Dirty Martini reports 3.9% increase in like-for-likes in first half of year: Cocktail bar group Dirty Martini, which is owned by CG Restaurants & Bars, has reported like-for-like sales increased 3.9% in the first six months of 2017. Sales in June were up 6.3%, while the company said Christmas bookings were already up 157% on the same time last year. It accredited the rise to already having secured a number of high-value exclusive hires across the venues. Dirty Martini recently revealed plans for £3.25m of further regional investment. It is preparing for further growth and expansion in 2017, with new acquisitions in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham – bringing the Dirty Martini estate to 11. It reported the Cardiff site had exceeded expectations and generated more than 40,000 pre-booked covers since opening in late October. Dirty Martini chief executive Scott Matthews said: “We are encouraged to see such a strong sales uplift for the first half across all sites. The performance across the existing portfolio is a clear signal of the strength of our brand and the commitment of our team.” The bar group currently operates eight sites across the UK in Bishopsgate, Covent Garden, Hanover Square, Islington, Monument, St Paul’s, Minories and Cardiff. Manchester is due to open later in the year, with Leeds and Birmingham also scheduled for late 2017.

Future of craft beer lies in refrigerated supply chain, says Bottle Shop founder: The Bottle Shop founder and managing director Andrew Morgan has told Propel the future of the craft beer sector lies in creating a refrigerated supply chain. Last month, the company raised more than £400,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Morgan said that as the craft beer market starts to saturate, he expects the superior beer quality of a chilled supply chain to offer a point of difference for the retail and wholesale arms of the business. The Bottle Shop supplies bottled beer to operators such as better burger brand Byron and Curzon Cinemas, among others. The majority of money raised on Crowdcube will fund a refrigerated warehouse in London’s Canning Town and a refrigerated distribution hub in Manchester. The investment will also be used to open two further sites in London, with a large share of the £50,000 fit-out budgeted for each site going on installing refrigeration for bottled beer. Morgan said: “For too long the UK market has had iffy versions of great American or Belgian beers. No-one knows how well it has been looked after in the supply chain. Through the crowdfunding we can have an end-to-end refrigerated platform from the US and Europe into the UK, and give our business and retail customers confidence they’re getting an uncompromised product.” Morgan added that The Bottle Shop’s current sales mix varied from venue to venue, with Margate seeing 90% on-trade sales compared with 50/50 in Canterbury and about 60% on-sales in Bermondsey that, like Margate, features beer taps. As well as ten beer taps and more than 100 bottles, Margate Bottle Shop offers draft prosecco, hand-mixed gin and tonic on tap, and cocktails that account for 30% of sales. However, the two new sites will be bottle-led. Customers can also order-in food at all Bottle Shop sites, with Morgan explaining: “In the age of Deliveroo, why would we want to try to compete with a service that can give you anything you want to eat, delivered to the bar?” Morgan opened the first Bottle Shop in Canterbury, Kent, in 2010.

Whitbread to launch fourth Bar + Block, in Bath next month: Whitbread will launch its fourth Bar + Block Steakhouse after the roll-out of three sites in Birmingham, London and Whiteley. The all-day casual brand will open its latest site in James Street West in Bath city centre on Thursday, 28 September. Bar + Block Bath will be a 3,780 square foot, 132-cover informal steakhouse serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, with an emphasis on delivering high-quality steak at affordable prices. Whitbread Restaurants chief marketing officer Nathalie Pomroy said: “We’re very excited to launch our fourth Bar + Block Steakhouse in Bath as part of our wider brand growth strategy. Following the success in Birmingham, London and Whiteley, we are eager to see how our unique offering will be received in the beautiful city of Bath, which is filled with real foodies.”

PizzaExpress enlists stars for new entertainment initiative: PizzaExpress has enlisted a series of stars for its new PizzaExpress Live programme. The company revealed last month it was launching the initiative in a bid to differentiate itself from its competitors. PizzaExpress Live will present more than 2,000 shows each year across a number of venues, including PizzaExpress Jazz Club in Soho, The Pheasantry in Chelsea, the Music Room in Maidstone, and its latest venue, in Birmingham. There are now more than 20 restaurants hosting regular music every Thursday. The company stated: “PizzaExpress Live is made up of a small team of experienced music industry professionals, always seeking to present the highest quality music in intimate venues – all topped off with great pizza!” Stars performing include Martin Kemp, of Spandau Ballet fame, and soul singer Mica Paris. Meanwhile, comedians Johnny Vegas and Harry Hill will be doing stand-up gigs, and there will be talks by Michael Palin and Michael Buerk. PizzaExpress Live is set to run indefinitely, with shows scheduled so far until late December.

Brothers behind Creams British Luxury plan 100 stores in next five years as they roll out franchise scheme: The brothers behind tea room concept Creams British Luxury are rolling out a franchise scheme across the UK, with plans for 100 stores in the next five years. Teyeb and Unzar Aleem launched their first venue in Leeds in 2015, investing £350,000 in the city centre venue. They have opened four stores this year – in Bolton, Derby, Canterbury and Bluewater in Kent – the latter of which opened this week following a £400,000 investment. Further venues are to open in Livingston, Scotland, and in two central London locations later in the year. The Aleems are now targeting further sites. Teyeb Aleem told The Business Desk: “There’s a big gap in the high-street market for a high-quality, high-class tea room aimed at the thousands of aspirational millennials seeking to replicate the sophisticated lifestyles of the celebrities they see on television and online and follow on social media. Creams British Luxury aims to fill this gap and do it in a fashion that ensures young people can savour a taste of the celebrity high life without having to venture outside their local city centre or shopping centre.” To turn their concept into reality, the Aleem brothers have appointed former Cash Converters chief executive and franchise expert Mark Lemmon on a consultative basis. Unzar Aleem added: “Creams British Luxury can do for traditional afternoon tea what Starbucks has done for coffee. We really are that confident.”

Boston Tea Party opens third Birmingham site, 20th in total: All-day casual dining cafe Boston Tea Party has opened its third Birmingham site, with a venue in Edgbaston Village. The company has opened the venue – its 20th in total – in Harborne Road, creating 25 jobs. The building, which also houses a NatWest bank branch and is part of the Calthorpe Estate, has been refurbished into a cafe seating 190 people – 120 indoors and 70 outside. The late-Victorian architecture of the main building and coach house contrasts with contemporary features, such as a new glass frontage and a double-height atrium. Many original features have been retained, while a glazed orangery extension has been added to the rear of the property where the NatWest bank now is. Boston Tea Party owner and managing director Sam Roberts told Insider Media: “Opening our 20th cafe, the third in Birmingham, is a milestone for our business.” Calthorpe Estates director of development Ralph Minott added: “Since our vision to develop the area first began in 2011, Edgbaston Village has grown into a flourishing leisure and lifestyle destination following the opening of a number of exciting restaurants and bars over the past three years. Boston Tea Party’s latest cafe perfectly complements other businesses nearby.” Boston Tea party’s other Birmingham sites are in the city centre and Harborne. It is also due to open a cafe in nearby Solihull in October.

Gascon Connection Restaurants to reopen Michelin-starred Club Gascon under new concept after major refurbishment: Gascon Connection Restaurants has closed its Michelin-starred Club Gascon in London for a major refurbishment, which will see it reopen under a new concept in the autumn. Launched by chef Pascal Aussignac and business partner Vincent Labeyrie in September 1998, Club Gascon is near St Bartholomew-the-Great church in Smithfield. The grade II-listed building formerly housed Lyon’s Tea House. Club Gascon specialises in “imaginative” cuisine from south west France and, since opening, has received numerous accolades, including its one Michelin star, which it has held since 2002. Aussignac said: “Club Gascon is where our brand’s story began. I am committed to restoring the restaurant to its original beauty, ensuring it retains its rightful place as one of the best and finest restaurants in the country. This is such an exciting development and I cannot wait to share the updated look and the new concept.” The group’s other restaurants are Cigalon, Comptoir Gascon and the newly refurbished Le Bar. It also operates fast-casual concepts Duck’N Roll and Chip+Fish.

Work to start on £4m heritage project involving Laine Pub Company next month: Work is to start next month on the £4m restoration of a historic south London pub that will be managed by multiple pub operator and brewer The Laine Pub Company. The company, led by Gavin George and backed by Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners, will operate the Fellowship Inn in Bellingham for landlord Phoenix Community Housing. Plans include the transformation of the pub’s upper hall into a theatre space and live music venue, as well as building a cinema, cafe, music studios and micro-brewery. The performance space will seat 150 or have capacity for 250 people standing. In addition, the main bar area will be fully restored and remain open, while the pub will be home to charity Lewisham Music, which provides music lessons to young people. The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a grant for the restoration of the historic pub, where boxer Henry Cooper once lived and trained ahead of his 1963 fight with Muhammad Ali. Built for First World War veterans and their families, the original Fellowship Inn comprised two bars, a 200-seat dance and music hall, a 2,260 square foot function room, an off-licence, and family accommodation. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Fellowship Inn hosted many well-known music acts including Fleetwood Mac and Eric Clapton. However, since the 1980s it had fallen into serious disrepair. Phoenix Community Housing chief executive Jim Ripley told The Stage: “We’re so proud to have the opportunity to restore this historic pub and create a thriving venue for our residents and the wider population of south London to enjoy.”

McDonald’s to launch co-branded Happy Meal and Arla Organic Milk bottle in UK restaurants: McDonald’s is to launch a co-branded Happy Meal and Arla Organic Milk bottle at its UK restaurants. McDonald’s and Arla have been working together for 30 years, with Arla supplying McDonald’s with organic milk since 2007 for use in its tea, coffee, porridge and Happy Meal milk bottles. The new design of the 250ml bottle features the Arla logo alongside McDonald’s golden arches and will be available in Happy Meals. Arla Foods UK vice-president of foodservice Jonathan Dixon said: “Arla has been working on a range of initiatives in recent months aimed at making organic milk more accessible to consumers. We have recently repositioned our branded organic milk as Arla Organic Milk to highlight its free-range credentials. The roll-out of Arla Organic Milk 250ml into McDonald’s restaurants across the country is a great way for us to expand the reach of our products.”

Gunpowder team to launch rustic and royal concept in Spitalfields next month: Harneet and Devina Baweja, the restaurateurs behind home-style Indian kitchen Gunpowder and Himalayan concept Madame D’s, are to launch a third concept in Spitalfields, east London. The husband-and-wife team will launch Gul and Sepoy in Commercial Street next month featuring a “double menu” focusing on either rustic or royal cuisine. As they did with Madame D’s, the Bawejas have teamed up with executive chef Nirmal Save to launch the concept. The royal menu will focus on dishes inspired by banquets held at Raj palaces in north west India, while the sepoy side will feature more rustic, provincial-style dishes based on meals eaten by the Indian army during the Victorian era while on the move. Gul dishes will include whole leg of roasted kid goat with pickled root vegetables, while desserts will include rum-soaked dough pillows with spiced cream cheese and berries. The sepoy menu will be influenced by seafood from southern India and more accessible cuts of meat. Dishes will include spiced clams and potted pig’s head with blood masala. Harneet Baweja told the Evening Standard: “Despite them being two totally different types of cuisine, they go very well together. Gul is very rich, while sepoy cuts through it. They balance each other out.” Madame D’s launched in Commercial Street in May. The dining den seats 25 people on long wooden benches at trestle tables, giving a communal feel.

New World Trading Company launches mobile cocktail bar The Wanderer: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group New World Trading Company (NWTC) has launched mobile cocktail bar The Wanderer aimed at events such as weddings and festivals. The fully-kitted bar, sponsored by Plymouth Gin, is in a converted Citroen HY van and is available to hire across the UK. It comes complete with NWTC bar staff, spirits, craft beer and mixers, with those who hire it able to create a bespoke menu from NWTC’s range of cocktails and mocktails. NWTC head of bars Nick Whitby said: “We get inundated with requests asking if we can provide our cocktails and drinks for private celebrations. The Wanderer is perfect. The vehicle has been adapted to house a sleek bar but also promises to deliver our highest standard of award-winning cocktails and drinks no matter where the celebration is, up and down the country.” Magin Trewhella, head of marketing at Pernod Ricard UK, which manufactures Plymouth Gin, added: “The Wanderer is a natural fit for the brand as, from its inception, the British Royal Navy consumed it on the move.” NWTC will launch new concept The Canal House in Birmingham on Monday (14 August). It will be the company’s sixth concept and 18th site in total.

Jamie Oliver to create collaborative workspace in Islington: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has outlined plans to convert 18,000 square feet of offices into a multifunctional collaborative workspace across two floors of a building in Islington, north London. Oliver’s head of art Sarah Tildesley and head of facilities Rob Hannington will work alongside London-based company Oktra to design and construct the site in Benwell Street that will bring together three of Oliver’s teams in one office. The Jamie Oliver Media Group produces magazines, books and online content for the celebrity chef’s brand. The ground-floor office will provide a multifunctional and collaborative space combining a breakout area with an informal meeting space. The second floor will house a kitchen area that will give the feel of a Scandinavian home. Oktra lead designer Cheré Falconer told Property Week: “The idea is to create an ‘Instagram moment’ for anyone coming through the front door. Not only a space that fully supports the activities of its workers but adds a vibrancy and charm that captures the unique personality of the Jamie Oliver franchise.”

Sheffield-based food franchisee acquires York site for new restaurant: Sheffield-based food franchisee QFM Group has acquired a site for a new restaurant at Monks Cross in York. QFM Group has bought the 19,000 square foot site from York-based property development company S Harrison. The franchise business operates a number of quick-service restaurant brands across the north of England and Scotland, including Costa Coffee, KFC and Taco Bell. This site will house QFM Group’s first restaurant in York and is expected to create about 40 jobs. QFM Group solicitor Gareth Owen told Insider Media: “Monks Cross is a busy area with high levels of footfall and is home to a wide range of high-profile retailers and leisure businesses, which makes it one of the city’s most investable areas. It’s therefore a great opportunity for us and we’re looking forward to unveiling our plans for a new, contemporary restaurant very soon.” S Harrison managing director Ann Scott added: “This site is in a prominent position, right next to Monks Cross Shopping Park, and it will be a great location for QFM Group to make its first foray into the vibrant York market. It will also make a valuable contribution to the local food and drink scene.”

Deltic Group has Stourbridge nightclub licence suspended following stabbing: Deltic Group, the UK’s largest operator of premium late-night bars and clubs with 57 venues across the UK, has had the licence of its Chicago’s nightclub in Stourbridge suspended for two weeks after a man died following a stabbing. Ryan Passey, 24, was attacked in the venue at the Ryemarket shopping centre in the early hours of Sunday (6 August) and later died in hospital. Dudley Council’s licensing committee decided a suspension of the licence was necessary following submissions from the police. Management at the club agreed. A full licensing review will take place on Thursday, 24 August. A Chicago’s spokesman told the Express & Star: “We are all devastated and shocked by the tragic death of Ryan Passey last weekend in what appeared to be an unprovoked attack. We did everything possible to try to save him, as did the paramedics who were on the scene in minutes. We will continue to work with the police and do everything we can to ensure the offenders are brought to justice.”

Pho opens Reading site: Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho has opened a site in Reading. The company has opened the venue within the Atlantis Village development in King’s Street, reports Get Reading. Pho was founded by Stephen and Juliette Wall in 2005 after they fell in love with Vietnamese food on a visit to the country. Their first restaurant was in London’s Clerkenwell. Pho currently has 23 restaurants with a unit set to open at the £440m Westgate Oxford development in the autumn.

Whitbread reaches 1,500 hub by Premier Inn rooms: Whitbread will push beyond 1,500 bedrooms for its hub by Premier Inn format with new sites opening in London and Edinburgh next month. The company has completed an office-to-hotel conversion to provide 339 new bedrooms in London at Tothill Street, Westminster. Meanwhile, in Rose Street in Edinburgh’s New Town, a 145-bedroom hotel is opening just off Princes Street. Those 484 bedrooms will drive Whitbread up to 1,595 bedrooms in total across the hub by Premier Inn estate as the new format continues to roll-out across city centre locations. These two new sites will take the total number of hub by Premier Inn hotels up to eight – six in London and two in Edinburgh. Whitbread director of acquisitions Jo Moon said: “With its focus on design, value and service, hub by Premier Inn is an exciting format that is getting an excellent response from our guests. We’re growing the estate to bring more top city centre locations into our network and these new openings at Tothill Street in Westminster and Rose Street in Edinburgh are superb examples of that strategy in action. We’re confident about expanding hub by Premier Inn and are looking for more high-quality and well-connected city centre sites to complement the growth of our proven and extremely popular format.” In June, Whitbread opened a 389-bedroom hub by Premier Inn at King’s Cross and further sites are in the pipeline that will help Whitbread in its overall growth towards 85,000 bedrooms across the Premier Inn and hub by Premier Inn UK estate by 2020. There are currently more than 69,000 bedrooms open and trading in total.

Café Generation starts expansion with little sister site: Karen and Scott Waddington, founders of Café Generation in Penistone, South Yorkshire, have started expansion of their concept. The Waddingtons have transformed a Citroen van into a fully fitted cafe sited at the Fox Valley shopping centre in north Sheffield. Little sister Café Gen features a new landscaped seating area with heated umbrellas and offers a menu designed with cyclists in mind, including healthy snacks and smoothies. There is also a selection of jacket potatoes, nachos and flatbreads. Karen Waddington said: “We are passionate about wholesome and healthy food and we reflect that in our menu. The response has been great and we have had some many lovely comments about our unusual little cafe. We’re in the heart of some of the region’s best-loved cycle routes, so we’re in a good location for cyclists to refuel on their weekend ride-outs.” Café Gen is open daily from 9.30am to 5pm.

Former Papa John’s franchise director gets seven-year ban: The former director of a business behind a Papa John’s franchise in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, has been disqualified for seven years. Balwinder Singh, 58, was the sole director of Charnwood Foods, which traded as Papa John’s Pizza in Birmingham Road from March 2014 to March 2015. An investigation by the Insolvency Service found Singh had paid at least £205,000 into a partnership he had a personal interest in. He gave a disqualification undertaking to the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, which prevents him from managing or controlling a company until 30 July 2024. Charnwood Foods went into liquidation on 26 August 2015 with no assets, owing an estimated £358,816 to creditors. Of the total, £308,233 was owed to a bank in respect of bank loans. Aldona O’Hara, the Insolvency Service’s investigation leader on the case, told Insider Media: “Directors have a duty to ensure their companies maintain proper accounting records and, following insolvency, deliver them to the office-holder in the interests of fairness and transparency.”

Molson Coors launches Carling on-pack promotion to win Premier League prizes: Molson Coors has launched an on-pack promotion for its Carling brand giving consumers the chance to win Premier League prizes. Working in partnership with the Premier League and Sky Sports, the “Win The League” campaign will run until the end of September, giving Carling drinkers an opportunity to get their hands on the famous silverware to display at their home, workplace or local pub. To enter the competition, consumers have to download the Carling Tap app on iPhone or Android devices and use it to scan any Carling can or bottle in a promotional pack for a chance to win. On top of the trophy, other prizes include Sky Q packages for a year with all Sky Sports channels included, an ultra high-definition television, Premier League tickets, signed Premier League shirts, Now TV Sky Sports day passes, and official Nike Premier League footballs. The campaign will be supported by out-of-home advertising and social media.