The Alchemist aims to open five or six sites in the next year following £16m finance deal, Christmas like-for-likes up 5%: The Alchemist, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity, is aiming to open five or six sites in the next year having secured a £16m finance package from existing debt-funders Santander. Finance director Victoria Stewart told Propel the company, which currently operates 12 venues, was looking at a “bit of a bumper year”. It will open a site in Nottingham next month – its first in the East Midlands – followed by venues in Cardiff and Bristol and the company is now looking at further acquisitions. Stewart said: “A lot of our sites are new or have been recently refurbished so we are focused on using the additional capital for expansion. The rental market seems to be softening a bit so we think there will be some good opportunities. I’m expecting we will open five or six sites in the next year, focusing particularly on London. There are a number of cities where we have dual sites that work really well. Our site just off Liverpool Street is performing brilliantly so we are really keen to add to that – two or three of the new venues will hopefully be in London. We’re also open to opportunities in the larger regional cities we have not yet targeted and have been exploring locations on the south coast. We’re looking at two or three sites at the moment but nothing has been agreed.” Stewart said like-for-like sales for the Christmas period were up 5%. She added: “The new sites did very well and we were particularly busy in the week running up to Christmas, particularly Oxford, which we opened a few weeks ago.” Stewart said the company was also on course for “substantial” growth on the £22.6m it turned over in the year to 31 March 2017. She added: “We’ve got a great opportunity because we are investing against the tide and this puts us in a good position for the future.” Palatine Private Equity supported a buyout of The Alchemist from Living Ventures in 2015.

Former The Apprentice star to launch fried chicken restaurant in Hinckley, two further sites earmarked: Joanna Kirk, former star of reality television show The Apprentice, is to launch a fried chicken restaurant in Hinckley, Derbyshire, with two further sites earmarked for the East Midlands. Kirk, who appeared on series six of the BBC1 show, will open Louisi-Anna Chicken at The Crescent complex next month. Sides will include French fries and coleslaw alongside healthier options such as grilled chicken wraps. Doughnuts will be made daily on-site, while ginger beer, milkshakes and other “old-school drinks” will be available. Other outlets are planned for Leicester and Nottingham next year, reports the Hinckley Times. Kirk made it to the interview stage of the 2010 edition of The Apprentice but was turned down by Lord Sugar for her lack of experience. Her first business was a cleaning company she founded in Leicester in 2006, which she still operates.

Bone Daddies to open sixth site next week, in Victoria: London-based Japanese ramen bar concept Bone Daddies will open its sixth site next week, in Victoria. The company will open the venue on Tuesday (16 January) at the Nova development. Bone Daddies Nova will be split into two levels, seating 50 on the ground floor, 40 upstairs and a further 28 outside. The decor will emphasise the restaurant’s rock ‘n’ roll and Japanese inspirations using a mixture of textures and graphics including raw metalwork, smashed tiles and rich-toned timbers, reports The Handbook. Bone Daddies’ other sites are in Bermondsey, Kensington, Marylebone, Old Street and Soho. Founder Ross Shonhan also operates Asian fusion restaurant Shackfuyu in Soho and Japanese pub concept Flesh & Buns in Covent Garden.

Tasty closes Wildwood site in Bristol: Tasty has closed its Wildwood site in Bristol. The company has shut the branch in Clifton Village, which opened in a former Lloyds bank in 2014, reports the Bristol Post. It was the 20th opening for Wildwood, which has since expanded to 56 sites around the UK. Earlier this week, Tasty said it expected “further deterioration of trading in 2018” and planned to dispose of more sites. Other operators to have shut sites in Bristol recently include London-based restaurant company Polpo, while better burger brand Byron’s venue in the city is one of 20 at risk of closure as the company looks to enter into a Company Voluntary Arrangement in a bid to secure its future.

Hubbox eyes Taunton for seventh West Country site: Hubbox, which runs neighbourhood restaurants specialising in burgers, hotdogs and beer, has applied to open its seventh restaurant in the West Country, in Taunton, Somerset. Hubbox has applied to Taunton Deane Borough Council to open a site across two properties in North Street that were formerly occupied by Roots Café and Red-Hot Razzberry. The restaurant would have tables on two storeys, This Is The West Country reports. In August the company, which has received £3.4m of external investment, appointed Loungers co-founder and chairman Alex Reilley as non-executive chairman. At the time, Reilley said: “The Hubbox proposition is very strong and there’s the foundations of a good, well-structured management team in place led by Richard, who has a very clear idea about where he wants to take the brand. The business has funding in place for growth and is supported by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic board, all of which make Hubbox a very exciting business to be involved with.” The Richard Boon-led business has said it is looking to grow its estate to 20 sites in the next four years. Boon opened the first Hubbox in St Ives in 2003. Its other sites are in Bristol, Exeter, Pentewan, Plymouth and Truro.

Essex-based Flying Trade Group acquires former Adnams pub in Colchester: Essex-based Flying Trade Group has acquired former Adnams pub The Bricklayers in Colchester for an undisclosed sum. The company has started a significant refurbishment of the pub in Bergholt Road, which will reopen on Friday, 26 January offering “hearty traditional food” and real ale. Flying Trade Group chief executive Suki Dulai told the Daily Gazette: “We are delighted to bring The Bricklayers into our portfolio. Our aim is to offer specialist real ale along with ever-changing guest beers, offering more choice to our customers. We continue to invest heavily in Colchester, with an emphasis on making the most of the town’s rich history.” The Harwich-based company is also undertaking a multimillion-pound refurbishment and extension of The George Hotel in Colchester High Street and a £10m refurbishment and expansion of historic town centre hotel St Nicholas House. The company’s Surya Hotels brand has seven niche and four budget hotels in its chain. The family-run business, which also operates a number of other subsidiaries including Surya Foods, has an annual turnover of more than £100m and employs more than 1,400 staff.

Loungers to launch Cosy Club in Lincoln next month: Cafe brand Loungers is to open a Cosy Club in Lincoln city centre next month. The Lion Capital-backed group is set to launch the venue on Thursday, 13 February at Lincolnshire Co-op’s new £12m Cornhill Quarter retail and leisure scheme. Cosy Club managing director Jake Bishop told The Lincolnite: “The magnificent grade II-listed Corn Exchange building caught our eye as it fits in perfectly with our ‘mansion splendour meets village eccentricity’ ways. We like every customer to leave feeling splendid, which we’re confident will be the case at this beautiful building. We will also be in prime position at the heart of one of the UK’s leading retail and leisure destinations as well as in one of the most exciting historic and up-and-coming cities in the country. I can’t wait for our grand opening bash.” Last month, Everyman Cinemas signed to anchor the leisure scheme. Other companies signed up are Danish home and general store Flying Tiger Copenhagen, and suit hire company Moss Bros. The Cornhill Exchange will house five brands in total. Loungers was founded in 2002 in Bristol by Bishop, David Reid and Alex Reilley. The company operates 114 venues across its Cosy Club and Lounges brands. This week chief executive Nick Collins told Propel the company was currently looking at 40 sites as it continued to build its pipeline for 2018 and beyond.

Chinese restaurant concept acquires lease of canal-side pub in Islington: A Chinese restaurant concept will launch in Islington, north London, after hospitality newcomer Shifeng Tian acquired the lease of the Canal 125 pub. The deal was brokered by agents Davis Coffer Lyons on behalf of Glasshouse Asset Management. Tian has signed a new 25-year lease at a rent of £150,000 per annum exclusive. The 3,200 square foot pub, events space and restaurant offers outdoor terraces and a 2am licence. The waterside venue overlooks Regents Canal. Davis Coffer Lyons associate director Connie Start said: “This is an exceptionally well-located property close to King’s Cross, Angel and many residential dwellings, retailers and other licensed operators. A new Chinese restaurant will greatly complement the surrounding tenant mix and be a great addition to the area.”

TGI Friday’s signs for York Community Stadium development: TGI Friday’s has signed for a site at the York Community Stadium development. Five restaurants are earmarked as part of the scheme at Monks Cross – two in the south block and three in the east stand of the stadium. TGI Friday’s will occupy a corner unit in the south block, reports York Mix. As well as the restaurants and the 8,000-seat stadium, Wrenbridge Sport is developing 30,000 square feet of retail units, a 13-screen IMAX Cineworld cinema, three swimming pools and a four-court sports hall as well as a community hub. Work on the development began in the past few weeks. While the stadium won’t be ready until June 2019, the commercial parts of the development – including the cinema and restaurants – are due to be complete by January next year.

Worcestershire-based multi-site operators take on second Ei Group pub: Worcestershire-based multi-site operators John and Cathy Cleary are to launch their second pub with Ei Group. The Clearys have taken on The Black Boy in Wyre Hill, Wribbenhall, after a total investment of £163,000 from Ei Publican Partnerships. The couple also operate Ye Olde Horseshoe in Belbroughton. The investment has doubled the size of the kitchen and created a new outside area, including a beer garden. The new-look Black Boy also has refreshed interiors, including an extended seating area, and an improved homemade food and drinks offering. John Cleary said: “We have a long-standing, good relationship with Ei Publican Partnerships and saw this as a great opportunity to have the pub renovated for the local community.” Ei Publican Partnerships regional manager Matthew Obrey added: “John and Cathy have a wealth of experience operating Ye Olde Horseshoe so it was a very easy decision for us to make when they expressed interest in the site.” The Black Boy will open in late January.

Nando’s to open restaurant at former Pizza Hut site in Ipswich: Nando’s is set to open a second site in Ipswich after taking over a former Pizza Hut restaurant at Ransomes Europark. Although the building will remain “mostly unchanged”, Nando’s will give it a “lick of paint” and extend the roof. The restaurant will share a car park with a Burger King drive-thru next door. Pizza Hut will close its restaurant on Saturday, 20 January. A spokesman told the Ipswich Star: “We continually evaluate the location of our restaurants to ensure they are in the best possible areas to meet consumer demand. We will continue to have a strong presence in Ipswich, however, and customers can visit our other Huts at The Interchange Retail Park and Anglia Parkway South. We have informed all our team members and are currently in discussions with them about relocating to our other restaurants, in the local area where possible.”

Daughter of Corbin & King co-founder opens debut restaurant: Amy Corbin, daughter of Corbin & King co-founder Chris Corbin, has opened her first restaurant. Corbin has launched South African-inspired concept Kudu in Peckham, south London, with partner Patrick Williams. The venue in Queens Road offers South African-inspired dishes with locally foraged ingredients. Williams hails from South Africa and his dishes include roasted skate wing with charred leeks and samphire, braai lamb neck with smoked yogurt, and whole mallard duck with honey and garlic glaze. The restaurant’s website states: “Our South African roots inspire our food, whether that’s slow cooking in a potjie pot over hot coals or baking Kudu bread. Sourced as much as possible from local suppliers, we celebrate hunters and foragers and gather what we can from our own herb garden and vegetable plot.”

Greene King sells Kentish Town pub: Brewer and retailer Greene King has sold The Oxford in Kentish Town, north London. The company has confirmed it had accepted an offer for the venue in Kentish Town Road. A spokesman told the Ham & High: “As a leading pub operator and brewer, we are committed to running high-quality community pubs. To be able to continue to invest in our estate, from time to time we have to make the difficult decision to sell a pub. After much consideration, we have accepted an offer we received for The Oxford. A sale has been agreed in principle and our team is aware of the situation. The Oxford remains open for business as usual.” Since 2001, Camden has lost 70 pubs with 225 remaining.

Giggling Squid to open Cheltenham site in May: Thai restaurant group Giggling Squid, which is backed by the Business Growth Fund, will open a site in Cheltenham in May. The company will open the venue in Montpellier on the site of a former Strada restaurant it acquired last year, reports So Glos. The 3,000 square foot space will have about 110 covers with 50 seats outside to the front and rear of the venue. Last month, Andy Laurillard, who founded the business with wife Pranee, told Propel the company planned to “significantly” step up its expansion in 2018. The company, which operates 22 restaurants, is preparing to launch sites in Bath, Beaconsfield and Chichester and has also acquired a site in Harpenden. Giggling Squid, which secured a £6.4m investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2015 to support its expansion plans, opened its first site in Brighton in 2009.

Goodbody – expect reasonably strong Christmas to benefit M&B’s first quarter: Goodbody leisure analysts have said they are expecting a reasonably strong Christmas to benefit Mitchells & Butlers’ (M&B) first-quarter trading update on Friday (12 January). Goodbody stated: “The group will likely disclose like-for-like sales year to date and we forecast +2.5% year-on-year in FY18 (September year end). Any commentary on margins will be a focus point and we forecast another 30 basis points decline in FY18 given the cost pressures the sector faces. In terms of the estate, we expect 15 new openings this year. We expect the wet-led side of the business to have enjoyed a strong Christmas (drink accounts for circa 50% of M&B sales), in line with updates from a number of private pubcos in the new year thus far. We expect the update from M&B to be characterised by both reasonably strong trading over Christmas and a reiteration of a cautious outlook from management. We believe the strong Christmas should be viewed in the context of a favourable calendar for wet-led operators and should not necessarily be extracted. Our view remains that the group should continue to benefit from estate refurbishments and outperform the majority of its peers. However, our cautious view on the sector for 2018 has been well documented and M&B’s current valuation (circa 7.5 times EV/Ebitda including pension) appears fair given the risks.”

Artisan baker to launch cafe and deli concept Popina in Mayfair: Artisan baker Isidora Popović, who has been running stalls at more than 20 London markets for almost two decades, is to launch cafe and deli concept Popina in Mayfair next month for her debut bricks and mortar site. Popović set herself up as a trader in 1998 with help from The Prince’s Trust, serving pastries, pies and cakes from Portobello Road. She now supplies Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Fortnum & Mason, among others. Popina will open in Duke Street in mid-February offering breakfast and brunch dishes such as kedgeree, switching to sandwiches and salads at lunch, Hot Dinners reports. There will also be stews and curries, alongside desserts such as pear and chocolate hazelnut tart, and rhubarb and ginger cheesecake, as well as treats to take away.