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 hospitality news stories include Emma Woods stepping down as Wagamama CEO, an 'encouraging' first week of sales for outdoor service, and the inaugural 50 Next list.

- Wagamama chief executive Emma Woods has announced she plans to step down from the role​ and hand over to her internally appointed successor, Thomas Heier. The move will see Heier, the current chief experience officer, start the role from 1 June, by which point it is hoped that the group's restaurants will have reopened for dine-in service following the expected easing of lockdown restrictions in May. Woods, who joined Wagamama as its customer director at the start of 2017, will continue to support Wagamama through its next phase of growth as an inaugural member of its brand board. She will also be taking on senior independent director and chair of Remco responsibilities for The Gym Group in May, having been a non-executive director for the firm since 2016.

- Hospitality venues in England enjoyed a stronger bounce in sales than they did after the first national lockdown​ in July 2020, despite being limited to outdoor service. Data from CGA shows that like-for-like sales at pubs, bars and restaurants that were trading in the seven days from last Monday (12 April) were 45% higher than in the week from 4 July 2020, when they were able to resume both inside and outdoor service. Like-for-like sales at venues that were open last week were 21% down on the equivalent week in 2019—though that period did include the Easter weekend. But when compared to the previous week in April 2019, like-for-like sales were 1% higher. However, with data from CGA and Alix Partners’ Market Recovery Monitor highlighting that just 23% of England’s licensed premises had reopened for outdoor service by the middle of last week, total sales remain far below pre-pandemic levels. Trade bodies have reiterated warnings that recovery in the sector still has a long way to go, with both UKHospitality and the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) noting that businesses will not be viable until all restrictions on trading are dropped.

- Zero-waste pioneer Douglas McMaster and Australian chef and fish butcher Josh Niland are among the names to feature in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants' inaugural 50 Next list​. Designed to inspire, empower and connect the next generation of leaders, 50 Next celebrates people aged 35 and under from across the wider food and drink scene, from producers and educators to tech creators and activists. The inaugural list features people from 34 countries across six continents, and is divided into seven categories: Game-changing Producers; Tech Disruptors; Empowering Educators; Entrepreneurial Creatives; Science Innovators; Hospitality Pioneers and Trailblazing Activists. Alongside McMaster and Niland, the class of 2021 includes progressive agriculture advocate Cherrie Atilano from the Philippines; Ghanaian tech innovator Isaac Sesi; Mexican indigenous pioneer Claudia Albertina Ruiz; and Jhannel Tomlinson, a Jamaican climate change champion who empowers women through coffee.

- Welsh hospitality businesses will be able to reopen for outdoor trading from next Monday (26 April)​. Making the announcement, First Minister Mark Drakeford said that the public health context in Wales was favourable, with cases falling and the country’s vaccination programme going “from strength to strength”. He said that because meeting outdoors continued to be lower risk than meeting indoors, he was able bring to bring forward changes to allow any six people to meet outdoors. “This will provide more opportunities for people, especially young people, to meet outdoors with their friends. This will undoubtedly have a significant positive impact on people’s wellbeing.” It has subsequently been announced that the country is set to align with England and Scotland and allow pubs and restaurants to reopen for indoor service on 17 May​.

- Home founder Elizabeth Cottam is opening a bakery and dining room in Boston Spa in May​ that will be run by an all-female senior team. Called Cora, it will serve a menu of bakery and patisserie-based breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea items, alongside a changing selection of speciality cakes, pastries and wines. Cottam says she will be using less usual ingredients to modernise the patisserie format, with dishes paired an optional glass of wine or cocktail. Items will include Bloody Mary sourdough with rare breed bacon and tarragon tomato jam; foie gras and plum Danish swirls; mushroom and black garlic parfait on truffle ciabatta with Pedro Ximenez sherry butter; black sesame and tangerine eclairs; and little pear drop pies. It will also offer tasting experiences that will include both savoury and sweet dishes selected by the chefs.

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

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