AB InBev to kick-start £5bn auction for SABMiller beer brands as £71bn takeover set to get green light from Brussels: Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) will kick-start a £5bn auction for some of Europe’s best selling lagers this week as last year’s £71bn takeover of SABMiller is set to get the green light from Brussels. AB InBev, which owns Stella Artois, is expected to offload SABMiller beers such as Pilsner Urquell and Lech in order to squeeze the deal past the European Commission. Before the takeover can be completed, the European competition authority has told AB InBev to sell beer brands in Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. The assets are likely to be packaged up and sold to one buyer, sources said. The auction will prevent a lengthy and costly second phase investigation by the regulator. The commission is keen for AB InBev to sell the brands quickly, and has told the brewer, led by Carlos Brito, it cannot seek buyers for the beers in individual countries, reports the Sunday Times. It is likely to be given six months to find a new owner. The directive from Brussels is likely to lead to a frenzy of interest for the SABMiller brands, which also include Tyskie, Dreher and Ursus. Analysts have said the lagers could be worth a combined £3.5bn to £5bn with private equity firms and Danish company Carlsberg reported to be interested. The sales follow a number of disposals made by AB InBev to appease regulators. It agreed to sell SABMiller’s stake in Chinese joint venture CR Snow to China Resources Beer, and offloaded SABMiller’s holding in US operation Miller Coors to Molson Coors. AB InBev has also sold some of SABMiller’s best known brands in western Europe with Japanese firm Asahi Group Holdings paying £2bn for Peroni, Grolsch and UK craft brewer Meantime in April.
Luke Johnson – ‘health zealots’ will end up taking food off tables, ‘knee-jerk, unwise legislation’ not the answer to ill health and obesity: Sector investor Luke Johnson has warned “health zealots” will end up taking food off tables and “knee-jerk, unwise legislation” is not the answer to ill health and obesity. Writing in his Sunday Times column, he said: “The UK hospitality sector has created more UK jobs in the past ten years than any other sector. For a huge proportion of citizens, food and drink are not simply about nutrition and survival – they are one of the greatest pleasures. But sadly the health campaigners are repeating the strategies they pursued with the tobacco industry – mandatory labelling, increased taxes and levies, restricted marketing, and much tougher environmental health legislation. All this is likely to lead to less investment and less choice, as certain goods become uneconomic to produce. Tougher regulation will translate into higher prices, which will hit the poorest hardest. Sugary drinks provide just 3% of the nation’s calorie intake – the idea that taxing them would make a material difference shows the campaigners haven’t really done their sums. Everyone disapproves of ill health and obesity, but knee-jerk unwise legislation is not the answer. I suspect there are many within the health establishment who would like to see restrictions on fat and calorie content in many packaged foods. They see this as a moral crusade and claim obesity rates are spiralling ever upwards. Yet the number of overweight children has not risen for ten years. But of course these inconvenient facts do not accord with the world-view of the health zealots, who see it as their role to boss around ordinary people because these ‘experts’ are condescending snobs. Rather than regulation and demonisation, consumers need choice, education and sensible advice about moderation, balance in their diets and exercise. The food and drink industry should make a positive case for well-rounded diets, pushing back against misguided interventions that are likely to have unintended consequences.”
Heston Blumenthal – I nearly went bankrupt four times: Chef Heston Blumenthal has revealed he nearly went bankrupt four times during the early days of his Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berkshire. Speaking at an event held at King’s College London’s Entrepreneurship Institute, he told the Sunday Telegraph: “I‘m rubbish with money when I have none and rubbish when I have a bit.” At the time he said he was spending big on “newfangled gadgets and kitchen equipment” to allow him to make his famous gastronomic creations. He added the restaurant’s saving grace was in 2005 when it was voted best in the world, taking the title from El Bulli. For the first eight years after establishing the Fat Duck, Blumenthal said he worked 120 hours a week, sleeping just 15 hours over seven days. Blumenthal’s business empire now comprises the Fat Duck and his nearby pub, the Crown; the Perfectionist’s Cafe in Heathrow terminal five; and his Dinner restaurant concepts in London and Melbourne as well as his range in supermarket Waitrose. He added: “In the beginning, I had no idea the business and restaurants would go like this, I just wanted to cook. I started out as a pot washer and now I look up and think ‘How did I get here?’”
Customer engagement platform Cheerfy launches £180,000 crowdfunding campaign: Customer engagement platform Cheerfy, which aims to deliver “memorable customer experiences” at hotels and restaurants, has launched a £180,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company, founded by Carlos Gomez and Adrian Maseda, is offering a 7.08% equity stake in return for the investment. The pitch states: “Cheerfy uses Wi-Fi hot spots as a beacon to share customer presence and information from business customer relationship management (CRM), online e-commerce platforms, loyalty systems, employees and customers themselves. Employees get this information in real time (on customer arrival), when and where they need it to personalise the service they offer. Businesses today generally identify customers on payment or exit, too late to influence their experience in a relevant way and often they don’t identify them at all. Cheerfy also allows companies to start and nurture conversations with their customers, through contextual, personal and targeted messages. To date, our strategy has been quality rather than quantity, which has taken us to high-end restaurants and hotels in New York, London, Madrid and Lisbon. The funds raised in this round will be used for business development and product development to build deeper integration in the retail or hospitality space (CRMs, property management systems) and build chat capabilities between businesses and their customers.” The company forecasts Ebitda of minus £174,546 at the end of this year, rising to £31,115 in December 2017 before jumping to £3,256,373 the final year.
Britain’s first water cocktail bar set to open this year at Selfridges in London: Britain’s first water cocktail bar is set to open this year at Selfridges department store in London. The menu for the new bar in Selfridges’ accessory hall is yet to be disclosed although it is likely the store will consult one of the new breed of “water sommeliers” on the venture, reports the Sunday Times. The pioneer in the field is Martin Riese, a former restaurant manager from Germany, who developed his expertise after a customer complained they were serving only one kind of water. Several water bars have opened across the US while some leading restaurants offer water menus with their wine lists.
Mexico and Belgian cinema companies join bidding race for Odeon: Mexican family-owned cinema operator Cinepolis and Belgian chain Kinepolis have joined the race to buy Odeon. The two companies have made it through to the second round of bidding for Britain’s biggest cinema chain, according to city sources, reports the Sunday Times. They are vying with Odeon rival Vue, Chinese cinema owner Dalian Wanda, and the Korean chain CGV in the sale process that has been running since the stat of the year. Guy Hands’ private equity firm Terra Firma is said to be seeking a price of up to £1bn for Odeon after its finances were boosted by a strong box office last year as audiences flocked to new Bond and Star Wars installments. Odeon has attracted international interest as cinema chains seek growth outside their home territories and bulk up to gain clout in negotiations with film distributors. Odeon owns almost 250 multiplexes in seven countries, including Germany, Italy and Spain, though the UK remains comfortably its biggest market.
Jamie Oliver takes food campaign to the Olympics: Jamie Oliver is taking his food campaign to the Olympics in an attempt to stop companies such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola from sponsoring the event unless they met certain nutrition and ethical standards. Oliver said he was depressed about how the only food available inside the Olympic Park in London in 2012 was McDonald’s, Coca-Cola drinks and snacks from Cadbury. He wants to create a Kitemark that could be used by a food company to show it had reached standards of nutrition and ethical sourcing. His ambition is only companies that earn the Kitemark would be allowed to sponsor or supply the Olympics. He told the Telegraph: “More than anything – and forgive me if I am being romantic – but in our lifetime at the Olympics, which is the biggest theatre of all time, I want to see something with goodness at the heart of its billboards. It’s probably my lost audacious thing I’ve dreamt up. And I don’t know if I have what it takes to pull it off.” McDonald’s has been part of the Olympics since 1976 while Coca-Cola has been backing the event since 1928. Oliver said an outright ban on McDonald’s and Coca-Cola was not his aim but hoped big companies would see the Kitemark as an opportunity to improve children’s nutrition and their own standards.
UK arm of crowdfunding platform Kickstarter passes £100m raise mark: The UK arm of crowdfunding platform Kickstarter has revealed more than £100m has been raised for projects since the site launched in 2012. The money is the cumulative total of more than 1.8 million pledges made by more than 1.2 million backers in the past four years. The average pledge was £53.80, while the most common amount pledged was £10. A total of 20,651 campaigns have been started through Kickstarter UK, of which 8,181 have met or exceeded their targets. “Games” has been the most popular category, generating more than £26m in funds from 609,724 pledges. Most pledges for Kickstarter UK projects come from within the British Isles, accounting for 742,317 backers. The US is second with 494,737 backers, and Germany is third with 77,546 backers. Kickstarter chief executive Yancey Strickler told Develop: “From our very first project that launched in the UK, British creators and backers have been a huge part of our global community; backing projects all over the world, championing creativity and helping to build a more diverse culture.”
SSP expands Beer House and Caffè Ritazza to Wales with Cardiff Airport openings: UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP has expanded its pub format Beer House and coffee shop brand Caffè Ritazza to Wales with openings at Cardiff Airport following the agreement of a new five-year deal. The company has opened both brands in the departures area and it is the first site in Wales for The Beer House and Caffè Ritazza, which operate in other airports and train stations across the UK. The Beer House, which made its first appearance in London in 2011, has been designed to reflect the best of Welsh products and includes locally produced beers by Tiny Rebel and SA Brain. The menu features a number of locally sourced ingredients, including Welsh beef burgers as well as dishes for which the region is renowned such as Welsh rarebit. Decorated in true patriotic-style and with walls adorned with images of iconic landmarks of Cardiff and Wales, the bar highlights the very best of the city the airport serves. A zoned approach provides a comfortable environment for all – whether it’s friends or families heading on holiday, or business people flying from Wales’ national airport. Caffè Ritazza is inspired by cosmopolitan and multicultural European cafe culture, where “coffee is less of a caffeine hit and more of an opportunity to regenerate”. SSP UK chief executive Simon Smith said: “Beer House and Caffè Ritazza are great brands that have real resonance with the travelling consumer. We have been working with the team here at Cardiff Airport since 2002, and we are delighted to be building on this long and successful relationship.” Debra Barber, managing director and chief operating officer at Cardiff Airport, added: “We’ve been making significant improvements to the overall customer experience for some time now, and the addition of these new facilities really complements the terminal’s offering.”
Amber Taverns acquires JD Wetherspoon pub in Gloucester: Managed operator Amber Taverns has acquired the Water Poet pub in Gloucester from JD Wetherspoon. The pub in Eastergate Street has been closed for several weeks and was one of 33 pubs put up for sale by JD Wetherspoon in November. Now Amber Taverns has taken on the site and is injecting £400,000 to turn it into a premium community wet-led pub featuring Sky Sports, BT Sport and a beer garden. The bar, which is expected to open in October, will feature craft beer, cask ales, cocktails and a wide selection of gins. Operations director Gary Roberts told the Gloucester Citizen: “While the closure is an inconvenience to some of the former regulars I am positive they will like the development of the business. With significant investment we will be able to deliver warm and comfortable surroundings for all who want to pop in for a quite pint or coffee, or celebrate a big occasion. Numerous television screens will show the latest football, rugby and all the top racing channels with the big screen down for the top sporting action.” Amber Taverns, which has about 120 pubs, revealed last month it has 14 sites lined up to open this year as part of expansion plans. JD Wetherspoon’s other pubs in Gloucester are the Lord High Constable at Gloucester Docks and The Regal in King’s Square.
Spanish pizza delivery company Telepizza to open 300 UK stores in next ten years, signs first franchise with Burger King franchisee: Spanish pizza delivery company Telepizza will expand into the UK, with the aim of opening more than 300 stores during the next ten years. The company has signed its first franchise deal with Karali Ventures, one of the largest franchisees of Burger King in the UK, Euro Weekly reports. A Telepizza spokesman said the company planned to open at least 300 stores, with 20 to 30 franchisees, while developing 30 regional markets in the UK during the next ten years. The company also plans to continue growth in countries where it already has a presence. Telepizza has 1,311 restaurants in 15 countries worldwide, 850 of these are franchises and 30% of sales are generated from their businesses abroad. The company was founded in Spain in 1987 and has grown to become the fourth-largest pizza delivery company in the world by number of stores. It operates in 14 countries – Spain, Portugal, Poland, Russia, UAE, Angola, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, El Salvador and Guatemala. Telepizza owns and operates about 35% of its worldwide stores, with the remainder owned by its business partners.
Wadworth sells Wiltshire pub to villagers: Devizes-based brewer and retailer Wadworth has sold the Cross Keys in Corsley, Wiltshire, to villagers after they clubbed together to buy the pub. Wadworth revealed in January it was putting the site up for sale and it closed the pub the following month. Now it has reopened after villagers came together to buy the property in Lyes Green. Neil Carpenter, who co-ordinated the refurbishment, told the Wiltshire Times: “Wadworth announced that it was going to shut the pub, so the village agreed that it would like to save it. A petition was then started, which received 180 signatures and raised the amount of money needed to purchase the pub. About 40 people have put in more than 1,000 hours of free labour to get the pub up to standard – it’s been a real community effort. The pub has always been a big part of the village and played an important role in the community, which is why so many people have been keen to get stuck in.” The pub sells traditional, locally sourced, home cooked pub food and a new range of beers.
Prezzo agrees deal to open restaurant in Thornbury: Prezzo has agreed a deal to open a site in Thornbury, Gloucestershire. The company is set to move into the redeveloped Wildings department store in High Street. Wildings will temporary close in June while the property is redeveloped, before reopening in a smaller unit with the clock tower portion of the building being leased to Prezzo. Wildings managing director Peter James said the agreement with Prezzo would result in some “much-needed investment in the property”. He told the Gazette: “I am delighted to have concluded this deal with Prezzo, who are very professional operators. For a company of its stature to want to trade and invest in Thornbury is a real vote of confidence and I hope their lead will kick-start further regeneration in the town. Town centres are changing for a whole host of factors. In all the towns that have done well recently the common factor has been that leisure operators are leading the way. Restaurants, patisseries, coffee shops and other leisure and service businesses are now an essential part of the emerging town centre mix.”
Gusto to open £1m site in Leamington Spa next month: Gusto, the Italian restaurant brand operated by Living Ventures, will open a site in Leamington Spa next month. The company has invested more than £1m in the 4,000 square foot restaurant and bar, which is its first venue in the Midlands. Refurbishment work is under way to create the 160-cover outlet, which will open on Thursday, 9 June within the town’s “food quarter” in Regent Court in Livery Street. It will also include an outside terrace to seat 40 people. Gusto managing director Sue Crimes told the Leamington Courier: “This is a very exciting time for Gusto – we are delighted to be opening in the historic and scenic town of Leamington. Our restaurant ethos meets with the demographics of the town and surrounding areas appealing to a variety of clientele. The stylish restaurant will be packed with aspirational touches and beautiful décor, a place where you can feel welcome and special that is perfect for so many occasions.” Gusto, which launched in Alderley Edge in Cheshire in 2005, has 13 other sites across the UK and is opening a restaurant in Birmingham this autumn.
Compass Group to open second Chop House in Edinburgh: Compass Group is to open the second site for its Chop House restaurant concept in Edinburgh. The company, which launched in Leith in September, is set to open at New Waverley Arches. The restaurant will be open every day with the focus remaining on its tried and tested theme of steak and cocktails. The space is bigger than the original in Leith as it is housed over two floors in the C-listed brickwork arch, which dates from 1875. It will also feature a bar, which will offer cocktails and craft beers. Chop House buys British beef that is then butchered in-house and dry-aged for up to 90 days before being cooked on an open-flame charcoal grill with chateaubriand, bone-in rib and porterhouse steak all available for sharing. The menu also features seafood such as oysters, scallops and prawns as well as a variety of sides. Compass Group operations and development manager Murray Ainslie told The Edinburgh Reporter: “The new Chop House is a continuation of the brand, but with its own identity. Great quality beef with fantastic provenance sits at the core of both offers.”
YO! Sushi opens site in Harrogate: YO! Sushi has opened a site in Harrogate, Yorkshire. The 67-seat conveyor belt restaurant has launched in Albert Street following the £10m redevelopment of the former Beales department store. The complex will also be home to other brands, including Argentinian-inspired restaurant CAU, owned by Gaucho, and Azzurri-Group-owned ASK Italian. Manager of the new YO! Sushi restaurant Suzanne Fletcher told the Harrogate Informer: “We’re so excited to bring the colour, fun and unmistakable atmosphere of YO! Sushi to this beautiful town. There’s nothing quite like eating in our restaurants, and we can’t wait for the residents of Harrogate to experience this and share our love of all things Tokyo.” YO! Sushi was the first restaurant to bring the concept of a Japanese “kaiten” sushi bar that delivers food via a conveyor belt to the UK. It has grown to a 92-strong group of restaurants worldwide, including 74 in the UK.
Punch puts Melton Mowbray pub on the market: Punch has put The White Lion pub in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, up for sale. The company has instructed agent James A Baker to market the Nottingham Street site. A Punch spokesman told the Melton Times: “We can confirm that the White Lion is currently on the open market as we are considering all our options for the pub. These also include the recruitment of a new publican for a long-term tenancy opportunity, which has been ongoing since October 2014.” Matt Whiteley, of James A Baker, who is handling the sale, said there had already been “a lot of interest” from smaller pub companies in the property. He added: “The property is prominently positioned fronting Nottingham Street, the main retail and leisure area of the town, and is surrounded by commercial and retail uses. The open plan nature of the ground floor lends itself to continued public house use, retail use and also restaurant use. Add this to the extensive accommodation across the upper two floors, I’d expect considerable interest in this site from a variety of buyers.”
Just Eat boss – ‘we’re not afraid of Amazon and Uber joining the UK online food takeaway market’: Just Eat chief executive David Buttress has said the company is not afraid of companies such as Uber and Amazon entering the UK online food takeaway market. He told the Sunday Telegraph: “This is not an organisation that is, in any sense of the word, vulnerable to anything that’s going on in the wider sector. First of all, we’ve got a massive scale advantage; we’re literally miles bigger than anyone else you can name in our category. Second of all, we’ve got phenomenal underlying growth potential still. Lastly – and I would say this – but I think we’ve got the best team. We’ve got ten years of know-how. I would hope that would count for something.” Buttress is also unconcerned, too, by the threat of restaurant chains building their own online ordering and delivery systems. He added: “Nando’s wants a concession in Westfield because it knows there’s lots of people there looking for food. Just Eat is like a Westfield for restaurants, why wouldn’t a chain like Nando’s want to be on our system and exposed to its hungry users looking for dinner? We’ll work with any restaurant delivery business. I hope over time we can work more with chains.”
Camino to open Gin Garden at Bankside tapas restaurant: Camino, the London operator led by Richard Bigg, will launch a new summer terrace – Gin Garden – at its Bankside Spanish tapas restaurant in June. Gin Garden will feature a large screen, which will show the summer’s biggest sporting events, including Wimbledon and the Olympic Games. Bigg opened the doors to the first Camino venue in 2007. The company now operates four London tapas restaurants – in Bankside, Blackfriars, King’s Cross and Monument – as well as Bar Pepito in King’s Cross and Copa de Cava wine bar in Blackfriars. In January, Camino reported like-for-like sales rose 19.1%, or £129,800, in December. The company turned over £809,700 in the month, compared with £679,900 in December 2014.
Maxwell’s, Cote and Reds True Barbecue sign deals with Airship: Restaurant brands Maxwell’s, Cote and Reds True Barbecue have signed deals with digital customer experience specialist Airship to improve customer engagement and loyalty. The new partnerships come at the end of a financial year that has seen Airship, whose customers already include operators such as Living Ventures, Stonegate, Revolution Bars Group and JW Lees, increase turnover by 50%. For Cote, which operates more than 70 restaurants nationwide, Airship will develop new Wi-Fi splash pages – the pages that load after a customer connects to the in-venue Wi-Fi – integrated with Ruckus Wi-Fi. Airship will also support integration with the Favouritetable booking system, and develop and run a new email broadcast system, all with the goal of building customer loyalty. For Maxwell’s, which operates ten venues including Café de Paris, Sticky Fingers and Palm Court Brasserie, Airship will work on improving data gathered through customer feedback, as well as developing a new email broadcast system and integrating with the OpenTable booking platform. For Reds True Barbecue, which now operates seven sites, Airship is working on a programme to boost customer engagement through an online gift card platform. Dan Brookman, commercial director of Airship, added: “The UK casual dining market is one of the most competitive in the world, and brands increasingly use digital channels to maintain their relationship with their customers. From email marketing and loyalty programmes to social media, Wi-Fi and customer feedback, there is huge potential for those operators who get their customer relationships right to build sales and market share. We create solutions that are tailor-made for each of our customers, and these latest business wins will see us partner with even more of the leading brands in the casual dining sector. With our year end on 31 May, our performance over the past year is evidence of how hard the whole Airship team works to deliver the results our customers demand.”
Man versus food restaurant concept Huckleberry’s Diner opens third site in Darlington: Man versus food restaurant concept Huckleberry’s Diner has opened its third site, this time in Darlington, County Durham. The company, founded by Jon and Sarah Rowlands, has opened the venue in Parkgate, reports Gazette Live. Its food challenges such as Burger-Pockalypse, Slidergeddon and Man versus Dog have attracted challenge eaters and television programmes to the diner. Huckleberry’s opened its first site near Flaxton in York in 2012 before launching its second venue in Leeds last year.
New French-inspired craft ale bar restaurant concept featuring silent outdoor cinema opens in Manchester: A new French-inspired craft ale bar restaurant concept featuring a silent outdoor cinema has opened in the Manchester suburb of Chorlton. Manchester entrepreneurs David Cleall-Hill, of the Marble beer house and The Spoon Inn, and Saffron Hulme, formerly of Waterstones cafe, have launched Man Bites Frog in Barlow Moor Road. The duo have taken inspiration from French food and drink for their new venture with the site featuring retro furniture and cosy seating. The two courtyards, which are currently being renovated, will be used to host silent cinema nights where visitors will don headphones to watch films without disturbing neighbours. Cleall-Hill told the Manchester Evening News: “We wanted to go as French as possible, but it will be modern, multicultural French – with influences from West and North African cooking. The food will be quite simple with lots of one pot cooking, but the menu will evolve over time. The wine list is also going to be French inspired, and there’ll be top quality German beers and local craft ale from Alphabet Brewing Co and First Chop.”
Viva Brazil opens Birmingham site, fifth UK venue: Brazilian-themed brand Viva Brazil has opened its latest site, in Birmingham, following a £1.2m investment. The all-you-can-eat rodizio grill and bar in Bennetts Hill has capacity for 200 diners, with its opening creating 40 jobs. Viva Brazil, which was established in Liverpool in 2010, announced its plans to expand into Birmingham in July last year. Andy Aldrich, founder and managing director of the restaurant chain, said: “Viva Birmingham has incredible untapped potential to become our leading restaurant across the country. We are in the perfect location for business and leisure-users alike, whether it’s a lunchtime meal or post-work drinks. We hope the people of Birmingham are quick to embrace Viva Brazil and become part of our expanding family.” Viva Brazil also has restaurants in Cardiff, Glasgow and Newcastle.
Entrepreneurial Enterprise publican launches second Home Counties site: Enterprise Inns publican Trevor Hunt, who runs The Rising Sun in Hurley, west Berkshire, has taken on his second site with the company – The Three Horseshoes in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Enterprise made a joint investment with Hunt to give the pub in Burroughs Grove Hill a £60,000 makeover, and it has now reopened. Hunt said: “I knew the pub traded well and was confident I could attract even more custom if I gave it a bit of a spruce up and refreshed the menus.” Enterprise regional manager Carol Reid helped Hunt identify the right pub using the company’s segmentation tool, which assesses local competition, demographics and location. She said: “You don’t have to be a huge company to become a multi-operator – Trevor is a great example of this. He was successfully running one establishment with us and, after weighing up his options, he’s taken on a second. It’s great to see entrepreneurs take the next step, and we’re always willing to support the right publicans with this process.”
Bar Sport founder launches Burger Priest concept in Wolverhampton: Scott Murray, the man behind the Bar Sport franchise, has launched new concept Burger Priest in Wolverhampton, following a £250,000 investment, creating 30 jobs. The new restaurant is on the site of a former Pizza Hut in Victoria Street, with church-inspired decor, including pews for seats and confession boxes for toilet booths. Burger Priest also offers a takeaway service and offers a wide range of burgers, all made with 100% Aberdeen Angus beef. The burgers are hand-made on site and served in a gluten-free brioche bun with salad and hand-cut chips. The venue also offers milkshakes made with organic ice cream, craft beers and organic wines. Murray told The Business Desk: “We want our burger experience to be the best and are confident it will be a great success. It is certainly unique and will get everyone talking.” The company already has one eye on growth, with plans for restaurants in Edinburgh and London later this year. Murray said: “We will then look to roll it out in other areas of the country as a franchise. It certainly is a concept we have got great confidence in.”
Ruby Violet starts expansion with King’s Cross site, second ice cream parlour: Ruby Violet has started expansion with the launch of its second ice-cream parlour and cafe in London, this time in King’s Cross, just off Granary Square. As with its debut parlour in Tufnell Park, which launched four years ago, fittings and furniture have come from around the world. The centre of the cafe features a huge slab of wood from the bottom of the Panama Canal, while ceiling lights have been salvaged from a cinema in Pune, India, during a visit by owner Julie Fisher. She said: “It’s important the things we use have a story behind them. That’s why our King’s Cross location is perfect – it’s in the old Midland Goods Shed, which is not a brand-spanking new unit. I like that sense of history. I think King’s Cross is absolutely perfect for us.” A train station-inspired arrivals board displays the flavours on offer each day. There are 160 rotating flavours, with all ice cream and sorbets hand-made at Ruby Violet’s Tufnell Park site in small batches using seasonal fruit and natural ingredients. Ruby Violet also operates a bicycle and trolley, fitted with freezers, for making local deliveries.
London chef and cafe owner-operator opens Legs restaurant in Hackney: Magnus Reid, formerly of The Rooftop Cafe in Southwark and owner-operator of Cream cafe in Shoreditch, has opened a new restaurant – Legs – in Hackney. Legs are the droplets that form on the inside of a glass an expert can use to calculate a wine’s alcohol or sugar content. The restaurant is in Morning Lane in Hackney’s fashion district, serving a daily-changing menu focusing on “fresh, nourishing produce in a light, casual space”. Lunch dishes include smoked aubergine with couscous and dried fruits, suckling pig and chilli jam roll, and roast cod with marinda tomatoes. Supper offerings include steak tartar with smoked pecans and buttermilk, and smoked haddock with clams. The wine list focuses on small, independent wine producers. In the basement, the team and selected partners handcraft some offerings such as vermouth for the bar, cured meats and pickles for the kitchen, and even ceramics for the tables. Reid, originally from Australia, said he was also considering expanding the Cream concept. He said: “We’d do something different each time but maybe go for five to eight sites.”
New report reveals prices paid for hotels in Prima portfolio: A new report has revealed more details about the break-up of luxury hotel group Prima Hotels, including the prices paid for each site. Administrator AlixPartners was called into four hotels owned and managed by Prima in May 2015 – the Hellaby Hall Hotel in Rotherham, the Stanneylands Hotel in Wilmslow, the Nunsmere Hall Hotel in Northwich, and the Quorn Country Hotel in Leicestershire. Instructed by the administrators, Savills brought the four Prima Hotels in England to market, inviting offers in excess of £18m for the portfolio. The final sale was recently completed with Talesh Hotels buying the Quorn Country Hotel, bringing the combined total brought in by the disposals to more than £16m. Now, a new report by the administrators has revealed the prices paid for each hotel. Nunsmere Hall attracted the largest price, selling for £5.35m plus £26,301 in respect of stock, followed by Hellaby Hall, which was sold for £5m plus £15,211 for stock. Stanneylands Hotel was bought for £4.15m while Quorn Country Hotel fetched £2.15m, with both deals including a sum of about £20,000 for stock. Despite the deals, secured creditor AIB Group (UK) is only expected to recoup £31.2m of the £36.18m it was owed at the time of the administration, while there is no money available for unsecured claims.