Las Iguanas grows turnover by £20m in takeover year: Turnover grew by more than £20m at Latin American-themed restaurant chain Las Iguanas in accounts covering the year of its takeover by The Casual Dining Group. However, profitability was affected by exceptional costs relating to the deal and the opening of new sites. According to accounts filed at Companies House, turnover rose to £75,899,000 in the 61-week extended period ending 29 May 2016, compared with £53,421,000 for the 52 weeks ending 29 May 2015. Adjusted Ebitda was £9,585,000. The company reported a pre-tax loss of £3.3m. However, before exceptional items a profit of £3m was achieved. In the company’s previous accounting period, it made a pre-tax profit of £3.6m. In July 2015, Las Iguanas was acquired for £85m by The Casual Dining Group, which also owns the Bella Italia and Café Rouge chains, from private equity firm Bowmark Capital. Following the acquisition, a further six restaurants were opened with more planned for the future. Exceptional costs of £3.3m were incurred during the year, including £2.2m that was “largely due to sites for which a provision for onerous leases has been recognised”. A further £707,000 was recorded in costs relating to the integration of Las Iguanas with the wider Casual Dining Group. Las Iguanas was founded in Bristol in 1991 and currently operates 54 restaurants across the UK.

Deep Blue Restaurants reports 2.2% like-for-likes rise: Deep Blue Restaurants has reported like-for-like sales grew 2.2% in the year ending 27 September 2016 as it boosted turnover and Ebitda. The company, which has 20 UK sites and a franchise in Spain, saw turnover increase 9.1% to £5,964,015 compared with £5,464,434 the previous year, according to accounts filed with Companies House. Ebitda was up 20.6% to £573,368, compared with £475,477 the year before. Gross margin rose to 70.3%, compared with 70.7% the previous year. Its pre-tax losses narrowed to £192,425, compared with £296,056 the year before. Cash balances improved to £521,417 from £279,095. The company stated: “In November 2016 we secured a new debt facility of £1.6m – £725,000 was used to repay our outstanding debt with NatWest and the balance has been and will be used to fund our expansion. To date this includes acquisitions in Cobham, Newmarket and Norwich in December 2016 and January 2017. Our shops in Letchworth, Thornbury, Cobham and Hampstead are all now carrying the Deep Blue brand and Lymington were rebranded in March. This leaves only two shops within the group remaining and these should be rebranded within the current financial period. Our Hampstead shop, which has been operational since February, is our first in London and we intend to explore other carefully selected sites as one element of our expansion strategy. We received confirmation our franchise partners in Spain will be opening a Deep Blue franchise in Alicante airport. This franchise will be operational from early summer 2017. Using technology to enhance performance and efficiency remains at the forefront of our objectives. Our regularly enhanced website offers a ‘click and collect’ service to all Deep Blue shops and a full online delivery service to 11 of them. We continue to work closely with specialist suppliers of software solutions to the hospitality industry to drive enhanced efficiency and competitive advantage.”

Longshot competes £5.3m refinancing deal to expand Bel & The Dragon accommodation offering: Longshot Country Inns, owners of seven-strong gastro-pub chain Bel & The Dragon, has completed a debt finance deal worth £5.3m with OakNorth Bank to expand the brand’s accommodation from 47 bedrooms to 61. Longshot said it would also use the loan to refinance its debt facilities and for working capital purposes. Longshot purchased four Bel & The Dragon sites in 2010, adding three further country inns between 2014 and 2016. Longshot Country Inns chief executive and co-founder Joel Cadbury said: “We aim to make our guests feel at home so we’re delighted to have secured this loan, which will enable us to accommodate even more visitors.” OakNorth Bank debt finance director Deepesh Thakrar added: “Joel Cadbury and Ollie Vigors are born entrepreneurs, with an exciting and diverse track record of starting, scaling and exiting numerous successful and unique businesses. Along with Hector Ross, chief operating officer of Longshot Country Inns, they have built an incredibly strong portfolio and we look forward to working with the team on more deals in the future.” Bel & The Dragon’s sites are in Cookham, Churt, Godalming, Kingsclere, Odiham, Reading and Windsor.

Marston’s premium division Revere starts expansion of Foundry brand with Harrogate opening: Marston’s premium division Revere Pub Company has started expansion of its Foundry brand by opening a second site, this time in Harrogate. The Foundry Project has opened in The Ginnel with a focus on cocktails, craft beer and Caravan coffee, as well as sourdough pizzas, burgers and sharing platters. The 2,638 square foot venue opens from 9am daily for breakfast, dinner and weekend brunch, with 150 covers inside and 24 outdoors. The venue features industrial-inspired decor, with distressed timber and metal cladding. Both the raised dining space and lower bar feature hanging lights, metallic mesh panelling and exposed copper beams. The large charred-timber bar, which runs the full width of the lower floor, showcases its ales with three large copper tanks being the main feature, alongside bespoke fonts with a distressed metal finish. Seating includes banquettes and Chesterfield-style sofas. The first site for the brand – Foundry 39 – opened in Edinburgh last year.

Bourgee opens third site, in Bury St Edmunds: Steak-lobster lounge concept Bourgee, which operates sites in Southend and Chelmsford, has opened a venue in Bury St Edmunds. The venue, in the Suffolk town’s iconic Cupola House in The Traverse, offers Bourgee’s brand of “affordable luxury”. The company was founded by James Welling and Mark Baumann in 2014. Welling told Bury Free Press: “Having seen the consumer demand first-hand across Essex, we are eager to challenge what East Anglia has come to expect from its restaurant choices, showing customers they can have the quality dining experiences they have come to know and love from nearby London without the need for travel or a high credit card limit.” At Bourgee, all meat is cooked on a Josper grill, with diners given graphite blades imported from Germany to cut the meat without tearing. Welling has told Propel the company would build a cluster of sites in Essex and East Anglia before gradually advancing across the country in an “organic, measured way”.

US create-your-own burger brand to launch into UK with London and Glasgow sites: US create-your-own burger brand Counter Customer Burgers is launching into the UK by opening sites in Glasgow and Ilford this summer. The franchise-operated chain will open its full-featured The Counter restaurant in Glasgow and its leaner, fast-casual version Built in east London. West Midlands-based company Daniel Johns, which has acquired the brand’s franchise rights in the UK, said the Ilford venue would focus on a faster dining experience, giving diners the opportunity to create their own build-as-you-go burger. Launched in Los Angeles 14 years ago, the brand features a checklist system that offers more than a million combinations of burger. It operates more than 40 restaurants in the US and in international cities including Dublin and Riyadh. The Counter founder and co-chief executive Jeff Weinstein told BDaily: “We know in the UK market there is an appetite for gourmet burgers and, with our custom-built burgers, we feel we can bring a unique offering.” Daniel Johns director Khalid Iqbal said the Glasgow and Ilford venues were just the start of a planned UK-wide push for the brand. He added: “We were attracted to The Counter and Built because of its commitment to delivering the very best experiences in taste and service and attracting an enthusiastic clientele of burger lovers – a phenomenon we aim to replicate.”

Azzurri Group starts expansion of pizza concept Radio Alice with second London site: Azzurri Group, which owns and operates Ask Italian, Zizzi and Coco di Mama, has started expansion of its pizza concept Radio Alice by opening a second site in London, this time in Clapham. The 2,000 square foot former Gastro site will open in Venn Street in June. The 80-cover restaurant will also have room for 40 diners outside and feature an eclectic mix of leather banquettes and reclaimed school chairs. The concept is the brainchild of brothers Salvatore and Matteo Aloe, who have teamed up with Gail’s Bakery co-founder Emma King. The brothers own Berbere, which operates five pizzerias in Italy. Salvatore Aloe said: “The idea of community lies at the heart of Radio Alice and we immediately fell in love with the close-knit feel of the Clapham neighbourhood.” Casey Phillips, partner at agents Shelley Sandzer, which secured both Radio Alice sites, added: “Clapham is a great location for Radio Alice’s new home and in particular Venn Street, which already benefits from alfresco dining and is soon to be pedestrianised.” Radio Alice opened its first site in Hoxton last year. The concept is named after a 1970s Italian pirate radio station, with the venues featuring a soundtrack of songs from the decade.

Chilango selects Vestey Foodservice as distribution partner to support expansion plans: Mexican brand Chilango has chosen Vestey Foodservice as its distribution partner to support expansion plans. The deal is a multi-year contract in which Vestey will supply all food and beverage requirements from its depot. Chilango head of purchasing and commercial Danny de Ruiter told Propel the move gave the brand “all the benefits of a central supplier with all the assurances of a BRC-accredited supply chain”. He added that Vestey would play a “pivotal role in the successful roll-out of restaurants”. De Ruiter said: “Vestey’s expertise and experience has been tested with a variety of friends in the industry and we are confident we’ve selected the right partner to help us grow and supply all corners of the country so we can continue to make the best burritos in town.” Chilango, which operates ten sites in London and one in Manchester, reported turnover increased to £6.97m for the year ending 27 March 2016, compared with £6.50m the year before. Gross profit was up to £4.57m, compared with £4.22m the previous year. In 2015, Chilango raised more than £3.4m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube towards expansion in the UK and overseas.

Rooftop street food and cocktail bar Sisu opens in Oxford Street: A new rooftop cocktail bar, Sisu, has opened in London’s Oxford Street. The team behind last year’s #NotchLDN has returned to the space to transform it into a “utilitarian nature reserve”, with Scandinavian-inspired surrounds, a greenhouse street food restaurant, and cocktails on tap via a token-operated machine. The venue near Marble Arch station features log tables, heated seats and ercol chairs. Dishes at the RetrEat restaurant include miso aubergine tacos, fried chicken waffles, crispy squid with shredded kimchi, and Canadian-style poutine (chips and cheese with gravy). Sisu’s drinks list includes beer from Camden Town Brewery, Caple Rd cider, wine, and cocktails in regular or large jars. With capacity for up to 100 people, including 40 in RetrEat, the venue will offer food and drink daily from midday to 10pm until late September. RetrEat will be available to hire, as will the whole venue on a limited number of dates.

AB InBev reports double-digit volume growth in first quarter: AB InBev has reported double-digit revenue growth in the UK as global sales increased 3.7% in the first quarter of this year. On a constant geographic basis, revenue globally per hectolitre grew by 4.5%. Total volumes declined by 0.5%, while own-beer volumes were down 0.2%. AB InBev north Europe president Jason Warner said: “We are very pleased with our UK performance for the first quarter of the year, continuing strong momentum from 2016, with sales volumes growing by low-double digits assisted by the launch of Bud Light. The continued growth of Budweiser has been driven by the brand’s football activation, with exciting gestures for fans through our partnership with the FA Cup. Stella Artois launched its largest social cause campaign in the UK in association with water.org and Matt Damon to provide clean drinking water in the developing world. Corona continued its growth momentum and expanded its appeal through the launch of the Coronita in smaller 210ml bottles. In March we launched across the UK market, through a heavyweight marketing campaign, Bud Light, a premium light beer to reinvigorate the standard lager category and build distribution rapidly across all trade channels, driving strong trial-and-repeat with consumers. We look forward to the year ahead as we continue to drive growth and relevance for our brands in line with their premium nature.”

Boston Tea Party launches summer menu: Cafe group Boston Tea Party has launched a new summer lunch menu based on customer feedback. New dishes include salmon niçoise, vegan Vietnamese bahn-mi baguette with pulled jackfruit, chicken meatball pasta, and vegetarian option summer vegetable risotto. Boston Tea Party’s signature super salad remains on the menu but with an option to add halloumi or chicken breast. A message to customers states: “With summer well and truly on the way, we hope you enjoy these new dishes as much as we do. We always love feedback too, so if you’ve tried something new, tell us what you think.” Boston Tea Party operates 19 sites, mainly in the south west, including six in its home city of Bristol and another set to open in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Black & Blue reopens Borough site with full-service cocktail bar: London-based high-end steak and better burger company Black & Blue Restaurant Group has reopened its Borough site with a new full-service cocktail bar. The bar offers a range of innovative cocktails including the Black & Blue Punch and Bold English Rose alongside a selection of snacks and light bites. Director Nick Hill said: “The demand for cocktails is unprecedented in London. Everyone wants to unwind after work or catch up with friends over a decent, well-crafted cocktail using fresh ingredients. Black & Blue Borough can provide exactly that in a beautiful, comfortable environment.” Black & Blue Restaurant Group was founded in 1999 by Hill and Alan Bacon, who remain at the helm. Its Borough site opened in July 2006 while it also has sites in Notting Hill Gate, the South Bank and Waterloo.

Whitbread gets go-ahead for Premier Inn in Bangor, Northern Ireland: Whitbread has been given the go-ahead to build a Premier Inn in Bangor, Northern Ireland. The £7m, 85-bedroom hotel will be built on the site of the former Bangor Leisure Centre in Castle Park Avenue and feature an on-site restaurant. There are currently seven Premier Inns in Northern Ireland and Whitbread said it had been looking for a suitable site in the seaside resort for a number of years. Whitbread acquisitions manager for Northern Ireland Matt Aubrey said: “It’s a great location and we’re looking forward to opening and operating a Premier Inn in Bangor.” Des Taggart, property director of Premier Inn development partner Conway Group, added: “The new Premier Inn in Bangor will be a fantastic addition to the area and boost the local economy as well as supporting ongoing regeneration of the town.” The move is part of Premier Inn’s expansion drive towards 85,000 bedrooms by 2020.

HIT Training launches new apprenticeships as part of government-led industry overhaul: HIT Training, the national apprenticeship provider to the hospitality industry, has launched four new standards as part of a government-led overhaul of the system designed to raise the bar in industry training. The apprenticeships – hospitality supervisor, team leader, chef de partie and customer service practitioner – add to the commis chef and hospitality team member standards launched last year. HIT Training managing director Jill Whittaker said: “Apprenticeships are the future of the hospitality sector and we’re proud to be among the first to deliver the new standards, helping to reduce the skills gap and broaden opportunities for apprentices within the sector by raising the quality and relevance of training. The standards have been created by a group of employers – known as ‘trailblazers’ – meaning they’re based on tangible business needs and have been tailored to specific job roles. Their introduction will ensure all apprenticeship training is high quality, rigorous and specifically crafted to develop the knowledge and skills required to work in the hospitality industry. We’re encouraging employers to sign up now to take full advantage of these benefits ahead of the April 2018 deadline, when all apprenticeship starts will be switched over from the current frameworks.”

Former London chef puts South Downs pub on the market: Former London chef Bruce Wass has put his pub restaurant in the South Downs on the market off a guide price of £699,500, reduced from £750,000. Agent Fleurets is marketing The Jolly Sportsman in East Chiltington, East Sussex, which is known for its celebrity clientele such as comedians Steve Coogan and Sean Lock, and television presenter Jamie Theakston. Accounts show proven sales of £501,000 per annum net of VAT. Nick Earee, of Fleurets, said: “The owners Bruce and Gwyneth Wass have chosen to sell in order to retire. Bruce opened Thackeray’s Restaurant in Tunbridge Wells in 1984 and, after that triumph, purchased The Jolly Sportsman in 1998, then run as a country pub taking less than £2,000 a week.” Since Wass took over the property, the pub has regularly featured in food guides as one of the best places to eat in Sussex.

BaxterStorey secures contract with van leasing company Vanarama: Contract catering company BaxterStorey has secured a contract with van leasing company Vanarama. The initial three-year contract will see 200 staff in the Hemel Hempstead head office served daily with a variety of freshly prepared meals and snacks made from locally sourced produce. In addition, BaxterStorey will provide hospitality services, including freshly prepared working lunch buffets and freshly baked afternoon tea, as well as barista-served beverages from its in-house brand, Coffee Society. Street food-style pop-ups will also be introduced, including the Kansas-inspired barbecue meat of Rib Shack, gourmet hotdogs from Hound Dog, and customisable burritos from Mexican Kitchen. BaxterStorey regional managing director Dave Hawkes said: “Our chef teams worked closely with Vanarama to build an entirely new package for them and introduced them to the well-being benefits a tailored service can bring to the workplace.”

CH&Co Group retains business certifications: CH&Co Group has retained its business certifications in quality management, environmental standards, energy management and health and safety across its portfolio of businesses. The Brookwood Partnership and Absolutely Catering, which merged with CH&Co Group in July 2016, are now also included in the group’s ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 50001 and OHSAS 18001 certifications. The company was praised with the way it complies operationally with its management systems and also received recognition for the detailed training provided to staff. In addition, CH&Co Group has added “Safe Systems in Procurement”. This umbrella organisation facilitates mutual recognition between health and safety pre-qualification schemes and allows buyers to verify that a contractor holds valid safety certification. CH&Co Group chief executive Bill Toner said: “It’s very important for our business, our clients and our employees that we have robust management systems in place. We work very hard to ensure continual excellence operationally, environmentally and from a health and safety perspective.”