Friday Five: the week's top news

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Friday Five: the week's top news

Related tags: Hospitality

This week's main hospitality news stories include the Government making pavement licenses permanent, data showing hospitality employees working longer hours, and Shaftesbury and Capco's plans to merge.

The Government is to make pavement licences permanent​ under legislation announced in the Queen's Speech earlier this week. The new rules, which form part of the the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill, will cut red tape and give hospitality businesses in England the opportunity to offer al fresco drinking and dining all year round. Separately, outdoor restaurant seating could be permitted without a planning application in Scotland under new proposals​ designed to support the hospitality industry. The Scottish Government has opened a consultation on changing 'permitted development rights', which would streamline the process for certain types of application. The Levelling up and Regeneration Bill also gives councils and residents the powers to force landlords to let out empty commercial properties​​ to regenerate high streets to combat the post-pandemic decline in town centres; while the Non-Domestic Rating Bill, also announced in the Queen's Speech, will provide £1.7bn of temporary business rates relief in 2022-23 for up to 400,000 retail, hospitality, and leisure properties​​, and intends to modernise the business rates system​​ with more frequent property revaluations. The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which represents some 1,200 independent bars, clubs and live music venues across the UK, said that while the Queen's Speech 'had important aspects', it was 'a missed opportunity​ as far as the night time economy is concerned'.

- Hospitality employees are working around six hours a week longer than before the pandemic, according to new figures from workforce management specialist Bizimply. It found that as the sector tries to tackle the ongoing recruitment crisis, existing employees are clocking up more hours than previously​, with staff now working an average of 25 hours a week, compared to 19 hours pre-pandemic. In food-led businesses, employees are working an average 28 hour week, compared to around 23 hours in wet-led businesses. Fine dining restaurants, which are among the worst affected by recruitment issues, are typically asking their staff to work 40-plus hours a week; while cafés and hotels are also seeing staff notch up longer than average weekly hours at work.

- London landlords Shaftesbury and Capital & Counties Properties (Capco) are in advanced talks on a £3.5bn merger that would bring tourist hotspots including Covent Garden and Soho under common ownership​. In a statement, the companies said Shaftesbury would own 53% and Capco shareholders would have the remaining 47% in a deal structured as an acquisition of Shaftesbury by Capco. Capco currently holds a 25% stake in Shaftsbury, which it acquired back in June 2020. The possible all-share merger would create a real estate investment trust focused on London’s West End with a portfolio of c.2.9 million sq ft of lettable space located in high-profile destinations including Covent Garden, Carnaby, Chinatown and Soho. This includes c.1.8 million sq ft of retail and hospitality space, together with c.1.1 million sq ft of office and residential accommodation.

- Year-on-year inflation in the foodservice sector hit 13.6% in March 2022​, the latest CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index shows. The figure is the highest in the history of the Index and continues a surge in prices since the start of the year. It is 3.4 percentage points higher than in February, when year-on-year inflation reached double digits for the first time. By comparison, inflation in March 2021 — when the UK was still under widespread Covid restrictions — was just 0.1%

- US fried chicken brand Popeyes’ Westfield Stratford site is the company’s highest taking venue globally​, the company has revealed. Launched in the east London shopping centre in November last year, the restaurant is now the best performing of all the brand’s 3,600 plus restaurants across the world, it says. The brand, which this year celebrates 50 years since its first restaurant opened in New Orleans, is continuing its move into Essex, with a new site in Romford set to join its soon-to-open Chelmsford restaurant. The company is also expected to open a drive thru restaurant in the county this year. The 72-cover Romford restaurant will be the company’s second standalone operation in the UK alongside its Chelmsford site, which will open its doors on 11 June.

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

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