• Covid-19 Hub Part 1: Drinks trade reaction to crisis & UK lockdown

    The situation surrounding the impact and spread of Covid-19 in the UK and around the world is changing so fast The Buyer has set up this rolling updates service to keep you abreast of the latest official guidelines and recommendations from the government, but also the individual steps that businesses are taking to keep trading and help their customers do the same. This is Part One of our Covid-19 blog that records the events and trade reaction over the days in March leading up to the closing of all bars and restaurants and subsequent national lockdown in the UK

    The situation surrounding the impact and spread of Covid-19 in the UK and around the world is changing so fast The Buyer has set up this rolling updates service to keep you abreast of the latest official guidelines and recommendations from the government, but also the individual steps that businesses are taking to keep trading and help their customers do the same. This is Part One of our Covid-19 blog that records the events and trade reaction over the days in March leading up to the closing of all bars and restaurants and subsequent national lockdown in the UK

    mm By May 21, 2020

    Keep up to date here with what is happening across the drinks and hospitality sectorsa in face of thCovid-19 outbreak around the world.

    This is what this ‘Updates Service’ is for. To try and keep you up to date with the key information you need to run, manage and keep on top of this situation. Although this is primarily aimed at the situation in the UK we would also like to hear share advice and thoughts from around the word. Either by emailing richardsiddle@btopenworld.com or tag us on social media at @TheBuyer11.

    Another of the social media adverts that have been created to encourage #safedistancing

    April 6

    US wine sales see boost right across all channels in March

    Job Retention payouts not until end of April as Chancellor urges banks to free up loans

    The government’s Job Retention scheme is not expected to start the process by which businesses can apply for money until the end of April which means actual monies won’t be paid until well into May.

    Despite announcing on March that the Job Retention scheme would allow any business that is directly impacted by Covid-19 to put its staff on furlough and receive 80% of their wage up to £2,500 a month, all money paid out to date has had to come directly from the company or via a bank loan.

    The government’s official Job Retention page has now been updated to say: “The online service you’ll use to claim is not available yet. We expect it to be available by the end of April 2020.”

    Only then can businesses make their application for a grant to be issued. The payments will also cover “the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage”. But businesses will still “need to pay employer National Insurance and pension contributions on behalf of your furloughed employees, and you can claim for these too”.

    It is available for an initial three months, but is expected to be extended. But as it is backdated to March 1, most payments won’t be paid until well into the third month in any case.

    Regular updates

    The guidelines are being regularly updated so it is worth keeping close attention to the official government page, particularly in regards to who can claim, when and how.

    It is has now, for example, been confirmed that “you can claim for furloughed employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) if they are unable to work from home and you would otherwise have to make them redundant”.

    Employees with caring responsibilities

    Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) can be furloughed. For example, employees that need to look after children can be furloughed.

    Minimum furlough periods

    Any employees you place on furlough must be furloughed for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks. When they return to work, they must be taken off furlough. Employees can be furloughed multiple times, but each separate instance must be for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks.

    What happens at end of furlough?

    When the government ends the scheme, you must make a decision, depending on your circumstances, as to whether employees can return to their duties. If not, it may be necessary to consider termination of employment (redundancy).

    Chancellor Sunak said he is looking at ways to free up money quicker and is urging the major banks to do the same

    Chancellor Rishi Sunak has banned banks from demanding personal guarantees for emergency loans that will subsequently be underwritten by the government. Sunak said the loan scheme will be extended to cover all small companies affected by Covid-19 and not just those unable to get commercial funding.

    The British Beer and Pub Association said it welcomed the move to “bolster credit lines to businesses affected by Covid-19” it was still anxious to see the support stretched to what it saw as businesses in the “squeezed middle”. “The majority of our membership falls into this bracket and so haven’t had access to the support that the Government intended,” it said. “It is a shame that the loans will be at commercial rates meaning successful businesses, through no fault of their own, will be forced to get into more debt due to this crisis. Nonetheless, it is imperative now that the banks take heed of this clear direction from government and get the cash to businesses as fast as possible.”

    Drinks Trust Covid-19 Emergency Fund April 6-10

     The Drinks Trust, has set up an emergency fund specifically to help those directly affected by Covi-19 with funds available from April 6 to April 10.

    It says: “Since the beginning of March, demand for our services has increased significantly and many individuals are now in desperate need. The COVID-19 Emergency Fund will be made available from Monday April 6 and successful applicants will be awarded a £250 grant to assist them with essentials and to help them through the weeks ahead.”

    This initiative is targeted at the following two groups and hopes to be able to help up to 2,000 people:

    1.     Those who have been made redundant and subsequently not been reinstated, meaning they are unable to benefit from the salary grant scheme set out by the Chancellor

    2.     Those on zero hours contracts who will receive only small levels of financial benefit from the salary support measures outlined by the Chancellor

     Additionally, these individuals will have worked in one of the following establishments;

    1. On-trade; bars, pubs and those who worked with drinks in restaurants and hotels, such as sommeliers and beverage managers
    2. Off-trade; those who worked in alcohol retailing businesses
    3. Distribution; those who worked in businesses supplying the above   

    Qualifying individuals will be able to access a one-off financial grant of £250, payable directly into their bank account. The Drinks Trust will apply its expertise in assessing hardship and will prioritise individuals who have health conditions, and also those caring for dependents. 

    CGA: Consumers already showing long term eating and drinking out habits

    There are already signs of what the long term impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak and current lockdown could have on consumer behaviour. The latest consumer data from CGA shows that money worries are already “weighing heavily with the public”, with half (51%) of those surveyed last week saying “they were very concerned about the long term financial implications of the COVID-19 virus”.

    CGA questions whether this might not see result in the immediate resurgence in the on-trade once the social distancing restrictions are lifted as many in the trade might expect.

    How quickly will we return to our old ways of going out after Covid-19

    CGA found that:

    • almost a third (32%) of adults said they would eat-out less frequently than before Covid-19
    • the majority (61%) said they would eat-out with the same frequency and just 7% saying they would eat-out more.
    • 35% of people plan to reduce frequency of drinking out visits and 59% said they would not change.

    There was also bad news for all those in the restaurant sector that are running home delivery services. The research, carried out on March 28-29, found that 80% of adults have “now stopped eating out-of-home totally, even for a takeaway, with just 13% only doing this when ‘essential’, for example buying a grab ‘n’ go meal”.

    Phil Tate, group chief executive of CGA, said: “The results put into context the task that those pub, restaurant and bar operators that do eventually emerge the other side of the lockdown will face in getting the public back into their establishments. Cash will be tight, but the type of offer may have to change too, if health-conscious tendencies become engrained. But what the survey also showed is that those that go-out most are the ones most likely to return to old habits, and they will be undoubtedly the main focus of renewed marketing efforts.”

    CGA’s latest survey also found that over half (54%) of those hit hard financially, either by having lost their jobs, being furloughed, or on reduced pay, said they would continue eating out as often as before, with a similar number for drinking-out, which is only slightly less than the public average.

    Mintel’s latest consumer confidence study reveals that 36% of people in the UK “are extremely concerned about the outbreak’s impact on their lifestyle”. “Between February 28 to March 13, just 14% of Brits said they were extremely concerned about the extent to which the outbreak might affect their lifestyle. By March 20-25th, this had increased to 36%.”

    It also found that “35% of Brits have changed their holiday plans; while just over three in 10 (32%) have stocked up on groceries or other supplies and 17% have increased the amount of shopping they do online”. 

    Jason Haynes of Flint Wines: finding the positives in an extra-ordinary situation

    Jason Haynes: says it is important to look at the positives and see what can be done to make Flint Wines stronger for after the crisis is over

    Jason Haynes, director of Flint Wines, said as well as doing what it can to help all its customers at this time by continuing to supply wine as and when they need it, it was also “trying to find any positive in an extra-ordinary situation”. “So we are using the time to get ourselves bang up to date on all our administrative tasks. We are tidying up unpaid reserves for restaurants, delivering en primeur paid reserves to merchants, sorting out credit notes. We are writing our new trade list, which we hope will be even more comprehensive both in terms of wine and information than ever before.

    “When everything re-opens, we want to be sure that we are ready to hit the ground running and can offer a heightened level of service to our customers. Many of our customers are good friends, and we completely understand the stress they are going through to keep their businesses going. No-one knows how long this will last or what long-term impact it will have on both the wine industry and the restaurant trade, so all we can do for now is be as supportive and as flexible as possible.

    We are still selling wine to merchants and shops and can continue to do so for as long as our warehouse LCB remains open. We are fortunate to have plenty of stock here in the UK, so we have lots of wine available if the demand is there from the off-trade. We have relaxed delivery terms so that customers can avoid over-stocking.

    “And if anyone gets bored, they can tune into Haynes and Devaney Unfiltered every Friday afternoon on Instagram live. So, I guess a significant change for us is adapting to only being able to virtually engage with customers and friends.  We are inviting our producers into these weekly tastings to share their latest news.

    Looking further ahead, we can take some reassurance that we all work in an industry that will always have a strong customer base and, all being well, that base will return hungrier and thirstier than ever before once the lockdown is over.”

    Italian Wine Fair 6-9 April on Facebook and Instgram

    Chance to take part in an Italian ‘virtual wine fair’

    A virtual wine fair will be running on Facebook and Instagram over the next few days – April 6-9 – as 15 producers have come together to share their stories as part of a series of live streaming tastings. You can keep track of what is going on by following the #storiedivino hashtag.

    The idea is to give consumers, and the trade, the chance to take a virtual trip around Italy and hear from different producers as they talk about their vineyards and their wines. Viewers can also take part and ask questions and get a wider conversation going. Here’s when the producers will be taking part. Note all times are Central European Time (IG = Instagram, FB = Facebook).

    April 6: Ricasoli 1141 (IG 3pm), Tenuta di Ghizzano (FB 4pm), Pio Cesare 1881 (IG 6pm).

    April 7: Azienda Vitivinicola Passopisciaro (FB 4pm), Conte Vistarino (IG 4.30pm), San Leonardo (IG 5pm).

    April 8: Tenuta di Trinoro (4pm on Instagram @passopisciaro_trinoro“), Tenute Silvio Nardi (FB 4.30pm), Castello di Querceto (FB 5pm), Fattoria Le Pupille (IG 5.30pm).

    April 9: Ornellaia (FB 3pm), Antico Podere Gagliole (IG 3.30pm), Alliance Vinum (FB 4pm), Giodo (IG 4.30pm), Luce della Vite (IG 5pm).

    April 2

    Here’s a great advert from Netflix to encourage people the world over to stay indoors – and well spend their time watching Netflix. It has taken out billboard advertising in city centres and near transport hubs with spoiler alerts from some of its hit shows with the advice that if you don’t want to know what comes next…stay the f**k home..

    Other great adverts have been created by design agencies to support the #Selfdistancing campaign, like our main picture for Extra chewing gum and this one below.

    Berkmann opens up its on-trade list to consumers to raise money for hospitality charities

    Here’s one of the best examples of a well thought through initiative by one of the country’s leading on-trade suppliers, Berkmann Wine Cellars, that is looking to remodel its business in order to help itself, but also the customers in restaurant sector it is no longer able to supply with wine during the lockdown. It has launched its ‘Help 4 Hospitality initiative that will help raise money for those affected in the on-trade, but also open parts of its exclusive restaurant list to consumers living and working from home.

    Restaurant wines to your door thanks to Berkmann’s new Help 4 Hospitality initiative

    It is to donate 12.5% of the sales it receives through going direct to consumers sales to The Drinks Trust’s emergency Covid-19 fund and Hospitality Action

    Individual restaurants and groups can also benefit directly by registering with the scheme. In turn they will be issued with a voucher code for its business to share with its own mailing list. Any of their customers who then place an order using this code, will receive an additional 5% discount, and the 12.5% Berkmann donation will go directly to that outlet or group. Any restaurant or bar can take part by emailing and registering at h4h@berkmann.co.uk.

    Bekrmann said it is “the first time in the company’s 56 year history it has opened up its wine cellar to consumers”.  

    The Help 4 Hospitality shop is online at www.berkmann.co.uk/H4Hshop. Voucher codes can be viewed online at bit.ly/BerkmannH4H. To send donations direct to the charities then use the generic voucher code –  H4HBWC.

    The Vintner 100% profits offer

    The Vintners’ Tom Gilbey says donating 100% of its online sales up to Easter to Hospitality Action is a sign of its appreciation to the restaurant community that has supported its business

    The Vintner is to donate all the profits it makes from online sales between April 2 and midnight on Easter Day (April 12) to Hospitality Action and to try and give its support to all those in the restaurant and bar sectors that have been hit by the shutting down of the on-trade. It said in a mailer to its customers today: “While we’ve been scrambling for our own life jackets, we’ve seen our friends in the hospitality industry having their livelihoods decimated by COVID-19. This has touched and upset us enormously and we want to do our bit to help.” It says it wants to “give something back to the industry and people that have supported us over our nine plus years in business.” 

    Corney & Barrow’s new sales buddy system and online tasting series

    Corney & Barrow’s Rebecca Palmer will be hosting the first of a series of weekly online tastings each week at 6pm

    Corney & Barrow has introduced a new buddy system across its on-trade, fine wine and retail sales teams to help pool resources at a time when the home delivery and online side of the business is booming and the on-trade division is at a standstill. The new system means one of the on-trade team will work with a retail colleague so that they can share their skills, and experience, but also step in for one or another if anyone falls ills during this time.

    “We are maximising our resources so that everyone can come together and we can have a common effort to support the business where it needs it,” Olivia Galéa, C&B’s head of marketing told The Buyer. 

    It is also introducing a new online ‘After Work Tasting’ series, that will take place every Thursday at 6pm on  Zoom. Each week different members of the C&B team, and potentially some of its producers, will take part in an interactive tasting session online. The first one takes place at 6pm April 2 and is hosted by head buyer Rebecca Palmer. You can find out more here 

    With so many new customers signing up every day on its website to buy wine, the buying team has been able to put together different ranges for what it is calling ‘Wines for the Everyday’. These include a mixed case offer and then wines split by grape variety. Details can be found here: https://www.corneyandbarrow.com/everyday.

    Each week for the next week seven weeks it will then have a focus on different varieties and styles of wine including creating a curated case, an online tasting featuring those wines, a producer video featured in the case and other social media activity. The line-up of activity includes: Week 1: Wines of the Everyday; Week 2: Staff picks (April 12 – Easter Sunday); Week 3: Malbec & Merlot ( April 17 – World Malbec Day); Week 4: Pinot Noir; Week 5: Sauvignon Blanc ( May 1 – World Sauvignon Blanc Day); Week 6: Prosecco & Sparkling wines (May 8 – Early May Bank Holiday); and Week 7: Pinot Grigio & Gris (May 17 – Pinot Grigio Day). 

    Wined Up Weekly Daily Dose on Instagram

    The Buyer contributors from California, Katie Canfield and Matthew Gaughan, who set up the podcast, Wined up Weekly, which is there round up of wine news and views from around the world, have now taken the brand on to Instagram to host what they are calling their “Daily Dose” of wine. Their chance to pick a wine they love and then talk about it, the region, the style, the history and all the back story that goes to it. A sort of mini-tutorial ideal for wine lovers, geeks or those busy studying for their WSET exams – or a combination of all three.

    The Virtual Happy Hour

    #TheVirtualHappyHour has been set up to help bring people together across the trade to enjoy a round of drinks – online. The idea being that when the ‘Virtual Happy Hour’ is over everyone in the online group then donates the price of their drink to the group’s favourite bar. The group leader is asked to facilitate the event by letting individual pubs, bars and restaurants know and then organise the donations to happen. You can find out more at at its Facebook page  or on Instagram. 

    #TheVirtualHappyHour team is also encouraging bars and restaurants to promote the campaign with their own regulars and host events themselves.

    Emma Murphy, co-owner of specialist agave bar Hacha that was the first bar to benefit from #TheVirtualHappyHour: said of the initiative:  In this time of social distancing and uncertainty for our industry, #TheVirtualHappyHour is such an inspiring concept that really gives us such an incredible feeling of gratitude and hope. Not only is it a wonderfully kind gesture of support for the independent bars and restaurants that have already begun to suffer financially – but it also unites friends and families, albeit digitally, over a drink or two.”

    Keep up to date with online tastings with Word on the Grape

    Word on The Grapevine, the online blog and information resource,  is living up to its name by keeping the trade up to date with what online tastings are taking place on any given day of the week. With so many people now going online to talk wine and share their views and ideas via Zoom or Skype, it’s hard to keep up. It has created a calendar of events that you can access here. You can also keep up to date by following on Twitter at @Wordonthegrape.

    April 1

    How DTC brands are helping out bricks and mortar partners

    High street and online retailers are coming together like never before to help each other through this crisis. Modern Retail has described how a number of DTC brands are now “helping their physical location partners make sales while they’re closed”.

    DTC brands and platforms are passing on revenue from buoyant e-commerce sales to help the retail shops that usually also help sell their brands on the high street.

    This has been particularly the case in the luxury clothing and jewellery sectors.

    US canteen brand Corkcicle launched its #SupportLocal initiative last week, in which its platform will “reallocate funds from online sales back to individual local brick-and-mortar retail partners.”

    Over the next 10 days anyone who shops online at Corkcicle can “choose to also support their favourite US-based local Corkcicle retailer in the process,” said the company. All sales will be added up and re-allocated to those shops on April 10.

    Online watch platform, Hodinkee, is allowing the physical retailers it normally sells its watches through to also sell through its ecommerce site. Its particularly focused on helping those retailers that don’t have an online sales presence.

    Watch company, Hodinkee’s founder, Benjamin Kylmer sees this as an opportunity for it to help the rest of the watch retail network and manufacturers

    Here’s a message from its founder Benjamin Clymer  about how he wants to help the whole watch community at this time: “We are in a position to help those close to us – and I’m not talking about watches in any way here, but rather the people that make, sell, and collect them. You, our community.”

    He added: “Every Tuesday and Thursday, we will shine a light on an independent watch retailer, letting you know how exactly to communicate and work with them while their doors are shut. We hope this will allow them to make some sales and continue along as they were.”

    The reason for doing this he said was because “Hodinkee’s greatest accomplishment, and the achievement for which I am truly most proud, is not about education or entertainment, nor the sales of watches, but for the community, friendships, and trust that we have helped grow over the last 12 years”.

    HMRC: we still need help on duty payments urges WSTA

    The WSTA’s Miles Beale is still working to get duty payments halted for six months


    The Wine & Spirit Trade Association has revealed that “some” of the “many businesses” who were unable to pay their duty bills on March 25 “have been granted a deferment by HMRC for three months”.

    The WSTA said it remains committed to convincing the HMRC to expand those deferments to all businesses that are struggling to keep up with duty payments at a time when they have been hit so badly by the loss in business due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

    It is the number one outstanding issue that almost 95% of its members that took part in a survey last week want to see the government take action on and grant a six month suspension on excise duty payments.

    Despite the big upswing in off-trade alcohol sales, most of this is being channelled through the major supermarkets and restaurants and suppliers who have switched to a home delivery service are only seeing “very small amounts” being sold said the WSTA. “With no prospect of re-opening anytime soon, there is a real threat that a number of these businesses will not survive,” it added.

    The other big areas of concern in the WSTA are cashflow and debt which has resulted in a number of companies putting their staff on furlough to take advantage of the government’s Job Retention Scheme.

    Miles Beale, the WSTA’s chief executive, said: The government has made it clear there is no quick fix to the coronavirus crisis and has warned it could be six months before life in the UK returns to normal. With many businesses facing duty bills again in three months’ time, the wine and spirit trade is likely to find itself under even greater financial pressure than they were at the beginning of the outbreak.

    It is urging the government to speed up the process by which drinks companies, including on-trade suppliers who have lost 100% of their business, can access the relief measures that have been introduced particularly. It said: “Exemption from business rates should be extended immediately to those companies servicing the on-trade, which are just as much a part of the embattled hospitality sector. It’s either that or risk having pubs and bars re-open with no one to supply them.”

    KAM Media: 10 minute leader videos

    KAM Media is running a series of short 10 minute videos with key leaders across the hospitality sector where they are asked to share the key initiatives they are taking to help their companies and trade bodies through the crisis. The videos have included Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality and Tim Foster of Yummy Pubs and how he has started a home delivery or click and collect “Groceries from The Mill” service, with prices, he claims, to rival Tesco and Morrisons.

    Foster said he was using the time to be innovative and to introduce new ideas that they simply would not have the time to do in normal circumstances, like cooking and delivering gastro meals to heat up at home. He is also working with a former general manger for a chain of London restaurants who has he’s giving the chance to set up his own business, “Messy Hog” and trial a new home delivery burger service.

    Rise in national minimum wage could be halted

    The Low Pay Commission has warned the government it may have to abandon its targets for raising the minimum wage. This comes after assessing the potential money that will have to be paid out to cover businesses and individuals get through the pandemic. Once it has been overcome, the government might have to reassess its minimum wage targets, said the Commission.

    Before the general election in December the Conservatives promised to ‘end low pay’ and the the national living wage would be set at £10.50 per hour, increasing to two-thirds of average earnings by 2024. It is feared by some economists that sticking to the existing timeframe could end up with more people unemployed.

    The British Beer and Pub Association has called on the government to delay any increases to ‘prevent mass job losses and permanent pub closures.’

    • The National Living Wage rises by 6.2% today. Employees that are furloughed do not have to have their wages increased. If they are furloughed after today, the situation is less clear. The rise will increase costs for operators who, at present, have no income.
    • The BBC reports that ‘nearly a fifth of all small and medium-sized businesses in the UK’ will not have the cash resources to last a month without income.

    Dividends on hold

    UK banks are set to abandon plans to pay dividends worth up to £8bn to shareholders, and the Bank of England has told lenders to cancel cash bonuses. Financial institutions are looking to build a ‘buffer’ to protect them against the economic uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. This will enable them to redirect funds to lend to businesses and families during the period of lockdown. Barclays shareholders had been set to receive more than £1bn this Friday.

    Burgundy winemakers: the harvest must go on

    Nicolas Rossignol in Gevrey-Chambertin is taking steps to keep its vineyards and staff healthy

    The world over winemakers and producers are having to introduce new guidelines and working practices to allow vineyard workers to continue their work in the fields whilst also operating at a safe and healthy distance from each other. The majority, if not all, countries are allowing harvests and vineyard work to go ahead, usually after extensive lobbying from the local wine authorities like we have seen in South Africa, Chile and New Zealand.Safety measures are also being followed in Burgundy, France where the hashtag  #LaVigneContinue has been created to keep spirits amongst producers and its workers up – Nature cannot be confined!

    As producers now look to manage bud break across their vines, new measures are being introduced. Nicolas Rossignol, winemaker at Domaine Rossignol-Trapetin in Gevrey-Chambertin, said he has has reorganised his vineyard team: “I have asked everyone to use their personal vehicle to get around. In the vines, it is one to a plot, or else we leave two or three rows between us (2 to 3m) if we have to work in the same place. I have two tractors, so each driver has their own.”

    Producers with more than 10 employees are staggering work flows so that they are operating at different times of the day, said the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB). It says “some transporters continue to make deliveries, while certain international orders have been put on one side, ready to go as soon as international transport resumes. “We know the current situation is only temporary, and we are ready to respond to increased demand as soon as it comes,” said Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the BIVB, and  chief executive of Louis Latour.

    Chateau Pommard’s Michael Baum: time for wine producers to go direct 

    Château de Pommard
    “Wine’s not about making money, it’s about staying in business.” Michael Baum (l) with cellar master Emmanuel Sala

    Michael Baum, who made his fortune in Silicon Valley, before becoming a French wine producer at Chateau de Pommard in Burgundy, believes this could be the pivotal moment that pushes producers out of their comfort zones and into the kind of direct to consumer models we see in the US and much of the New World.

    “The wine industry has been stagnant for 100 years, trapped in the same multi-tiered distribution systems which are being exposed through the outbreak of COVID-19 and frankly benefit the middlemen much more than the producer or the consumer,” he said in a statement this week.

    “We have been preparing for nearly two years to embrace a new, more direct to consumer model, driven by advances in internet speeds, access to collaboration tools, and the need for people to travel without creating a significant carbon footprint. With the restrictions on travel now and long into a post-COVID-19 future, the advancements we are embracing will be even more critical to us and the wine industry as a whole.”

    Crucially he added: “COVID-19 is the impetus needed to shift the wine-industry into a new future where it can thrive in a world of increased volatility, demand fluctuation, climate change consciousness, and yet desire for consumers to engage in new experiences”.

    ‘Chefs with Caregivers’ bring five star cuisine and service to health workers

    Across France top hotels and restaurants are coming together under the new ‘Chefs with Caregivers’ initiative to provide meals for doctors, nurses and caregivers at this time and to help keep them “France fit and well”.

    Five star Hôtel Chais Monnet in Cognac is opening up today to provide 365 freshly cooked meals to the town’s central hospital in what will be a number of multiple planned meal deliveries during the pandemic.

    The five-star hotel is currently closed in line with French lockdown regulations but has been given special permission to re-open to help provide a quality meal for the region’s health workers. “We have enough kitchen space to ensure that everyone can cook safely. If we can help those in need, let’s do it!” said the hotel’s general manager, Arnaud Bamvems.

    Georgia Tastings to go ahead as planned – online

    The National Wine Agency of Georgia has reaffirmed its support for the UK wine market despite the Covid-19 shutting down on all public tastings and events. It has adapted its promotional campaign to include a series of webinars and virtual tastings to be held from May onwards. These will be hosted by Sarah Abbott MW, whose company, Swirl, runs the UK campaign.

    Anyone wanting to take part in the UK will be sent sample wines and other online resources to help them take part in the sessions. Please contact Madeleine Waters on Madeleine@swirlwinegroup.com for further information and/or to register your interest.

    She can also provide information on which importers and retailers are stocking and delivering  Georgian wine at this time and can provide samples to journalists and trade buyers.

    March 31

    Off-trade sales top £350m in a week 

    Grocery sales have boomed in March with 79m additional shopping trips

    Off-trade alcohol sales hit £356.5m in the week to March 21, up from £252.5m the week before, a rise of 67%, according to Nielsen. That’s an additional £160m for the first three weeks in March. Its figures also show there were 79 million more shopping trips than the same week last year, which resulted in an extra £1.9 billion spent on groceries – and long lines, and empty shelves in many parts of the country.

    The latest stats are also the first indication of how quickly the country is moving to online with overall online grocery sales up 14% in the four week period. But that is still only two in 10 homes shopping online. So there is still enormous potential. What it does, though, show is 600,000 new households have started to shop online compared to the same period last year.

    Nielsen says this changes represent a “seismic shift in overall shopping patterns”. “As well as increased store visits, consumers opted to shop online – many for the first time. However, unlike stores there is a finite capacity for online grocery shopping, due to warehouse capacity and available delivery slots, and this will have limited the growth of online sales,” says Mike Watkins at Nielsen.

    Bibendum and Matthew Clark launches LOCAL home delivery app for restaurants and independents 

    Bibendum and Matthew Clark have helped to build an app, LOCAL, through which restaurants, bars and independent merchants can promote their wines to local customers

    Bibendum Wine, and Matthew Clark together with the rest of the C&C Group, has developed an app designd to help restaurants, pubs, bars and independent wine merchants promote what wines they are offering for home delivery or click and collect services. The LOCAL app is open to any business to upload their details for free and start pushing their wines to the local community. Customers simply have to enter their postcode to see which outlets and businesses are closest and most relevant to them.

    Bibendum says that “with the hospitality industry’s landscape changing dramatically in the last month, it wanted to offer its customers  a way to adapt and to keep going, without expensive set-up fees”. You do not need to be a Bibendum or Matthew Clark customer to sign up or sell any of its wines. The key is to offer the service to all retail and on-trade businesses. 

    To take part a company just needs to enter its logo, menu, contact details and Stripe Connect account. C&C will cover all other start-up costs and there will be a 2% transaction fee on every order.  LOCAL is available to download from Google and Apple App stores.

    Louis Latour Agencies: Banfi Webinar: April 1, 4pm, Zoom

    Life Under Lockdown: How is the Italian Wine Industry reacting to Coronavirus.

    Jgor Marini from Castello Banfi will talk about the impact, challenges and chances for innovation in the Italian wine industry during the next few months. In a conversation with Louis Latour Agencies’ head of London sales, Will Hine, this will be an opportunity to hear directly from one of Tuscany’s most influential producers on what impact there has been on production and how it is continue to sell wines in Italy and overseas.

    If you would like to take part then contact Rebecca Fraser at Rebecca.Fraser@louislatour.co.uk for online access to the forum.

    City Harvest looks for food and money donations 

    City Harvest schemes operate all over the world

    City Harvest, which helps redistribute food to charities across London that in turn make healthy and nutritious food for some of the cities most vulnerable, is looking for donations – both for food and for money to help it keep up with demand at this time. It has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with essential funding.

    City Harvest has over the last few weeks being working with some of the capital’s top restaurant chains that have been able to provide it with food that would otherwise gone to waste. From usually receiving 35 tonnes of food a week, it received 23.5 tonnes on March 24, the day after all restaurants were told to close. Food has been received from leading chains such as Nando’s, Hawksmoor, Bone Daddies, Wasabi, Gails and Eat.

    From usually distributing 70 van loads of food per week, it carried out 140 trips last week. The charity has calculated it has been able to 110 tonnes of food in the last week and helped to create 255,000 meals. It has also had offers of help from leading groups such as Honest Burgers, Wasabi, Unilever and McDonalds.

    It is looking for volunteers and more donations from those restaurants that are still open to do home deliveries in order to keep the operation in step with the demand. To help and for more information click here.

    Bolney Wine Estate’s raft of support measures

    The Bolney Wine Estate in Sussex has introduced a number of measures it hopes can help its local community and its customers looking for good wine to drink at the same time. Its initiatives include:

    • making up fresh produce boxes (filled with essentials such as milk, veg and bread) so that people in the local area can have another way of easily accessing food.
    •  free 24 hour delivery to anyone living within 20 miles of the Bolney Wine Estate.
    • a 25% discount to NHS staff on any of its products.
    • free delivery service for purchases over £20
    • a new ‘Dine at Home’ option for locals with a non-contact delivery and collection service

    Oeno donates to Hospitality Action

    Fine wine merchant Oeno is donating £1 from every bottle sold to Hospitality Action. It has created a specially curated list for its private client customers to use and make the donation to those whose livelihoods have been affected by Covid-19.

    Olivier Gasselin, OenoTrade’s director of trade, said: “After working for over a decade for the Hakkasan Group and other top London restaurants, I have many friends in the hospitality sector and it is only right for us to do what we can to support those personally affected by the crisis at this time.”

    Its list has been carefully selected to feature exceptional mature wines clients can enjoy drinking at home during the Covid-19 lockdown. These range from top Champagnes like Henri Giraud Argonne 2004 and Krug 2000 to delicious Burgundy such as Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs 1999 and classics like Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1982, Opus One 2012, Sassicaia 1990 and Masseto 2010.

    March 30

    Joe Fattorini and The Wine Show’s daily YouTube show

    Joe Fattorini and The Wine Show TV team are running daily 30 minute @Home shows at 7pm (BST) which gives Joe the chance to wax lyrical on many a wine subject that appear to just pop into his head, but are, no doubt carefully planned before hand. It’s also a chance for him to taste through wines from independent wine merchants who are able to deliver nationally – so far he has featured Reserve Wines in Manchester and has Jascots Wine lined up. Here’s the first show from Saturday to peruse.

    What wine and drinks distributors are doing

    As we go into another week of most drinks businesses working in some form of  lockdown or safe distancing work procedures, The Buyer continues its coverage by looking at what some of the sector’s key distributors are doing. , Bancroft Wines. 

    Hatch Mansfield

    Patrick McGrath MW, managing director of Hatch Mansfield, told The Buyer that it “remains open for business and we are completely committed to giving our customers the best service possible”.

    To do has meant committing everyone in the business to “two main objectives”:

    • “a business objective of ensuring continuity of supply and in this difficult period.
    • and “a second, more human, aim to look after the Hatch ‘family’ which includes the team, our producers and our wider community. 

    McGrath explains how: “To support the immediate business objective we have split a number of key UK stock lines between three warehouses to minimise any potential disruption which might otherwise prevent our wines being available to our loyal customer base. Our sales team are in regular contact with their accounts and tailor-making support wherever possible. Our brand owners around the world are facing increasingly challenging conditions and we have set up even closer communication with all our producers and also with the shippers we work with to maintain continuity of supply wherever we can.”

    As a result Hatch’s day-to-day business is running smoothly from an operational perspective with orders being processed as normal”. “We have embraced video conferencing within the team, we are checking in with each other on regular calls and have shared some top wellbeing tips for homeworking for those who might find it hard to adapt to this new, temporary way of working.”

    McGrath says it is also at this time about thinking about those outside the company. “Whilst at home we are asking all staff to do all they can to encourage the spread of kindness and community spirit and have urged everyone in the business to share ideas of how to work through this period to better times. Some of these ideas have been reflected in our recent social media activity. In the meantime, we wish all in the industry a safe path through this unprecedented chapter.”

    An example of Hatch’s twitter feed which is about promoting what good initiatives are taking place in the wider community

    Bancroft Wines

    Bancroft’s Jon Worsley says its teams efforts have switched to its strong off-trade business

    Bancfroft Wines has also confirmed to The Buyer it “is firmly open for business and intends to battle through this unprecedented period like many others in the trade”.

    Jon Worsley, chief executive, added: “Of course, like many other premium wine distributors, one of our biggest customer base is the on-trade and we wish all our partners in that sector the best. We will be ready to support them when things return to normal for the hospitality industry. In the meantime, Bancroft is supporting our off-trade customers with the help of our great partners at LCB who continue to deliver a great reliable service.

    “Bancroft Wines has also had a long tradition in supplying private clients, either with en primeur launches, or for every day occasions, and it is no surprise that we have seen a large increase in this side of our business. It’s a pleasure to be able to deliver wine to peoples door steps so they can enjoy a glass during this difficult period.”

    Les Caves de Pyrene  

    Dou Wregg says Les Caves de Pyrene is fully open for business for and is offering up to 30% discount for those working in the NHS

    Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrene has sent out this trading update to its customers to ensure them it is “still providing a full service to anyone who might need us”.

    “For retailers who are offering click-and-collect and/or delivery, you still have access to our entire portfolio. In addition, we are creating a resource (that anyone can use), which is a list of all the companies who are selling wine and spirits (and doing food deliveries) in each locality. We will, of course, gladly share any information that you wish to relay on our social media. Anything we can do to help your businesses, let us know.

    “For anyone who wishes to buy wine directly from us, we are more than happy to offer a private customer service and advice on what’s drinking well, seasonal mixed cases. We have a list of over 2,000 products including artisan spirits (gin, vodka, whisky, cognac, Armagnac, eaux de vie) and beers.  If you have friends, acquaintances and family who might also be interested in ordering anything, please feel free to forward this mail to them.”

    Les Caves has also said it is offering a 15% off trade price and 30% off retail for anyone working in the NHS.

    LCB is “vital to independents and suppliers”

    LCB is helping to keep the wine trade moving during this crisis

    Nik Darlington of Graft Wine has applauded the actions taken by London City Bond to ensure it stays open, albeit with stricter health and safety measures and revised practices at this time. He said: “LCB staying open and keeping their distribution network alive is ensuring smaller wine suppliers can continue to trade with customers across the UK who are still able in turn to serve local communities. Without this vital service, smaller suppliers will be locked out of the market and forced to cease trading. This would leave the market clear for larger suppliers who have the benefit of their own warehouse or distribution network, and thus reduce choice and diversity of supply for businesses and customers around the country. LCB should be applauded both for taking necessary precautions to protect staff and their families, and for their determination to continue this essential service for small suppliers and their customers.”

    ThirtyFifty WSET Courses at home  

    ThirtyFifty, the wine tasting events business, has introduced a series of home study aids to help people get stuck into their WSET training whilst in lockdown. It is offering WSET Level 2 & Level 3 courses online with wines shipped direct to the student to take part. For those who would like to learn about wine but don’t want to commit to a full course then ThirtyFifty is also offering a range of wine study packs, including a WSET text book and ThirtyFifty’s Flash cards and questions. The value of the wine study pack can be redeemed against a WSET course at a later date: £90 for Level 2 Award in Wines, £125 for Level 3 Award in Wines. ThirtyFifty is also offering WSET course providers a wine sample pack delivery service that they can send to people to help practise their tasting.

    Chris Scott, Director of ThirtyFifty, says “We have been working very hard over a number of years to develop the best online resources for students studying WSET qualifications with us. With the Covid-19 lockdown, we hope these resources will help students around the world to continue studying.”

    March 27

    Pernod Ricard UK donates £250,000 to The Drinks Trust

    Pernod Ricard UK has pledged £250,000 to the UK drinks charity, The Drinks Trust, to help anyone who is struggling financially,  mentally or with their health because of Covid-19 outbreak. The donation has been timed to help the Drinks Trust as it receives more requests for help from people right across the industry.

    David Haworth, managing director at Pernod Ricard UK, said: “It’s an unprecedented time for our industry. The Drinks Trust offers fantastic financial support and places emphasis on the health, wellbeing and career development of individuals within the industry.

    Pernod Ricard is also offering free Level 1 spirits courses through the WSET for free at this time. It says already 2,000 people have signed up to take part. The package also includes a home-delivered selection spirits from Pernod Ricard UK to be used as tasters throughout the course.

    English wine producer, Fox & Fox, has launched a special sparkling wine tasting pack in a bid to raise funds for The Drinks Trust. From each sale of Foxy Rescue Remedy, a three-bottle tasting pack, £10 will be divided equally and donated to The Drinks Trust, and the Sussex Community Foundation, who is providing vital support for local food banks as well as caring for vulnerable people.

    Latest on-trade statistics

    CGA – sharp slump of on-trade sales

    CGA’s latest figures lay bare just how dramatic the drop in sales – by 71% – across the UK on-trade has been in the weekthe Government ordered all licensed premises to close down because of the COVID-19 crisis. Its f

    Its weekly Coffer Peach Business Tracker shows like-for-like trading in restaurant chains was down 75%, with managed pubs down 67% and bars, which are more dependent on weekend business, tumbling 88%.

    “It was pretty clear that more and more businesses would have shut up shop anyway even without the closure and then lockdown orders, as CGA’s snap consumer poll showed that more and more of the public were going to give up on even attempting to go out,” said Phil Tate, group chief executive ofCGA.

    Athough the major slump in the on-trade can be tracked to the announcement on March 16 by the Prime Minister that he advised people not to go to pubs and restaurants, although they could stay open, new figures show the slump had started before them. Salary payment business, Wagestream, said its figures show the number of shifts available to workers in the hospitality industry has fallen 76.6% over the last month, resulting in a  77% slowdown across the overall on-trade.

    Wagestream  is able to track the work patterns of 36,000 hospitality sector workers who, on average, would work 120,000 shifts each week between them.

    South African harvest can go ahead despite Covid-19 lockdown

    South Africa’s 2020 harvest can now be completed after a last minute reprieve by the government

    The South African wine harvest can go ahead as usual as wine and agricultural authorities won a last minute reprieve from the government last night just hours before the country goes into a 21-day lockdown.

    The wine industry had been thrown into turmoil with the news, that only break two days ago, that the official shutdown to try and prevent the spread of Covid-19 would also stretch to all handling, and production of wine grapes even though 100s of producers are still in the last weeks of the 2020 harvest. It would also stop all exports of South African wine and close down ports.

    The harvest dispute was over what the government classified as ‘essential products’ and that under its existing wording the ‘Amendment of Regulations of the Disaster Management Act’ only covered food products.

    Vinpro, the trade body that represents 2,500 grape growers and wine producers, immediately lodged an “urgent application” with the government to allow producers to continue to harvest their grapes and then manage their production in the cellars in the coming weeks. As the clock ticked down last night it sent out a further recommendation to its members to continue with the harvest whilst it tries to get the government to back down.

    The list of essential products has now been changed to include the “harvesting and storage activities essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural goods.”

    Which is good enough for Vinpro. Christo Conradie, manager of wine cellars at Vinpro, said: “Our interpretation of this amendment is that the wine industry would be allowed to complete the harvest and also the necessary cellar processes to ensure that the crop is not ‘wasted’. Agri-workers that are required to harvest grapes and/or to operate as cellar workers, will be considered essential workers, during the lockdown period.

    “We’re truly very grateful for this outcome and it give us the necessary peace of mind on day one of #lockdown, on a Friday right before the weekend. It will allow agri-workers to work optimally and bring in the last of the harvest.

    Chance for sommeliers to get involved in virtual roundtables and tastings

    Star Wine Lists’ Krister Bengtsson wants to find ways to help sommeliers earn money at this time

    Star Wine Lists has come up with a new idea to help involve sommeliers in a new series of virtual roundtables and tasting events where they can get paid for their time, sharing their experience and tasting wines from producers around the world. “Let’s fight to get through this together,” said Star Wine Lists founder, Krister Bengtsson. “Wineries, regional and country organisations, you cannot travel but we can help get your wines out there and you can help getting sommeliers work during their down-time. Sommeliers, you can get freelance work and develop your communication skills and network,” he explained.

    The concept:
    Star Wine List currently recommends restaurants and bars for their wine lists in 19 countries. It is proposing to work with sommeliers in those cities who could taste and do reports on producers’ wines. Or take part in roundtable discussions on key themes. Sommeliers interested in taking part should send and email with their CV to sales@starwinelist.com.

    • The Buyer is working in partnership with Star Wine Lists to help bring new ideas to the on-trade and sommelier community and find different ways to connect key on-trade buyers with producers, generic bodies and suppliers.  If you would like to get involved or have an idea then please contact Richard Siddle at richardsiddle@btopenworld.com.

    What drinks and hospitality businesses are doing 

    Grain To Grape Instagram Tasting lessons

    Harry Crowther with one of his wine training classes for bar staff

    Harry Crowther, on-trade consultant and drinks writer, is running a new series of tastings for bar and restaurant staff to help them improve their wine knowledge during the lockdown, all straight from his living room – with the support of Moet Hennessy. It’s part of his on-going Grain to Grape training programme he has developed specifically to help on-trade and bar staff get more comfortable with the wines they need to sell if they have not been through any formal wine training.  He will be hosting the following session to help people with their tasting skills over the coming days: 

    • Body: March 28 at 6pm 
    • Acidity: March 29 at 6pm
    • Tannins: March 30 at 6pm
    • Sweetness & Finish: March 31 at 6pm
    • Using Colour: April 1 at 6pm
    • To take part go to his Instagram page at @graintogrape

    Hall & Woodhouse , the regional Dorset brewer, is cancelling all rent and service charges, and suspending loan repayments for eight weeks. This has been extended from an initial four weeks.

    Elliot’s Isolation Tasting Series

    This is how Tatler magazine has billed the new partnership between Elliot Awin, who it describes as “a young trendy wine guru third generation wine importer” (ABS Wine Agencies) and James Nathan of Pull the Cork, the specialist online organic wine retailer, who are offering “Isolation tastings” on Instagram Live. The wine tasted can be bought in advance from Pull The Cork website. The tastings include surprise guests and experts, with the first one including  Made In Chelsea’s  Oliver Proudlock and model Emma Louise Connolly.

    Passione Vino: Passione Vino is running a #WineOnWheels service, delivering delivering artisan Italian wines to people’s doors via its company vespa.


    Further details on furloughing staff

    Full details of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme are now available to help employers make the decisions they need to make now about what to do with their staff in the weeks to come. First payments are expected to be made around April 22.

    The scheme is:

    • Open to all UK employers of whatever size, provided the company and payroll was in place on February 28 2020.
    • Furloughed employees must have been hired or contracted by this date.
    • Furloughed workers can include full, part time, agency and flexible or zero hours contracts.
    • Importantly you do not need to decide now whether to furlough staff and make them eligible for the scheme. You can do that at any point during the initial three month window (the government has said it is prepared to extend these payments if necessary).
    • You can also add more staff to the furlough process along the line.

    HMRC has also confirmed that the “grants of 80% of furloughed employees’ monthly wage costs” will also include the “associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage,” provided the employer  keeps the worker employed.

    March 26

    Self employed support scheme –  from June backdated to start of March 

    Rishi Sunak is pledging support for 95% of self employed people

    The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a series of measures designed to help the self employed who lost their sources of income due to the coronavirus. The government will will provide self-employed people a “taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years up to £2,500 a month”.

    The scheme, however will not be ready until the start of June, but payments will be backdated and paid in one from the beginning of March straight into people’s bank accounts.

    It will cover everyone who earned up to £50,000 on average over the last three years. Payments to be made for three months and could potentially be extended.

    It does not, though, cover anyone who has just started to be self-employed and has not paid any tax as a self-employed tax payer. They will have to apply for loans or Universal Credit. The Chancellor claims it will cover 95% of all self-employed. Those eligible to apply need to fill in a form and send to the HMRC. More details to come.

    Here is the official guidance on new self employment payouts.

    Suppliers looking to “furlough” their staff

    The Buyer understands a number of major drinks wholesalers are looking to “furlough” their staff in the coming days and weeks as the grip of the Covid-19 shutdown on the on-trade really starts to take effect. Both large and small drinks distributors that are 100% focused on supplying the on-trade are clearly at the sharp end of the crisis and are having to take difficult and hard decisions in order to keep themselves in business.

    The option to “furlough” staff under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme means they can guarantee their staff get paid 80% of their salary – up to £2,500 a month – and ensure they still have a job when the crisis ends. The harsh question some now face is can they make that guarantee that their job will be there once the on-trade re-opens and they can trade as usual.

    But there is still much uncertainty and confusion about how the scheme is going to work, who is eligible to qualify, and how long it will take for businesses to be even take advantage of it if they can. Troy Christensen, chief executive of Enotria&Coe, said on Twitter this afternoon that “the support offered is still unclear, undefined or unusable for so many. The cure may be worse than the disease.”

    The impact on on-trade suppliers was summed up by Miles MacInnes of Jascots Wine who told The Buyer that as soon as the government advised against the public going to bars and restaurants on Monday March 16 it went from doing 80% of business as usual the previous Friday to selling zero wines at all by March 17.

    Now that bars and restaurants are closed indefinitely the impact is far reaching and potentially devastating for some and suppliers are having to look at different options.

    How to get 50% of ‘furlough’ pay upfront

    There remains some confusion and frustration amongst business that are looking to furlough staff as to how long it will be before they can take advantage of government support. To help income streaming provider, Wagestream, is proposing to step in and help make some initial payments, up to 50%, to help businesses and employers through the coming weeks. Founder Peter Briffett told The Buyer that through its systems and contracts with any given employer, it is able to connect to its scheduling / and workforce management systems, “and therefore understands how much employees earn every hour of every day”.

    He explained: “Through an app – we show the employee how much they are earning as they go through a pay period. A percentage of the earnings are made available to them and they can withdraw some if they wish. Wagestrem funds that withdrawal – so there is no impact on a company’s cash flow – we recover the money the next time the employer pays the employee. We’re FCA authorised so even though we fund the withdrawal – it enters the account in the name of the employer – just like normal pay does. The company also sets the percentage their staff are able to access [typically 40%].”

    He added: “We wanted to offer an emergency service to give workers immediate wages relief to cover urgent expenses. And we want to support employers who have made the decision to furlough staff, to offer them a short-term solution to help their staff most in need during this period.

    Wetherspoon’s Tim Martin bends to MP and public pressure

    Tim Martin, founder of Wetherspoon, has been forced to bend to public and political pressure to continue to pay his staff until he can sort out an agreed payment plan under the “furlough” system and the new Job Retention Scheme.

    It’s hard to remember a time when close to 100 MPs, across all parties, have come together to write such a damning letter to a chief executive of a private company and demand they change a policy about their own staff. They accused him of “falling short in support” of his workers “at a time of crisis”. They continued: “Allowing thousands of people to go penniless for a prolonged period of time is disgraceful…we hope Wetherspoon will not be remembered as seeking to squirrel away profits during a global crisis causing the deaths of thousands of people. Instead we hope you will continue to make Wetherspoon a safe place to work – and serve your country.”

    Chance for merchants/importers to sell fine wines at special auction

    A special fine wine auction is to be held to help importers and merchants at this time by Taversham’s Auctioneeers

    Tavesham’s Auctioneers is offering the chance for importers or merchants to enter stocks of fine wine they might have that they would like to see included in a  forthcoming auction. Dan Kirkby explained how it would work: “We’re now working on taking consignments from traders who may find themselves in the awful position of being essentially closed or simply very quiet, rallying to pull together online orders. I’m confident that traders may wish to enter some of their fine fines into the upcoming auction. This may be a really useful way for them to continue bringing in cash flow while their day-to-day operations are unfortunately dormant. Our next auction will be online at the end of April, so now is the perfect time to be entering wines into the auction.”

    It’s particularly looking for cases and high value bottles of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Italy. Ideally for UK businesses it would also be wines that are currently stored in bond. To take part contact Taversham’s on 020 39292929, or email info@tavershams.com with a list of potential wines to auction.

    Chengdu Wine and Spirits Fair

    A sign that business is slowly recovering in China and Asia is the news that the Chengdu Wine and Spirits Fair is being rescheduled for May 21-23. It’s an important step for the confidence not only of that region, but the global wine trade that such an important event is back in the trade calendar. If it goes ahead and to what extent remains to be seen, but it is some very good news to hang on to.

    March 25 AM

    Off-licences and licensed shops can stay open

    The government has now updated its “essential businesses” status to  include “Off-licences and licenced shops selling alcohol, including those within breweries”. The change was announced this morning. They now join the official list which also includes supermarkets and discount stores.

    Duty payments not suspended

    The calls from the drinks and hospitality industries to have March 25’s duty payments to HMRC postponed have gone on deaf ears as the government has apparently not even replied to official representations from the sector’s respective trade bodies.

    Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, issued this statement:

    The WSTA’s Miles Beale said the refusal to not halt duty payments in March is a “bitter blow”

    “Earlier this week the WSTA wrote an open letter to the Chancellor signed by 36 of the UK’s wine and spirit businesses calling for a last-minute reprieve to pay their alcohol duty bills. Allowing companies to hold on to vital funds would have addressed critical cashflow challenges, including enabling them to pay staff and keep companies from collapse… we still have still had no formal response to our request for a six-month duty suspension. We therefore have to assume that the Treasury will not waive duty payments.

    “This is a bitter blow and will mean… many businesses will be faced with the extremely hard decision of whether to pay tax bills or pay staff. We had hoped that government would honour their vow to do everything in their power to help, but sadly it seems that in this case government action does not support its rhetoric.”

     The Society of Independent Brewers has also spoken out about its “extreme disappointment at the Chancellor’s decision to collect March’s Beer Duty payments”.

    The British Beer & Pub Association said: “We urged the Chancellor to cancel the imminent Beer Duty bill, to allow businesses to use funds to invest in their survival. The decision not to act on duty is extremely disappointing. Make no mistake, this is a huge blow to Britain’s world class brewing industry that has been devastated in the last week.

    WSTA Webinar

    The WSTA has also announced it is run a weekly weekly webinar for members so that they can be updated on the latest guidelines and also ask questions of the senior WSTA team that might be concerning them. Members can register here. The first webinar takes place at 11am on March 26.

    Running home delivery service and other guidelines advice

    If you are not used to running home deliveries there are guidelines to follow from ACS

    As more businesses switch to a direct to consumer and a home delivery strategy, the Association of Convenience Stores has issued guidelines on the do’s and don’t of what to do – particularly useful for those companies who are new to this way of working. It stresses the need for all companies to follow strict age restriction guidelines at a time when deliveries are often being left on doorsteps.

    You can access its full guidelines on home delivery here 

    The ACS has also created a central hub to help all convenience retailers at this time with useful information for all businesses. Click here for information on:

    Consumer demand for home delivery grows

    The latest consumer research from CGA shows:

    Restaurant and wine merchants and distributors are now switching to home delivery
    • over half (53%) of the public are either currently using, or planning to use, delivery as an alternative during the current crisis, with 13% getting delivery from a restaurant or takeaway either for the first time, or more often than usual, in the last two weeks.
    • a clear opportunity for delivered drinks, with a third (32%) of the public looking for opportunities to have both food and drink delivered.
    • The survey showed the biggest demand for delivery is among those who usually eat out at least weekly, among the under 35s, parents and those living in city centres.
    • Of those who have already increased their use of delivery, 60% are under 35, 50% are parents and 38% are city dwellers.
    • Nearly half (48%) of all those who are planning to increase delivery in the next few weeks live in suburban locations.
    • In rural areas there is a predicted surge in demand, with the same proportion of consumers planning to increase frequency (22%) as in city centres.
    • Looking to the future, 72% of those that had either upped the use of delivery or had used it for the first time in the last two weeks suggested that they were likely to continue this behaviour, regardless of COVID-19.
    • In contrast, click’n’collect from restaurants and takeaway has yet to be as popular as delivery, with just a third (36%) of people saying they have used or would use such a service.

    HR expert advice on Job Retention Scheme from The Drinks Trust

    As part of its ambition and commitment to provide more vocational support to the trade, The Drinks Trust.  is working with HR expert, Tracy Jones to provide regular advice to the trade. Here she answers key questions on the Coronavrius Job Retention Scheme.

    Q: What if I have already been laid off?

    A: Under the current laws, unless they have specific layoff clauses written into their contracts, businesses that temporarily lay off staff are required to continue paying them unless a voluntary agreement is reached. If there is a clause in the employment contract relating to layoffs, the employee may be entitled o statutory guarantee payments.

    Q: I have approached my employer to reinstate me based on Friday’s announcement. They have refused. What are my options?

    If you have already been laid off due to Covid-19 your employer should work to get you back on the books and maintain your income. It may take up to two weeks to reinstate you on the payroll system. If you have been dismissed for an alternative reason, your employer must have followed a fair process, offered you a settlement agreement or entered into redundancy consultation.

    Q: I am on a zero hours contract. How will my pay be calculated?

    At present, this is unclear, and we are awaiting further updates. However, it is likely that this will fall under the same calculation as holiday pay where an employee who works a different number of hours each week will have their pay averaged over the last 12 weeks.

    Q: I am not on a PAYE system. It was a cash transaction. Is there any support available to me?

    Unfortunately, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is only available to businesses who employed their staff as a worker or employee. As a casual cash worker, you are not able to access the benefits that are available to employees nor do you have the same level of protection under employment law.

    It is worth checking your employment contract if you have one, to ascertain whether you are a ‘worker’ or an ‘employee’ as each benefit from different levels of protection.

    What individual businesses and individuals are doing

    The Nekter Wines’ team: Jonothan Davey and Imogen Taylor are looking to run their own “Live” tasting with customers at home

    Nekter Wines is one of a number of wine merchants and importers who are running online wine tastings with their customers. It is to run its first ‘Nekter Live’ session on March 27 with what it calls “a chance to taste and drink and chat with the winemakers from the comfort of your own home”. For each session a winemaker will carry out a video conference-style wine tasting where the customers can log in and ask questions.

    It’s promotion for the event to its customers says: “Ever wondered why Jared & Tracey Brandt called their winery Donkey & Goat? Curious about the rumoured experiments into yields and canopy management at the Matthiasson vineyards? Can Neglect really be Benevolent? What happened to the Keep Castle? What is it with Ferdinand Wines and all these Spanish varietals? Now is your chance people. . .”

    Quaranvino Dinner Dates

    Faye Cardwell is running as series of online wine dinners with Italian wineries called Quaranvino Dinner Dates. As she explains: “I teamed up with a distributor selected six of my favourite wineries, chose two bottles per producer and created boxes that people can buy and then tune into an online dinner with the winemaker. The distributor can ship across the EU so I’ve got people signed up from Germany, Belgium, the UK and France up to now. We have the first dinner on Saturday and then do them twice a week. I think the concept has legs and am trying to get the word out.”

    To find out more and get involved go to the the information page here. You can also watch a video about how it works here: https://youtu.be/mRr7oFYSEDY   and follow Faye on social media at @Fayewinecom.

    Wine Hour @ Home

    The Wine Hour @ Home project is a new  partnership between Chefs Agency and Martins Wine Advisor to help bring people together online over a glass of wine. The first one takes place on March 25  via the Wine Hour @ Home Instagram live broadcast at 6pm GMT.  The first winemaker to take part is Dirk Nierpoort who will join from Quinta de Nápoles, in the Douro. It plans to run up to three events a week. 

    “An after-work wine moment made perfect sense to us. Especially because wine bottles are always best when shared, and because we are more than ever in need of relaxing occasions to survive the current social anxiety,” said Adriana Fournier, events director at Chefs Agency.


    March 24: Industry chiefs call for emergency donations to The Drinks Trust

    Simon Doyle, general manager of Concha y Toro UK, is backing calls for businesses and individuals to do what they can to help those in the drinks and hospitality sectors that face difficulties in the wake of Covid-19 by donating money to The Drinks Trust. 

    Doyle said: “The recent days and weeks have been and continue to be an unprecedented situation in the UK economy, in the workplace and around the world.  In our industry on trade-focused drinks companies have come under sudden and immediate threat.

    “The Drinks Trust provides a vital service to those in our industry who have encountered hardship in some form….as one of the UK’s major wine suppliers, we feel it is incumbent on businesses such as ours, where possible, to provide funds for The Drinks Trust. We have made a substantial donation today and urge other businesses to assist if they can.

    Ross Carter, chief executive of the The Drinks Trust, added: “Applications for assistance from within the drinks industry community have increased tenfold in the last two weeks and The Drinks Trust is extremely grateful to Concha y Toro for such a generous donation to help assist our colleagues in need. The Drinks Trust counts on the donations and fundraising of the businesses in the industry and we would encourage all of those who are able to, to contact us and pledge the vital funds we require to meet the increasing demand for assistance.”

    “These funds will help support the most vulnerable in our industry and also increase the services and support the Trust is now dedicated to delivering.

    • Access support though Drinks Trust  HELPLINE: 0800 915 4610
    • Pease donate if you can afford to here.
    • Become a business partner and support more members of the industry with work-life and well-being services, these are needed more than ever before.

    March 24 AM: Trade reaction to new self distancing lockdown…the next steps

    Following the announcement by the Prime Minister that every person needs to stay at home unless they work for an ‘essential’ business has changed the drinks landscape once again.

    • The ruling means only specific retail shops can now stay open for face to face interactions with customers. Whilst this includes supermarkets for the sale of alcohol it excludes specialist wine shops including Majestic and independent wine merchants. These can carry on operating ‘dark stores’ to operate home delivery.
    • Essential shops that can still stay open are: supermarkets and other food shops, health shops, pharmacies including non dispensing pharmacies, petrol stations, bicycle shops, home and hardware shops, laundrettes and dry cleaners, bicycle shops, garages, car rentals, pet shops, corner shops, newsagents, post offices, and banks.
    • The advice will be reviewed three weeks from March 23.

    Takeaways/restaurant home delivery

    Roger and Sue Jones at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn are cooking – for free – meals to take to people in their local community who are self isolating
    • Restaurants and cafes can carry on providing food delivery and takeaway, and can only sell alcohol if they have an off-trade licence.
    • The advice states: “This means people can continue to enter premises to access takeaway services, including delivery drivers. Planning regulation will be changed to enable restaurants, cafes and pubs which do not currently offer delivery and hot food takeaway to do so. This will be clearly communicated by the government when in effect. People must not consumer food or drinks on site at restaurants, cafes or pubs whilst waiting for takeaway food.”
    • Further details on what businesses are allowed to stay open are available here. 
    • Here is the government’s new rules on staying at home. 

    How to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

    Under the new Job Retention Scheme employers will still have to pay their staff up to the point they can then claim the money back from the HMRC. It is understood the application process for HMRC may not be live until around April 5 with first payments to companies to provide to their staff not coming until the end of April.

    As the government explains: “Under the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the pay roll, otherwise described as ‘furloughed workers.”

    NB: It applies to businesses where they have already had to lay off workers and will be based on PAYE information as of 28th February. The grant will be backdated to 1st March 2020.

    Here is the official government advice: You will need to:

    • designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change – changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation.
    • NB: It now appears you will have to get the approval of your staff to ‘furlough’ them unless there is a requirement for that in their existing job contract – which is unlikely.
    • They must then do no work for you. That bit’s easy but, you then have to pay them and hope to get 80% of the money back somewhere down the line.
    • submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required)

    “HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.”Who is a ‘furloughed worker’?

    The WSTA has clarified to The Buyer what it is meant by a “furloughed worker” from these official guidelines:

    Furloughed workers

    • If your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19, they may be able to access support to continue paying part of your wage, to avoid redundancies.
    • If your employer intends to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they will discuss with you becoming classified as a furloughed worker. This would mean that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off.
    • To qualify for this scheme, you should not undertake work for them while you are furloughed. This will allow your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
    • You will remain employed while furloughed. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to.
    • If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.
    • We intend for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to run for at least 3 months from 1 March 2020, but will extend if necessary.

    So in order for an employee to qualify for the scheme their employer has to classify them as a furloughed worker. Keep them on their payroll with the intention of re-employing them when conditions allow.

    Wetherspoon’s “furloughed” backlash

    Tim Martin: insists his intention is to retain all Wetherspoon staff but wants to wait for further advice on what “furloughed” employee status means

    The situation is already causing some PR headaches for major on-trade employers. JD Wetherspoon, for example, has agreed to pay all its staff up to March 20, but is not committing to paying staff future salaries until it understands what the “furloughed” arrangements will be in practice.  It has left all his workforce in limbo.

    His position has been seized upon by critics both in the trade, amongst MPs and now the legal profession. Jo Maugham QC, who has a track record of standing up to what he sees as legally irresponsible actions by business and politicians, particularly during the Brexit process, has said he is prepared to challenge Martin if the legal advice supports him.  “We at @GoodLawPractice are already taking advice from a QC…More to follow soon. We would like to hear from affected individuals.”

    Tim Martin, Wetherspoon chairman, said in response to the backlash:  “Companies such as Costa, owned by Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s, being owned by large multinationals, can afford to retain staff and commit to paying them before details of the government furlough scheme are published. However, they are in a minority in the pub and restaurant trade. Most companies, including Wetherspoon, don’t have the resources while pubs are shut to make this commitment and need to see details of the scheme to retain and pay staff, as the government has sensibly requested, rather than instigating large-scale lay-offs. That may seem stark but that’s the economic reality of the unprecedented situation in the UK today. Our aim is to ensure all Wetherspoon staff are able to return to their roles once the pubs reopen. Meanwhile, as of today, all staff have been paid up to date.”


    March 23: Call for a delay in duty payments 

    Thirty two wine and spirits companies have now joined the Wine & Spirit Trade Association in sending a letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, urging him to suspend all alcohol duty payments for at least six months – starting with those due on March 25.

    The move, they say, is a “vital lifeline” in saving drinks businesses on the “brink” of collapse from having to pay an estimated combined £5.8m on Wednesday.

    It’s essential, said the WSTA, that these companies can “hold on to vital funds” to “enable them to pay staff and keep them from collapse”. The saved money is needed now, stressed the WSTA, to help struggling suppliers meet payment schedules, and “extra staff costs, warehousing and delivery demands”.

    The WSTA’s Miles Beale is leading the lobby to get duty payments suspended for at least six months

    In the letter he tells the Chancellor: “I have serious concerns for the livelihoods of the many employees of – often SME – businesses across the wine and spirit industry, whose jobs rely on supplying consumer-facing hospitality and retail functions.”

    Simon Cairns, head of drinks at the Co-op, added: “Suspending duty payments will not only ease the immediate pressure on our suppliers’ finances, it will give us time to pull together as an industry and re-structure supply chains, put a specialist workforce in place and enable the industry to rapidly re-bound once the threat of Covid-19 has passed.”

    Beale explained the situation on Twitter on Friday when he responded to Kate Nicholls of UK Hospitality’s point about potentially a million jobs being saved by the Chancellor’s wages move: “Next Stop: suspend excise duty payments due on Wednesday next week…and save a million more.”

    Halt on rent payments

    5.30pm: March 23: Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UK Hospitality has just revealed on Twitter that the government has agreed to a “moratorium on lease forfeiture and debt enforcement to commercial leases”. “Eases the pressure cooker of quarter rent day and allows us to focus on cash on supporting out teams”. She said the move will “allow sensible discussions about realistic payment going forward and when it is feasible to resume”. 

    This move follows calls across the on-trade and hospitality sectors for further measures by the government to give businesses effectively a six month break from paying commercial rents by introducing a two-quarter moratorium on legal action by landlords to take possession of commercial premises.

    Jonathan Downey of Street Feast, who had been leading the lobby from the on-trade said this weekend:  “This is vital for cashflow to save businesses and jobs. Without this moratorium many more jobs will be lost. If locks are changed and premises repossessed, businesses will fail and there will be no employer left to pay over the 80%. This will mean our employees will then be left with living on £94 a week.”

    NB: This ruling only applies to rent and does not include service charge, insurance and other landlord-charged costs. There needs to be more clarification in these areas. 

    Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UK Hospitality had also called for action on rents to landlords across the on-trade and hospitality sectors. She said on Twitter this weekend:

    1. Quarter rent day next Wednesday: The Government needs to extent protection from eviction to commercial as well as residential landlords if people can’t pay on time and landlords you need to take a lead from Chancellor on three month defer…

    She added: “It is vital now that all rent payments for hospitality businesses – due on Wednesday next week – are cancelled or deferred. Mass business failure is likely without it as businesses have no cash.”

    Luke Johnson: is calling for action to halt commercial rents

    Writing in the Sunday Times, restaurateur, Luke Johnson, added his voice to the calls for a rent freeze: “The insurance industry is ‘deserting the battlefield’ and the government must do more.” He added: “Every restaurateur and publican has been in frantic negotiations all week with their landlords, suppliers and the taxman about deferring bills, so as to live and fight another day. Some are desperate for salvation from the government, others begging for support from their banks. Certain property owners are taking a pragmatic view and showing forbearance over the March quarter rent due in a few days’ time. Others are being more ruthless — and may well drive their tenants into bankruptcy. The most brutal landlords will then be left with void premises, which are likely to prove unlettable in the current market, since the demand for restaurant space will be negligible for the foreseeable future.”

    • New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, has shown what is possible by implementing a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants.
    Fullers is stopping all commercial rents from this week and not asking for the money to be re-paid.
    • Fullers has announced it is “stopping all commercial rent from this week for all tenanted pubs trading or otherwise – this will be reviewed periodically as the situation changes”. It added: “This is not a suspension of billing, nor rent holiday, this reduction will not be recovered by Fuller’s”.
    • Admiral Taverns has written to its tenants to tell them rent payments have been suspended until the end of ApriL.

    March 20/21: Trade response to Salary Support

    The trade has been responding to the news announced on March 20 by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak that the government is to cover the salaries of  company employees by 80% up to £2,500 a month.

    Kate Nichols, chief executive of UK Hospitality took to Twitter to say: “This is a really big package of support which will make a meaningful difference – I think they have saved a million jobs in hospitality which were on the line tonight.”

    She also posted this:

    That sense of relief was summed up by Will Beckett, co-founder of Hawksmoor, who had closed all its restaurants earlier in the week and been forced to let some staff go due to the virus fallout.

    Chef Paul Askew of of the Art School in Liverpool spoke for many in the restaurant trade when he took to Twitter to say:

    What else is needed?

    Although the measures have gone a long way to taking the pressure of restaurants, bar and pub employers and companies, there are still key steps the trade is urging the government to do. Nicholls at UK Hospitality has also called for:

    Stock – we need to understand from breweries plans for collection of short livestock and duty drawback. Many suppliers like @DiageoGB being really helpful and working centrally with us – be good for more to so that we can avoid operators having to make multiple calls.

    Banks – you need to be ready on Monday to process quickly businesses wanting to access business interruption loans, particularly the interest free ones for SMEs below £41m turnover. They need cash fast and hassle free. If they’re in hospitality, you already know they’re closed.

    Banks like @BarclaysCorp @HSBCUKBusiness who work a lot in hospitality, give us your info, your criteria, what you need from your clients and we will make sure they are ready.

    Jonathan Downey,  founder of London Union and Street Feast, added: “Every new measure is helpful and this is a very positive step that many employers will welcome but, for many more, this will not be enough. When businesses fail in the next few weeks, because they cannot make March quarter rent payments, there will be no employer to pay this 80% to employees. Employees who lose their jobs will then have to rely on Universal Credit.A forfeiture moratorium would save hundreds of thousands of jobs that would otherwise be lost.”

    What about self employed?

    There has also not, to date, been any measures to help specifically the self employed which, again, includes so many personal businesses within the hospitality and restaurant sectors and the suppliers and producers who supply them.

    Gary O’Kelly, of the specialist drinks recruitment agency, Vinokelly Search, which he says has been “decimated” by the “market collapse” in hospitality, has been particularly articulate and active in sharing his frustrations on social  media.

    • One measure the government has introduced is to waive the need for the self employed to pay their six month tax bill in July and to move it to the end of January 2021.

    Why help is needed

    This graph illustrates why more support is still needed to protect businesses right up and down the supply chain, particularly SMEs.

    Hillebrand’s Logistics Latest: Covid-19’s domino effect

    Although Hillebrand says Italy is the only county that is currently facing logistics issues getting wine in and out of the country the impact of Covid-19 is having a knock-on effect on shipping and logistics around the report. In its latest statement it states:

    “Through a series of domino effects, Covid-19 has had repercussions on the shipping industry way beyond China. Logistics throughout the world now are facing reduced available capacity, pressure on equipment availability, possible congestion in specific ports and extra related costs and congestion surcharges.

    “While it is impossible to predict the duration of the current situation and the impact of new cases across the world, expectations ahead for container freight shipping are very uncertain. As a result of falling demand, the total capacity withdrawn from the sea freight reached 1,7m TEUs. Within just a few weeks, carriers have cancelled in excess of 100 sailings, equaling 45% of the capacity between Europe and Asia and the transpacific region.

    “Whether the coronavirus continues to expand and demand does not improve, or if the Covid-19 gets contained, Chinese factories eventually reopen and volumes will surge. The time it takes ocean carriers adapt and adjust capacity implies disruption will continue for a while before it returns to “normal”. In that context, we expect disruption will continue for the weeks ahead.”

    This chart explains Hillebrand’s domino effect:

    Market Data

    Despite pictures of crowded public places at the weekend the picture on the high street appears to show that people are following  government advice to stay at home. According to Wireless Social traffic across major high streets this weekend has plummeted based on analysis from 800 venues:

    • London footfall was down 94% on March 21 on the previous year with Zone 1 down 96%.
    • Cardiff saw the biggest drop, down 97% year-on-year, followed by Liverpool (96%), Birmingham, Newcastle and Manchester (all 95%), Edinburgh (94%) and Bristol (93%).
    • Overall footfall is down 69% compared to this weekend a year ago. 

    Other useful industry hubs for data and information

    UK Hospitality: it will be sending out regular advice to its members, but also to the trade in general, including sharing the latest relevant official guidelines from the government pertinent to the drinks industry. It has produced specific health and safety information to help those in the hospitality industry here
    This includes advice on what the government is currently prepared to do to support businesses affected by the coronavirus including VAT and payments to staff:

    Other useful newsletters:

    What different businesses are doing 

    Miles MacInnes, managing partner, Jascots Wine Merchants

    Miles MacInnes, right, and John Charnock says Jascots remains determined to keep on all its staff through the crisis

    “As an on-trade specialist wine merchant and our sales went from 85% of normal on Friday to ZERO on Tuesday with our beloved customers facing the heart-breaking necessity to close their doors. From the moment it was clear that this crisis was going to hit our sector head-on we resolved to do everything we possibly can to support our customers and to retain our amazing team.

    “From zero sales on Tuesday we turned home-delivery wine merchant overnight and the guys have 45 orders to deliver today – with the support of friends, family and self-isolating customers we have a full delivery load for Saturday as well. These sales won’t make up 10% of our usual work, but if we keep going like we are we stand a good chance of retaining all 35 of our team (100% full-time) and coming out the other side ready to help the on-trade get back on its feet.

    “We want to appeal to any retailers or wholesalers that are overwhelmed or short on stock – we can help!  We have our own vans and drivers and can deliver direct to your shop, warehouse or home. We’re happy to mix cases and only ask that orders are 12 bottles plus. Delivery is free within M25 and £10 for a bit further than that. Anywhere a long way from London please email us team@jascots.co.uk and we’ll work a delivery cost out for you.”


    Potential inspiration from the US where restaurant groups have come together to help promote the fact that so many on-trade outlets are now still open but for takeaway and collection only. The US restaurant industry is calling on Americans to join #TheGreatAmericanTakeout on March 24 and support the sector by ordering a meal from one of their local restaurants taking part.

    A statement from the restaurants involved in the initiative said: “The coronavirus poses an existential threat to a sector of the economy that employs more than 15 million Americans. Because dine-in meals are no longer being served at most restaurants, delivery and pick-up are the only ways to support these struggling businesses.” 

    Cramele Recas: Ventilator donation

    Philip Cox, head of Romanian wine producer Cramele Recas, has paid for ventilators to be provided for his local infectious diseases hospital

    The crisis continues to bring out the best in people and businesses right across the drinks industry. None more so than Philip Cox, founder of Cramele Recas in Romania, who has paid over €80,000 to buy three ventilators to use in local hospitals.

    On a lighter note Sarah Abbott MW, of Swirl Wine Group,  is looking to bring a bit of cheer and community spirit to the trade by hosting its own Swirl Together Netflix Party screening for the UK premiere of the new wine related film Uncorked (click to see the trailer).

    Helena Nicklin, the wine and spirits writer, is urging local residents in the Dulwich area of South London to support their local on-trade community by buying in advance food and drink you can have down the line.

    Helena Nicklin (@TheWinebird)
    Calling all #Dulwich residents! If you are on a sure salary, PLEASE pick your favourite indie cafe/restaurant and go give them a chunk of money for payment in advance for when this madness ends. All they need is a #bookofhope to record your details. #communityspirit #eastdulwich

    In Napa California local legendary burger joint, Gotts Roadside, is donating all its profits to its staff during this period.

    Former England and Manchester United footballer, turned hotelier and Sky TV pundit, Gary Neville, is dedicating one of his hotels in Manchester, Stock Exchange Hotel,  just to provide rooms, beds and food for NHS staff during the crisis.

    Events Cancelled

    London Wine Fair

    The London Wine Fair is not going to take place in its usual May slot and is reviewing its options

    The London Wine Fair has announced – “with a heavy heart” – it is to cancel its show due to take place at London’s Olympia between May 18-20. In a statement it said: “We are keenly aware that the developing COVID-19 pandemic is putting immense pressure on not only the events industry, but the drinks industry and the hospitality industry. We value our position at the heart of both and will always make decisions with them front of mind. Experience dictates that the bulk of organising for exhibitors and sponsors happens between now and the event.  Our objective in taking this decision with two month’s lead-time, is to minimise unnecessary expenditure and stress caused by uncertainty.”

    No new date has been set for any potential re-arranged show but it said it would “release more information about the next steps for LWF as soon as possible”.

    World Bulk Wine Exhibition Asia

    WBWE Asia has revised its event dates to July 12 and 13 2020 due to COVID-19. The second edition of the event was initially scheduled to take place again in Yantai in May.

    Bordeaux Day moves to September 9

    The inaugural Bordeaux Day set to take place on May 5 has also been forced to postpone and switch its date to September 9. This new event still promises to be a dedicated day of action across the UK to support Bordeaux and its wines with events and special tastings across the country organised by its regional body, the CIVB. For more information on how you can get involved contact Mike Steward at mike@cubecom.co.uk.

    March 20: Latest Industry and Trade Updates

    The Chancellor is promising to pay 80% of all staffs’s wages for the next three months

    5pm: The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced a new Covid-19 Jobs Retention scheme:

    • Any employer can apply for a grant to pay 80% of the salary of retained member of staff up to £2,500 a month. Open for three months initially and can extend if necessary. Promising payments will be made by end of April.
    • “Any employer in the country, small or large, charitable or non profit, will be eligible for the scheme,” said Sunak. The grant will be provided through HMRC and there is “no limit” on the amount of money payable through the scheme. It will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1
    • He is also deferring next VAT payment from now to end of June and it will not need to be paid until the end of the financial year. Equivalent of 1.5% of GDP.
    • Increase both Universal Credit and working tax credit by £1k.
    • Loans for business interruption will be available from Monday and interest free for year.
    • The Prime Minister has also announced all on-trade outlets and bars and theatres and cinemas must now close this evening as well as leisure centres and gyms. “To be clear, they can continue to provide take-out services, ” said Boris Johnson.

    5.45pm Trade reaction to Chancellor’s Jobs Retention Scheme

    Jonathan Downey, chief executive of  London Union described the move as “fantastic” for the hospitality sector. “It’s a very positive step to saving jobs.”

    Jonathan Downey is one of a number of restaurant leaders who had been calling for government action to help pay wages

    He believe it will go a long way to saving what he estimates could be up to 1m people within the hospitality sector whose jobs could have gone without such an unprecedented move. He said the move by the Prime  Minister to say people should not go to pubs, bars and restaurants but allow them to stay open had already cost the sector 1m jobs. This move would do the opposite. “The Chancellor has done a very good job in saving hundreds of thousands of jobs…it’s also better for jobs that there is not a requirement for employers” to have to contribute in order to take advantage of the 80% payment.

    2pm March 20

    What operators and suppliers are saying and doing

    James Davy, Davy Wine Merchants

    James Davy: our business has had to face challenges through its 150 years but is determined to navigate the company through it

    “This was supposed to be a year of celebration – 150 years as an independent, family wine business. Instead, it has become an epic challenge for us all. However, over the course of our history, there have been other very tumultuous periods and please be in no doubt that I will do my absolute utmost to bring about the resurrection of the business after this one, and at the earliest possible moment. I would like to say thank you for all the messages of support that we have received over the past week. I wish you and your families good health and look forward to welcoming you back into our wine bars for a glass of something special, as soon as this truly awful period is over.”

    Michael Sager, owner and founder of Sager + Wilde 

    Michael Sager Sager + Wilde is looking for donations that it will re-pay in wine and food when it is able to open again

    Michael Sager has also been forced to close his three Sager + Wilde sites in London, but is determined to keep hold of all its staff until it is safe to re-open again. To do so he is looking to raise money from customers that can be redeemed as vouchers to pay for food and drink when it is back in business. Here he explains their situation in a mailer sent out today entitled – “Help me save Sager + Wilde”.

    “We are trying to do everything we can to make it through this and we are trying our hardest to not lose a single member of staff, from dishwashers through to management. Our staff have already graciously agreed to pay cuts in order to accommodate the severe dip in trade, but it’s time for us to ask for help, your help. So if you can spare any amount, we are raising funds to keep our wonderful teams employed over the next few months. Every penny raised will go directly into their pockets. In return, any amount donated will be redeemed against your bill in any of our venues with a voucher.

    We have been amazed by the acts of kindness from guests to industry colleagues over the last few weeks, if anything this crisis has shown what a wonderful community surrounds us here in London. We may have to social distance but we have never been closer. I look forward to raising a glass of wine, cocktail, slice of pizza or whatever floats your boat, once this tragedy eases up. Stay safe, wash your hands and thank you!”

    You can make any donations here. 

    The Restaurant Group

    The Restaurant Group said it expects revenues to be down 45% like-for-like for its half year results with only a ‘bounce’ back of 5% in the second half (Langton Capital) “It expects a 10 week shutdown and a drop of 92% LfL in its concession sales in Q2. Commenting on the veracity or otherwise of the assumptions is pretty much impossible at this point. The numbers assume a virtual shut-down in Q3 and a somewhat ambitious return to almost-normal in Q3,” added Langton Captital’s Mark Brumby.

    Raising money for sommeliers in the United States 

    A fund-raising initiative has been started in the US that hopes to potentially raise up to $200,000 to help provide support and grants to sommeliers and front line wine staff that lose their jobs because of the virus outbreak. It is the idea of Chris Blanchard, MS, Geoff Labitzke  MW, Jackson Rohrbaugh MS,  and advanced sommeliers, Erik Segelbaum and Jon McDaniel.

    As they say, “it takes years of study to become a professional sommelier – and yet — almost overnight — 1000s of sommeliers across the country have lost 100% of their income, with no guarantee jobs will be available if and when the restaurant industry recovers”. 

    To help they are asking the trade to donate money that they can re-distribute to the sommeliers most in need. It is looking to provide grants of $250, $500, and $1,000 based on the needs of the sommeliers. You can find out more about the scheme and donate money here.  If you need funding, please apply here. 

    Latest  Market Data

    WSTA Survey

    The WSTA is calling on anyone in the sector to complete a survey to show the impact the virus is having on the drinks and hospitality and retails sectors. You can find out more here and take part in the survey. It’s open to members and non-members.


    CGA the on-trade analysts has set up its own dedicated hub for its Covid-19 analysis and news. It is conducting regular surveys of its members to assess the situation across the mainstream on-trade. Its latest study conducted on Wednesday March 18 found that of the 700 adults surveyed its key conclusions were:
    • For restaurants:
      • 52% of visitors have stopped visiting altogether over the past week
      • 29% are visiting less than usual
      • 51% of consumers who are yet to stop visiting will not visit in the coming week
    • For pubs:
      • 47% having stopped visiting in the past week
      • 32% visiting less
      • 48% of consumers who are yet to stop visiting will not visit in the coming week
    • For bars:
      • 55% of consumers have stopped visiting
      • 28% are visiting less than usual
      • 54% of consumers who are yet to stop visiting are planning not to visit this week
    The attitude is more relaxed amongst 18-34 year olds who are regular on-trade users –  58% said they would continue to go out to pubs, bars and restaurants.
    The mood is split between those living in cities and those in suburban and rural areas. Whilst 66% of suburban consumers said they are avoiding going out, nearly a third (28%) of consumers living in town centres say they will still visit pubs and bars, but less frequently. “For those living in city centres, the majority of consumers expect to continue to visit the likes of pubs, bars and restaurants, with over one in five (22%) saying they will visit venues as often,” says CGA.
    “Londoners who are the most likely to continue visiting the on-trade, albeit with a lower frequency, with 1 in 2 saying they will still visit venues, despite Government advice, but with 3 in 5 of these predicting that they will visit less frequently,” it adds.

    KAM Media 

    KAM Media has released results of a survey carried out on March 18 that has revealed 49% of UK publicans think they will be out of business within a month. It lt also found:  89% are “very concerned” about their future; 75% of pub employees will be laid off due to the crisis. The poll surveyed 278 pub owners.


    Restaurant data company Tenzo said there was a 69% drop in sales across the hospitality businesses it works with on March 19 and that 8% of sites closed. On Monday sales were down 51% in the same sites and 44% on Sunday.


    The grocery retail and FMCG analysts is analysing patterns of shopping behaviour around the world and providing analysis and insights on what we can expect in terms of shopping and supply chain issues in the weeks ahead.  It has identified six key “consumer behaviour threshold levels” that tie directly to concerns around the COVID-19 outbreak. “The thresholds,” it says, “offer early signals of spending patterns, particularly for emergency pantry items and health supplies, and we are seeing these patterns being mirrored across multiple markets”


    Online tastings

    A number of companies are going online to host online tastings to keep customers connected and overall spirits up. Like Justin Howard-Sneyd and Domaine of the Bee last Friday night.

    Useful resources and market data on Covid-19

    There is now a host of different hubs and dedicated pages being created to help the trade keep up to date with what is such a fast moving situation. Here’s a selection of sites and pages to bookmark and refer to.

    Jancis Robinson MW: Purple Pages

    Jancis Robinson MW has compiled a list of over different merchants, retailers, restaurants and bars that are now offering home delivery services to customers isolating at home or unable to come to their outlets as they are closed for safety reasons. Click here for free access. 

    Robinson says: “Wine retailers such as those below who are still willing and able to supply wine lovers in their own homes report record business at the moment – a small silver lining perhaps for many traders who have been dealt a body blow by the extinction of the hospitality industry, temporary, one hopes, in so much of the world. But a parallel shutdown of transport networks also threatens the supply of many wines, so please do bear with any shortages.

    “We are continuing to add to this list. If you are a wine retailer and want to be added below, please email editorial@jancisrobinson.com and note that I need to know your location, the full URL of your website (if applicable), together with what you are offering.”

    Seven Fifty Daily: The US drinks site has also created a resource with a comprehensive list of links covering industry advice, cancelled events, health and wellness support,  relief and fund raising efforts. Check it out here.


    Sterling: Hit a 35 year low on March 19 as the markets acted in what analysts say is disquiet to the way the UK government is tackling the crisis and offering advice. The rate on March 20 at 4pm was £1 to €1.09 and £1 to $1.17.

    March 18/19

    What our trade bodies are calling for

    British Beer & Pub Association 

    Pubs are in crisis says BBPA’s Emma McClarkin

    The BBPA is asking the government to:

    • underwrite “at least 75% of wages for all pub and brewing staff, enabling employers to pay staff during this period of uncertainty. It is estimated this would cost the government £1billion.”’
    • cancel Excise Duty and VAT payments that pubs are due to pay on March 25 and March 31 respectively. “This will enable pub operating companies across the country to redirect much needed cash directly into their businesses, helping to prevent closures and save jobs.’”
    • Emma McClarkin said: “Pubs are in a crisis today. We need urgent intervention from the government to prevent a catastrophic number of job losses and the sector damaged beyond repair. We recognise as a sector that we are in unprecedented times.”

    The Wine & Spirit Trade Association is calling on the government to “urgently”:

    • suspend all alcohol duty for a period of at least six months, starting from next week when UK businesses will be landed with their first duty bill of 2020. This action alone will save UK wine and spirit businesses an estimated £5.8 billion.
    • it also wants clarification that the 12 month business rate relief break is also going to be extended to suppliers of pubs, bars and restaurants. 
    • it is also calling on the government to suspend the introduction of any new legislation which will have a cost on UK businesses.
    • it also wants to see a “comprehensive employment package to support the lifeblood of the hospitality industry and those employed across the UK’s pubs, bars and restaurants”. 
    • allow pubs, bars and restaurants to operate as off-licences and for takeaway deliveries.
    • encourage distilleries to turn waste alcohol into hand sanitiser without going through a complex technical and bureaucratic process

    Miles Beale, the WSTA’s chef executive said:

    “We are calling on the Government to go further – and faster. On March 25 UK wine and spirit companies will be landed with their duty bills, followed six days later on March 31 with their VAT demands. Swift government action to waive excise duty payments for at least six months, starting from next week, would have an immediate impact and can make a real difference. This would allow all hospitality businesses to keep back vital company cash and support their efforts to pay employees and stay afloat”

    The sector needs a “co-ordinated approach” to “save the hospitality trade from collapse”.

    John Charnock, managing partner at Jascots Wine Merchants, said:

    Jascot’s John Charnock: we need more to ensure our future

    “These are incredibly testing times…We supply 100% to the on-trade and support a dedicated team of staff, each on above London living wage. The offer of a loan is not enough to help us survive; we need much more to ensure our future. Our duty bill stacks up at around £2.9 million per year. Suspending duty that is due this month for at least six months would help to give us the breathing space we need to keep paying our staff and support our business.”

    How operators and suppliers are responding


    Bibendum is helping its on-trade customers offer a take away and delivery service on its wine lists by cutting its margins to create a bespoke list of wines that they can offer to their customers to have at home. The first venue to link up is the Red Lion and Sun in Highgate in London. If you want to have a go at your venue then contact @gergelywine

    Heath Ball and the Red Lion & Sun are to offer discounted retail friendly wines to their customers for home delivery

    Bibendum has also produced a new central resource to keep the trade and its customers up to date with the virus with good links to trade articles, support advice and the relevant government documentation and advice pages. You can access its resource here.

    The Wine & Spirit Education Trust

    The WSET has sent out this message to its students all over the word

    The WSET’s Ian Harris has sent out a message to reassure students around the world

    “We are currently working with our global course providers to increase the availability and accessibility of our online educational programmes. If you are a WSET Level 1-3 student (in wines, spirits or sake) and you cannot sit an exam as a result of COVID-19 (either because of travel restrictions, illness or because your course provider has cancelled the exam), then it can be rescheduled. If you are a WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines student, please note that the D3 exams scheduled to take place in May will go ahead in some markets but in most European markets and the UK, they have been postponed. Please contact your local course provider for more details. If you are unable to take your D3 exams in May as planned then the next scheduled dates are in October 2020.
    We ask you to contact your local WSET course provider for updates about what is happening in your market, as local circumstances vary greatly.”

    Jennifer Sutcliffe, chief executive of restaurant PR agency, JAMS PR, says she is offering her PR services for free to try and help 

    “It’s a crazy time but I’m trying, like many others, to find small positives in all of this. Over the past few days I have been offering my services for free to businesses in hospitality who need any PR, social media or marketing advice at this time. As a business who does PR for restaurants and food and drinks brands we lost pretty much all of our clients in a day as PR is regarded by many as a luxury. As a result we have reached out and offered to help those who may need it in this time for free.”

    It is helping to publicise a number of projects. Here are a selection but to find out more contact Jennifer at jennifer@jamspr.com.


    • TiPJAR and Hospitality Action have launched a Hospitality Workers Emergency Fund to help many UK Hospitality Workers who will lose their zero-hour contracts during this crisis. People can donate directly to hospitality workers in need in their local city and 100% of the donations are going to Hospitality Action to distribute. Fundraise Packs are available to download to let people raise awareness for their cities. More information can be found on their website.
    • Many photographers are offering their services for free for businesses who are switching to takeaway and need new imagery for this including Nic Crilly-Hargrave, Milly Fletcher, Scott Ball and Harriet Clare.

    • Ali Burgess of Original Sin and Happiness Forgets Bars in London are working with brands to deliver award winning cocktails to local neighbourhoods in East London. 

    Impact on producers

    The Outsiders in the Languedoc 

    Louise Hurren reports from the Languedoc about how The Outsiders, a group of similarly minded independent growers and winemakers in the region are getting through the lockdown in France. She says:

    “The 18 members of the Outsiders group are doing their best to stay positive. Normally at this time of year we’d be having one of our quarterly group meetings where we get together at one of the group estates and discuss how ProWein went for us (oops!), and start planning next events and activities. Instead of that, we’re setting up a meeting on Google Hang Outs – hurrah for technology!
    Well if you’ve got a vineyard and a laptop (and a good wifi signal) self isolating isn’t so bad…
    “There’s always work that can be done in the vineyard, and as the photo shows, our members Nadia and Cyril Bourgne (Domaine La Madura) have decided to spend time doing exactly this. Over at Chateau St Jacques d’Albas, Andrew Nutter has just sent off a shipment of wine: “It’s still early days, but I feel Covid-19 is going to have a big impact in terms of delaying shipments and orders in the coming weeks, and video conferencing is going to be the order of the day. As for the shipment that has just left, I have doubts about whether it will actually get to its final destination.
    In terms of logistics and being able to do business Caryl Panman of Chateau Rives-Blanques  (in the Limoux area of Languedoc) says:

    “We get emails from the transporters who come to us regularly, saying it’s business as usual. Trouble is, there’s no business: haven’t had a single order from the UK, and I don’t know why. I believe the borders are still open to trade. However, we know that a local Languedoc logistics business has closed shop for the time being, which is significant, and I hear some large producers with big warehouses have done the same. We’re ready, willing and able to ship wines, but for us it really has all ground to an absolute standstill, which is dire. I hope it’s better for others.”

    What suppliers and importers are saying and doing

    Nik Darlington, co-founder of Graft Wine Company

    Nik Darlington answered these questions for The Buyer and has also issued this video on what he would like to see the government doing to support suppliers as well as bars and restaurants.

    How are UK supplies doing?

    Until this point we have experienced some disruption out of quarantine zones in Italy, but that has eased of late and shipments have been moving. We fortunately have decent stocks on the water from the southern hemisphere, and decent stocks of key volume lines from Europe. Undoubtedly however logistics is a moving target at the moment and can change very quickly.

    What is the forecast looking like? 
    It is impossible to tell. Whatever logistical hiccups are being experienced, with the escalation of measures by the government affecting the hospitality industry we cannot tell from this vantage point how it is going to translate into sales. It seems clear now that the on-trade and night-time economy in London and other major urban centres especially are going to be hit hard for several weeks. On the other hand, we are seeing many clients pushing deliver or takeaway options and using the various delivery companies in ways they wouldn’t have considered before.

    We also see an argument for independent retailers holding up, especially in areas where a lot of people actually live because they may not be venturing far from home for a while. There are great initiatives with local delivery services and collaborations with other small businesses. But all things considered, it is going to take several days before we can gauge the market reaction and how that translates into numbers and forecasting.

    How about Prosecco supplies out of Italy? 
    We have decent stocks right now, but for sure that is a concern because the Veneto has been experiencing restrictions and there are delays at the winery. This might be mitigated to some extent by the fact for us at least Prosecco sales are overwhelmingly weighted towards the on-trade, so I suspect we will see some reduced demand in the coming weeks.

    General comments on the short and medium term? 

    No one has all the answers, but already there is a lot of determination and creativity I’m seeing out in the trade. If we can stick together, keep our heads, and pool those ideas for the greater good then we can weather this. While taking the necessary precautions, I will be doing what I can to get out and speak to clients, or at the very least communicate with them, and work with people to share this best practice and divert business the way of those who will really need our support over the coming weeks.

    Michael Palij MW, Winetraders, sent out this mailer to his customers:

    Michael Palilj MW came into the wine industry from a financial background

    Unpredictable does not begin to describe the current situation in Italy… In general producers spirits are buoyant but there is a touch of fear in some of their voices….Up to today (March 16) goods are free to leave Italy and there is no restriction on the movement of HGV vehicles but there is a shortage of drivers.  The other issue is that border crossings to Austria are subject to huge delays (apparently the Brenner pass has an 80km tailback) as authorities in neighbouring countries check each and every driver for Covid-19.

    “Currently there are no signals from French and Swiss authorities to do the same at their borders with Italy, but things change very quickly, especially now with the disease spreading faster throughout Europe. We use two shippers and, as of today, both are operating as usual.  Volume of shipments, however, is outstripping space on available lorries and inter-modal services and one of our partners has confirmed that they cannot see any deliveries for the UK leaving after tomorrow (Tuesday).  We’ve also seen a huge increase in prices (up 30% so far). For the moment we will absorb the increased shipping costs, but I cannot confirm that we will be able to do that in the future.  I’m also concerned that, although we have good stocks of most lines at the moment, we will be unable to maintain optimal stock levels as restrictions continue to bite.”

    Glenn Malycha, global brand manager of Levrier Wines in Australia contacted The Buyer to say:

    “We have some supermarkets allowing only the elderly in before 8 or 9am to allow them to shop first without the panic buyers knocking them over. It’s beautiful to see as we are in drought and have just come through many bushfires that are keeping our communities generous in spirit (donating time and money) and relatively selfless so far. At Levrier Wines in the Barossa Valley we are reminding our South Australians customers that our fine wines are in our own warehouse and we can deliver locally, without relying on third party or logistics companies who are considering closing due to their own staff health safety concerns.


    Impact on producers continued

    Sfriso Winery, Veneto, Italy 

    Pier Sfriso of the Sfriso Winery in Veneto that is in the third week of a lockdown in Italy told the Portugal Wine Week live streaming event this week that he is already worried his 2019 vintage could be wasted. His tanks are full but he has no customers to sell it and fears by the time he can other markets will also be in lockdown.

    “There are going to be massive volumes of bulk and bottled wine that we will have to be sold (across Italy) before our new wines come in (from the 2020 vintage),” he said.

    He believes the lockdown will have an impact on the way smaller producers, in particular, will look to work and trade in the future. “The client becomes a friend,” he said, “where the question of price is different. We are going to throw a party at the end of this situation at the winery, where we can invite all our contacts from across northern Europe. We want to build that community and want to celebrate with our friends.”

    Reka and Pier Haros believe the fallout from Covrid-19 will have long term effects on how we do business in the wine industry

    Reka Haros, his wife, who shared earlier this week about what life has been like in the Italian lockdown, urged producers and businesses to use this time pro-actively. “Now is the time to connect with your customers no matter how little amounts of wine they buy,” she said. “Those are the connections that will last belong this.”

    She added they have tried to share both the “ugly” and “nice” aspects of being in isolation. 
“We are getting messages that is helping people to make it less of a panicky situation. Yes, it is hard and no-one is ready for this. But you can either be reactive or proactive. The pro-active you are in this phase, the easier it will be in the end.”

    Latest Government Advice

    Last night the UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, released a number of new measures as part of an overall £330bn support package for UK industry. He is promising more announcements this week, which are expected to be around how he can help employees.

    Rishi Sunak the new Chancellor released a series of headline grabbing measures but the on-trade wants to see more on employment and future cover

    The relevant changes to the on-trade are:

    • giving all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100% business rates holiday for the next 12 months.
    • increasing grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief from £3,000 to £10,000.
    • providing further £25,000 grants to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000.
    • guaranteed payments on insurance for businesses with pandemic cover.
    • increasing the amount businesses can borrow through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £1.2 million to £5 million, and ensuring businesses can access the first six months of that finance interest free, as Government will cover the first six months of interest payments.
      planning rules are being relaxed so pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak.

    Industry response

    Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality

    UK Hospitality’s Kate Nicholls wants to see the government go further

    “Job cuts are extraordinarily deep and they are happening now – today and tomorrow, and are snowballing. Companies are having to make the very difficult decisions now and with many hospitality and leisure businesses now having to choose to close or massively reduce their operations, there is little chance of saving many jobs without far-reaching help. What the sector urgently needs is a package of support and funding to keep people in employment. This needs to happen now – within 24 hours.”

    Nik Antona, Campaign for Real Ale’s national chairman, said the measures “don’t go far enough in ensuring no pub, club or brewery goes out of business as a result of the current crisis”. He added: “While a business rate holiday for all hospitality businesses and rate relief for eligible pubs will help alleviate some costs, this will do little to compensate for the potential collapse of cashflow in businesses which customers have been told to stay away from. Making loans to businesses with no money coming in and multiple overheads to meet through a period of no, or low trading, is simply kicking the can down the road. We would urge additional measures to cover all liabilities, however long the restrictions on pubs, to ensure these vital businesses can emerge unsaddled by debt and able to deliver the many benefits to the communities they serve.”

    Miles Beale, chief executive of Wine & Spirit Trade Association, said on Twitter: “@wstauk welcomes support inc. on biz rate rate holiday, but need urgent clarification that measures will be extended to hospitality suppliers. Measures are mostly loans. We need to see income support for hospitality sector’s employees.”

    Troy Christensen, chief executive of Enotria&Coe, said on Twitter: “You eliminated 100% of the revenue for any company in the on trade and now offer to lend them money where France and Spain eliminated actually their expenses. These companies need relief, not more debt. Disappointing.”

    What restaurants and bars are saying

    It feels at the moment that the hospitality, restaurant and bar sectors are living in a parallel universe to the official advice being issued by the government. Whilst the public are being urged to keep their distance from each other and stay home wherever possible, which means not going to public places like bars, restaurants, theatres or clubs, the government is not asking those outlets to close.

    It has meant a number of high profile on-trade names have decided to act now in order to protect the public and also safeguard their long term futures. Here are a few of the statements that restaurant owners have issued as a result.

    Will Beckett and Huw Gott, co-founder of Hawksmoor (an edited version of full statement):

    Hugh Gott and Will Beckett said they have been forced to close now in order to safeguard Hawksmoor’s long term future

    “Today we have made the most difficult decisions we have ever made or that we ever hope to make in future. As of tomorrow (March 18) we will temporarily close all of the Hawksmoor restaurants – I feel that that is clearly what the government is advising us to do even if they are not mandating it.
    “I have also had to end the employment of some of the wonderful people who work at Hawksmoor.  We have tried to treat those people as fairly as possible, paying full notice and we are trying to give them every guidance on how they can get extra support during these difficult times…This enables us to make sure that Hawksmoor survives…We have made these difficult decisions in order to do what we can to protect the jobs of the hundreds of people we still employ during what may be a prolonged period of closure.

    “Hawksmoor will survive and we will quickly turn our attention to how we get through this period and what we can do to lend our strength to others who may need it.  We hope that the government step in as promised to provide the safety net that so many people desperately need.
    “To our regular customers – we won’t be providing delivery or click and collect.  We will be focussing on our staff and whether we can help more people.  We also believe other restaurant businesses will need your custom more.  Many of you have made the kind offer or gesture to buy vouchers.  While we’re thrilled by the support and that option is still available on our shop, we would recommend giving that support to smaller businesses who need it more.”

    Chris Corbin & Jeremy King: Corbin & King Group

    Brasserie Zedel along with all of Corbin & King’s restaurants are to close

    We regret to inform you that in the light of the Government’s edict that: “People should avoid Bars, Theatres, Clubs (and by implication Restaurants)” – we have been put in an invidious situation that we feel leaves us with no option but to close all our London restaurants. We will continue to pay staff for the foreseeable future and are working closely with our landlords and other stakeholders to protect both the staff and the company.

    James Watt, co-founder, Brewdog:

    “Our Prime Ministers actions yesterday, in not closing bars and restaurants down, but telling people not to go will plunge hundreds of thousands into unemployment.One thing I think we don’t yet realise is that Covid-19 & governments response to it is going to create the biggest unemployment crisis we have ever seen and propel millions of families into poverty. Every business now faces a grim battle to both survive and protect livelihoods.At BrewDog we are doing all we can to make it through & protect as many jobs as we can. But we, like so many businesses have lost 70% of our income almost overnight.”

    Consumer Response

    Consumers say they have not been put off going out despite the government advice

    CGA carried out a survey with consumers to assess the public’s mood and reaction to government’s advice to stop going out to pubs and restaurants. Its poll of 500 consumers between 18 and 65 found that:

    • 58% of consumers say they will stop visiting, in line with government advice, with a further 28% suggesting that they will visit less frequently.
    • 14% said they planned to visit at least as often, to show support to the sector.
    • Among the under 24s, only around a third said they would stop going out to eat and drink, although half would cut-back.
    • 35% said they will get more food delivered, rising to 40% for 21-24 year olds and 38% for 25-34 year olds.
    • 12% suggested that they would use click and collect for eating and drinking out.
    • 14% cited the advice as being “overly drastic and unnecessary at this stage”
    • 49% thought it “seems like the right course of action”
    • 34% said “more should be being done”.

    High street figures

    Footfall in Liverpool was down 44% on Monday March 16

    The numbers of people taking to the high street has plummeted with an overall 45% drop on average March 16 compared with the previous year (Wireless Social). The research covered footfall in more than 800 venues nationally and revealed:

    • footfall in London was down 47% year-on-year.
    • Liverpool saw a 44% fall, followed by Birmingham 38%, Manchester (37%), Edinburgh (36%), Cardiff (33%), Bristol (30%) and Newcastle (27%).

    What retailers are doing

    • The major supermarket chains are now introducing limited purchases of either three or four items of the same product to try and prevent on-going empty shelves of core essentials.
    • They are also looking to only allow customers over the age of 70 to visit the stores when they open to try and ensure the most needed get access to the products they require.
    • Sainsbury’s is running the first of these special opening times on March 19 for the first hour of business. Iceland has already offered this service to its older customers from earlier this week. From Monday March 23 Sainsbury’s will also give over 70s and the disabled priority on online delivery slots.
    • Tesco is closing its 24 hour shops to allow 10pm to 6am for staff to stock and replenish shelves.
    • Morrisons is turn another 100 stores over online picking, recruiting 3.500 pickers and drivers to help with rollout and 1,000 extra in distribution centres. It is also issuing safety guidelines at the till, asking for one metre between customers and limiting products to four each.
    • Morrisons is also slashing its range by a third to make room for more essential items.



    Impact on the supply chain

    JF Hillebrand is keen to re-assure the trade that wine is moving around the world

    JF Hillebrand issued the following statement to The Buyer: “France’s recent lockdown, following other countries who have already done so (Italy, Spain…), has enabled to restrict the movement of people, but by no means the movement of goods.  The closure of European borders will affect in the same way. Although borders are closed to regular travel passengers, merchandise is still able to circulate between countries.  As employees are allowed to join their workplace, Hillebrand does not expect warehouses or ports closing, at least not at this point, which will ultimately depend on each company’s decision.

     “The sudden huge coronavirus-driven economic disruption in China, being such a major “component” in global trade, has caused a significant ripple effect in the last 6-8 weeks, to varying degrees, to all trade flows. Coupled then with Shipping Lines’ efforts to manage these impacts has created shortages of vessel space and equipment availability, creating short terms spikes in ocean freight prices. At the same time the sudden downturn in passenger air travel has created a shortfall in airfreight (belly) capacity at a time when cargo has been looking to shift in order to achieve delivery requirements, creating a similar spike in airfreight pricing. Challenging and uncertain times, but with China showing signs of recovery it is hoped that things will now start to ease, although it remains to be seen how the shift of coronavirus attention to Europe and US will impact supply chains.”

    How businesses are helping each other

    Code Hospitality: “We have seen that a lot of restaurants are starting to offer takeaway and delivery. We would love to support you by promoting this on our CODE app. There is no charge and we do not expect you do any special offers. If you want to be included, email contact@codehospitality.co.uk

    James Watt @BrewDogJames. “Hand sanitiser is selling out everywhere. So we have started using our distillery to make Punk Sanitiser. We want to do all we can to help everyone get through this difficult time.”

    Here is a message from Leon to show what it is doing.

    Leith Gin: We have suspended spirit production and are making high strength hand sanitiser for those in need in our local community.
    We have a finite amount of glassware, does anyone know of a company who could contribute small plastic bottles with pump action tops?

    The Bigger Picture – Long term effect

    George Wallace, chief executive of MHE Retail, told Wunderman Thompson Intelligence that “the companies that are the first to come out to show actions of protecting their employees, such as covering their sick pay and increasing sick leave, will get the feel-good factor from people.”

    He added:“The last 25 years have seen an increase in globalisation and inter-dependency, a massive increase in travel and more complex supply chains in businesses. But there are signs of a greater preference for locally supplied goods and simpler supply chains. Brands that can show they are putting people or the environment ahead of sheer profit will be rewarded by consumers and employees, and enhance the way they consider the brand.”

    Useful contacts – Industry support

    There are a number of official sites and trade bodies that will be providing information over the coming days and weeks. Here are a selection but we are happy to add more if anyone would like to contact us at richardsiddle@btopenworld.com.

    UK Hospitality: it will be sending out regular advice to its members, but also to the trade in general, including sharing the latest relevant official guidelines from the government pertinent to the drinks industry. It has produced specific health and safety information to help those in the hospitality industry here
    This includes advice on what the government is currently prepared to do to support businesses affected by the coronavirus including VAT and payments to staff:

    Other useful newsletters:

    If you would like to share any measures you are taking, advice or inspiration for others then please do so either by tagging us on social media at @TheBuyer 11 or directly to richardsiddle@btopenworld.com.