Food & Fuel reports turnover and Ebitda growth: Food & Fuel, the 13-strong London-based cafe bar operator chaired by former Spirit boss Karen Jones, has reported turnover up 3.6% to £12,945,336 in the year to the end of May 2016. Ebitda increased by 12.8% to £819,643, despite one of the company’s outlets trading less than the full financial year having been sold in April 2016. The company stated: “The directors are pleased with this strong performance, which represents the tenth year of like-for-like growth.” Loans of £1,516,781 were repaid in June 2016 and a new loan of £2,750,000 taken out with a one-year capital repayment moratorium. There was a £473,796 loss on a disposal of a tangible asset, meaning an overall pre-tax loss of £249,992, compared with a profit of £90,374 the year before.

McDonald’s launches app map to guide night tube revellers to late-night restaurants: A new night tube map has been launched to help hungry Londoners on the hunt for a midnight McDonald’s. The company and OMD UK have teamed up with app developer Bappz to create an interactive map that guides travellers to their closest open restaurant. “We’re particularly excited about this unique and innovative campaign. It’s the first time McDonald’s has partnered with the London Tube Map and has been a long time in the making. We hope it brings a little bit of joy to Londoners travelling around in the early hours of the morning in need of a pit stop,” said Rebecca Burke, executive business director at OMD UK. The app marks open and 24-hour McDonald’s restaurants within a three-minute walk of each station with a glowing “M” so users can map out their easiest route to a Big Mac. The app uses GPS technology to determine which station the user is closest to.

Douglas Jack issues ‘Buy’ note on Revolution Bars Group ahead of interim results: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued a ‘Buy’ note on Revolution Bars Group (RBG) shares ahead of interim results on Tuesday (28 February) – he has a target price of 280p for the shares. He said: “We forecast profit before tax rising by 7% to £5m, below the pace of sales growth (12.7%), due to higher labour costs. We expect second-half growth to be stronger (80% of this year’s openings were in Q2), but the main catalyst and source of growth should be the number and, equally importantly, the size of future openings. Like-for-like sales grew by 2.0% in the first half (2.2% in Q2) and have been positive for the last 3.5 years. In our view, this reflects highly trained and motivated staff providing a premium, differentiated product range (food, drink and entertainment) in large, well invested and located venues. Our forecasts expect Ebit margins to fall by 40 basis points in the first half and 20 basis points over the full year, with the difference being the second half gaining the full trading benefit of the four extra sites that were opened in Q2. On average, all five of this year’s new openings are standard-size openings, with the first four having an average of 4,575 square feet of trading space. Typically, a standard size unit should make £0.3m Ebitda and a 33% cash flow return on investment versus £0.8m Ebitda and a 53% cash flow return on investment from large (7,800 square foot) openings, with the latter capable of generating 400 basis point higher margins. Average sales have risen by 74% over the last 12 years, during which its average cash flow return on investment on new sites has averaged 42%. In our view, if the company is to continue such levels of outperformance it needs to continue to open large outlets that can not only offer a more differentiated experience but also benefit from greater fixed cost and operating efficiencies. It is valued on 5.4 times EV/Ebitda, the type of valuation one might expect for an unbranded, short-leasehold nightclub. However, in comparison RBG has two of the strongest brands in the licensed retail sector in terms of having over 12,900 Facebook fans per site, and its door fees account for less than 2% of sales (versus typically 20% to 25% in nightclubs). Also, RBG has no debt, the highest returns in the licensed retail sector and an enlarged site pipeline that could drive strong growth and scale economies. The interim results will provide an opportunity for the company to update on how the site pipeline is likely to convert into new openings (timing and size) over the next two years. This is the main catalyst, in our view.”

Laine Pub Company reopens Forest Hill pub featuring living wall and ‘fix-up’ sessions: Multiple pub operator and brewer The Laine Pub Company has reopened the Honor Oak pub in Forest Hill following a refit that has introduced a “living wall”, a private hire space, and a programme of events that includes a weekly “fix-up” night. Spanning the entire length of one side of the pub, the living wall features an integrated watering system. The company acquired the pub in St German’s Road just before Christmas and has made other enhancements to the venue, including the beer range, menus, gardens and decor. A performance and private hire space has been created upstairs, with a daily programme of events including a weekly “fix-up” night hosted by The Restart Project – a social enterprise that encourages and empowers people to repair their electronics to reduce waste. General manager Dene Stevenson said: “The living wall is our representation of the parkland in which the original Honor Oak is believed to have stood. The impact the vertical garden has on the sound, light, heat and overall feel of the pub is marked.” Earlier this month, The Laine Pub Company reported turnover up more than 10% and operating Ebitda up more than 23% for the financial year to 30 June 2016. The group, which operates 48 pubs in the London and Brighton areas and brews from four on-site microbreweries plus a full production brewery in central Sussex, saw Ebitda rise to £3.9m on turnover of £30.4m, up from Ebitda of £3.1m on sales of £27.5m the previous year.

Chesterford Group opens tenth Churchill’s Fish & Chips site, in Bracknell, expansion of assisted service concept: The Chesterford Group has opened the tenth site for its Churchill’s Fish & Chips brand, this time in Bracknell, Berkshire. The new venue is the second to feature Churchill’s “assisted service” restaurant concept, which combines a takeaway and click-and-collect service. The company said Bracknell is the first in a line of “incredibly strong locations” scheduled to open during the next six months – in Essex, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Sussex and greater London. Chesterford Group managing director James Lipscombe said: “We are very pleased to have opened our first Churchill’s store of 2017. Bracknell is a fantastic town for us, combining an excellent location with takeaway and a 40-cover restaurant. This represents our second Churchill’s assisted service restaurant concept and has proved to be incredibly successful for us and, combined with the takeaway and click and collect service, offers our customers flexible ways to order and dine with us. We continue to evolve and innovate our brand experience in response to the growing and changing needs of our customers.” The Chesterford Group was named best UK fish and chip chain at last year’s National Fish & Chip Awards.

Veeno to launch Italian restaurant concept in Cheshire: Italian wine cafe Veeno, which opened its 11th site in Chester this month, is set to open an Italian seafood restaurant called Blue Lobster in Alderley Edge at the end of March or beginning of April. The company has signed a lease for a site in London Road that has been empty since Tomfoolery restaurant closed in January 2016, five months after opening. The venue will feature a bar specialising in franciacorta, a sparkling wine from the Brescia region. Veeno co-founder Nino Francesco Caruso told “The customers in this area seem to appreciate quality products and service and we are confident we can deliver them.” Veeno operates two wine cafes in Leeds with others in Bristol, Chester, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and York. The company also launched a franchise offer earlier this month, which will focus on the UK for the time being but with plans to expand into Ireland, Scandinavia and Asia. The company has formed Veeno Franchising, a joint venture with Italy’s Sviluppo Franchising. Veeno plans to have expanded to 80 sites by 2020.

JD Wetherspoon opens first Brecon site: JD Wetherspoon has opened its first venue in Brecon, mid Wales, after spending more than £2m on the refurbishment of The George Hotel. Wetherspoon has taken on more than 60 staff and retained the name of the George Street venue, which is on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The town centre pub had been closed since Christmas 2015 before being bought by Wetherspoon early last year. The company’s website states: “JD Wetherspoon is pleased to reopen this 16th century coaching inn, offering the perfect base from which to explore the beautiful surroundings of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The George Hotel offers four en suite rooms, which boast Freeview digital television, unlimited free Wi-Fi and air-conditioning. The hotel also boasts a warm and inviting Wetherspoon pub.”

Potting Shed gets go-ahead for Northallerton pub, third site: Potting Shed Trading, a company founded by the Burning Night management team and funded by the Downing EIS Pub fund, has been given the go-ahead to open its third Potting Shed Bar & Gardens site, in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. The company purchased the former Rutson Hospital in High Street in October. The grade II-listed building provides 9,623 square feet over two storeys, with an external seating area and courtyard. It is Potting Shed’s third freehold purchase in the past year, with a number of further acquisitions in the pipeline. The approval by Hambleton District Council will allow the company to convert the iconic building into a modern, upscale bar and restaurant complete with “funky reclaimed interior” and a focus on cask ale, cocktails and artisan food. Downing partner Steven Kenee said: “The first two sites continue to trade ahead of expectations and we look forward to bringing the irresistible combination of the well invested, on-trend interior and good old-fashioned hospitality the brand stands for to the picturesque town of Northallerton.” Licence approval conditions included live music having to cease at 9pm and no external area use between 11pm and 8am. The other Potting Shed Bar & Gardens are also in Yorkshire, in Beverley and Bingley.

Esquires Coffee opens 28th site, in Twickenham: Esquires Coffee has opened its 28th site, this time in Twickenham, south west London. The store in King Street Parade is the first Esquires Coffee franchise for local couple Syed and Kirn, who said they were “excited to be starting a new business venture in the booming coffee sector”. The site embraces Twickenham’s rugby heritage, showcasing wall art and memorabilia. Esquires Coffee will open two stores in Kent in April – in Dartford and Maidstone – as well as rebranding its stores in Ambleside in Cumbria, Letchworth in Hertfordshire, and Wakefield in Yorkshire in the first quarter of this year.

New World Trading Company targets six openings a year: New World Trading Company (NWTC) is planning to open six venues a year as part of a UK-wide roll-out but only if the right sites become available, its chief executive has told Insider. Earlier this month, NWTC secured a £23m investment from NatWest to support its growth plans. Of this, £19m was part of a refinancing of the management buyout banking arrangements, with the remaining £4m contributing towards the roll-out of new sites nationally. NWTC was acquired by Graphite Capital for £50m in June with the management team, led by chief executive Chris Hill, reinvesting alongside the private equity firm for a stake in the business. Hill told Insider: It’s our day-to-day performance that’s fuelling our optimism and our roll-out strategy. It’s about doing the right site and doing each one properly, rather than some sort of rush to open new sites, because we think we’re riding the crest of a wave. We operate in a very solid way, we’ve got a food and drink pub offer and, if you get it right, it’s not a flash-in-the-pan market, you can be around for a very long time. We just want to open the right sites. Six is our target but if we can do seven that would be great – but if we only do five because there are only five good opportunities that year, then so be it. It’s about the correct growth rather than rushing for growth. We can deliver good openings at six a year – but only if we can find six good sites.”

Savills – one-third of Republic of Ireland hotels sold since 2011: A third of Republic of Ireland hotels have changed hands since 2011, according to a new report, selling for a combined value of about €2.4bn (£2.02bn). Savills Ireland has found that during the period, the highest number of sales occurred in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. In 2016 alone, venues worth more than €850m (£717m) changed hands – the second-largest year of the examined window. Major sales included the former Doubletree by Hilton Burlington Road for €182m (£154m), The Gresham for €91m (£76.7m), the Temple Bar Hotel for €55m (£46.4m) and The Fitzpatrick Lifestyle Portfolio for €150m (£126m). Tom Barrett, head of hotels and leisure at Savills Ireland, believes the development of new hotels in Dublin and the refinancing of regional hotels are now the market’s core focus. He said: “Hotel development, like many areas of the property sector, stopped during the downturn so there is a big element of catch up in Dublin. This, coupled with air traffic surpassing all previous records in 2016 – with further growth expected this year – means there is a real need for new bedroom stock in the right areas.” New supply is expect to “remain small” in 2017 with about 180 bedrooms, which will predominantly come from extensions to existing properties. Savills expects about 1,500 net new bedrooms to become available in 2018, with Dalata opening two hotels. A further 2,000 rooms could be introduced in 2019.

Cheese Truck founder to open permanent site in Camden next month: Music festival trader The Cheese Truck, founded by Mathew Carver in 2014, will open a permanent site in Camden next month. The company raised £130,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in November to fund the opening of The Cheese Bar at Camden Market. Carver will open the venue’s takeaway hatch on Thursday, 2 March as a sneak peak before the restaurant officially opens on 23 March. To mark the occasion, The Cheese Bar will team up with Camden charities for a sandwich amnesty, offering Londoners a chance to upgrade their shop-bought sandwich for one of Carver’s signature grilled cheese sandwiches. At the end of the day, donated sandwiches will be distributed to local soup and street kitchens. The Cheese Bar will offer a cheese-focused menu championing cheese-makers from within the M25, while the restaurant will feature floor-to-ceiling display fridges housing more than 30 British cheeses, as well as a changing selection of 20 craft beers. Carver said: “After travelling the length and breadth of the UK serving grilled cheese sandwiches from our trucks Alfie and Audrey, we’re so excited to be taking up residence in Camden Market.”

New operator sought for Borough restaurant: Agent Christie & Co is searching for a new operator for the site of a former Italian fine dining restaurant in Borough High Street. The site is between Elephant and Castle and Borough tube stations in Southwark, an area increasingly known for new food and drinks developments, with the recent launch of food markets Flat Iron Square and Mercato Metropolitano. The restaurant – Quintessenza – closed in January. Christie & Co is inviting offers for the premium until Tuesday (28th February) with an annual rent of £60,000. Christie & Co business agent Will Langton said: “This is great opportunity for an operator to get involved in the flourishing restaurant scene in one of London’s most up and coming boroughs. The site is in excellent condition with a large frontage in an area largely populated by students, ideal for an existing brand to expand or a completely new offering.”

Florentine restaurant to launch on South Bank next month with ostrich egg signature dish: All-day dining restaurant Florentine will launch on London’s South Bank next month featuring an ostrich egg signature dish. The new restaurant will open in Hercules Road, close to Lambeth North tube station, on Thursday, 23 March offering ostrich eggs, flatbreads and slow-cooked Sunday roasts alongside live music, DJs and a bottomless dining option on Saturdays, Hot Dinners reports. The ostrich egg sharing plate is designed for six, while the bar will offer British sparkling wine, craft beer and superfood cocktails.

North London-based gourmet pie company Piebury Corner to start expansion with King’s Cross site: Gourmet pie company Piebury Corner, which operates a venue in Holloway Road, is to start expansion by opening a second site in King’s Cross. The pie shop and deli will open in Caledonian Road at the former King’s Cross post office site in mid-to-late April. The venue, larger than the 30-seat Holloway Road site, will feature booths and banquette seating and offer hand-made pies, mash, crushed peas, roast potatoes, gravy and craft beer. The pie range includes jerk chicken marinated in porter, and lentil with sweet potato and Thai curry paste. Piebury Corner began in 2011 as a food stall in Paul and Nicky Campbell’s front garden in Highbury, selling 15 hand-made gourmet pies to Arsenal fans en route to the Emirates Stadium. In 2012, the company opened the licensed cafe and deli in Holloway at a former pie and mash shop. The Campbells, who still operate a stall near Arsenal’s stadium as well as at festivals across the country, told Hot Dinners: “We’re very proud to be part of the King’s Cross revolution.”

Carlisle-based operator to open third site: Carlisle-based operator Mike Vose is to open his third venue in the city. Vose has acquired the former Moo Bar site in Devonshire Street, which he will reopen as The Fat Gadgie. He has been granted permission by the city council to make alterations to the grade II-listed building, including a new bar, adding panelling to internal walls and creating a lobby. Vose, who also operates The Kings Head in Fisher Street and owns Linton Holme Inn in Lindisfarne Street, aims to open his latest venue in ten weeks. It will offer traditional ales, lagers and possibly snacks, reports In Cumbria