Leon boss outlines US expansion plans, reveals 20% drop in job applications from foreign workers since Brexit vote: John Vincent, the chief executive and co-founder of natural fast food brand Leon, has outlined the company’s US expansion plans and revealed it had seen a 20% drop in job applications from foreign workers since the Brexit vote. Vincent will take the company to the US later this year with an opening in Washington. The company will decide on a location in the next two weeks and intends to open by the autumn. Funding for Leon’s early US expansion is most likely to come from “the existing balance sheet”, Vincent said. If Washington is a success further American locations will be considered, as will external investment. Vincent told the Sunday Times: “I expect in 18 months we’ll still have only three restaurants in America, but then we’ll really put the foot on the gas.” He added: “We want to be as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola, as ubiquitous as iPhones. That’s what we need to be to become the new fast food.” Vincent admitted Leon was still “too much of a middle-class brand” and would open “in an area of the UK that isn’t wealthy” by the end of next year. The lower rents would allow the brand to reduce menu prices but still offer the same range of food. He added: “You don’t dumb down. You don’t compromise. iPhones exist in the middle of poorest areas. Apple didn’t do that by trying to become mass [market]. The mass came to them.” Vincent said there had been a 20% drop in applications from foreign workers since the Brexit vote and added: “We can’t just have nuclear physicists let in, we’ve got to have people who can do this (work in kitchens).” Vincent founded Leon in 2004 with Henry Dimbleby and it currently has 43 sites. In 2015, sales grew 48% to £37m and are expected to have risen sharply again in the past 12 months.
HK4 Group closes remaining Base + Barley site to be replaced by new brand: HK4 Group, which operates Artigiano and the Terrace, has closed its remaining pizza and craft beer restaurant Base + Barley and will replace it with a new brand. The company has shut the venue in Exeter two months after closing the concept’s other site in Cardiff. HK4 Group has said the Exeter restaurant in Longbrook Street will reopen under a new brand. A spokesman told the Express & Echo: “Base + Barley permanently closed on Friday (13 January). The owners have exciting plans for a new brand that will open soon and more information about the plans will be released shortly.” Base + Barley was launched in November 2015 and subsequently opened a branch in Cardiff, which closed in November after eight months in business. It is not yet known whether staff at Base + Barley will be made redundant or redeployed to other businesses in the group. According to its website, HK4 Group was founded three years ago and now has annual sales of about £5m. The company has plans for national expansion of its Artigiano and Terrace brands. Sales are expected to exceed £5m in the current financial year, with profits of almost £400,000, rising to more than £10m of sales in 2017-18, with profits of about £1m.
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs to open first regional site this month, in Bristol: London-based coffee brand the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs will open its first regional site this month, in Bristol. The company has agreed a deal with Hammerson for an outlet at the Cabot Circus shopping centre. The 65 square metre coffee shop will be in the complex’s Quakers Friars piazza. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs chief executive Ashley Lopez said: “Bristol is a city on the rise, welcoming more people in the coming years and consistently performing highly on the intake of tourists and commuters from other parts of the UK, making it an ideal location for our new coffee shop.” Hammerson head of restaurants and leisure Sarah Fox added: “It is a fantastic result that the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs has chosen to make its all-important first step outside London with Hammerson at Cabot Circus. Bringing a unique offer to Bristol, the new coffee shop will no doubt prove popular with our customers and clearly demonstrates the strength of the centre’s appeal.” The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs has 11 sites in London.
Banana Tree to open site in Chelmsford: Banana Tree, the eight-strong south east Asian restaurant group, is to open a site in Chelmsford, Essex. The company, founded by William Chow, will open the restaurant at the High Chelmer shopping centre on the former Co-op site. Banana Tree specialises in food from across the Indochina region and features pan Asian dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, and also has an extensive Oriental cocktail menu. High Chelmer centre manager Mick McDonagh told Essex Live: “Banana Tree is a really exciting and growing restaurant brand and I’m pleased that we’ve been able to help bring them to the people of this great city. Following on from the opening of Carluccio’s, Turtle Bay, Cote and Bourgee, we truly have a global food offering with dishes and menus that come from around the world. I’m thrilled that Banana Tree will also be opening this year.” Chow launched Banana Tree 21 years ago in London and as well as sites in the capital, it also has restaurants in Milton Keynes and Oxford.
Inception Group launches bigger Bunga Bunga in Covent Garden: Inception Group, which operates bars, restaurants and clubs in south west and central London, has begun expansion of its Bunga Bunga concept with a second site, in Covent Garden. The company, owned by Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling, said the venue in Drury Lane “immerses guests in two different worlds”. Signalling a more sophisticated direction from the debut Bunga Bunga in Battersea, BungaTINI offers paninis, salads and signature pizzas during the day, transforming at night into a bar serving cocktails and small plates. The Bunga Bunga supper club downstairs offers a “theatrical journey” accessed through an industrial meat locker complete with blast chiller and carcasses. The 200-cover restaurant beyond offers an immersive dining experience with a central stage and two bars – a replica of Harry’s Bar (where the bellini was invented) and a casino bar with roulette wheel. There are also two private dining spaces including The Emperor’s Box, in which diners get an entrance to the club held aloft in a sedan chair, a seat on a throne overlooking the room, and the chance to give the gladiatorial thumbs up or down for the entertainment. Gilkes said: “This is a new, grown Bunga Bunga that has definitely not lost its sense of humour.” Inception Group’s venues include speakeasy Barts and 1980s-themed nightclub Maggie’s, both in Chelsea, and late-night 1940s-inspired bar Cahoots in Soho.
Investment fund secures major stake in Hubbox: Investment fund Provenance Investment Partners, which is backed by ex-BBC boss Greg Dyke and former Diageo chief Paul Walsh, has bought a major stake in British burger chain Hubbox. Provenance took a chunk as part of a deal that values Hubbox at about £5m, reports thisismoney.co.uk. Hubbox was set up in 2003 by restaurateur Richard Boon in St Ives, Cornwall, with a view to serving American-style food, sourced from local farmers and bakers. Sources said Boon had sold a stake to the private equity firm for £2.2m to help fund expansion of Hubbox, which has sites in Plymouth, Truro and Exeter and plans to open one soon in Bristol. Provenance was set up by private equity executive Simon Henderson, backed by Dyke, Walsh and former Debenham’s chairman John Lovering.
Young’s reopens Cotswolds coaching inn: London pub retailer Young’s has reopened The Blue Boar country pub in Chipping Norton following a major refurbishment. Acquired last year, the former Chipping Norton coaching inn on the cusp of the Cotswolds has been restored to its 16th century glory, with the addition of a seasonal menu of British classics and local brews on tap. The former stables have been turned into a dining room complete with high ceilings, exposed wooden beams and a hay-loft mezzanine. Brunch dishes include crushed avocado with poached hen’s eggs on sourdough toast, while mains feature lamb-shank shepherd’s pie with autumnal greens and, with a nod to the pub’s name, wild boar and sage sausages with creamed mash, shallots and gravy. Desserts include baked clotted-cream rice pudding. Local ales on tap feature Old Hooky, brewed only two miles away, and Premium Cotswold Lager, alongside Young’s Winter Warmer. Vodka and gin are also distilled locally by the Cotswold Brew Co.
Bristol-based baker Parsons to reopen eight Bath Bakery shops under threat of closure: Bristol-based, family-run baker Parsons is set to open eight stores belonging to Bath Bakery, which has ceased trading, making all staff redundant. Parsons had been in discussions to purchase the Bath Bakery shops but the deal was thrown into uncertainty when news broke that Bath Bakery had been placed into liquidation. However, the deal has now been completed following “tortuous” discussions and Parsons will reopen the sites – two in Bath and one each in Corsham, Foxhill and Westbury in Wiltshire, and Frome, Midsomer Norton and Weston in Somerset – within the next week and offer jobs to all those who had been employed at the stores. The Bath Bakery site in Bradford-on-Avon has already reopened under Parsons ownership. However, the fate of the bakery in Moorland Road, Bath, remains unclear as this shop was not part of the deal. Nick Parsons and Tom Curling, of Parsons, told Propel: “Our reason for being is to bring the joy of artisan bakery to local communities and neighbourhoods. We have been doing that for 90 years in and around Bristol and are so excited to be in Bath, where I hope we will be well accepted.”
Adventure Bar to open two sites in 2017 following record festive period, like-for-like sales increase more than 10%: The Adventure Bar, the four-strong London cocktail group led by Tom Kidd, plans to open two new sites in 2017 following a record festive period. The company reported like-for-like sales were up more than 10% during the eight-week festive period. It said its latest venue in Seven Dials added an additional 44% to overall total sales. During that time, the four sites served 47,000 guests, made more than 51,000 handcrafted cocktails and sold more than 32,000 beers. The busiest site in Covent Garden sold more than 470 of its best-selling cocktails in one day alone – hitting peak trading on the two “mad Fridays” prior to Christmas. Kidd said: “Our hard-working teams delivered a spectacular Christmas to all our guests, with take-up of special packages and pre-bookings hitting record levels. It has created an excellent springboard for the new financial year, with healthy growth in Ebitda ahead of expectations. It means we can significantly bring forward our growth plans, with an additional two new openings planned for 2017.”
Starbucks promotes deaf awareness through innovative programme: Staff at Starbucks in Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf, are taking part in a programme called We Sign Cafe, which promotes deaf awareness. The monthly sessions are hosted by deaf baristas Manu Sulaiman and Haytam Lakb, who provide instruction in British Sign Language (BSL). The store’s manager Toro Manca began studying BSL six years ago after receiving funding for sign language training from Starbucks. Inspired by a conversation with executive chairman Howard Schultz, Manca made recruiting deaf partners a priority, with We Sign Cafe his next step in building awareness of deaf culture. He said: “To improve deaf awareness is so simple. We just need to adjust the way we communicate. Think about the skills people have, not that they’re deaf. Think about the personality, skills and experience.”
Former Pidgin head chef to open first restaurant: Elizabeth Allen, former head chef of Michelin-starred restaurant Pidgin, is to launch her first venture, in London. Allen will offer diners a taste of what to expect from Shibui with a two-week residency at Carousel in Marylebone starting on Tuesday (17 January). Billed as a sophisticated approach to barbecue, Shibui will have European and east Asian influences, reflecting Allen’s dual British and Singaporean heritage. Pidgin in Hackney, east London, won a Michelin star in its first year. Since leaving her post there, Allen has founded Kaizen House, a restaurant launch company. Shibui, due to open in London later this year, is its first project, reports Hardens. Carousel offers its own menu at lunchtime with a rolling programme of guest chefs – many of them from abroad – in the evening.
Former Gordon Ramsay chef to open bistro and bar in Beverley: Former Gordon Ramsay chef James Allcock is set to open a bistro and charcuterie bar in Beverley, East Yorkshire. Allcock, who worked alongside Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing at Pétrus in The Berkeley Hotel, will launch The Pig & Whistle in Sow Hill Road in April. He told the Hull Daily Mail: “Beverley is a beautiful town infused with heritage and culture. The Pig & Whistle will complement this by presenting regional produce alongside some specialities from outside the UK. Whether you pop down for some Lindisfarne oysters before a show at East Riding Theatre or stay to enjoy a charcuterie sharing board, our ethos is that food can be both casual and a celebration.”
Manchester nightclub Sankeys to close: Manchester nightclub Sankeys, which has hosted performances by artists such as Daft Punk, Grandmaster Flash and the Chemical Brothers, is to close to make way for apartments. The club, which is in Ancoats on the edge of the Northern Quarter, opened in June 1994 as Sankeys Soap, in reference to Beehive Mill’s former use as a soap factory. It has since closed and reopened on several occasions. However, the Beehive Mill premises it leases has been sold to a developer with plans to convert it into apartments, reports Insider Media. The 0.4-acre grade II*-listed former cotton spinning mill, which dates to the early 1820s, had been for sale with agent Savills as an “exciting threshold development opportunity in the heart of Ancoats”. A statement from the nightclub said: “As many of you have seen we have been forced to close due to circumstances completely out of our control.”
Plans lodged for rooftop dining extension at Trinity Leeds: Plans have been submitted for a new restaurant and bar space at Trinity Leeds alongside a rooftop dining extension at the shopping centre. Land Securities has applied to the city council to convert a vacant unit above the Trinity Kitchen area at the western end of the centre to pave the way for occupation by a “major prospective tenant”. The 15,000 square foot space on the top floor of Trinity Leeds previously occupied by Boots would be converted into a restaurant and bar. Above this, a 2,500 square foot decked roof terrace overlooking Bond Street is also envisaged. Access to the roof terrace would be achieved by a dedicated lift from street level or main restaurant unit and via “feature” stairs, reports Insider Media.
Cottons to run series of free monthly rum masterclasses: Cottons Caribbean Restaurant and Rhum Shack is running a series of free monthly rum masterclasses at its Notting Hill site to celebrate clinching a world record. The company has teamed up with rum brands to offer industry staff, rum fans and novices alike a one-and-a-half hour class where they get to smell, taste and learn about individual rums, as well as learn how to mix the ideal rum cocktail. Classes already confirmed include a January focus on Angostura (famous for its iconic bitters but becoming increasingly known for their award winning Trinidadian rums); a February focus on Dominican Republic’s Brugal rum, which is gaining popularity in the UK; and leading Cuban rum Havana Club featuring in July. The masterclasses take place on the last Wednesday of the month – at 2pm for industry staff and a more light-hearted version for rum fans at 6pm. Booking is essential in advance through Cotton’s website. In October, Cottons’ Notting Hill site picked up the Guinness world record for the bar with the most varieties of rum commercially available – 372.
Paris-based Maison Kayser opens first UK bakery – in Baker Street: Paris-based French baker Maison Kayser, which operates more than 100 sites globally, has opened its first venue in the UK, aptly in London’s Baker Street. Founded by French baker and entrepreneur Eric Kayser, the concept offers sandwiches on artisan bread with fillings such as smoked salmon, speck and Comté cheese. The boulangerie offers quiche, pastries and bread, including the brand’s renowned sourdough, which is made with a natural liquid starter rather than commercial yeast. Maison Kayser in Baker Street seats 60 in its cafe and sit-down restaurant and is open from 7am to 11pm daily, with eat-in and takeaway options.
Away Resorts adds Sandy Balls to portfolio: Holiday park operator Away Resorts, which is backed by private equity firm LDC, has completed the acquisition of Sandy Balls in the New Forest, forming a group with six sites valued in excess of £100m. Sandy Balls is a five-star holiday village in the New Forest National Park, between Godshill and Fordingbridge, and provides accommodation including luxury woodland lodges, static holiday homes, camping pods and safari tents as well as fully-serviced touring pitches. The purchase of Sandy Balls is the second acquisition Away Resorts has made since LDC backed the secondary buyout of the business in April 2015. It brings the business’ portfolio of parks to six with Sandy Balls joining Tattershall Lakes in Lincolnshire, Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight, Mersea Island in Essex, Barmouth Bay in Wales and Mill Rythe on Hayling Island. Chief executive Carl Castledine told Insider Media: “Over the past eight years, we have built up a strong brand that has really hit the right note with UK holidaymakers. The demand for affordable UK holidays, particularly short breaks, is strong, and growing, as our record bookings for 2016 have shown.” With the addition of Sandy Balls, the business now has an annual turnover of more than £40m and employs 650 staff across its portfolio of sites.