Giraffe rebrands restaurants with new look and name: Giraffe, which is owned by Boparan Restaurant Holdings, is rebranding its restaurants with a new look and name – Giraffe World Kitchen. The company trialled the new format in September at its site in Basingstoke, Hampshire. It is now rolling out the change across the estate, which consists of 52 restaurants in the UK and four in the United Arab Emirates. The rebranded restaurants include a Cuban-feel bar, upcycled bottle walls, pattern-painted timber ceilings with oak beam-work, and brightly coloured tiles. The menu features food from around the globe, including Mexican nachos, Turkish pide flatbread, American barbecue beef short ribs and spicy rice bowls. Its restaurant in Victoria, London, is the latest to undergo refurbishment and will reopen on Monday (23 January). Managing director Tom Crowley told GetWestLondon: “We are very excited to be reopening Giraffe World Kitchen in the heart of central London, sharing our passion for world cuisine with the community.”

Sloane Bros founder – ‘we aim to build a 16-strong UK estate in next five years’: The founder of frozen yogurt company Sloane Bros, which is undergoing a £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, has told Propel he aims to build a 16-strong estate in the UK in the next five years. Joe Chakra opened his first store in Brick Lane, east London, in June 2015, followed by a second in Nottingham in August last year at the Intu Victoria shopping centre. Now the company is raising funds for further expansion in the UK and overseas, with its first international franchise set to open in 2018. Sloane Bros is offering a 7.50% equity stake in return for the £150,000 investment. So far, the campaign has raised £55,700 from 63 investors with 35 days remaining. Chakra said: “We have grown by word of mouth from our customers so it seemed logical for us to use the crowdfunding route for our expansion. Having our customers as investors encourages them to share our story. If we do look to raise more money in the future, I think that’s the route we would take. We are aiming for 12 locations in three years and 16 in five years. We have a pipeline of sites lined up and we are looking at high street and shopping centre sites in regional cities such as Manchester and Sheffield. We don’t need very big sites so that helps. We are having discussions with a number of potential franchisees, particularly in the Middle East, and hope to open our first overseas site in 2018.” Chakra said current trading was going “very well”, with the company aiming to be Ebitda positive by the end of this year. He added: “We aim to deliver the best possible product to the customer. When we launched we saw a gap in the market for a frozen yogurt brand championing quality British dairy products – and we are delighted with the response we have had.”

Revolution Bars Group puts plans for new brand on back burner with current strategy producing ‘very strong growth’: Revolution Bars Group chief executive Mark McQuater has told Propel its plans for a new brand have been put on the back burner with its current strategy producing “very strong growth”. The company, which operates 66 premium bars across the UK under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, was in talks last year to acquire four bars in Edinburgh that would have seen the launch of a new brand. However, those plans are now off the table – at least for now. The company reported like-for-like sales in the first half of its financial year up 2%, with overall sales increasing 12.7%. McQuater said: “I think at the moment we are producing very strong growth with our current strategy and we don’t have any plans to do anything else at the moment. You can never say never – stuff can come up – but I think we can keep shareholders happy with the route we are on. Therefore, those plans (for a new brand) are on the back burner. The Revolution brand has become a bit more premium and I think it now has more stretch into places we might not have gone a few years ago.” The company opened four Revolución de Cuba sites in the first half of its financial year, while a Revolution will open in Southend, Essex, in the second half. McQuater said the company would continue with its strategy of opening five sites a year, adding that the pipeline “remained strong”. He said the company was keen to expand into Northern Ireland and was “looking for the right site”. McQuater said: “Since the initial public offering we have been steadily opening sites and we’re confident this will continue. We launched a new look for Revolution when we opened in Stafford last year, with new food and cocktails, and the Southend site will be a similar format. We are constantly upgrading the design and looking at the features to give our customers something different. Southend is a buoyant place and we think we will do very well there.” Sales were up more than 16% during the Christmas period and McQuater said the company had seen a “significant” increase in pre-bookings. He added: “It was a very strong period for us. More people are looking for an experience when they go out and that’s something we offer. People are valuing the occasion and planning ahead more – that’s the way things are going and we are geared up for that.”

JD Wetherspoon sells The Union Rooms pub in Newcastle, launches order and pay app: JD Wetherspoon has sold The Union Rooms in Newcastle – the city centre pub it bought for more than £5.6m in 2015. The company has sold the listed building to a leisure operator in an undisclosed deal, which is due to be completed at the end of February. The new owner’s plans for the 19th century building – the first Wetherspoon opened in Newcastle – have yet to be revealed, but it is understood all 60 staff will transfer to the new company or be offered jobs at other Wetherspoon venues in the area. The Union Rooms was one of three Wetherspoon pubs in the north east that formed part of a portfolio of 45 UK properties the company placed on the market last year. Meanwhile, the company has launched an app allowing customers to order and pay. Wetherspoon said on its website: “At Wetherspoon we are always looking for new ways to improve the experience of our customers, whether it’s stocking a fantastic new product or developing dishes. When we saw an exciting opportunity in the tech department, we took it!” The company said all its pubs would be using the service from March. Wetherspoon has also donated £10,000 to Best Bar None, the national scheme that supports best practice in responsible retailing.

Leon’s new West End site to only hire staff who can sing and dance: Natural fast food brand Leon’s latest site will only hire staff who can sing and dance. The venue will open in Shaftsbury Avenue in the heart of the West End on Wednesday, 8 February and employ a 40-strong team of actors, dancers and singers. Leon said the large number of staff meant people would easily be able to take time off for theatre auditions. Instead of asking prospective employees to apply through the usual channels, Leon will hold a series of auditions. The auditions will take place in front of TV comedian and presenter Alexander Armstrong and Call The Midwife actress Helen George, as well as Leon co-founder John Vincent. The vetting process will continue until Thursday (26 January). As well as normal duties, those who are successful will perform throughout the day, with everyone taking turns to sing a number to customers. Vincent told the Evening Standard: “This new Leon is in the heart of the West End and we want to provide a stage for West End hopefuls. You’ll see team members preparing and serving naturally fast food and then taking the mic to sing a show tune. We want to help our new stars to get noticed and follow their dreams.” Leon will also offer those working in theatre a 15% discount on food, as it does for NHS staff.

World buffet brand Cosmo opens £1m restaurant in Southampton, 19th site: World buffet brand Cosmo has opened a £1m restaurant at Southampton’s West Quay Watermark development. The 300-cover, 10,000 square foot venue is the largest at Hammerson’s £85m dining and leisure complex. Cosmo will be joined by better burger brand Byron, Bill’s Restaurants, Thai Leisure Group brand Thaikhun, Casa Brasil, Fulham Shore-owned brands The Real Greek and Franco Manca, TGI Friday’s, Nando’s, Jamie’s Italian, and Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi, among others. It is Cosmo’s 18th UK site, with another in Dublin. The all-you-can-eat restaurant offers more than 150 dishes, ranging from Italian and Asian dishes to traditional English roast – all at one set price. Guests can watch their meals being prepared at live cooking stations. Cosmo Southampton general manager Omar Iqbal told the Daily Echo: “The Southampton branch has a massive catchment area and we are attracting customers from Reading and Bristol and are sold out for the next few weekends. With our value for money and the opening of the Cinema de Lux, we will get even more customers.” Cosmo has further openings lined up for this year in Leeds, Liverpool and Northampton.

New company Aria Leisure to launch Middle Eastern concept at former Quill site in Manchester: Aria Leisure, a new company founded by Allied London commercial director Andrea George, Fazenda co-founder Terence Langley, and Leeds-based entrepreneur James Coubrough, is set to launch a new Middle Eastern concept in Manchester. Suri is set to open in March at a two-storey site in King Street previously occupied by the ill-fated Quill restaurant. Suri – the Persian word for red rose – will be a “relaxed and informal dining experience based around sharing plates” and offer Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. George told Manchester Evening News: “I have been waiting for the right site and location to deliver this concept. King Street is the ideal destination in the heart of the city’s business and leisure district. The menu offers a diverse selection of plates using local suppliers and served in a relaxed and informal style to encourage a sharing culture, along with a carefully crafted drinks list for people to enjoy at the bar or while dining. Set across two floors, Suri represents our passion for the vibrant and diverse dishes of the Mediterranean, to which we have added inspiration from the rich cultures of the Middle East.” Quill closed in June 2016, less than a year after its launch following a £1m investment. It became renowned for its multi-course taster menus priced at £85 or £150 with matching wines.

Freshii to open first UK site in Belfast, planning 40 to 50 Irish sites in next five years: Canadian-based health brand Freshii is set to open its first UK site, in Belfast. Freshii operates about 300 stores around the world and offers a wide variety of healthy items including soups, salads, wraps, burritos, frozen yogurt and juices. The company’s Irish franchisee is behind the Belfast opening, with a store set to open on the corner of Donegall Square West at a site formerly occupied by Sony. Master franchise holders Dave O’Donoghue and Cormac Manning opened the first franchise site in Ireland at the Docklands International Financial Services Centre, Dublin, in 2015. There are now six Freshii outlets in the Republic of Ireland, with new sites opening shortly in Limerick and Dublin. O’Donoghue told the Belfast Telegraph: “We plan to double the restaurant count in the coming months with new outlets across cities and towns in Ireland. We are well on track to open 40 to 50 Freshiis within five years as part of our business plan.” Freshii founder Matthew Corrin was inspired by “mom-and-pop” delis in New York City that offered fresh food but lacklustre branding and service. He sought to “add magic to the fresh food business” by launching the company in Toronto in 2005, with the idea of creating a “model that was scalable, branded and would improve the way people eat around the world”.

Cote to open restaurant at former Living Ventures site in Cheshire next week: French brasserie Cote will open a restaurant in Hale, Cheshire, next week. The company will open the 130-cover venue at the former Hale Grill site in Bridge Road on Wednesday (25 January). Cote acquired the site from Living Ventures in September and has invested more than £1m into its refurbishment, with the opening creating 50 jobs. The company said it had worked to ensure the listed building “retained its character and charm, with exposed beams and vaulted ceilings”. Chief executive Alex Scrimgeour told Altrincham Today: “We are thrilled to start 2017 by opening our restaurant in Hale and look forward to bringing our friendly, professional service and authentic French-inspired food to this thriving town.” Cote, which is owned by private equity firm BC Partners, has more than 80 sites in the UK.

New Rebel Brewing Co owners to restart beer production by ‘end of January’: Cornwall-based Rebel Brewing Co, which entered administration last month after six years in business, is set to restart beer production by the end of January after it was taken over by new owners. The Kernick-based brewery has been saved by the owners of Falmouth beer line cleaning company Clear Brew, which has taken on existing Rebel stock along with the brand and intellectual property rights. It has also arranged a new 12-month lease for the brewery site and retained head brewer Matt Pascoe. New owner Stephen Trezona said the shop would open and bottling operations begin straight away, although brewing could not start until a new licence had been granted “hopefully by the end of this month”. Trezona told The Packet: “The aim is to keep the current product range and put the ‘rebel’ back in Rebel by producing some weird and wonderful stuff. We will use our existing network, take the good work Rebel has done, and expand it. We have renegotiated a new lease for the next 12 months at the current location. We are safe to trade for the next 12 months and it’s a bright future because we have got the experience and expertise in place.” Rebel Brewing Co was placed in administration on 9 December, with its last trading day on 21 December.

Real Junk Food Project closes Manchester crowdfunding campaign after raising double its target: The Manchester branch of the not-for-profit Real Junk Food Project has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdfunder after raising almost double its £20,000 target. It raised £39,155 from 790 backers and the campaign has now closed. The largest backer was Santander, which donated £10,000. The project will open the city’s first “food waste” restaurant in Ancoats, with the kitchen headed by former Aumbry head chef Mary-Ellen McTague. Dishes will be served on a “pay-as-you-feel” basis. The nationwide project intercepts food that would otherwise go in the bin from wholesalers, supermarkets and restaurants. The Manchester arm of the movement, directed by Corin Bell, has been hunting for a permanent space since its hub at The Wonder Inn fell through. Bell told Mancunian Matters: “The aim is to work with and support food businesses in doing something different and slowly but surely moving something towards a more sustainable future.” The business has provisionally agreed on a site and hopes to open in the next few months.

Former The Square chef and sommelier unite to launch modern British cuisine concept Lorne in Victoria: Chef Peter Hall and sommelier Katie Exton will team up to launch modern British cuisine concept Lorne in Victoria next month. The restaurant will open in Wilton Road in mid-February, with the aim of making the wine and food of equal importance. Hall and Exton met while working at two Michelin-starred French restaurant The Square in Mayfair and Lorne’s menu will focus on seasonal produce with an emphasis on using trusted suppliers. Exton’s wine list will be “concise and regularly changing”, alongside a seasonally changing cocktail list and London-brewed bottled beers, as well as Monmouth Coffee and teas from Rare Tea Company. Exton has also worked at The River Cafe and was head sommelier at Chez Bruce, while Hall formerly worked at three Michelin-starred restaurant Benu in San Francisco. Also involved in the project are restaurateur Clive Watson (Blixen) and chef Phil Howard (The Square, Elystan Street).

Michelin-trained chef opens Belfast restaurant: Richard McCracken, who has worked in Scotland, London and Paris under Michelin-starred chefs including Tom Kitchin and Andrew Fairlie, has opened his debut restaurant in Belfast. The 50-cover Cyprus Avenue, named after a Van Morrison song, has opened in Upper Newtownards Road following a £250,000 investment. McCracken told Belfast Live: “It was too good an opportunity to pass up. There has been a complete refurbishment of the unit with a significant extension. The kitchen has moved upstairs allowing us to utilise the entire ground-floor space for customers. The interior is bespoke with exposed red brickwork and fittings made from mahogany and leather. When I presented my business plan to Danske Bank, they bought into it straight away.” Danske Bank senior corporate manager Karen Hoey added: “The hospitality sector is a major contributor to the local economy and is going from strength to strength.”

Bramley Bars gets go-ahead to reopen historic Hampstead village pub with dual use as school: South west-based pub company Bramley Bars has had its plans approved to reopen the Old White Bear in Hampstead village. Bramley Bars will refurbish the 300-year-old pub, which has been closed for almost three years, and reopen it in 2018. The upstairs floors will be sub-let to Heathside Prep School while the revamp is under way to meet the school’s “urgent need” for extra classroom space. The school will use the site between 8am and 6pm, accessing the upper floors through a separate entrance. In the evening, the pub will have full control. The pub closed in February 2014 after it was sold by Punch to offshore firm Braaid Ventures. The new owners saw plans to turn the pub into a house rejected after the council listed it as an Asset of Community Value. Dan Brod, a lifelong Hampstead resident and co-owner of Bramley Bars, which runs three pubs in the south west, told Ham & High: “Most of Hampstead’s pubs have disappeared. I truly believe pubs can help keep Hampstead a real village. In an increasingly secular and techno-centric digital world, people seem less community-focused then ever. I want this pub to be a genuine hub of its community, helping bring back the more wholesome Hampstead I remember.”

PizzaExpress opens its first restaurant of 2017, in Gretna: PizzaExpress has opened its first restaurant of 2017 – in Gretna, Scotland. The company has opened the site at the Gretna Gateway Outlet Village. The design of the restaurant takes inspiration from Gretna’s claim to fame of being the wedding capital of the UK. The restaurant is open from 11.30am to 9pm, Monday to Thursday, and 11.30am to 10.30pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Everyman founder acquires Southport seafront hotel, eyes further purchases: Bliss Investment Partners, co-managed by Daniel Broch, founder of cinema group Everyman, has acquired four-star seafront hotel the Ramada Plaza Southport, with plans to buy further sites. In addition to 133 bedrooms, the Merseyside hotel also has a restaurant (The Marine Brasserie), a bar, gym, conference facilities for up to 300 guests, and underground car parking. The hotel, built in 2008, is in the heart of the Southport Waterfront Development. With thousands of reviews, it has an overall rating of 4.5 on TripAdvisor and 8.9 on The hotel was purchased from Even Southport, for which Bliss Investment Partners co-manager Robert Agsteribbe was a minority shareholder. The deal followed a £750,000 loan from OakNorth Bank. Broch and Agsteribbe said: “This acquisition locks in a great property with an established and highly effective management team, which provides the perfect platform from which to grow the company across further locations in the UK.” OakNorth Bank debt finance director Deepesh Thakrar added: “Robert and Daniel’s experience, coupled with the strong management team and the hotel’s outstanding reputation, puts it in a prime position. We look forward to working with the team on future opportunities.”

Cheshire-based, Italian-inspired restaurant starts expansion with second site: Cheshire-based Italian-inspired restaurant The Yard has started expansion by opening its second site, in Knutsford. The concept, launched two years ago in Chester by brothers Ettorino and Mario Sciarillo, has opened the venue in King Street. The menu is inspired by Italian food but does not follow tradition, with “twisted” dishes such as pig’s cheek carbonara and others made with venison from Tatton Estate. The brothers are hands-on in running the pub, although neither of them actually cook the dishes. Instead they have hired Gordon Ramsay’s former number-two chef Carl Noller to head up the kitchen. Ettorino Sciarillo told the Knutsford Guardian: “We have always wanted to open another in Cheshire, so when Knutsford came up we snapped it up so quickly.”

Turtle Bay to open Peterborough site: Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay is set to open a site in Peterborough. The company is advertising for a “passionate and experienced” general manager for a new opening in the town, the Peterborough Telegraph reports. Last week, Turtle Bay applied to open a restaurant in Kentish Town, north London, on the site of the former Auntie Annie’s Porterhouse pub. Turtle Bay, which is backed by Piper Private Equity, was formed by Las Iguanas co-founder Ajith Jaya-Wickrema and has 33 sites across the UK, having opened its first restaurant in Milton Keynes in 2010. The company will open its 34th venue on Sunday, 29 January in Croydon on the site of former nightclub Tiger Tiger.

Nottingham building home to Curious Townhouse to be auctioned with guide price of £1.75m: A Nottingham building that is home to Curious Townhouse, the bar and restaurant run by city operator Brown and Brown Industries, is to be auctioned with a guide price of £1.75m. The 11,399 square foot, grade II-listed building in High Pavement, which also houses offices, will come to market on 30 and 31 January. John Pye Property Auctions head Richard Reed told The Business Desk: “Now is a great time for buyers to purchase much sought after property investment in the Lace Market, which is fully tenanted and being used by a popular bar/restaurant and offices. It is a rare find in the historic part of the city, with demand for businesses wanting to move to the area increasingly high.”

Company behind Italian restaurant in Dunfermline put site on market, planning to launch new concept with venues throughout central Scotland: The company behind Italian restaurant Ciao Italia in Dunfermline has put the site up for sale and is preparing to launch a new concept with sites throughout central Scotland. M Crolla & Sons is marketing the 70-cover venue in Broad Street for an asking price of £495,000. Director Marco Crolla told the Dunfermline Press: “It was a heartfelt decision to put Ciao Italia on the market as we have been here for six years and have appreciated the custom from patrons in Dunfermline and the surrounding area, with many regulars who have become friends. However, it should be noted we will not be selling Ciao Italia before May. Unfortunately, Ciao Italia does not fit in with our new development plans for growth and as a young company my two brothers and I took the decision to sell as part of our future business strategy. As a young company, we have five food operations with plans for expansion with a new food concept and a view to open branches throughout central Scotland.”

Nottingham-based micro-brewery opens first micro-pub: Nottingham-based micro-brewery Totally Brewed has opened its first micro-pub and bottle shop, in Beeston. Owner Robert Witt has converted the former Sweets ‘N’ Treats shop in Chilwell Road into Totally Tapped. The tap house offers five hand-pulled real ales, seven craft beers and more than 50 bottled beers. Beer comes from Totally Brewed, which opened in 2014, while Witt has also arranged to stock ales from breweries across the country by exchanging kegs. With custom-built benches cut from timber and old casks to perch on, Totally Tapped has capacity for 50 drinkers. Mirrors on three sides will give the illusion of a far larger room, with space-saving tables providing just enough room for punters’ glasses. Witt told the Nottingham Post: “Our selling point is quality beer. We only choose the top breweries. It’s about low overheads so you are getting a lot of people in a small area for a good-quality atmosphere and good-quality products.”

Indian cuisine concept The Purple Olive starts expansion with third Merseyside site: Indian cuisine concept The Purple Olive, which has a restaurant in Ellesmere Port and a takeaway in Prescot, has started expansion by opening a third site on Merseyside, this time in Liverpool suburb Hunts Cross. The restaurant in Speke Road offers authentic Indian cuisine. Owner Atik Sheik told the Liverpool Echo: “We’ve had the restaurant in Ellesmere Port for two years and a takeaway in Prescot. We have lots of signature and speciality dishes to choose from and we’re really looking forward to welcoming our new customers.”