Gaucho operator reports Ebitda and turnover rise: Gaucho Holdings, which operates 29 restaurants in the UK under the Gaucho Grill and CAU brands, plus one Holland restaurant and another in the United Arab Emirates, has reported that turnover rose to £70,329,000 in the year to 31 December 2015, compared with £61,421,000 the year before. Ebitda pre-opening costs increased to £11,902,000 from £10,974,000 the year before. Ebitda after pre-opening costs was £10,417,000, up from £10,145,00 the year before. The company, which saw an investment from Luke Johnson at the start of this year, stated: “The group’s continued growth was principally driven by the CAU brand through increased revenue from the existing estate and the addition of new restaurants in the year at Wilmslow, St Katherine Docks, Reading, Liverpool, Didsbury, Glasgow and Media City, Salford. Ebitda remains a key focus for the group. The group’s growth in Ebitda was mostly driven by the CAU brand, partially offset by one-off opening costs incurred prior to the restaurant opening. Loss after tax for the year was improved by £3.4m to the loss position of £6.4m in 2015. The improvement in tax compared with 2014 was caused by a decrease in the loan note debt in May 2014. Eight new CAU openings are planned for this year. Turnover from the UK was £63,463,000 (year before £54,254,000), turnover from the Netherlands site was £3,178,00 (previous year £3,154,000), turnover from a joint-venture site in Argentina was £1,345,000 (previous year £1,079,000), and turnover from its Middle East restaurant was £2,343,00 (previous year £2,934,000).




Whitbread to launch Bar + Block in King’s Cross: Whitbread is launching its newest brand Bar + Block in London’s King’s Cross. Following the success of the debut Bar + Block in Birmingham earlier this year the flagship, steak-focused, all-day casual dining restaurant will open in November. The site will neighbour King’s Cross and St Pancras International, which collectively see 120 million annual visitors. The 5,522 square foot, 212-cover King’s Cross site has been developed by Harrison Design and will include a 68-cover central feature bar with copper detailing, a large open kitchen, branded mosaic signage at the entrance, and a mix of stand-alone seating and leather booths. Exposed brick walls will showcase a number of contemporary artwork pieces, including the company’s signature neon cow signage and preserved moss “Hello” sign, as well as wall calligraphy detailing the Bar + Block brand story. Bar + Block will be an informal all-day dining venue serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with an emphasis on high-quality steaks at affordable prices, all hand-cut to order. The “Butcher’s Block” will feature a range of rotating specials. Bar + Block will also offer an extensive drinks list, with a focus on craft beer and cider from BrewDog, innovative cocktails, and a specially curated wine list. David Murdin, chief operating officer of brand developments for Whitbread Restaurants, said: “We’re very excited to be launching our flagship site in London following its success in Birmingham. We’re keen to develop the brand further and aim to have several venues open by the end of this financial year.”




Living Ventures co-founder Danny Fox launches £1m ‘wood fired’ restaurant concept: Living Ventures co-founder and former Individual Restaurant Company operations director Danny Fox has opened a new £1m “wood-fired” restaurant concept, creating more than 50 jobs. Fox has opened his eponymous restaurant in Hale Barns, near Altrincham, on the site of the former Co-op in Hale Barns Square, a 4,000 square foot unit fronting Hale Road. Fox said the restaurant’s concept was one he had been working on for “many years”. The 120-cover Fox offers meat and fish from an open grill, alongside pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven. The new restaurant is the penultimate unit to be filled in the redeveloped Hale Barns Square following the arrival of Costa Coffee, Pets Corner and Fired Earth – as well as anchor tenant, Booths. Fox founded Living Ventures with Jeremy Roberts and the late Tim Bacon and helped grow the Living Room bar chain before selling it to Premium Bars and Restaurants. He was formerly operations director at Individual Restaurant Company, which operates 32 sites nationally including Piccolino – which has a Hale restaurant – Restaurant Bar & Grill, Bank Restaurant and Zinc Bar & Grill.




Bird ‘excited about future possibilities’ following fourth site opening, including ‘opportunity to expand outside London’: Paul Hemings, co-founder of London-based free-range British fried chicken concept Bird, has told Propel the company is looking forward to a period of consolidation having opened its fourth site this week but he believes there is opportunity to expand outside the capital in the future. The company has opened at Westfield Stratford City on the mezzanine-level food court with a new kiosk trading format. With rents for restaurant space continuing to rise in the capital, Hemings said the kiosk format could provide an alternative opportunity away from sit-down restaurants for future growth. He said: “It’s counter service with communal seating and there are about 12 different operators such as Tortilla, Pho and Franco Manca there. I think it’s going to tell us a lot. We’ve seen how well our restaurants work and this will give us the opportunity to see how a different format works that should inform a lot about what we’re able to do next. We’ve tweaked the menu a bit, bringing the entry price points slightly down to bring it into line with that food court environment.” Hemings said he and fellow co-founder, wife Cara Ceppetelli, were looking forward to concentrating on their existing sites for the time being. However, the brand was “absolutely working towards further expansion in the future”. He added: “I think we have our hands full with what we’ve got for now for a little bit. We will continue to look and we definitely think our offer will translate outside London. We want to continue to grow but at this time it’s about consolidating what we’ve got.” Hemings said trading was “currently strong”, adding: “We have two sites (now three) that are less than a year old and we are excited about the run-up to Christmas. Things are definitely on the up.”




Edinburgh-based bar operator Big Red Teapot to open fourth site in city next month: Edinburgh-based bar operator Big Red Teapot is set to open its fourth site in the city next month. The Voyage of Buck restaurant and cocktail bar in William Street features blue, mustard and vintage gold decor inspired by the Edwardian era. A mixture of tables and art deco-style furniture allows for 60 covers, including space at the marble-topped bar. Artefacts and antiques are dotted throughout the venue, alongside a nod to today’s maverick artists. The monthly-changing menu will include small, large and sweet plates for sharing, with larger main dishes featuring organic meat, seafood, and gluten-free and vegetarian dishes. A weekend brunch menu will also be introduced. The cocktail list has been inspired by travels to Paris, Taipei, Cairo and Havana, with each city having its own suite of drinks, from sours, bucks and punches to sharing drinks and original creations.




Hakkasan Group to expand into Indonesia next year: UK-based restaurant and nightclub company Hakkasan Group is to expand into Indonesia next year. In a joint project with KAJA Group and Alila Hotel & Resorts, the restaurant group will open Omnia and upscale Japanese restaurant Sake No Hana in The Cliff at Alila Villas in Uluwatu, Bali, in the third quarter of 2017. Hakkasan is also opening Sake No Hana, Omnia and Hakkasan restaurant in Jakarta’s Alila SCBD Hotel in partnership again with KAJA Group and Alila Hotels & Resorts. The partnership and investment from KAJA Group in both Jakarta and Bali totals $38m in the largest investment of its kind in Indonesia. Hakkasan Group chief executive Neil Moffitt told Drinks Business: “Two in every five tourists visit Bali while in Indonesia and the country’s young and increasingly urban population makes it one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world. These factors create a unique opportunity for Hakkasan Group to enter the market at this time. For Hakkasan Group, choosing like-minded partners has always been key for us. Alila Hotels & Resorts has the same focus and passion for excellence in culinary experiences and impeccable service, while KAJA Group has enabled us to bring this luxury experience to visitors to Bali.” Once these initial projects are completed, Hakkasan intends to further expand within Indonesia and across south east Asia to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.




SSP adds Ed’s Easy Diner to franchised brand portfolio: Foodservice travel hub specialist SSP is set to open its first Ed’s Easy Diner at London’s Liverpool Street Station. The new restaurant is scheduled to open this month. “We are pleased to welcome Ed’s Easy Diner to Liverpool Street as part of another major Network Rail retail development,” said Hamish Kiernan, commercial director of Network Rail. “Ed’s is one of the fastest-growing casual dining formats in the UK and its franchise partnership with SSP is a perfect combination to drive operating success in the more complex station environment. We believe Ed’s will be a welcome addition to our Liverpool Street portfolio, providing locals and station-users with a unique, US-style diner experience.” Simon Smith, chief executive of SSP UK, added: “Ed’s is a much-loved brand that has a unique personality and a stand-out style that captures the imagination. It will be the perfect complement to the wide choice of bars restaurants, cafes and shops that visitors to Liverpool Street will be able to enjoy.” Ed’s Easy Diner chief executive Andrew Guy said: “We are delighted to be embarking on the expansion of Ed’s and our first station opening, working with experienced partners SSP. Dwell-time at train stations is certainly increasing and, with a daily footfall of 180,000 people, we’re confident the Liverpool Street Diner will be a success. Together with SSP, we’ll aim to open ten more Diners by the summer of 2020 in UK stations, airports and visitor attractions.” In addition to Ed’s Easy Diner, SSP will also open a new Mi Casa Burritos and, as previously announced, a Leon restaurant. The company currently operates 12 units in Liverpool Street and the brands it operates include M&S Simply Food, Delice de France, The Pasty Shop, Camden Food Co, The Merchant, Whistlestop, and Starbucks. The company opened its first unit at the station in 2000.




The Snug secures tenth site, in Bury St Edmunds: The Snug, the south of England bar group, has secured its tenth site, this time in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. The company, led by Giles Fry, is set to open the venue in St Johns Street this month and is currently recruiting staff. Last month, the brand opened a site in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, as it continues to expand. In July, it reported a strong first quarter with like-for-like sales growth of more than 4.6% year-on-year and total sales up 7.6%.




Caledonia Investments buys The Liberation Group: Caledonia Investment has completed the acquisition of The Liberation Group for £118m, backing existing management led by chief executive Mark Crowther and finance director Declan Hearne. Liberation was founded in 2008 through a management buy-in and equity-backed by LGV Capital. The group owns and operates a fully integrated pub and drinks business located in the Channel Islands and West Country in the UK. Liberation comprises 96 high-quality managed and tenanted pubs, two award-winning breweries and three wholesale businesses. The breweries are in Jersey and Bristol. Richard Grainger has been appointed chairman of the group board with immediate effect, succeeding Graham Turner who has served as chairman since 2008. Crowther said: “We are delighted to partner with Caledonia for the next phase of Liberation Group’s development. We have a strong growth agenda in train and Caledonia has committed significant capital funding to facilitate the group’s continued expansion as we continue to invest in – and grow – our pub and brewing operations in our chosen geographies of the Channel Islands and UK mainland. We look forward to continuing to deliver further success for our new shareholders, employees and customers.”




Wahaca lodges plans for site in Nottingham, first restaurant in Midlands: Mexican restaurant brand Wahaca has lodged plans for a site in Nottingham, its first venue in the Midlands. The company, co-founded by former MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers, has applied to the city council to open the venue in King Street on the site of the former Hard Rock Cafe and neighbouring Tropeiro restaurant, which closed in April after five years. A planning statement from Wahaca’s architects First Plan said: “The proposals will allow Wahaca to operate from the unit and create a more attractive destination for customers by better revealing some of the original features of the building, to make a vibrant and viable contribution to the local economy.” Miers told The Business Desk: “Not so long ago, tequila girls, cheap shots and greasy tortilla chips were images that sprang to mind when ‘Mexican’ was done in Britain. At Wahaca we shook things up a bit and started doing things a little differently. Living in Mexico, running bars out there and having time to explore its amazing cuisine made me fall in love with the incredible vibrancy and freshness of real Mexican food.” Wahaca has 23 restaurants across the UK and is due to open a site in Chichester, West Sussex, on Monday (12 September).




Portfolio of 55 hotels let to Travelodge set to be sold for almost £200m: A portfolio of 55 hotels let to budget operator Travelodge is set to be bought by real estate investment trust Secure Income REIT in a deal worth almost £200m. Secure Income REIT has agreed to buy the portfolio for £196.2m, subject to a share placing that should raise £140m. The deal will also be financed by a new £60m, seven-year funding package. The hotels produce £13.7m in rent per year and have an average unexpired lease term of 27 years. Martin Moore, independent non-executive chairman of Secure Income REIT, said: “Today’s proposed acquisition and placing are exciting for the company and indicative of the strong ambitions we have to grow the business. This transaction delivers further upwards-only, RPI-linked income, which will be significantly accretive to earnings, enabling us to continue to increase dividend payments and improve total shareholder returns. Furthermore, the acquisition expands and diversifies Secure Income REIT’s asset base through the purchase, at an attractive yield, of a portfolio of long-lease assets in a highly robust sector, let to the UK’s second-largest budget hotel chain.” The portfolio includes Oxford Peartree, Edinburgh Central, and Manchester Central. Hotels at Exeter M5, Milton Keynes Central, Southampton, Northampton Upton Way, Ely and Nottingham Riverside are also included. Prestbury Investments has worked on the deal.




Kurt Zdesar to open Italian restaurant concept Fucina in Marylebone next month: Kurt Zdesar, the man who brought Nobu to London as director of operations for Nobu Europe, will launch new Italian restaurant concept Fucina next month in Marylebone. Zdesar, who opened The Black Roe Poke Bar and Grill in Mayfair earlier this year and also operates “Nikkei” sushi bar Chotto Matte in Soho, is partnering with Stefano Stecca (Locatelli and Novikov) on the new project. The menu at the new restaurant in Paddington Street will be based on recipes from Zdesar’s childhood but with a “modern twist”. Dishes will feature pasta hand-made on-site, alongside stone-baked pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven, Hot Dinners reports. There will be a large, wood-fired pit downstairs for roasting suckling pig, lamb, boar and other large meat cuts, while products made in-house such as bread, pastries, charcuterie and gelato will be on sale at the next-door panetteria, which is due to open in November. The panetteria will be headed by former Princi head baker Massimiliano Porta and will also offer cold-pressed juices, freshly ground coffee, and Italian groceries, alongside sandwiches using meat cooked in the firepit.




Turtle Bay to open restaurant in Blackburn: Caribbean restaurant brand Turtle Bay is set to open a restaurant in Blackburn, Lancashire, next year. The company is opening the site in the new £34m Cathedral Quarter. Although plans are being kept under wraps for now, a spokesman for Turtle Bay told the Lancashire Telegraph: “We can confirm we are advertising for jobs in Blackburn for a restaurant opening there next year but at the moment we will not be releasing any more information.” Phil Riley, Darwen Council’s executive member for regeneration at Blackburn, said: “We think this restaurant will fit in really well with the younger profile of the town as they are mainly in bigger cities rather than smaller towns. It’s wonderful news.” Turtle Bay, which is backed by Piper Private Equity, was formed by Las Iguanas co-founder Ajith Jaya-Wickrema and has 28 sites across the UK, having opened its first site in Milton Keynes in 2010.




Gainford Group acquires fourth Newcastle hotel in £12m deal: North east-based hotel and bar operator Gainford Group has acquired the freehold of Mercure Newcastle County Hotel from Amaris Hospitality for £12m. The rapidly growing company, run by the Khaliq family, already operates the Vermont Hotel and Vermont Aparthotel in Newcastle Quayside, and is set to start converting Grainger House in the city centre into a 70-bedroom hotel. As well as 114 bedrooms, the County Hotel sale included ten retail units that are let to tenants including Starbucks and Zapatista Burrito Bar, all of which will remain. Three empty retail units near the main entrance to the grade II-listed building opposite Newcastle Central Station will be turned into themed bars and restaurants. The hotel also has ten meeting rooms and a recently refurbished restaurant with lounge and bar. The freehold interest also includes an office building. A Gainford Group spokesman told Chronicle Live: “Since the refurbishment of the train station this is a very busy part of the city and we have big plans for the property to restore it to its former glory. The purchase will safeguard more than 100 jobs and take staff employed by Gainford Group above 2,000.” Chris Welch, a corporate partner at Sintons Law, led the acquisition on behalf of Gainford, while property consultants JLL advised Amaris Hospitality on the sale. Gainford Group also owns late-night venues Aveika and Bar Livello in Newcastle, as well as Great Victoria hotel in Bradford.




Master sommeliers to launch French fine dining restaurant Cabotte in London next week featuring more than 600 wines: Master sommeliers Xavier Rousset and Gearoid Devaney will launch French fine dining restaurant Cabotte in central London next week. The restaurant will open in Gresham Street in the City on Thursday, 15 September, with a focus on the Burgundy region. The wine list will feature more than 600 wines, 500 of them from Burgundy. Rousset and Devaney have won a number of awards between them, including UK Sommelier of the Year. Cabotte will employ the Coravin system, which allows wine to be tasted without uncorking the bottle, keeping it fresh. A cabotte is a workers’ refuge found in a vineyard and the restaurant will offer two private dining rooms available for hire. The menu, created by head chef and Gordon Ramsay protégé Ed Boarland, will feature a combination of classic and modern French dishes, including oeuf meurette (delicately poached egg served with smoked bacon and lie de vin sauce), jambon persille (ham and parsley terrine with apple and raisin chutney), and French classics such as beef cheek bourguignon. In May, Propel reported Rousset and Devaney had acquired the former Be At One site in Gresham Street, with a rent of £82,000 per annum. The lease is an assignment and runs until 2035. The site comprises 3,198 square feet over three floors.




Nespresso outlines boutique expansion plans: Nespresso plans to open four boutique shops in the UK by December, with four more in the pipeline for 2017 at key cities in the UK and Ireland. The new venues will open in Bristol (The Mall, Cribbs Causeway), Leeds (Victoria Gate), Sheffield (Meadowhall) and London (Westfield Stratford City). The retail expansion is part of the brand’s vision to provide increased access to its premium-portioned coffee in the UK, with the ambition of opening a boutique within one hour’s drive of every British customer. Nespresso UK and Ireland managing director Francisco Nogueira told Housewareslive: “Over the past few years we’ve seen fantastic growth across the UK and we receive almost daily requests for more boutiques to open. Through these four new boutiques we will be able to reach many customers, particularly in new areas of the country such as Leeds and Bristol, where we haven’t previously had a presence. Our growth in the UK over the past few years has been phenomenal. With four boutiques opening in 2015 and eight more planned, we are quickly developing our portfolio across the country. These new boutiques have been especially developed to suit the desires of the modern coffee drinker, with tasting bars, coffee specialists on hand and the latest in retail technology to provide a smooth customer experience.” The boutique expansion follows the launch of Cafe Nespresso in Cheapside, London, in June, the first of its kind in the UK.




Harbour & Jones partners with Kafoodle: Contract caterer Harbour & Jones has partnered with restaurant locator app Kafoodle to offer “nutritional, allergen-safe food” across its major London sites. Harbour & Jones operates more than 200 catering outlets at London venues as diverse as The Royal Society and Abbey Road Studios. It also operates a number of cafes and restaurants in the capital. The company said working with Kafoodle would ensure its clients and customers could eat healthily and safely at its sites, while remaining compliant with allergen legislation. Anyone dining at a Harbour & Jones venue will also be able to access allergen and nutritional information via the Kafoodle App. Harbour & Jones compliance director Kevin Harrison said: “Contract catering has its own unique demands and pressures and, coupled with increased demand from clients to create a healthier workforce, can become complicated. We felt Kafoodle fitted the bill exactly when it came to providing training and open information in a user-friendly way.”