Premium fried chicken concept The Bok Shop secures new investment for expansion: The Bok Shop, the Brighton-based premium fried chicken concept, has secured £1.2m of new funding as it looks to add ten new sites over the next two years. The three-strong business, which was founded in 2017 by Jamie O’Mara, Howard Kaye, Saul Burman and Matthew Dimmack, secured the funding from an unnamed private equity firm. The company currently operates sites in Brighton, Croydon and Eastbourne. It will start its roll out with the opening of a 100-cover site in Southampton’s West Quay this summer. Future sites will range from 30 to 100-cover restaurants to counter-style takeaway and delivery sites. O’Mara said: “We never in our wildest dreams thought we would be sharing what we created at our little shop in Brighton with the rest of the UK. It’s been a hard slog filled with failures and success, amplified by the pandemic, but all in the name of growth, both as individuals and as a company. We feel there is a gap in the market for a quality chicken-inspired offer like ours – what Honest Burger has done to burgers, or Pizza Pilgrims has done with pizza, we want to do that for chicken. We’ve lived and breathed The Bok Shop and the hospitality industry since opening in East Street, Brighton, in 2017 and we can’t wait to share the journey.” Harry Cody-Owen, of Bruce Gillingham Pollard, who is acting on behalf of The Bok Shop, said: “The Bok Shop will be one of the next generation of restaurants to emerge from the pandemic as a success and I am delighted to be involved in the rollout. It has a great team and a proven model.”
Bell swaps Stonegate for Greene King finance director role: Lucy Bell, formerly of Stonegate Pub Company, Ei Group and Spirit Group, has joined brewer and retailer Greene King, as finance director for its Destination Food Brands division, Propel has learned. Bell has spent the past six months as director of Stonegate’s joint ventures operation. Previous to that she was finance director at Ei Group for more than four years, after almost five years at Spirit. Last year, Greene King appointed Andy Wilson as managing director of its Destination Food Brands division.
Itsu delivery sales rise 28% year-on-year for third and fourth quarters: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, created by Julian Metcalfe, has seen delivery sales rise by 28% year-on-year for the third and fourth quarters of 2020 versus 2019 while trading with fewer shops open. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the brand has made 330,000 deliveries in less than 12 months. Itsu has also added new items to its sushi sharing platters for delivery. Comprising seven different platters, dishes range from £20.95 for the large veggie platter to £45 for the party platter, which has been created with families in mind.
BrewDog working on 42 new bars: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has revealed it is currently working on 42 new bars. Co-founder James Watt said among them was a site in Atlanta as the company looks to increase its portfolio in the US. He tweeted: “Others include Belfast, London, Paris, Vegas, Bath, Exeter, Mumbai, Sydney, Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt, Gurgaon, Lyon, Milan, Chester, Durham, Hyderabad and Cleveland.” Meanwhile, BrewDog has responded to requests from vaccination centres to provide purified still water in cans by producing tins free of charge. Watt tweeted: “Several vaccination centres have been in touch requesting packaged water from BrewDog. Due to covid-19 safety measures people can’t bring water on site or use the taps. They needed a packaged solution. We gave them one that is both free of charge and, importantly, plastic-free too.”
Gordon Ramsay cancelled more than 22,000 bookings for his restaurants in December: Gordon Ramsay has revealed he had to cancel more than 22,000 bookings for his restaurants in December before England was plunged into its third lockdown. The chef, who owns 35 restaurants across the UK, said the effect covid has had on the hospitality industry was “devastating”. Speaking on The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, Ramsay said he’s planning to open even more restaurants when lockdown is eased, following reports the government plan to allow pubs and restaurants to reopen in May. He said: “It’s devastating. When you think about breaking bread and having fun with friends and family, it’s just tragic not to have that. When we reopened last July, the atmosphere was monumental and electrifying, we didn’t even need music, so to be shut back down was tough. In December, our most important month, we cancelled 22,500 reservations, but I have always been optimistic. It is tough but we will come out of this – we’ve recreated, redeveloped and researched new ideas so when we come out of this lockdown we will open up as new restaurants. We are hoping we will reopen at Easter. It would be a dream.”
Hoxton Bakehouse lines up two new openings: Hoxton Bakehouse, the south coast-based concept led by Florence Hellier and Darren Bland, is to open two more cafes, in Farnham and Stockbridge. The two new sites, which will open later this year, will take the group’s estate to seven cafes. The company operates a bakery in Southampton that supplies more than 60 hotels and restaurants as well as its cafes in Bishops Waltham, Lymington, Petersfield, Southampton and Winchester.
Hothorpe Hotel saved by unnamed buyer for £3.9m: Weddings and meetings venue Hothorpe Hall hotel has been acquired out of administration by an unnamed buyer, saving 44 jobs. The Leicestershire hotel, which was owned by Methodist Guild Hotels, has been purchased for £3.9m after going into administration in early January. The administrators received almost 500 offers for the business, reports The Business Desk. The new owner said it would honour some £1.4m in deposits taken by the previous owners for events that had to be postponed because of government-imposed social distancing regulations brought in because of the covid-19 pandemic.
Cocktail company founder launches virtual nightclub: The founder of a Leeds-based cocktail company has launched a virtual nightclub in a bid to create the “world’s biggest digital night out in”. Murdo MacLeod, who is behind Zest Mixology, innovated his firm’s face-to-face event and cocktail services to build a fully equipped HD virtual entertainment studio in Leeds. The first event was attended by more than 100 online partygoers across the globe, and the venture, known as NVY, has become a regular feature every week on Saturdays, open from 8pm until 11pm. NVY is a virtual event where people join a guest list and are greeted by a live host. Attendees then self-navigate, choosing to go between eight rooms including a main bar and dancefloor with live DJ. Entry is free and attendees can also book a personalised VIP booth to catch-up with friends. There is also the option to purchase a cocktail kit delivered to their door in advance to enjoy during the event, where an experienced bartender will teach them how to make their own cocktails at home. MacLeod told The Business Desk: “My motto in business has always been to innovate when necessary and there’s no doubting covid-19 has disrupted the events and hospitality sector. I saw tens of thousands of people tuning into live DJ sets and spotted an opportunity to bring a three-dimensional experience to those missing a night out where they can meet new people in the digital world as well as socialise with friends in different geographical locations.”
Star Pubs & Bars changes policy on rent assessments after PCA intervention:Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars will offer tenants rent assessments after being told annual retail price index (RPI) rental increases are not a suitable substitute by the pubs code adjudicator (PCA). The PCA stated tenants have the right to a pubs code rent assessment proposal (RAP) if, during the previous five years, there has been no concluded rent assessment (and/or, in the code’s first five years, a rent review). The PCA identified arbitration cases in which Star Pubs & Bars declined to provide the tenant with a RAP because, it argued, the annual RPI rental increase during the previous five years was a rent assessment or rent review under the pubs code. However, the PCA was aware Star Pubs & Bars had argued this same point unsuccessfully in a previous arbitration and it had the option of appealing that award but chose not to do so. The PCA said although arbitration awards are not binding in future cases, it was concerned with Star Pubs & Bars’ position and told its code compliance officer (CCO) the company should have reconsidered it on receipt of the award. This included revisiting its view of the relevant law and applying it consistently to ensure it complied with its pubs code duties. Star Pubs & Bars was also instructed to confirm the steps taken to ensure and verify its compliance and mitigate any impact on tenants. Star Pubs & Bars’ CCO confirmed the company had changed its position and would no longer identify RPIs as pubs code rent assessments or reviews, and would be open about this to its tenants, including those in all ongoing arbitration cases. Star Pubs & Bars will inform tenants of the change on their publican channel shortly and business development managers continue to be updated as appropriate.
German Doner Kebab to open Blackburn site next month: German Doner Kebab (GDK), the flagship concept of Hero Brands, will open a site in Blackburn next month. The company is converting the former Maida Restaurant premises in Eanam for its latest outlet – its 56th in the UK. The 100-seat restaurant is set to employ up to 20 staff and has been renovated at a cost of £500,000. It is set to offer delivery and collection from Friday, 26 March under covid-19 restrictions. Daniel Bunce, GDK managing director for UK and Europe, told the Lancashire Telegraph: “Our game-changing kebabs are revolutionising the kebab in the UK and we are excited to be bringing a new fast-casual experience to the area, offering great tasting fresh food in a relaxed and modern setting.”
Seasoned restaurant operator opens Cincinnati Chilibomb in east London:Experienced restaurant operator Tim Brice, who has run businesses such as Kensington Place, River Cafe and Jo Allen, has opened Cincinnati Chilibomb in Shoreditch. The restaurant, which opened for deliveries on Thursday (18 February), serves meat and vegan chilli-filled brioche buns that are topped with cheese, onions and sauces made in-store. It also serves chilli-filled syringes with varying degrees of heat that can be squirted into the buns. Sides include corn ribs, French bean fries, maple barbecue white beans and sweet potato fries. American-style pies are available as desserts. Drinks include floats, hard shakes and smoothies. Brice, who lived in Cincinnati when he was a child, has taken the site that was home to Emile in Curtain Road.
The Clink to expand chef training programme to 70 more prison kitchens: The Clink, the charity that aims to reduce reoffending by training and qualifying prisoners for employment as chefs on release, is to extend the programme to a further 70 prison kitchens. Over the next three years, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and The Clink have agreed to extend their training programme, which currently operates in High Down, Cardiff, Brixton and Styal prisons. Following successful pilots, training will continue at Bristol and Styal and from the end of April they will be joined by Eastwood Park, Send and Downview with a steady further rollout, creating opportunities to help as many as 2,000 offenders into employment. The Clink’s training scheme is proven to significantly cut rates of reoffending, with prisoners 32% less likely to go on to commit further crimes compared with those who did not receive training. The training sees serving prisoners work in professionally-run kitchens for up to 35 hours a week, preparing and cooking up to 80,000 daily meals for fellow prisoners. Trainees will work towards gaining City and Guilds National Vocational Qualification levels one, two and three, while improving their confidence, team work and communication skills. The Clink Charity chairman Finlay T K Scott said: “Reducing crime and improving all of our lives is at the heart of what The Clink does. This latest initiative in partnership with HMPPS underlines the tremendous impact The Clink programme has had over the past ten years. We will build upon the success of our innovative integrated programme and roll it out across the prison estate. This platform will dramatically increase the number of students we are able to rehabilitate with the subsequent impact upon reoffending figures.”
Ex-BBC chief brings Devon golf club into his Vine Hotels portfolio: Former BBC boss Greg Dyke has brought a Devon golf club into his Vine Hotels group. Dyke was already a majority shareholder in Best Western The Dartmouth Hotel, Golf and Spa resort. The Devon business joins a growing portfolio of hotels and venues at Vine Hotels under a management contract. Vine Hotels already operates five properties in Sheffield, the Best Western Cresta Court hotel, in Altrincham, The Charlecote Pheasant, in Stratford, and the Mercure Dolphin Southampton Centre hotel. Vine Hotels chief executive Garin Davies said: “The Dartmouth Hotel is an exceptional property with immense potential. The UK staycation market has been an important sector for the hotel, and I believe with the investment of our sales and marketing support, the property will be in a prime position to further capitalise on this next year. We recognise the immediate limitation for all hoteliers on live events business, but with a long-term perspective for this hotel, we see potential to grow this market in 2021-22.”
Team behind French wine shop and deli open second north London site: The team behind French wine shop and deli, Authentique Epicerie & Bar, has opened a second site in north London. The French Market in High Road, Whetstone, combines a bakery along with a selection of food and wine, reports Hot Dinners. Running the bakery is head baker Mathieu Lagrange, who trained at Boulangerie Pascalis in Bourg de Péage and Boulangerie Pâtisserie Messerlin. On offer includes brioche with a chocolate melting heart and an N20 fruit and nut bread alongside French baguettes. Yuri Gualeni, who used to be head sommelier at the Mandarin Oriental in London and also worked at Clos Maggiore and Coya, is running the wine and deli side of the operation. Authentique Epicerie & Bar launched three years ago in Tufnell Park.