Tossed founder – Vital Ingredient acquisition gives us chance to get under bonnet of our closest competitor, targets 50-strong estate by end of 2019: Vincent McKevitt, founder of healthy eating brand Tossed, has told Propel its acquisition of Vital Ingredient had given it the chance to “get under the bonnet” of its closest competitor. McKevitt said he would spend the next six months bedding Vital Ingredient into the business while keeping an open mind on whether the two brands would remain separate. He said: “It would be arrogant to go in and turn them all into Tossed. We will spend time learning and looking at the brand. It’s effectively a chance to get under the bonnet of your closest competitor – imagine having all that data and information about a rival company.” Explaining the reasons behind the acquisition, McKevitt said: “Strategically the deal made sense – our core product offer is very similar. We’ve done a lot of work in terms of technology and hot food – we’ve gone cashless and we’re trying to go paperless – while Vital has some great locations across London.” The acquisition of Vital Ingredient has taken Tossed’s portfolio to 38 sites – nine franchised – and McKevitt said he hoped to hit the 50 mark by the end of next year. Its next venue will open in Horseferry Road in Westminster this month. McKevitt said he was looking at adding a “handful” of sites at the back end of the year but for now the focus would be on Vital Ingredient. He added: “We want to grow the business. For me, it’s the perfect time for us to do so because sites are becoming available so there are certainly opportunities there if you have the right offer. I don’t see us doing further group acquisitions – Vital was the one we could do and I don’t think there is anyone else really in that market. We will continue to expand by opening more franchise and company-owned sites.” McKevitt said trading in 2018 had been good until the recent snow that blanketed the country. He added: “We have a really strong hot food offering but we still got hit as fewer people were venturing out.”

South east London-based pub company Fest & Revel to take on third site next week, in Kent: Growing south east London-based pub company Fest & Revel is to take on its third site next week, in Kent. The company, which is led by Vin Read and operates Tanyard Lane in Bexley and Kelsey House Bar & Kitchen in Beckenham, will take a lease on The Guinea in Tunbridge Wells on Monday (12 March). Earlier this week, Propel learned Read will also take on a GC Mallen-owned site in New Eltham that will see a former Greek restaurant transformed into Pope Street Bar & Kitchen for Fest & Revel’s fourth site. Regarding the Tunbridge Wells launch, Read told Propel: “We are very excited to take on a more traditional pub. It’s in an outstanding location with plenty of potential and we look forward to bringing our style and culture to The Guinea.” He added: “Our offering is based around cocktails, craft beer and street food but we encourage our chefs to add their own individuality. A large selection of classic and modern cocktails feature on our drinks menu along with craft beer on draught from the likes of Beavertown, Tiny Rebel and Wild Beer Co. We try to create a reason to visit, be that coffee and brunch during the day, cocktails and sharing plates in the evening or just a burger and a few beers. Trading is going well at present – both our sites had strong festive periods and have continued to trade well in 2018.”

Middle Eastern restaurant and lounge group Caramel to open first UK site, in Knightsbridge this month: Middle Eastern restaurant and lounge group Caramel is to open its first site outside the region at the end of this month, in Knightsbridge, west London. The 120-cover Caramel London will open in Brompton Road offering a variety of “internationally inspired food and drink”. Chef Sunil Vaz’s signature menu will be available for lunch and dinner, with dishes including TNT shrimp, beef sliders and lobster tempura. Focusing on “flexible dining”, the dishes will be ideal for sharing or a three or four-course meal. Breakfast will include the chicken sweet potato hash, while brunch will include Chinese chicken salad and honey. Afternoon tea will include finger sandwiches, while the drinks list will include cocktails and spirits chosen by mixologist Bryan Pietersen. Caramel Group founder and owner Mohammed Al Hashimi said: “The Caramel restaurant and lounge concept has proved overwhelmingly popular internationally and I’m confident the stylish and upmarket brand will fit in very well in Knightsbridge. Each site is unique and we tailor them to their locations. At the London site, for example, we’ve added afternoon tea.” Caramel was launched in Dubai, expanding to Muscat, and Abu Dhabi. The London site will be the fourth Caramel lounge.

Northern Monk Brew Co passes £1m mark in crowdfunding campaign as it raises double initial target: Northern Monk Brew Co has passed the £1m mark in its fundraise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube – double its initial target. The Leeds-based company, owned by Russ Bisset, was offering a 4.76% equity stake as it looked to raise £500,000 to triple capacity, install a new packaging line and fast-track plans for additional taprooms. Northern Monk Brew Co hit that target within three hours of the campaign’s launch and has now raised more than £1m, which the company said would allow it to open further taprooms or a London brewpub. So far, 1,616 investors have pledged £1,054,320 and the campaign is now “overfunding” with 23 days remaining. Northern Monk Brew Co began life in a parent’s cellar in 2013 with just £5,000. In 2014, the company renovated The Old Flax store and, with three full-time staff members and three brewing vessels, began making beer in its new home. The business now has 30 staff, sells its beer to 22 countries (including the US, New Zealand and Japan), effectively doubled turnover each year for the past three years, and is set to brew more than three million pints in 2018. The pitch states: “In 2013 we set out to make some of the best beer in the world with just £5,000. In 2014, we launched our own brewery. In the four years since, we’ve been rated one of the world’s top 100 breweries, we’ve sold beer to 22 countries across the world and we’re hoping for turnover of £4m by the end of this financial year.” The company has been profitable for the past two years and in its last financial year reported Ebitda of £255,809.

Four-strong hotel operators to launch Chelsea neighbourhood restaurant: The team behind the Chewton Glen, Lygon Arms, Cliveden and 11 Cadogan Gardens hotels is to launch a neighbourhood restaurant, Hans’ Bar & Grill, in Chelsea. The venue will open in Pavilion Road this spring as part of 11 Cadogan Gardens offering an all-day seasonal menu rooted in British produce by head chef Adam England, formerly of D&D London’s Le Pont de la Tour. Dishes will include confit salmon with goat’s curd cheese and cucumber, and England’s own take on veal carpaccio. The 106-cover restaurant has been named after Hans Sloane, credited with bringing cocoa to the UK, so chocolate desserts and hot chocolate drinks will also take centre stage. A breakfast and brunch menu will be available daily from 7am to noon. There will also be a 20-seat bar and 16-cover private dining room called The Curio. General manager Simon Smith, formerly of Hakkasan, will oversee the wine list alongside classic cocktails. England said: “We are thrilled to be joining the Pavilion Road family and proud of the heritage our location inspires.” Sister hotels Chewton Glen and Cliveden are in the New Forest and near Heathrow respectively. The Lygon Arms is a Cotswolds luxury coaching inn.

Breddos Tacos team launches Californian street food concept at Street Feast site, second venue to open in April: Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney, who have grown Mexican concept Breddos Tacos in a joint venture with Gleneagles owner Ennismore, have launched Californian street food concept Pocho at Street Feast’s Giant Robot in Canary Wharf. A second site will open next month at a second space operated by Street Feast – Dinerama in Shoreditch. Pocho offers a mix of southern Californian sliders, tacos and tostadas. Tacos include beef brisket barbacoa and Californian fried chicken, while tostadas include beetroot poké with miso, meyer lemon, queso fresco, mint and pecan nuts. The slider menu features a jalapeño cheeseburger, while sides include Pocho fries with cheese sauce, Hot Dinners reports. Last month, Breddos Tacos opened a site at Incipio Group’s Feast Canteen in Hammersmith and another at crazy golf concept Swingers’ new site off Oxford Street. They join the other Breddos Tacos sites in Clerkenwell and Soho. Dudhia and Whitney began Breddos Tacos as a “makeshift taco shack” in a Hackney car park in 2011. Street Feast is operated by London Union.

Hotel Cafe Royal secures £165m loan: Hotel Cafe Royal, a 150-year-old five-star hotel in Soho, is getting a £165m boost from real estate investment company Barings Real Estate. The seven-year, fixed-rate loan will be used by Hotel Cafe Royal to refinance its existing debt. Chris Bates, head of real estate core mortgage Europe at Baring, told City AM: “This is a rare opportunity to provide financing for one of London’s most iconic hotels, which attracts growing numbers of tourists from across the globe.” The loan has a 47% loan-to-value proportion and is secured against the 159 rooms in the hotel as well as 16,000 square feet of retail space on the building’s ground floor. Lotus, Nespresso and Wolford currently occupy the building’s spaces along Regent Street. Bates said the company’s debt financing of Hotel Cafe Royal was part of Barons’ ongoing plan to pursue “alternative sectors” in the UK’s real estate market. The company’s portfolio diversification within the past year ventures into sectors ranging from development financing to student housing. Barons also manages the assets of luxury hotels in large cities including Boston, Chicago and Hong Kong.

Stonegate Pub Company to open second and third sites for The Liquorist concept, Walkabout to launch in Leeds: Stonegate Pub Company is to launch second and third sites for its The Liquorist concept, in Chelmsford and Portsmouth. The Chelmsford venue will open at a former Missoula site in Springfield Road on Sunday (11 March) offering cocktails, live music and artisan pizza following a £375,000 investment and creating 50 jobs. Portsmouth’s The Liquorist will open at the Gunwharf Keys harbourside development at a former Bar 38 site on Saturday, 17 March following an investment of more than £500,000. Stonegate launched The Liquorist in Leeds in 2015 after converting one of 13 Living Room sites it acquired from PBR Leisure in August 2013. The concept offers 30 cocktails, including nitro draught options, and an extensive range of rum, with regular rum-tasting nights, masterclasses and a “rum roulette wheel” on the bar where customers can spin a selection of rum and mixers to create a bespoke drink. The venues will host live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights followed by a DJ until late. The food menu offers small sharing plates, artisan pizza and burgers. A Stonegate spokesman said: “We’ve taken inspiration from hot new venues we found in Manchester, Leeds and London to create something unique and special.” Meanwhile, Stonegate will open a site for its Walkabout brand in Leeds on Friday (10 March). The former Yates’s venue will reopen in Woodhouse Lane following a £600,000 investment offering two bars, booths, four pool tables, large high-definition screens and tiered stadium seating for “watching sport in style”.

Wok to Walk eyes Reading for 11th site: Fast food chain Wok to Walk has submitted plans to open a venue in Reading town centre for its 11th site. The company hopes to open a restaurant at a former Krispy Kreme store at The Oracle’s riverside after the doughnut chain moved to a stand by the Broad Street entrance of the shopping centre. Wok to Walk offers rice and noodle bases cooked with a choice of meat, fish and vegetables, with a selection of sauces stirred through. Options include udon noodles with shrimp, bamboo shoots and oyster sauce or brown rice with tofu, broccoli and Asian hot sauce. Wok to Walk has submitted a planning application to Reading Borough Council to replace the shopfront of the store with a contemporary glass design, which would allow people to watch chefs at work, Get Reading reports. Earlier this year, franchisee Starboard Dining, part of Starboard Group, announced it would open the tenth UK Wok to Walk site, in Birmingham in March. Wok to Walk opened its first restaurant in Amsterdam in 2004 and the franchise group now has more than 70 outlets around the world.

Butcombe to open first Dorset pub this month: Butcombe Brewery, part of Liberation Group, will reopen The Castle Inn, near Lulworth Cove, this month – its first site in Dorset. The company, which acquired the site in October, will relaunch the pub on Wednesday, 28 March following a three-month refurbishment. The Castle Inn’s history has been retained where possible, with nods to the building’s traditional architecture and original design elements evident throughout the bar, extended dining room and bedrooms. It will feature 12 bedrooms while the new-look restaurant will have a daily-changing market menu focusing on grilled and seafood dishes that showcase a host of local produce sourced from within 30 miles. Jayson Perfect, managing director at Butcombe Pubs and Inns, said: “The Castle Inn is an incredibly special property close to the hearts of locals and frequent visitors to this beautiful corner of Dorset’s coastline so we knew the renovation had to preserve the distinct character of the property and do its heritage justice. We can’t wait to open its doors and show everyone what we’ve been working so hard to create.” Butcombe operates almost 50 pubs in the West Country.

Abokado reveals women make up 73% of workforce with 62% in senior roles: Healthy eating chain Abokado, which is backed by Kings Park Capital, has revealed women make up 73% of its workforce – with 62% in senior roles. The company employs 150 women compared with 55 men. Last month, Abokado appointed Kara Alderin, former head of operations at London brewer and retailer Fuller’s, as its new operations director. Abokado chief executive Mark Lilley said: “We have always welcomed individuals with passion, commitment and team spirit into the Abokado family, regardless of gender. In my experience women bring a unique set of skills to the workplace including high emotional intelligence, intuition and empathy.” Lilley founded the company in 2004 with wife Lindsay.

Signature Living secures £2m peer-to-peer funding: Aparthotel developer and operator Signature Living has secured £2m in funding from peer-to-peer lender Assetz Capital. The company has completed the deal to refinance its Signature Hotel business from a bridging lender. The property now housing the 115-capacity Signature Hotel in Stanley Street was built in 1884 and served as a print works until 1965. It underwent a £5m restoration in 2012 to become Signature Hotel. Signature Living managing director David Marsh told BDaily: “Over the years we have developed a unique funding model that has helped us to become one of the fastest-growing hoteliers in the UK market. We’ve had previous experience with crowdfunding but by dealing with peer-to-peer we could remove investors and come up with a long-term finance solution that would allow us to utilise cash in other areas of the business.” Signature Living is the largest aparthotel operator in Liverpool. The group has £300m of hotel, leisure and development projects in the pipeline for the next three years, including the Dixie Dean Hotel in Liverpool and sites in Cardiff and Northern Ireland.

Wadworth launches accommodation web page following 33% increase in rooms within managed estate: Brewer and retailer Wadworth has introduced an accommodation web page on its website dedicated to pubs with rooms after increasing the number of rooms in its managed estate by 33% during the past two years. The company offers 278 rooms across 23 managed pubs. Including acquisitions of pubs with rooms, Wadworth has invested £9m on accommodation during the past two years. Wadworth operations director for managed houses Rupert Bagnall said: “We are increasingly seeing more people wanting to stay in pubs rather than chain hotels or more formal hotel accommodation. With our investment programme including acquisitions over the past three years, we have developed a great selection of premium-quality rooms with the added bonus of the informality and warm welcome you get in a great pub. Now customers can find rooms quickly with the new web page. We have 33% more rooms in our managed house estate than we had two years ago. We see rooms as a real opportunity for our business. It’s about creating high-quality rooms in an informal environment but providing customers with a really great pub experience.”

Cosmo closes Coventry site with franchisee blaming tough trading conditions: All-you-can-eat brand Cosmo has closed its site in Coventry with the franchisee blaming “tough trading conditions”. The site in Corporation Street was run under franchise by Allas Management and it confirmed the licence has reverted back to Cosmo, reports the Coventry Telegraph. Allas said on its Facebook page: “The well documented pressures on our industry and tough trading conditions mean we have taken this difficult decision to close this restaurant.” Cosmo opened its first site in 2003 and, according to its website, is “inspired by the best five-star hotels in the world, which bring a choice of fresh food under the same roof and elevate the buffet concept to new levels”. It now operates 20 restaurants across the UK.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall partners with Levy UK to open River Cottage restaurant in Hatfield: Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will open a restaurant in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, this month. Fearnley-Whittingstall will launch River Cottage Kitchen and Deli at Hatfield House in partnership with Levy UK. Work is under way in the former Coach House Restaurant to complete the transformation in time for Saturday, 31 March – the start of the 2018 season at Hatfield House. Levy UK, the official catering partner at Hatfield House, has worked in partnership with River Cottage to create the restaurant and menus, which celebrate regional produce and seasonal cuisine. Fearnley-Whittingstall told the Hatfield Times: “We are delighted to be bringing River Cottage to the historic Hatfield House and it’s been a pleasure to develop our River Cottage menus. Nick Moorhouse, operations director at Hatfield House, added: “The team at River Cottage shares our ethos of bringing local, fresh and seasonal produce from the farm to the plate and we are thrilled to be able to share this with guests visiting Hatfield House.” Last month, Fearnley-Whittingstall opened a restaurant in partnership with Levy UK at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire.

Conviviality expects full-year Ebitda to be 20% below market expectations: Conviviality, the UK alcohol wholesaler serving consumers through the on-trade and its franchise retail estate, has reported it expected adjusted Ebitda for the year ending 29 April 2018 to be 20% below market expectations. The company said the previous guidance for net debt of about £150m for the period remained unchanged. It stated: “The change in current expectations reflect two main influences. Firstly, a material error in the financial forecasts of the Conviviality Direct business, which means the Ebitda for the current period will be impacted by about £5.2m. Secondly, while our sales and orders have held up at levels ahead of last year, demonstrating our one-stop-shop model is working, margins in Conviviality Direct have softened across January and February. In the revised guidance the company has assumed a continuation of the margin weakness for the remainder of the current financial year. A number of enhanced controls and disciplines have been introduced to address this and management believes appropriate corrective actions are in place. The company hasn’t seen any material weakness in overall demand and the previously announced cost-saving actions remain fully on track.”

Deltic Group ditches plastic straws: The Deltic Group, the UK’s largest operator of premium late-night bars and clubs with 57 venues across the UK, has removed plastic straws from across its estate as part of a new campaign. The #nostrawsattached campaign will see straws replaced by ones made from PLA, a plant-based plastic that biodegrades in six months and contains 67% less embodied carbon than oil-based PP plastic. The new straws will be disposed of in allocated waste bins that will be rolled out across the estate at the end of this month. Deltic will provide staff with guidelines to ensure straws and other plastic is recycled properly. In addition, all drinks will be served without a straw as standard. The Deltic Group chief executive Peter Marks said: “These changes form part of a broader commitment to run a more environmentally friendly and sustainable operation.”

Oakman opens fourth Beech House, in Amersham: Oakman Inns and Restaurants has opened its fourth Beech House, in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. The company has invested £1.7m to develop the pub and restaurant in Hill Avenue, creating 60 jobs. The 140-cover restaurant features a Mediterranean-inspired menu that includes pizza and grilled fish alongside cocktails and alfresco seating that offers a “pavement cafe feel”. Four copper tanks by the bar hold more than 1,000 pints of tank beer from London’s Meantime Brewery, while a mezzanine floor above the main dining area provides a private room for meetings and parties. General manager James Stanton has joined the venue from The Beech House in Beaconsfield, which was Oakmans’ first venue for the concept. He told The Bucks Herald: “We’ve managed to create a perfect blend of traditional pub comfort with a rich, contemporary feel and, with our wide-ranging all-day food and drinks menus, our offer is unique.” The company operates 20 sites including its three other Beech House venues – in Beaconsfield, Solihull and St Albans.

San Lorenzo operator plans to convert former JD Wetherspoon hotel in Newcastle to hotel: The new operator of former JD Wetherspoon pub The Union Rooms in Newcastle plans to turn the bar into a hotel. The venue in Westgate Road, which is in a listed building, is to be taken over by Lorenzo NE, which also operates San Lorenzo restaurants in Gosforth and Washington. The pub belonged to Wetherspoon until last year, when Durham businessman Andrew Ward purchased the property. Lorenzo NE, which is led by Stuart Young, has taken on the site after problems with the previous operator. Young, who is also head of operations at Northumberland Pub Company, plans to turn the upper floors of the Union Rooms into accommodation to capitalise on redevelopment work around Central Station. He told Chronicle Live: “It will be aimed at the budget boutique market. We estimate the renovation is going to cost in the region of £1m.” Lorenzo NE employs 60 staff and will add another 40 with the takeover of the Union Rooms and a further 20 when the renovation is complete.

Hostel operator Safestay acquires third Barcelona site in €3m deal: London-headquartered hostel operator Safestay has acquired its third site in Barcelona. The company has bought Barcelona Centric from Equity Point Hostels for €3m (£2.7m). The hostel in Passeig de Gràcia has 340 beds, taking its total in the city to 594. The property is held on a lease for a total of 15 years, three years fixed, followed by tenant-only options to extend. The consideration for the acquisition is €3.0m, which will be satisfied from the group’s existing cash resources with an initial payment of €0.7m and then four payments of €0.575m spread over the next four years. For the financial year ended 31 December 2017, the hostel generated sales of €2.4m and Ebitda of €574,000. As a result, the group’s hostel portfolio now consists of ten operating hostels with 2,646 beds, plus a development site in Paris and 34 apartments in Madrid under construction. Safestay chairman Larry Lipman said: “We know the Barcelona market well and we know there is high demand for our premium hostel offer. We are therefore fully confident of integrating this new site into the group and using it to expand our presence in what is a very popular city. Our European acquisitions last year in this city and in Prague, Lisbon and Madrid are all performing well. Importantly, we have in place the operational strength to support a much larger business across multiple geographies and we look forward to making further significant progress in 2018.”