Bird fourth quarter turnover tops £1m: London-based free-range British fried chicken concept Bird has reported turnover in the fourth quarter of 2016 topped £1m – nearly double that of the previous year. The company said the figure was boosted by strong performance across the business and, in particular, its opening at Westfield Stratford City in September. Bird’s restaurants in Shoreditch, Islington and Camden posted like-for-like sales increases of 30.7% in December and 5.7% in January, while trading at Westfield Stratford City continued to exceed expectations. Profitability across the business has increased dramatically, with significant growth in restaurant level Ebitda in the second half of 2016. Paul Hemings, who founded the business with wife Cara Ceppetelli, told Propel: “London is becoming more accepting of quality fried chicken as a legitimate choice for a meal out. Interest in fried chicken and waffles in particular has grown massively in 2016 and we see that continuing. However, there’s still a lot of work to be done on changing perceptions.” Bird said it served more than 6,000 portions of fried chicken and waffles, and its chicken and waffle burger in December. In preparation for spring and summer, Bird will launch a new menu in late February, which will include a new range of “not fried chicken” items, focusing on lighter dishes to balance out its menu of deep-fried favourites. The group will also roll out an expanded cocktail and desserts offering next month. Hemings said he is happy with the progress of the business and remains optimistic about the outlook for 2017 and beyond. He added: “We’ve got a great team and, for now, we are totally focused on improving the customer experience as much as we can through service, quality and more innovation. We’re excited about new opportunities.”

PizzaExpress launches reservation chatbot: PizzaExpress has launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot that allows people to book a table up front in a bid to make a “real impact on how customers interact with the brand”. The bot allows consumers to choose a restaurant and book a table in 90 seconds and uses live data to analyse timings and table availability. It follows on from the restaurant brand’s Christmas activity, which allowed diners to scan a code using their smartphones to gain access to its “Shake The Tree” game on Messenger. Through the game, customers were given the chance to win prizes including free pizzas and dough balls. PizzaExpress said the bot proved hugely popular, attracting more than 150,000 entrants to the game. Senior social media manager Tim Love told Marketing Week: “We were taken aback by how many people interacted with it, as Messenger bots weren’t around 12 months ago. We worked for a good couple of months to get the customer journey right and make it as easy as possible. A lot of people are already on the Messenger platform. It felt right to develop something that was always on, and secondly a step on from gamification.” The brand is now looking to further optimise the bot by analysing where consumers are switching off or stopping their journeys. Love added: “We see it as just the beginning. For example, if someone wants to visit us at lunchtime they can go on to the bot and see what’s on offer. We definitely don’t see it as a fad and the longer Messenger is available for brands, the more comfortable people will be with the process.”

Wright Brothers reveal further details about Battersea Power Station opening: Wright Brothers, the oyster specialist and seafood wholesaler, has revealed further details about its new site at Battersea Power Station in south London. The company is opening its fifth restaurant this summer at the site, which is undergoing a £9bn regeneration. The 150-cover restaurant will feature an open theatre-style kitchen complete with Josper charcoal oven, marble tables, an oyster display bar, and bespoke leather banquette seating. There will also be a private dining room for up to 24 people and an outdoor riverside terrace with views of the power station. Wright Brothers Battersea will follow the group’s “sea to plate” ethos, offering high-quality sustainable seafood and shellfish. The menu will feature new additions alongside firm favourites such as fruits de mer, Isle of Lewis langoustine, grilled prawns, and roast crab. Co-owners Ben Wright and Robin Hancock said: “We’re incredibly excited to be opening a new restaurant right next to the iconic grade II-listed power station. It makes us proud our wholesale business now supplies more than 250 top restaurants with seafood, and to open our fifth restaurant south of the river.” Since founding their seafood wholesale business in 2002 and launching their first restaurant at Borough Market in 2005, Wright and Hancock have opened further venues in Soho, Spitalfields and South Kensington. The wholesale side of the business is moving from Borough Market to Billingsgate this month to aid expansion of its operation across London.

London-based bar operator Tony Conigliaro opens third site, in Hackney: London-based bar operator Tony Conigliaro has opened his third site in the capital, this time in Hackney. Conigliaro has launched Untitled in Kingsland Road with new business partner Zoe Burgess. Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory, Conigliaro’s new venue features 12 cocktails, a creative food menu, art exhibitions and design collaborations with like-minded local artists. It features silver walls and a large sharing table for up to 20 diners. Conigliaro opened his first bar, 69 Colebrooke Row, in Islington in 2009 and the second – Bar Termini – in Soho in 2015. He is also head of drinks consultancy Drink Factory, founded in Pink Floyd’s former recording studio and now based in London Fields.

Cannon & Cannon opens first permanent site for cured meat bar concept: London-based charcuterie retailer and distributor Cannon & Cannon has opened a cured meat bar, bottle shop and deli. The company has launched a permanent site for Nape in Camberwell after the concept started out as a pop-up at the end of last year. The 45-cover ground-floor venue features a mix of booths, bar stools and standing areas, while downstairs there is a tasting room that also doubles up as a private dining space and a venue for regular meat, wine and beer events. The menu includes platters of Hackney-made fennel and cubeb pepper salami and Gloucester Old Spot loin as well as sausage sandwiches and toasties. There are also salads, Vadasz pickles, and artisan breads from Bread Ahead. The Nape website states: “Pretty much everything you eat and drink at the bar is available at retail prices to take away. It’s simple, unfussy but satisfying stuff. We’re here to celebrate and promote the amazing cured meats that exist in Britain and to be an unpretentious, accessible and fun neighbourhood bar and deli.”

Spain-based Greek restaurant brand Dionisos to open first UK site, in Manchester next week: Greek restaurant brand Dionisos is set to open its first UK venue next week, in Manchester. The restaurant will open on the site of former cocktail bar MCR42 on the corner of Chorlton Street and Richmond Street in the Gay Village. Dionisos was founded by Ioannis Golias, who launched his first restaurant in Barcelona in 1993 with further sites opening in Madrid, Valencia and Mallorca. The menu will feature authentic Greek ingredients in dishes such as souvlaki wrapped in pitta bread with fresh tomato, onion and tzatziki. Dionisos will also specialise in platters of traditional Greek sweets, pastries and desserts, while there will be a more casual dining option for breakfast, lunch or for those in a rush. Some dishes will be available to take away and there are also plans to set up a delivery service, Manchester Confidential reports. The venue has been transformed into a modern taverna with classic blue and white tiles, whitewashed brickwork and wooden chairs. Drinks will include house beer, local wine, ouzo and retsina. Manchester’s Dionisos will be run by father and daughter Pana and Valentina Chatiras. They have applied for a late-night licence for the sizeable basement.

Living Ventures takes Gusto to East Midlands: Gusto, the Italian restaurant brand operated by Living Ventures, has opened a site in Nottingham, its first in East Midlands. The venue has launched in the city’s West Bridgford suburb following a £1m refurbishment, creating 50 jobs. The 106-cover restaurant has a further 36 seats in a new conservatory, 22 in the bar, and space for an additional 30 covers on an outside terrace. Gusto managing director Sue Crimes said: “We plan to open three new sites this year, with West Bridgford the first. We believe the success of our restaurants is down to excellent staff training, freshly prepared food, and great atmosphere. We also have a lot of loyalty from our customer base thanks to our partnerships with local businesses and organisations and our exclusive Dining Club membership scheme.” Gusto was launched in 2005 and private investment in 2014 has led to rapid expansion of the brand. It currently has 16 restaurants in the UK.

D&D London appoints Kim Woodward as Skylon executive chef: D&D London has appointed Kim Woodward as executive chef of Skylon, its modern European restaurant on London’s South Bank. She will take up her post at the end of February. Woodward moved to the US aged 18 to start a culinary internship, which led to her spending more than five years at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri. After returning to the UK she joined Gordon Ramsay Restaurants, starting out as junior sous chef at Boxwood Café. Subsequent appointments included roles at Gordon Ramsay Plane Food and York & Albany. In 2015 she was named the first female head chef in Savoy Grill’s 126-year history. She said: “Skylon is a beautiful restaurant overlooking the Thames. I couldn’t help but take a shine to this exciting venue! D&D London is one of the UK’s most progressive hospitality businesses and I look forward to this next phase in my career.” D&D London co-founder David Loewi added: “We are delighted to welcome Kim to Skylon as she’s undeniably one of London’s most acclaimed chefs. Skylon is a very special site for us as it was the first restaurant D&D London opened after the business was founded in 2006. We are looking forward to seeing Kim implement her plans for the restaurant.”

Leon to raise curtain on all-singing West End restaurant next week: Natural fast food brand Leon will open its all-singing restaurant in the West End on Monday (13 February). The venue in London’s iconic Shaftesbury Avenue will feature the full Leon menu but with staff singing for customers. The 40-strong team from across the UK were cast after impressing a panel of professionals – Helen George (Call the Midwife), Alexander Armstrong (Armstrong and Miller), Anna Shaffer (Harry Potter) and Jay Aston (Bucks Fizz). The cast comprises drama and musical theatre students (past and present) and others with no formal training. Customers can expect a live track after every two to three songs on the restaurant’s soundtrack. Each member of staff also carries out normal restaurant duties. Leon will also give team members professional vocal training, quarterly masterclasses to prepare for auditions and time off to attend them. The decor reflects its Theatre Land surroundings, with a red carpet leading to the counter and a lift redesigned as a Royal Box. Leon co-founder John Vincent, who was also on the audition panel, said: “In just six weeks we auditioned, hired and trained a team who can both prepare the full range of Leon’s menu and belt out a show tune or pop classic in between. I’ve watched them perform individually and as an ensemble – and they gave me goose bumps.”

Gordon Ramsay wins second Michelin star for French restaurant: Le Pressoir d’Argent Gordon Ramsay has been awarded its second Michelin star, 17 months after opening. The restaurant is on the first floor of the five-star InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hôtel in Bordeaux. Ramsay said: “I am so proud of the incredible team in Bordeaux. To win our second star after just 17 months, after gaining our first star in our first few months, is truly an honour and testament to the loyalty and dedication of the team and chef de cuisine Gilad Peled. France is home to some of the best produce and wines in the world but also championing produce from the British Isles such as venison from the Scottish countryside and sparkling wines from Kent is what has made this restaurant exceptional. A big bravo to the team at Intercontinental Bordeaux.” The group has 32 restaurants globally, including four in France and others in Europe, the US, the Middle East and Asia, with six Michelin stars in total.

Fireworks, Ice Cream and Desserts concept to open first of three north west restaurants, in Altrincham: A new desserts-only concept, Fireworks, Ice Cream and Desserts, is set to open the first of three restaurants it is launching in the north west. The 140-cover restaurant will open next week in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, offering its own-recipe ice cream with 37 flavours, including sorbets and vegan options, alongside megashakes, freak cones, waffles, pancakes and macaroons. Other items on the menu will include cakes, flora tea, coffee and organic Luscombe Drinks, Manchester Evening News reports. Fireworks, Ice Cream and Desserts has taken over a unit next door to Altrincham Vue Cinema in Denmark Street that was previously occupied by Chiquito, the Tex-Mex brand owned by The Restaurant Group. The company’s founders told Altrincham Today they were launching the offering to “suit a nation that has been inspired by dessert-focused TV shows”. They added that they had already secured two further sites in the north west for openings as they looked to expand across the country.

Indian street food and cocktail bar concept Zindiya opens in Birmingham: Indian street food and cocktail bar concept Zindiya has opened in Birmingham. The 90-cover restaurant in Woodbridge Road, Moseley, is at the former site of Luker’s bakery. It offers an all-day menu, including afternoon tea and a range of small plates designed to share. Wine, beer and spirits have been chosen to complement the Indian flavours. The interiors of the self-styled “streatery” have been designed to resemble a bustling and colourful Indian street. Zindiya is a concept by Shivani and Ajay Kenth, with the name deriving from a combination of the Indian word for life and the owners’ daughter Diya. The Kenths told the Birmingham Mail: “There are already a number of old-fashioned curry houses but Zindiya is completely different to anything Moseley has seen before. We are bringing Indian flavours and dishes to the restaurant served almost as a tapas concept so people can share and enjoy a wide range of different dishes with their friends. Moseley is a unique place and we want to be part of that, bringing back the ethos that has made the area so desirable and vibrant.”

Shrewsbury-based multi-site operator opens American-style diner in town: Shrewsbury-based multi-site operator Sam Taylor has opened an American-style diner in the Shropshire town. Taylor has teamed up with Ryan King and Sophie Gwilliam to launch Biggies Diner in the district of Frankwell, creating 30 jobs. The venue, which occupies the former Silverton Hotel, offers a menu of traditional US favourites and also features seven boutique hotel rooms and an upmarket sports bar with six screens. Drinks include cocktails, milkshakes and sodas. Gwilliam told Shropshire Live: “We’re really excited by Biggies and, having visited America many times, most recently to do our research in New York, we’ve brought together the idea of diners and sports bars with our knowledge of moreish American food.” Taylor owns Shrewsbury venues The Libertine Cocktail Bar and House of the Rising Sun, while King and Gwilliam have been seeking a new challenge since selling barbecue restaurant Smoke Stop.

Admiral Taverns’ Holly Bush pub in Stafford wins Les Routiers Inn of the Year 2017: Admiral Taverns’ The Holly Bush Inn in Salt, Staffordshire, has been named Les Routiers Inn of the Year 2017. The pub was chosen ahead of hundreds of others based on performance, customer feedback, reviews and recommendations. The Holly Bush Inn is thought to be the second oldest licensed pub in the UK, with origins claimed to reach as far back as 1190. Geoff Holland, landlord of The Holly Bush Inn for more than 20 years, said: “We are dedicated to providing high-quality, locally sourced and homemade meals in a relaxed friendly environment while offering excellent customer service and value for money.” Admiral Taverns business development manager Alan Hurt added: “The Holly Bush Inn is a charming pub, which serves fantastic food and has a fine selection of traditional ales and great wines. We are delighted for Geoff and his team that they have won this prestigious accolade. This award is down to all their hard work and dedication.”

Center Parcs finance director to step down: Holiday park operator Center Parcs has said finance director Paul Inglett is stepping down. The company said Inglett has decided to take a career break to spend more time with his family after seven years with the group. He will remain with the group for the next six months to ensure an orderly handover to his successor. Center Parcs said the process to recruit his successor was under way and it would make an announcement in the near future. Chief executive Martin Dalby told The Business Desk: “As finance director, Paul has overseen a period of strong financial results and played a major role in delivering some very complex projects, such as the refinancing of our entire business, securing the necessary funding for Woburn Forest and, most recently, the sale of the business by Blackstone to Brookfield. Paul has made a massive contribution to the Center Parcs business and we wish him well for the future.”

Southport-based artisan gin and coffee bar starts expansion with second site: Southport-based artisan gin and coffee bar Remedy has started expansion by opening a second site, in the nearby village of Churchtown. Sarah Simcock and Susannah Porter, who launched the business in 2015, have opened the new site in Botanic Road. They have combined three empty units into the new venue with backing from the Merseyside Special Investment Fund, reports Insider Media. Remedy opened in the old Tourist Information Centre in Lord Street in July 2015, and the two businesswomen said they felt Churchtown would be an ideal location to recreate their cafe, which serves specialist coffees, homemade cakes and lunches, fine malt whiskeys and artisan gins.

Italian restaurant chain Uno Momento opens third north east venue: Italian restaurant chain Uno Momento has opened its third site in the north east, this time in Middlesbrough. The site in Linthorpe Road formerly housed gourmet burger restaurant The Purple Pig. Uno Momento operates restaurants in Darlington and Stokesley offering a wide range of Italian fare, including pizza, pasta, antipasti and seafood. The Purple Pig closed in July, while the company’s other site in Hull closed in 2015. Camerons Brewery acquired the site and turned it into its ninth Head of Steam pub.

Somerset-based sports bar Vinnies starts expansion by opening second site: Somerset-based sports bar Vinnies has started expansion by opening its second site, in Burnham-on-Sea. The concept, which was launched in Weston-super-Mare, has opened the new venue in The Esplanade on the site of the former Jacks cafe, which closed in 2015. The building has been refurbished to give it a “fresh, modern look”, reports Burnham-on-Sea.com. It features live music every weekend and live sport through the week on big screens located around the bar.

Stonegate reopens Slug and Lettuce site in London’s County Hall following £350,000 revamp: Stonegate Pub Company has reopened its Slug and Lettuce site in London’s County Hall following a £350,000 refurbishment. The venue in Chicheley Street, which holds 440 guests, has been completely revamped and modernised, creating 25 additional jobs. It now has a larger bar and permanently operates over two floors, with a function room available for hire. There is a more extensive cocktail list, while the food menu takes its inspiration from around the globe and features superfood salads, a seafood mixed grill and deli burgers. General manager Peter Huggins said: “Our branch is a staple bar for local businesses and tourists visiting London’s South Bank, and we’re so pleased to reopen with a fresh new look.”

Pizza concept Johnny Dough’s eyes North Wales expansion: Johnny Dough’s owner Morgan Austin is eyeing expansion of his pizza concept across North Wales. Austin opened his first restaurant last year in Upper Mostyn Street, Llandudno, offering wood-fired pizzas with a Welsh twist. An application has been submitted to increase the size of the Llandudno site due to its popularity, while Austin is looking to open venues in Conwy, Bangor and Prestatyn. Agent St David’s Commercial is assisting him in the search for sites. He told the Daily Post: “We have been very busy since opening and that has even continued through January. At the weekend we have been turning dozens of people away because we can’t fit them in. That is why we want to expand the size of the site in Llandudno and I also think this would work in other towns. I hope to bring new restaurants to Bangor and the Prestatyn area, while the plan for Conwy would be for a takeaway site.”