysmic impact, serious though it is, on the people, livelihoods and businesses likely to be involved. Instead I want to focus on regions.

Travel links have altered us

In this country we are not very good at thinking regionally and we seem uneasy with the idea of giving economic and social power to regions. Historically, probably as a result of weaker central power and perhaps greater regional awareness, the UK was regionally segmented, much like the USA or Germany are today. But then, with the rise of factors such as better travel links, the divide began to blur. More recently, and specifically for the restaurant industry, this meant that the consumer was able to enjoy the same pizza from Pizza Express whether in Brighton or Burnley.

Thank you for reading the Monday 12th October Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 5th October Weekly Briefing
The Numbers

Pubs are to shut at 10pm. Up to 1988 pubs were open for six and a half hours a day (and an extra half hour at weekends). They were open at lunchtime until 3pm and then reopened at 7pm until 10:30. And there were over 30,000 more pubs in those days. So, what’s the big deal about early closing?

The answer has to be a change in behaviour caused by the fact that in 1988 pubs were allowed to serve alcohol from 11am to 11 pm; from 2005 these limits were scrapped in favour of publicans being allowed to apply for licenses that could permit 24 hour trading (although in practice most pubs chose to close at midnight or thereabouts).

Consumers reacted to these changes by permitting themselves to visit the pub for longer – and hence the furore when this freedom became subject to the 10pm limit last month. Consumers shifted their behaviour from drinking until well into the night, to not going to the pub at all. Figures from Huq Industries show that footfall declined by -33% over the last week compared with the immediate pre-lockdown period. While this does not provide a direct read across to actual sales it is a pretty good indicator. So, the conclusion is that consumers have modified their behaviour to the detriment of pubs. But I have three questions.

What are those three questions; read here.

Thank you for reading the Monday 5th October Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 28th September Weekly Briefing

So, the much feared second wave of covid is hitting us. It has arrived just as the restaurant sector was achieving some stability after a boost in August from summer and EOtHO. And for the last few weeks it has been operating at something above 60% of pre-covid levels.

And now we have a lockdown – less stringent than before but it comes at a critical time. The government’s furlough scheme is ending (albeit to be replaced but by one that provides less financial support) and the rising toll of redundancies looks set to grow even larger. Another quarter’s rent becomes due. And there is Brexit, no longer just over the horizon. The government is stressing the potential impact on the supply chain bringing with it disruption and higher costs for operators and their suppliers.

Thank you for reading the Monday 28 September Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 21st September Weekly Briefing

By last weekend, events had taken a much more sombre turn with scary warnings about a second wave, growing pressures on frontline NHS services and partial lockdowns in about 15% of the country, with more to come.

Maybe it’s difficult to count one’s blessings right now – and for many it is a painful process. So, what positive signs did I see last Wednesday? More restaurants are being reopened on most days. VAT was reduced in August which means for some it’s been possible to lower prices and attract more custom and for others, it’s been an opportunity to retain prices and increase gross profit. Eat Out to Help Out has brought money into the restaurant system, provided some respite, allowed employees to enjoy working again and helped many operators pay off some debts. And during the whole Covid experience, new business models have been identified and tested, particularly in the areas of delivery and the use of IT for customer engagement.

But this is thin gruel for the many operators who are still facing questions over bringing back staff from furlough or letting them go. It’s not much comfort, either, for those many who will struggle to pay off a rent backlog (with the next quarter day coming this week) and other debts. And now there is also an impending period of renewed restrictions on restaurants and pubs.

Thank you for reading the Monday 21 September Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 14th September Weekly Briefing

I don’t normally step into the political arena, but today I will do so, tentatively. The background is that I’ve been mulling things over in the light of the government’s announcements about Test & Trace and the Rule of Six, a necessary set of rules in my view.

In the case of Eat Out to Help Out, the government clearly realised that the restaurant sector was the solution to a problem – that is, for a while it helped to resolve the problem of paying salaries for a large number of workers who would otherwise be furloughed. One key to the scheme’s success was that it was simple for restaurants to access and operate, demonstrated by the speed at which the government was able to reveal the numbers behind it.

But it seems to me that with the Rule of Six and its heavy reliance on coercion (“powers to close venues” and “fines will be levied” in the prime minister’s words) – together with another announcement during the week regarding obesity rules – means the restaurant sector is having to face further added pressures, albeit necessary ones, at what is already a very trying time. But, I have no doubt the sector will solve these problems. Adaptability and resilience have already been established and evidently demonstrated in the last six months. The industry consists of millions of people, who all have the best interests of their customers at heart.

Thank you for reading the Monday 14th September Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 7th September Weekly Briefing

The three essentials of the infrastructure of eating out are: places, people and product. Each of these has been damaged to a great or lesser extent by covid.

The supply chain for product has been affected least because retail has been a secure alternative market for many suppliers (but not distributors) and that will clearly remain. But for the future, we will also have to see what effect Brexit might have on the supply chain.

Places have been badly hit over the last six months. In my Monthly Briefing Report, released last week, I examined the popular (sometimes known as the destination) eating out market – restaurants, quick service, pubs – and I concluded that about a quarter are unlikely to reopen.

And within the sector, for several reasons, full-service restaurants are likely to be the worst hit. Places in other sectors will not be so badly affected – schools, hospitals and the like, will still be there in former numbers (perhaps reduced slightly); and while the leisure and hotel sectors will see some closures they are not likely to amount to the numbers seen in the restaurant sector.

Thank you for reading the Monday 7th September Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 31st August 2020 Weekly Briefing

As the future becomes ever so slightly clearer, high street operators – restaurants, quick service, take aways, pubs – are engaged in a rapid process of reviewing what their business will look like in the future. Some are pivoting to delivery because that seems to be an important component of the future. But it doesn’t suit all; perhaps they are in the wrong part of the country or the wrong location or sell the wrong range. I doubt whether there is enough demand for delivery to allow all operators to pivot in that direction. Other operators are downsizing to focus on those sites that are profitable, or that are likely to be profitable when the dust settles.

And while this process of changing the profile of their business is engaging many operators, there is perhaps another process that is closer to home that can yield dividends – in more than one sense of the word. Customer pricing has not got much attention when operators have been talking about their business over the last few years. Yet it is one area over which they have control.

Thank you for reading the Monday 31st August Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 24th August 2020 Weekly Briefing

It seems to me that most of the comment about the current state of the foodservice sector has focused on the infrastructure – the numbers of businesses that have failed, the decline in sales, the redundancies and so on. This all goes under the heading of the supply side. But the future, as always, depends on the consumer – the demand side. So, what does that future look like? We have the next few months to get through – maybe longer, before we can start to make assumptions. There is the potential for further waves of covid for example. Nevertheless, I think there are some factors that we should be looking out for.

We can probably speculate, fairly accurately, that consumers generally will be poorer. They will have drawn down on their savings, they may be out of a job, or in a job but earning less. Of course, this is not true of everyone. Some will have improved their financial position and prospects; others will have seen their prospects diminished far worse than they could have imagined only six months ago. Overall though, consumers will have less money. And they are likely to be significantly more.

Thank you for reading the Monday 24th August Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 17th August 2020 Weekly Briefing

Last week I started to discuss the challenges that face suppliers to the foodservice sector as they process the huge changes that the sector has experienced since the start of lockdown. This week, I’ll pick up where I left off and hopefully come to a useful conclusion for suppliers – and operators.

It seems to me that of all the issues arising out of covid, one of the most critical for the foodservice sector has been restrictions on travel. This has massively affected the numbers of visitors from overseas. But it hasn’t stopped there. Travel on London’s underground is down to 24% of pre-covid levels because “locals” (otherwise known as commuters and shoppers) are less likely to travel by tube. Fewer travellers have impacted a multitude of places, from restaurants in historic properties and bars in theatres, to hotel conference buffets and coffee shops at railway stations. Business in these areas will remain dismal until travel reaches its former levels.

Meanwhile operators must find ways to continue to pay their bills. That means taking a different look at opportunities. A clear-cut example is to look at the flipside of fewer visitors travelling from overseas. A combination of more staycationing Brits plus good weather has brought booming business in British holiday areas. The opportunity for more business waits next year. And maybe a combination of more warm weather (boosted by climate change), improving standards of accommodation and a market that is once again willing

Thank you for reading the Monday 17th August Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 10th August 2020 Weekly Briefing

The challenge for the thousands of suppliers to the foodservice sector – they include food, drink, equipment, janitorial supplies and much more – is to process the huge changes that the sector has experienced since the start of lockdown, and meld that with the vast amount of information that is being provided by the media, social media, zoom conferences and much more.

Anybody who is involved in the foodservice sector will be quick to point out that it is not a single sector but an array of distinct markets. And perhaps the clue to resolve the challenge is to unpack each of these markets separately. In doing so, it seems important to me to have a view about two things. The first is the time frame one is considering; and the second concerns the trajectory of coping with the coronavirus. For the purpose of what follows, I am working in the context of a two-year time frame, say to the end of 2022. And I am also assuming that, by then, ways will have been found to cope with covid, on a day to day and a month by month basis. As I say, this is the context of what I have to say which concerns the more immediate term for the major markets within foodservice.

Thank you for reading the Monday 10th August Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 3rd August 2020 Weekly Briefing

This is it. We’ve arrived. Welcome to the world of New Normal.

That is the implication of what the Chief Medical Officer said on Friday “We have probably reached near the limit or the limits of what we can do in terms of opening up society … What that means, potentially, is that if we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things, and these will be difficult trade-offs.”

Is it a world where visitors from overseas – they made 40.9 million visits to the UK in 2019 – no longer arrive? What effect does their absence have on they hotels where they stay? And what about the meals they will not eat – almost 500 million last year, 4% of all meals eaten out in the UK – in restaurants, coffee shops, museums, and art galleries?

Thank you for reading the Monday 3rd August Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 27th July 2020 Weekly Briefing

What will happen when coronavirus leaves town?

The answer to this question depends on many things but they will all be influenced in one way or another by the length of time between now and the end of the virus.  I have been investigating these issues in conjunction with the IGD over the last few months (and some results have been published in our joint report “Eating Out vs Dining In”).

But there are many specifics that remain to be investigated and answered. Up until now, there have been four ways that coronavirus has impacted the foodservice industry and the people and companies within it. It has exposed faults that underline foodservice, it has led to a process of degrading, there has been an acceleration of past trends and an unleashing of innovation.

Thank you for reading the Monday 27th July Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 20th July 2020 Weekly Briefing

In the two weeks since restaurants and pubs opened to serve food, it’s clear that the sector is not enjoying much of a boom time.

In normal times of stress in the sector, the lever to get things going again is money in consumers’ pockets. Whilst people are rightly worried about their finances in the medium term, the big issue now is fear of being infected, making it a medical and hygiene issue.

Interestingly, consumers have been wary of hygiene and safety in restaurants for far longer than the period of coronavirus – in the Food Standards Agency’s biannual survey of consumer attitudes towards food in in 2018, one third of the population was concerned about food hygiene when eating out.

It seems to me that this general wariness has been partly transferred to the coronavirus world of eating out. To that extent, could consumers’ current concerns about safety be part of a bigger, longer term picture? Until it can be fully addressed by the sector, can we assume demand will remain low?

Thank you for reading the Monday 20th July Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 13th July 2020 Weekly Briefing

Last week saw an unprecedented move from the Chancellor with a reduction in VAT leading to an effective 13% fall in dine in meal costs and the launch of the unique ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.

This is, I am sure, a result of a disparate industry coming together in a time of crisis and the sterling effort of UKHospitality and other lobbying groups.  Hospitality, it seems, is now very much on the government’s agenda.

The sector faces other existential challenges, but for now, last week’s announcements offer some much-needed positive news in what was beginning to look like a bleak outlook.

Thank you for reading the Monday 13th July Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 6th July 2020 Weekly Briefing

Underwhelming. That is my take on the flow of business into the restaurant and food pub business on Discovery Day –4 July.

I must make clear that my view is based on partial evidence and supposition. But let me set out what I saw in the 48 hours after most of the sector was allowed to reopen. I visited Muswell Hill, a prosperous north London suburb, at late lunch time on 4 July. I found that almost exactly half of the 25 restaurants up and down its high street were open –business was OK but certainly not brisk.

And the chains were noticeable by their closures. In the evening I visited Hampstead. Bear in mind this is a Saturday in July when in normal times, you can’t get a seat anywhere without arriving very early or booking in advance. What did I find? Again, half the sites were closed –some permanently. And chain restaurants –Cote, Pizza Express, Wagamama for example –were not open. In total I saw about 30 tables occupied – that amounts to about 25% of all seats available. So,50% open with 25% occupancy – that’s 13% of the possible business. As I say, underwhelming. It doesn’t reflect survey findings which tend to show that a third of Brits are keen to eat out as soon as they can. But it is only correct to note that the weather, at least in the evening, was drizzly and certainly not warm for July – this may have kept diners away.

Thank you for reading the Monday 6th July Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 29th June 2020 Weekly Briefing

Eagerly awaited, 4 July is the day when restaurants and pubs will be able to join delivery and takeaway outlets to serve customers.  And, it will be the start of discovering how successful they will be.

The consensus is that around two thirds of outlets will open in July and with the revised 1 metre social distancing rule. These businesses will be able to operate at something like 70% capacity. And 70% of two thirds is about 50%. In other words, on these figures the industry will be set up to cope with about half of pre-covid levels of business. This is just about break even for an average business. This implies that the industry as a whole, will just about survive and this should, thankfully, form a platform for longer-term growth.

Thank you for reading the Monday 29th June Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 22nd June 2020 Weekly Briefing

The industry is waiting….

…waiting to open up and waiting to see how many customers will come through the doors.

This issue of Weekly Briefing Report is lighter than usual.  The industry is quiet as it waits for the government’s announcement on the lifting of restrictions. Many operators are pinning their hopes on opening their doors in early July as they can no longer afford to keep them shut.

For some, the new rules are forcing a complete rethink of their business models, whist others are prioritising making their existing environment as acceptable and inviting as possible for both customers and staff under the new conditions.

Thank you for reading the Monday 22nd June Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 15th June 2020 Weekly Briefing

My reports for the last few weeks have centred around a bleak outlook for the hospitality industry.  Yet, it’s important to note, that periods of ‘trial’ often create change that eventually leads to long-term growth.  For example, the great recession of 2010 led to the expansion, some say ‘explosion’ of PE-funded growth in the restaurant sector.  And the recession of the early 1980s led to the large scale development of the fast food sector.

So, what new and positive development will the current “period of trial” lead to? It would be a very brave person who would nail their flag to the mast at this stage, but it’s possible to see some potential areas where some good will emerge.

Thank you for reading the Monday 15th June Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 8th June 2020 Weekly Briefing

The accelerator effect continues…

The inevitable wave of closures and associated redundancies has begun, with The Restaurant Group’s announcement that it will close 120 sites (mainly Frankie & Benny’s).  This is yet another example of the ‘accelerator effect’ of the coronavirus pandemic, as the group announced six months ago that it would close this number of sites over the next few years. Sadly, many more redundancies are expected industry-wide as brands review balance sheets and the effects of the reduced government support as the furlough scheme begins to wind-down.

Meanwhile, the industry is fervently lobbying the government to reduce the 2 metre social distancing rule to 1 metre; this reduction will make the difference between survival and closure for many operators.

Thank you for reading the Monday 8th June Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 1st June 2020 Weekly Briefing

The coronavirus pandemic has been a tragedy for many and a trial for most.  But, there have been certain activities that have benefitted over the last 10 weeks.  In the foodservice sector at any rate, some developments that were happening before the lockdown have been given a boost and, as observed by one of the people I interviewed last week for my report on “What’s Hot in the USA”, development times have been shortened by perhaps as much as two years.

Delivery, and especially food delivery, is clearly one area that has flourished. Last week The Times reported that online food sales now account for 13% of the grocery market – almost double the figure of a year ago.

Thank you for reading the Monday 1st June Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 25 May 2020 Weekly Briefing

Publicly quoted players in the foodservice sector –ranging from international operators such as Compass and Whitbread, to UK-focused Restaurant Group –have been increasing their cash reserves either through equity raises or increased banking facilities over the last few weeks and are reasonablywell placed to withstand some really rocky times ahead.

But most operatorsare not so wellplaced. Last week for instance, Casual Dining Group announced that AlixPartners has been retainedto explore future options, and in doing so they are joining a growing list of companies that are showing signs of distress, or worse.

Thank you for reading the Monday 25 May Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 18 May 2020 Weekly Briefing

Following the Prime Minister’s speech on 10 May, the lockdown rules have been lifted very slightly, but sadly, it’s clear that the foodservice sector, along with hospitality and travel will be amongst the last to emerge because they are “crowded by design”.

Nevertheless, thoughts are being turned to how to cope with social distancing.  There are long lists of solutions including screens, one-way front of house traffic, sanitising stations and checking staff temperatures.  There will be many initiatives and only time will tell which will work.  But, I have no doubt that the industry, as always, will pull together to share ideas and best practice.

Thank you for reading the Monday 18 May Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 11 May 2020 Weekly Briefing

Whilst there is some sign of activity in the foodservice sector. A heartbeat somewhere in the takeaway and delivery sector. Most businesses are turning their thoughts to how to open up, whenever that is allowed. Sadly, many are facing an existential crisis as they see their liquidity running out.

It seems as though the government is sympathetic to the needs of the foodservice and hospitality and leisure sector. This sector is likely to be asked to endure the implications of lockdown for longer than any other sector in the economy.  But, it remains to be seen whether this will be turned into action.

In his address yesterday evening, the prime minister revealed some restrictions “in parts of the hospitality industry” may be lifted by July.  The industry waits with baited breath to see what this might look like…

Thank you for reading the Monday 11 May Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 4 May 2020 Weekly Briefing

There seems to be a coalescing view across the industry that there are three stages to the impact of coronavirus, and on this occasion I very much agree. The first stage is the one we are in now and it will last until lockdown restrictions are lifted sufficiently for people to be allowed to visit restaurants and pubs.  The second stage is from then until consumers feel comfortable about visiting these places – and that is likely to have to wait until there is a vaccine or some mitigation of the effects of the virus. The third stage is from then onwards, in what many are referring to as a “new normal”. Each stage has its moment of truth and I outline these in my Monday 4 May Weekly Briefing.

In terms of the numbers, there is likely to be a 66% decline in sales compared to last year.  And, this assumes some relaxation of the lockdown restrictions by the summer and a reasonable level of trading by the end of the year.  So, it seems some of the most challenging times are yet to come.

Thank you for reading the Monday 4 May Weekly Briefing – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 27th April  – Weekly Briefing Report

Over the past week, there has been an engendering spirit of innovation and “getting things done”, as exemplified by Meals for the NHS, which has already raised over £1million to pay small takeaways to provide meals for NHS staff.  That spirit is also behind developments such as those at Sysco (the US parent of Brakes) where, as The Economist has reported, the company “built an entire new supply chain and billing system to serve grocery stores in less than a week”.

Several restaurant chains have reopened some sites for delivery and takeaway including KFC, Costa, I am Doner and Wingstop.  It’s an encouraging move in the right direction but should be kept in proportion; the openings represent just 2.6% of the sites operated by the re-opened brands.

Thank you for reading the Monday, 27th April 2020 – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 20th April  – Weekly Briefing Report

Now that some people are turning their thoughts to the future, they are beginning to challenge me to come up with creative thoughts about what may happen. Therefore, I have been using my Market Structure and Trends data (which starts in 1981) to review what happened in past recessions. While none were based on the truly unusual conditions we face today, they may provide some benchmarks.

My insight Covid-19 is testing the delivery model –and the news from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is:“The ongoing lockdown in the UK has resulted in the closure of a large number of the key restaurants available through Deliveroo, and a significant decline in revenues.

Thank you for reading the Monday, 20th April 2020 – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 13th April 2020 – Weekly Briefing Report

This past week has seen a new form of normality start to set in.  For some businesses, it has been an incredibly busy time. For others it is become a time for assessment and reflection. Yet, for others it has become a time for thinking about a new life.

The overriding feature of this past week or so has been the continuing build-up of activities –

  • that support the vulnerable
  • the elderly
  • NHS workers and
  • other key workers.

Interestingly, job roles, that in other times would be considered humble, such as cleaners, supermarket cashiers and delivery drivers and riders, are today crucial in keeping the economy going.

Thank you for reading the Monday, 13th April 2020 – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 6th April 2020

In this past week, news stories slowed down slightly compared to the previous week. This indicates that the market is beginning to enter a new phase after its two weeks of turmoil, which has required multiple, often painful, decisions and subsequent actions. Many foodservice businesses have now been mothballed. Operations being stopped and workforces furloughed. In these companies, those people left to work are beginning to find that they have some time on their hands. And they are using this to start to think about the future.

Of course this does not apply to all people and to all businesses. Many of whom are still very active, such as delivery aggregators, foodservice suppliers who are pivoting to the retail sector, and all operations involved in providing food to the health care system. And a notable number of foodservice operators, often in partnership with their suppliers, have put initiatives in place to feed the vulnerable and key workers in the NHS and other emergency services.

Thank you for reading the Monday, 6th April 2020 – Weekly Briefing Report.

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Monday, 30th March 2020

My insight captures news stories from the week commencing 23 March 2020. Therefore it become known as The Great Reset. The news stories picked up where the previous week left off with a huge amount of activity. For instance, involving mothballing businesses or closing them down entirely.

We have already seen –

  • Liquidation of Food & Fuel and notice that Chiquito’s and Byron are likely to follow the same route.
  • The retail food supply chain has been showing massive activity, and the foodservice supply chain is pivoting towards the retail market where it is able –but this is likely to be only a short term development that will unwind when things return to a new “normal” and the upturn, whatever it looks like, can begin.
  • The most dramatic development for the foodservice sector in the past week occurred in the early evening of 23 March with the Government’s instructions that the population should lock down and that restaurants, pubs etc will no longer be able to provide dine-in facilities.

Thank you for reading the Monday, 30th March 2020 – Weekly Briefing Report.


Peter provides consultancy on the eating out market and opens eyes to brand new ways of thinking about the sector and its multiple opportunities for success.

(E) peter@peterbackmanfs.com  (w) www.peterbackmanfs.com