Giggling Squid acquires Cheltenham site: Thai restaurant group Giggling Squid, which is backed by the Business Growth Fund, has acquired a site in Cheltenham, which will open in early 2018. The 3,000 square foot site, which is in the Montpellier district, will have an estimated 110 covers with 50 extra outside covers to the front and rear of the venue. The deal follows last week’s news that Giggling Squid will open its first London site in Wimbledon this summer. Co-founder Andy Laurillard said: “We’ve had our eye on Cheltenham for a while now, we’ve just been waiting for the right spot to come up. We’re confident we’ve found it in the Montpellier district – from what we’ve experienced, it’s a great area for eating out and we think our unique offer can really contribute to the buzzing food scene.” Giggling Squid’s next launch will be Brentwood, Essex, in April. Owned by Thai-born Pranee Laurillard and husband Andrew, Giggling Squid took a £6.4m investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2015 to accelerate growth plans. Founded in the basement of a tiny fisherman’s cottage, now the Brighton restaurant, the couple opened their first site in Hove in 2009.

Warrens Bakery reports turnover and Ebitda boost helped by retail estate rebrand, plans series of openings this year: Cornwall-based baker Warrens Bakery has reported a turnover and Ebitda boost helped by the rebranding of its retail estate. The company, which has more than 50 stores across Cornwall, Somerset, Devon and Bristol, said it plans a series of openings this year. It saw turnover increase 7% to £14,585,813 for the year ending 30 June 2016, compared with £13,577,538 the year before. Ebitda increased to £622,551, compared with £405,979 the previous year. It reduced pre-tax losses to £10,958 compared with £78,530 the year before. The company stated: “The company has made very good progress during the year, having completed the rebranding of 42 outlets by year-end. Turnover at rebranded sites contributed to an overall growth of 7% for the year. The rebranding of the remaining outlets was completed by the end of 2016, as well as introducing our sister brand, Fresh from Warrens, at one of our larger sites. In addition, a new outlet was opened in Bristol in March 2016. Trade and wholesale sales continue to expand in both domestic and international markets. Growth of 13% has been achieved this year. Gross margin has further improved and overheads have been tightly controlled resulting in a significant increase in profitability at the Ebitda level. Trading in the quarter to September 2016 showed further significant improvement, with sales up 17.6% on the previous year and Ebitda increased by £67,000. Investment has been made in additional resources, including the establishment of a strong marketing and social media team as well as new corporate websites for the business and the new franchise business. In addition to Bristol, plans are in hand for a series of new equity and franchise shops to be opened in 2017. In order to advance our expansion plans, work to extend and re-equip the bakery at St Just commenced in September 2016 and will be completed by March 2017.” Earlier this month, the company revealed it is to open its first site outside the West Country, in the West Midlands. It has joined forces with George Abuaita for the store in Mulberry Walk in Sutton Coldfield.

Hollyoaks star launches healthy cafe concept Strip in Salford: Hollyoaks star Kieron Richardson has opened health cafe concept Strip in Salford. The soap star has launched the venue in Bolton Road with husband Carl Hyland and business partner David Mollard, who is also a personal fitness trainer. Strip offers healthy versions of takeaway classics such as burgers and cheesy fries, as well as healthy wraps, smoothies and “build a box” meals that include proteins, healthy carbs, veg and sauces. The decor has the aim of “bringing the outside in”, with turf and wooden panels on the walls. Richardson told the Manchester Evening News: “It’s Strip as in clean eating and stripping back to good health – and a cheeky little play on the word too! There are places in Manchester doing this kind of food but there’s nothing around here like that. Walkden seemed like the next up and coming place, especially with the new shopping centre.” Richardson joins a trend of Hollyoaks actors who have entered the food and drinks sector. Ashley Taylor-Dawson launched cocktail bar and music venue Elysium in Wilmslow, Cheshire, in October, while the soap’s former heart-throb Rob Norbury opened restaurant and bar Muse in Uppermill, near Oldham, in November.

Great British Menu judge Andi Oliver to open debut restaurant next month: Great British Menu chef Andi Oliver will open her debut restaurant next month – in Stoke Newington, north London. She will launch Andi’s in Stoke Newington Church Street in late March with long-term business partner Kelly Miles. The venue will offer “uplifting, sunny brunches throughout the day and transform into a cosy, intimate brasserie in the evening”. House specials will include a French toast bacon sandwich with maple syrup and Andi’s Reuben, a sandwich stacked with home-cured salt beef, sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese. There will also be a vegan version. Andi’s will also offer variations on classic baked eggs – served in a choice of chipotle, green herb or roast garlic and onion cream sauce – and energy bowls packed with braised pulses, green leaves, roast seasonal vegetables and avocado mash. Oliver said: “Our food will uplift the spirit and calm the heart.” Oliver and Miles have been operating a Sugar Shack residency at the Jackdaw & Star in Homerton for the past two years and put The Birdcage in Columbia Road on the London party map, attracting stars such as Rihanna and Jay-Z to their events. Oliver recently replaced Prue Leith as a permanent judge on BBC2’s The Great British Menu and is a regular on the panel of Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet alongside host Jay Rayner, Angela Hartnett and Henry Dimbleby.

The Restaurant Group closes Coast to Coast site in Nottingham, shutting Frankie & Benny’s in Borehamwood at end of month: The Restaurant Group has closed its Coast to Coast site in Nottingham while its Frankie & Benny’s venue in Borehamwood will shut at the end of the month. The company has closed its Coast to Coast site on the ground floor of the Intu Victoria Centre, which opened at the end of 2015, reports the Nottingham Post. It is the second restaurant the company has shut at the complex, having closed its Joe’s Kitchen site in October less than a year after it started trading. It was one of 33 “underperforming” sites the company said it would shut. At the time of the Joe’s Kitchen closure, The Restaurant Group said the sites for its remaining brands in Nottinghamshire – Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito and Coast to Coast – would remain open. Meanwhile, the company told the Watford Observer it would close its Frankie and Benny’s site in Borehamwood at the end of the month. A spokesman said the restaurant at the Boulevard shopping park was one of the sites that “did not perform to expectations”.

Pieminister bids for first Midlands site, in Birmingham city centre: Bristol-based pie specialist Pieminister plans to open a site in Birmingham city centre, which would be its first venue in the Midlands. The company has lodged plans to turn empty offices next door to Michelin-starred Adam’s restaurant in Waterloo Street into a bar and restaurant, the Birmingham Mail reports. Pieminister is renowned for its quality pies that use responsibly sourced ingredients, including free-range British meat. The company operates two restaurants in Bristol and others in Cardiff, Leeds and Nottingham. It also operates two cafe-style venues in London, with others in Bristol, Oxford, Stoke and Manchester. The company also operates within a dozen pubs, mostly in London, and supplies more than 80 other pubs a week with its pies and side dishes. In June last year, the company appointed agent Williams Gunter Hardwick to find locations for six new restaurants. The company said it was eyeing 30 restaurants by 2020, with long-term targets including Bath, Brighton and Cambridge, as well as further locations in London. In June it secured a £1.4m finance package from HSBC to support expansion plans.

Celebrity chefs back MasterChef contestant’s crowdfunding campaign to open permanent site for Koj concept: Celebrity chefs Tom Kerridge and Michel Roux Junior have backed MasterChef contestant Andrew “Koj” Kojima’s fund-raise to open a permanent site for his modern Japanese concept. Kojima, who launched his Koj pop-up in Regent Street in Cheltenham in October, has launched a £50,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to turn it into a permanent site. Currently, the campaign has raised £17,518 from 67 investors with 17 days remaining. Kerridge said: “I think it’s fantastic Koj is going it alone. Food businesses are driven by a passion and anyone who follows their dreams to bring quality dining to Gloucestershire is a massive boost to the whole area. Come on people, get behind this project!” Roux Junior added: “Koj’s style of food reflects his heritage and he has an understanding of what brings joy to the palate like no other.” The Kickstarter campaign states: “Cheltenham is the right place for my first restaurant and a new style of Japanese dining, combining a modern atmosphere, good music, Japanese-inspired cocktails and beer with tasty Japanese food that can either be fresh and light (like our beef salad) or more comforting (like our fried chicken). Having decided it is time put down roots, we need to take it to the next level. We have secured the same site we had for the pop-up – for most restaurateurs finding and negotiating the right site is the biggest hurdle, and lengthiest. For us to meet our potential and grow, we need to invest in the kitchen and restaurant in general. Fortunately, by being small and young as a business, we have already attracted good staff and hope that will continue by developing an attractive work culture and offering staff a profit share in addition to competitive wages.”

Former The Square chef and sommelier unite to launch modern British cuisine concept Lorne in Victoria this month: Chef Peter Hall and sommelier Katie Exton will team up to launch modern British cuisine concept Lorne in Victoria this month. They met while working at two Michelin-starred French restaurant The Square in Mayfair and will open Lorne in Wilton Road after acquiring the site through agent Davis Coffer Lyons. The property was formerly home to neighbourhood Indian restaurant Spicy World. The landlord redeveloped the site and provided a shell space. The premises, which comprises the ground floor and basement, has been secured on a new 15-year lease at a rent of £72,000 per annum. The restaurant has 45 covers and a mixture of high-level counter dining, banquettes, and tables and chairs. Davis Coffer Lyons director Rob Meadows said: “The new large-scale developments are putting Victoria on the map. However, quality and truly independent startup restaurateurs are recognising the opportunity in what may have been seen as more fringe locations. Regardless, this site generated a lot of interest from the market. Exton was previously sommelier at the River Café, while Peter Hall worked at Brawn and three Michelin-starred Benu so it will be exciting see the fruits of their hard work and to welcome this new venture to the area.” Lorne has been given financial backing by Blixen co-owner Clive Watson and The Square chef Philip Howard.

TGI Friday’s makes its endless appetisers deal endless, introduces seven new premium burgers: TGI Friday’s has made its signature Endless Apps deal a permanent part of its menu, while introducing seven premium burgers. Effective immediately, diners can enjoy TGI Friday’s appetisers with endless refills and choices. Options include mozzarella sticks, loaded potato skins, barbecue chicken flatbread, pan-seared pot stickers, boneless buffalo wings and – new to the menu – meatballs and fried pickles. The new burger line-up – dubbed the Burger Bar – features seven premium all-natural burgers in a challah bun. The fresh burgers are handcrafted and cooked to the customer’s taste. The new burgers on the menu are the bacon cheeseburger, BBQ’n burger, and buffalo wingman’s burger to go alongside upgraded versions of the Jack Daniel’s burger, really good cheeseburger, turkey burger, and vegetarian option black bean and avocado. The Burger Bar will also offer two rotating speciality burgers. TGI Friday’s chief executive John Antioco told RestaurantNews.com: “Endless Apps has become a pop culture phenomenon, as evidenced by the outcry we heard every time the limited offer expired. We want our guests to have a great time every time they visit us so we’re giving the people what they want – Endless Apps at any time.”

Veeno opens Chester wine cafe, 11th site: Italian wine cafe Veeno has opened a site in Chester. The new venue in Northgate Street is the company’s 11th wine cafe and forms part of a national growth strategy to reach 80 sites by the end of 2020. Veeno co-founder Andrea Zecchino told BDaily: “We were fascinated by a fantastic location next to the cathedral. It will be the perfect spot to promote our concept of the aperitivo and keep growing our brand.” Zecchino founded the company with Nino Caruso in 2013, who added: “We regularly have customers travelling from Chester to our wine cafes in Manchester and Liverpool so I’m excited to be bringing the concept closer to them!” Veeno operates two sites in Leeds with others in Bristol, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and York. Veeno also launched a franchise offer earlier this month, stating: “In just three years, the company’s turnover has grown by 800% and today Veeno operates eight direct stores as well as franchise-operated stores in the UK, employing more than 100 people.”

Ei Group bolsters business rates support for publicans: Ei Group, formerly known as Enterprise Inns, is boosting support for publicans in its leased and tenanted division who are looking for independent advice on their business rates. The company said it recognised business rates were one of the biggest overheads for any business and, ahead of the new revaluation effective in April, had taken steps to ensure its publicans were able to access high-quality, independent advice. It has a trio of preferred rating advisers – Colliers International, Harris Lamb and Lambert Smith Hampton – and a competitive success-based fee has been negotiated with the advisers, with payment only made if rates are reduced. The instruction and payment arrangement is direct between the publican and their chosen supplier, while Ei Group doesn’t benefit if publicans use the service. The company has examined the impact on its estate and believes that while rateable values (RV) are set to increase overall, with pubs in London and the south east particularly hardest hit, a significant number of pubs will nevertheless see their RV reduced and rates bills fall from April. Publicans are able to check their new RV assessment online via a government website or discuss the matter with their Ei Publican Partnerships regional manager. Ei Publican Partnerships will write to all publicans shortly, providing contact details of the three advisers and recommending the one it feels may be most suited based on its location, prior experience and knowledge of the local market. Ei Group estates director Simon Millar said: “We recognise the changes to business rates will be a concern to our publicans and we are determined to offer them the best support possible to help them navigate their way through the appeals process.”

Whitbread opens 750th Premier Inn: Whitbread has opened its 750th Premier Inn – in Chiswick, west London. The company has opened the 162-bedroom hotel near the Hogarth Roundabout. The hotel is in a former office building at what was Hogarth Business Park, much of which has been redeveloped for housing by Berkeley Homes. Whitbread has previously said it aims to reach 85,000 Premier Inn bedrooms by 2020.

PizzaExpress opens third site this year, in Formby: PizzaExpress has launched its third site this year – in Formby, Merseyside. The company has opened the restaurant in Chapel Lane, creating 20 jobs. The venue has a rustic feel, with walls clad in timber and cladding to reflect its seaside setting. Artwork celebrates the first lifeboat station in Britain, which was launched in 1776 at nearby Formby Beach. Restaurant manager Archie Quinlan told the Southport Visiter: “I am incredibly excited to be bringing the nation’s best-loved pizza to Formby, and to be at the helm of such a great team.”

SSP Group opens Starbucks store at Gatwick’s south terminal: SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has opened a Starbucks store at the newly developed south terminal at Gatwick airport. The store offers the full range of Starbucks coffees alongside a menu designed to meet the needs of travelling customers, including a range of items to grab and go. The decor features hand-painted artwork on the timber-clad walls, while the shape of the walkways and curved surfaces reflect airport design features, such as luggage carousels and runways. SSP UK chief executive Simon Smith said: “We’re delighted to have been chosen to operate a fantastic new Starbucks coffee shop in the newly developed south terminal area at Gatwick, and to be building on our successful relationship with one of the UK’s most prestigious airports.” Gatwick chief commercial officer Guy Stephenson added: “The opening of this Starbucks store at Gatwick perfectly complements our line-up of shops and restaurants. Our passengers want fast and reliable service from brands they trust as they travel across the globe so Starbucks coffee, recognised the world over, will be well received. This opening further adds to the wealth of food and drink choices at Gatwick.”

Marston’s to open new-build pub at Dalton Park shopping complex: Marston’s is to open its new-build pub at the Dalton Park shopping complex in Murton, County Durham. The company will open The Dancing Betty this summer, creating 35 jobs. It will have an outdoor patio and seating area, pergola and children’s play area, with staff accommodation upstairs. The look of the building has been inspired by traditional coaching inns, taverns and pubs and has been aimed at being a place for “social family events”, reports the Sunderland Echo. The pub restaurant is part of the £45m phase two expansion of the shopping outlet, which is on the site of a former colliery. It already features a Cineworld cinema, KFC, Prezzo, The Restaurant Group brand Frankie & Benny’s and PizzaExpress.

Manchester-based restaurateur and seafood magnate opens £3m banquet hall: Seamark seafood magnate Iqbal Ahmed has opened a £3m, 1,000-capacity wedding and banquet hall next door to his Vermilion Restaurant in Manchester. The main hall accommodates up to 800 guests, while the Alan Turing Room adds capacity for another 200. The venue features state-of-the-art sound, lighting and video screens, as well as a lavish bar and glittering entrance hall displaying historic artefacts from around the world. The £5m Vermilion Restaurant in Hulme Hall Lane is celebrating its tenth anniversary. It offers Thai and Indian fine dining featuring many of the fish products Seamark sells across the globe from its Manchester headquarters. Ahmed told the Manchester Evening News: “Demand is getting greater for the parties and events side of things, especially for weddings in the Asian community – they want to invite hundreds of people.”

BrewDog to open DogTap USA bar in Columbus on Monday: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog will open its DogTap USA bar at its new brewery in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday (20 February). BrewDog is working on the final stages of installation, with kegs being air-freighted across the Atlantic from its headquarters and brewery in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. The bar will offer 12 taps of beer at launch, which will build to 24, alongside wine, liquor and craft sodas. It will also offer burgers, pizza, sharing boards and weekend brunches. The company stated on its blog: “DogTap was the first thing on the wish list for BrewDog USA. Since we broke ground in Columbus our amazing team have worked all hours to make it happen. As the installation is still ongoing, we are air-freighting kegs across to Columbus for our new friends and neighbours to enjoy! DogTap Columbus comes complete with plenty of tables and seating options inside and out. We will be serving 12 taps of fresh craft beer at launch, building to 24 over time. DogTap Columbus will also serve barista coffee to sit in or to go, plus a range of cooked-to-order food – from bar snacks to burgers, salads, pizzas, bar bites and sharing boards. Plus DogTap will also be open for a special brunch service operating on weekends for anyone getting up early!” BrewDog expects to start producing beers from the Columbus brewery in April. Its first US brewpub, slated for the Franklinton neighbourhood in Columbus, won’t open until 2018.

M&B to convert Harvester site into first Miller & Carter steakhouse in Gloucestershire: Mitchells & Butlers is set to convert its Harvester site in Gloucester into a Miller & Carter steakhouse, the brand’s first site in Gloucestershire. The company is advertising for staff at the revamped venue, which is in the suburb of Quedgeley. An opening date has yet to be announced. Last month, Mitchells & Butlers revealed it plans to open more than 25 Miller & Carter sites this year as it continues expansion of the brand. Chief executive Phil Urban previously said conversions cost between £600,000 and £700,000 but were producing a 40% return on investment in the case of the most recent sites. The nearest Miller & Carter sites to Gloucester are in Hereford, Bristol and Bath