Friday Five: the week's top news

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Friday Five: the week's top news

Related tags: Coronavirus

This week's main news stories include the collection of track and trace details becoming mandatory in England, and social gatherings of more than six people being banned by the Government.

- The collection of customer details for track and trace purposes is to become mandatory across England​ from Monday (14 September). While hospitality venues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been required to collect customer contact information since last month, until now it has not been mandatory for hospitality venues in England. However, speaking on BBC Radio 4​'s Today programme earlier this week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced it would become compulsory for pubs and restaurants to take customers’ details for the test and trace programme. “We’re also going to enforce more strictly the rules around hospitality, including for instance you need to give your contact details when you go to hospitality, which has so far been voluntary,” he said.

- Also from Monday, social gatherings of more than six people will be, with some exemptions, banned​, as fears of a second Coronavirus wave across the country grow. The Government has said that a law change will ban larger groups meeting anywhere socially indoors or outdoors, including in hospitality settings such as restaurants and pubs. It will be enforced through a £100 fine if people fail to comply, doubling on each offence up to a maximum of £3,200. The BBC​'s political correspondent Nick Eardley has pointed out that pubs and restaurants will still be allowed to have more than six customers inside, but that the groups of six would have to be socially distant from each other. However, the changes are likely to put more pressure on hospitality businesses to check the make-up of larger parties when taking bookings and receiving guests. 

- Pret A Manger will evolve into a 'multi-channel business'​ with dark kitchens, more suburban sites and a shift into retail all planned. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday​ last weekend, Pret chief executive Pano Christou said the company had ditched its corporate mantra of 'follow the skyscraper' and replaced it with a new one - 'follow the customer'. He said: "If you focus on waiting for things to get back to normal, as far as I'm concerned, you're dead. We are telling our staff, do not focus on when people come back to offices, focus on where our customers are. Yes, workers will be in offices less frequently, but we have a great brand and a great product. We need to look at how customer behaviour is changing, and how we can adapt our business model to that."

- The Eat Out to Help Out Scheme benefitted the Government to the tune of £250m​, data revealed by leading hospitality trade bodies shows. Official figures announced last week revealed a total of 10m claims were received under the scheme, equating to a cost of £522m for the Government, with further claims still to be made. The scheme directly contributed £250m in additional revenue for the Treasury, as well as boosting consumer confidence. It also enabled 200,000 staff in the pub and hospitality sector to come out of furlough early to facilitate the increase in trade generated by the initiative, which saved the government almost £150m in furlough costs. VAT generated on additional food and soft drink sales from the Scheme generated £30m for the Treasury and additional sales of alcoholic drinks that accompanied the meals was estimated to have boosted duty and VAT revenues by a further £65m.

- PizzaExpress' company voluntary arrangement (CVA) proposal, which will see 73 of the group's restaurants closed and 1,100 jobs put at risk, has been approved by creditors​. More than 89% of all responding creditors voted for the CVA during a virtual meeting last Friday (4 September), passing the 75% approval threshold; and 67% of responding unconnected creditors approved the proposal, more than the 50% required. An overall majority of landlords also voted in favour of the CVA. As well as the planned closures, the CVA will allow for a resetting of the group’s UK leasehold obligations, which it hopes to achieve through a combination of reduction in outstanding arrears, reduced rental agreements, a temporary move from quarterly to monthly rents and other measures. PizzaExpress has previously said the CVA is intended to improve the operational performance of the business against the backdrop of a challenging trading performance; difficult market conditions caused by the Covid-19 crisis; and the effect of lockdown measures upon its restaurants. The proposal is part of a wider holistic recapitalisation and restructuring transaction that was set out by the group in August.

Check below for more of this week's headlines, or click here​​​.

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