Ei Group hires new commercial property director: Ei Group, formerly known as Enterprise Inns, has hired Greg Parkes as its new commercial property director. He replaces Richard Broadribb, who is leaving the industry after 16 years with the company. Parkes will report to group property director Julia Poulson and oversee the growth strategy of Ei Commercial Properties, which currently has more than 300 sites with plans for significant expansion in the next few years. He joins from Mitchells & Butlers, where he spent the past 12 years in property roles becoming head of acquisitions in 2014. Most recently, Parkes oversaw acquisitions for key Mitchells & Butlers brands All Bar One, Miller & Carter, Harvester and Toby Carvery. He said: “I’m relishing the challenge of this new role and the diversity it brings. I will call on my experience to grow the Ei Commercial Properties Business Unit during what is a very exciting time for Ei Group.” Poulson added: “We’re delighted to have Greg on board to help drive growth across Ei Commercial Properties. He is highly experienced and the perfect candidate to build on the excellent platform Richard has created. Richard leaves with our very best wishes for the future.”

AB InBev-backed planning startup raises £375,000 after smashing crowdfunding target: Planning startup PlanSnap, which is backed by Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after smashing its £250,000 target. The company, founded by Louise Doherty, who has worked for YO! Sushi and Britain’s Beer Alliance, was offering a 7.69% equity stake in return for the investment to develop the product. The campaign raised £375,580 from 546 investors and is now closed. The largest investment was £35,000. PlanSnap is a social planning app that gets everyone to agree on the details of a plan in a few taps – even if users’ friends don’t have the app. The pitch states: “For brands grappling with the consumer shift towards ‘experiences, not things’, PlanSnap allows them to be a taste-maker by suggesting the best plans and a utility to make their customers’ plans actually happen. PlanSnap works with brands, retailers and media partners to sell ‘planning as a service’ and sponsorship. In the third quarter of this year, PlanSnap plans to move from beta to full launch, with ‘planning as a service’ functionality piloted in the fourth quarter and launched in the first quarter of 2018. The funds will be used to hire a data scientist and a designer to make PlanSnap smarter and faster, and for marketing and business development. PlanSnap has raised £130,000 from Fubra, Techstars and ZX Ventures (AB InBev’s venture arm). In the 12 months to 31 March 2017, PlanSnap turned over £28,000 with Ebitda of minus £103,900.”

Burning Night Group starts expansion of FirePit concept with Beverley launch: Burning Night Group has started expansion of its American-style FirePit Smokehouse & Sports Bar concept by opening a second site, in Beverley, East Yorkshire. The company has opened the venue at the Flemingate Centre having launched the concept in Bingley, West Yorkshire, in March. The concept offers a “cool, quirky Americana theme” with a Deep South-inspired menu. The venue combines smokehouse specialities and sports bar features, including two full-sized shuffleboard tables, foosball, pool and beer pong. The decor incorporates authentic American car parts and a custom-built Airstream-style caravan for private dining. The 200-cover restaurant and bar has an in-house smoker and wood-burning grill allowing it to create US favourites such as burgers, ribs, pulled pork, brisket and homemade mac and cheese. David Donkin, property director of Wykeland Group, the company behind the Flemingate retail and leisure development, said the company was “delighted to welcome a Yorkshire born-and-bred concept” to the centre to “enhance the existing dining line-up”. The concept has been developed by Ormsborough, parent company of Potting Shed Trading, a business that also operates the Potting Shed brand and was founded by the Burning Night management team and backed by funds managed by Downing LLP. The company will open its fifth Potting Shed site, in a former hospital in Northallerton, near Thirsk, next month.

Roger Whiteside – Greggs can grow to 2,500 stores: Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside has told Marketing Week magazine he believes the company can grow its store network from the current 1,800 sites to 2,500. He said: “We’re currently on 1,800 stores and there’s scope to go well beyond 2,000. Subway just celebrated its 2,500th shop and we know we trade fantastically in locations where there’s a Subway, so (Greggs hitting 2,500 stores) is realistic.” Whiteside admitted the brand currently struggles to meet consumer demand for customised products as it slows service. However, he added that Greggs was fine-tuning its systems to enable mobile pre-ordering. “Click-and-collect is definitely coming, we will do it. We haven’t yet as we’re integrating our systems in the back end but that will soon be finished and I imagine you’ll be able to pre-order a customised sandwich on your phone,” he added.

BeerHeadZ to expand into Lincoln, plans two more openings: BeerHeadZ is eyeing an opening in Lincoln after applying to change the use of Humberts Estate Agents in Eastgate into a small specialist pub selling a variety of cask ale and beer. The company currently operates BeerHeadZ pubs in Retford in Nottinghamshire and Grantham in Lincolnshire. Founder Phil Ayling told The Lincolnite: “We’re trying to bring new and exciting beers to the city for people young and old. We’ve been looking to find a place in Lincoln to turn into a BeerHeadZ for the past two years and we’ve finally found one. We will be providing beers from around the country as well as supporting local breweries.” BeerHeadZ in Retford opened almost three years ago, before the Grantham branch, which recently won CAMRA’s Town Pub of the Year, opened 18 months later. A BeerHeadZ venue is set to open in Nottingham in six weeks, while plans have been finalised for a pub in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. Ayling added: “Lincoln is a vibrant and buzzing city with many students and we believe we have found a gap in the market and hope we can become a great asset.”

East Coast Concepts to take Neighbourhood to Leeds for third site: East Coast Concepts is to open a third site for its Neighbourhood brand this autumn. Neighbourhood, which has sites in Manchester and Liverpool, will open a venue in Greek Street, Leeds, following the £1.7m renovation of a former Carluccio’s restaurant. Neighbourhood will operate as an all-day restaurant but host weekly themed events and monthly champagne brunch parties with DJs, performances and live entertainment in the evenings. East Coast Concepts chief executive and founder James Hitchen told Insider Media: “We’ve planned to open in Leeds for a while and now feels like exactly the right time. There’s nothing else like it in the city and we can’t wait to throw an unforgettable party for everyone here.” East Coast Concepts launched Neighbourhood in Manchester in 2012, opening a second site, in Liverpool, in November last year. Earlier this month, the company announced it would start expansion of another of its brands, Victor’s, by opening a site in Oxford’s Westgate Centre. Victor’s in Hale, south of Manchester, has attracted footballers, soap stars and reality TV stars since it opened in 2014. The company secured a multimillion-pound cash injection from private equity firm NorthEdge Capital last year to expand both brands.

US-based Wayback Burgers starts search for UK master franchisees: US-based Wayback Burgers is seeking franchisees in the UK as part of its global expansion plans. Recently ranked in the top 10 fast-casual restaurant franchises by franchiserankings.com, Wayback Burgers has already opened ten US locations in 2017 with another 20 under construction, raising the total to 120 locations in 28 states. Internationally, the company already has restaurants in Argentina, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia, and will open sites in a number of other countries by the end of the year. Wayback Burgers executive vice-president Bill Chemero told QSR Magazine: “We have already awarded Wayback Burgers franchise agreements in more than 35 countries and are actively searching for master franchisees in the UK, Germany, South Africa and the Netherlands. In each country we develop relationships with experienced food executives interested in becoming master franchisees and area developers responsible for introducing and growing the Wayback Burgers brand. These master franchisees and area developers open and run a successful Wayback Burgers restaurant before selling the concept to other independent owners. This system works beautifully because American brands sell incredibly well in other countries when a respected and proven native businessman is leading the charge.”

Suffolk service station building home to Travelodge, Burger King and Little Chef sells for £5m: Property investment company LXi REIT has exchanged contracts to purchase a Travelodge hotel and Burger King and Little Chef restaurants at Needham Market service station, near Ipswich. The purchase price for the property is £5m, reflecting a net initial yield of 6.12%. The hotel and both restaurants are fully let to Travelodge, which has more than 520 hotels across the UK, Ireland and Spain. The property consists of a purpose-built 40-bedroom hotel, a standalone 4,045 square foot restaurant unit, and parking for 81 cars. It forms part of a roadside service station that includes a separately owned Shell petrol-filling station. It is located at the busy junction of the A14 and A140, about seven miles north west of Ipswich, Insider Media reports.

Comptoir Libanais opens Reading site: Comptoir Libanais, the Lebanese canteen specialising in fresh Middle Eastern dishes, has opened a site in Reading. The company has launched the venue in the Riverside leisure development at The Oracle shopping centre. The decor features art and wall hangings and bold-coloured furniture. The restaurant has been designed to make diners feel like they are in a real souk, just like in Beirut, Marrakech or Cairo. The restaurant also features a market selling traditional groceries and sweets from Lebanon and Morocco. Hand-made vintage silver teapots, crockery and colourful beach bags crafted by women in Eastern Mediterranean villages are also on sale. Founder Tony Kitous told Get Reading: “I want to share our food, traditions and the generous Lebanese culture with the world. It reminds me of my happy childhood back home and my dream is to make Lebanese food as popular as Italian food. The new Comptoir is built in an unusual and interesting space by the river and we cannot wait to welcome our guests and spread the love of Lebanese food and culture.”

Cardiff-based Croeso Pubs to reopen former TCG site The Philharmonic this week: Cardiff-based Croeso Pubs, led by Craig Davies and Simon Little, will reopen the former Tattershall Castle Group (TCG) site The Philharmonic this week. The company, which acquired the lease last year, has invested £750,000 to transform the late-night venue in the city centre, which spans more than 17,000 square feet, into a “stylish new bar”. They have restored and remodelling the grade II-listed building in St Mary Street into one large integrated venue, rather than four separate ones as it had been in the past. The Philharmonic, which will open on Saturday (29 July), will offer about 50 different gins as well as ale, cider, beer, lager and cask ale. Manager Nick Newman told Business News Wales: “As we put the final touches to the interior, move the furniture in and stock the bars, it is great to see the place coming to life. I have worked in the Cardiff night-time economy all my adult life, and have seen The Philharmonic thrive and decline and open and close during that time. I am thrilled to now be at the helm of this great Cardiff landmark at the start of its new chapter.” The Philharmonic was sold by the joint administrators of TCG to property investment company Curzon Real Estate for an undisclosed figure in excess of the £650,000 asking price in March last year.

Heathcote opens new site in Bolton: Multi-site chef Paul Heathcote has opened The Grill on the site of the former Pure Bar and Brasserie, located at the Whites Hotel in Bolton. The menu promises the “best steaks and burgers in Bolton”. It also features an updated sports bar. Heathcote said: “I think we’re after exactly the same audience except we’d like to bring a few customers back who may have drifted away because it looked a bit tired. We have a very hard-working team here in the kitchen and in the restaurant. We have made a significant investment in the project and I would never have put a restaurant under our name until I’d done that. I certainly wouldn’t have done so in the guise it was before – but I am very happy to do it now.”

Waitrose hires its first director of foodservice: Waitrose has hired its first director of foodservice – Simon Burdess – as it seeks to grow its in-store dining formats the Wine Bar and The Kitchen. Burdess previously worked at InterContinental Hotels as vice-president of food and beverages, a role spanning its 675 European hotels across seven brands, including Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Hotel Indigo as well as the eponymous chain. Although it is still relatively early days, the retailer’s Wine Bar and The Kitchen formats are “absolutely flying”, sources told Retail Week. “Waitrose has always been about the experience as well as products,” headhunter Tony Gregg told Retail Week. “You look at stores like Worcester and King’s Cross with successful wine and foodservice offerings, but it’s still not getting out to the masses. Simon’s role will be about getting in there with the consumer and making them aware that, when you go shopping, you can arrange an extra hour to have a glass of wine and something to eat beforehand.”

Black Country Ales reopens Stourbridge pub: Black Country Ales, the 12-year-old brewer based in Lower Gornall, Dudley, has reopened the Queen’s Head in Stourbridge. The company has invested a “six-figure” sum in the pub in Enville Street, which it bought eight weeks ago. Black Country Ales has revamped the inside, opening up old chimneys and putting in traditional fireplaces and bringing back a skittle alley that fell into disrepair. There are 12 beer pumps, which will have a constant changing selection of ale and cider. This will be in addition to three types of Black Country Ales beers, which will be a permanent fixture. Black Country Ales director Angus McMeeking told the Express & Star: “We have carried out a total refurbishment of the building, which is from the 19th century. It is a nice, historic pub. We have just tried to take it back to old, traditional ways.”

McDonald’s launches fashion line for McDelivery Day promotion: McDonald’s is to give away fashion items to people who order a meal through UberEats as part of its Global McDelivery Day promotion. The company operates its delivery service in 150 restaurants in 16 cities across the UK. People who order meals on McDelivery Day – Wednesday (26 July) – at participating restaurants will be eligible to claim items from McDonald’s new McFoodie clothing range, including an adult-sized onesie covered in pictures of Big Macs, a French fry-themed hoodie, Big Mac pillows, tracksuit bottoms and sandals, as well as a McDonald’s picnic blanket, reports the Metro. Participating cities in #McDelivery day will be announced on McDonald’s website on Tuesday (25 July).

Pret A Manger launches Liverpool city centre site: Pret A Manger has opened its Liverpool city centre site. The venue has launched at the former Exchange pub in Old Hall Street in Liverpool’s Commercial District following a major refurbishment that began in January. The store is open from 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday, but closes at weekends. It features a comfortable seating area for more than 100 customers, free Wi-Fi, and Pret’s range of sandwiches, baguettes, salads, snacks, hot food and sweet treats, with all fresh items made in-house daily. Manager Kate Cooper told the Liverpool Echo: “We’re directly opposite Moorfields Station and look forward to meeting our new customers as they travel to and from the station.” The store will continue the company’s policy of donating unsold food to local charities at the end of each day. During the past year, the national scheme has distributed more than three million food items to hostels and shelters across the UK. Pret A Manger operates two other sites in Liverpool – in Derby Square and Paradise Street.

Essex-based Wood Grill Restaurant to start expansion of Funky Wood concept with second site, in Maidenhead: Essex-based Wood Grill Restaurant is to start expansion of its Funky Wood concept by opening a second site in Berkshire, this time in Maidenhead. Owner Coco Shamoun will open the venue in Bridge Street in September on the site of the former Forenza restaurant. Funky Wood offers a range of dishes including grilled and barbecued meat, burgers and pizza. Its philosophy involves “honest cooking, fresh ingredients, a great selection of wine and a welcoming atmosphere”. Shamoun told the Maidenhead Advertiser: “Maidenhead is really coming up and I don’t think there is anything like this already.” Wood Grill Restaurant’s other Funky Wood site is in Windsor, while it also operates an eponymous site in Stansted Mountfitchet in Essex, and Wood Grill At The Queen Adelaide Bar Restaurant & Grill in Royston, Hertfordshire.

Nando’s and TGI Friday’s to open adjacent restaurants at Hanley retail park this month: Nando’s and TGI Friday’s will open adjacent restaurants this month at the Etruria Mills retail park in Hanley, Staffordshire. Nando’s will open on Wednesday (26 July), while TGI Friday’s will launch on Monday, 31 July, the Stoke Sentinel reports. A Costa Coffee drive-thru was the first outlet to open at the new development, which is on the outskirts of the city centre. One unit remains empty following Casual Dining Group’s decision last month to pull out of opening a site for its Bella Italia brand at the complex. Planning permission for the £10m development was approved in September 2015, with the units built on derelict land off Etruria Road – next to the Old Plough pub and opposite a Whitbread-owned Premier Inn.

Market Town Taverns reopens Chester pub following substantial refurbishment: Yorkshire-based Market Town Taverns has reopened the Bear & Billet pub in Chester following a substantial refurbishment. The Bear & Billet was built in 1664 to replace a building destroyed during the civil war. Originally the town house of the Earls of Shrewsbury, the building has served as an inn since the 18th century. The pub features two private function spaces as well as HD televisions showing sport. Market Town Taverns managing director Louise Middlemass said: “Our last investment in the Bear & Billet was in 2014 and, as this is a historic grade I-listed building, we have paid particular attention to protecting the integrity of this important Chester venue. This refurbishment has given us the chance to take a fresh approach to our food and service offerings so they best suit Chester’s locals and extensive visitors. As such, we’re offering all-day dining, including breakfast, within our Fine Ale & Food brand as well as coffee from Melitta.”

South Tyneside-based operator acquires third site: South Tyneside-based operator Stephen Ski has acquired his third site. Ski, who operates The Sanddancer in South Shields and Beggar’s Bridge in East Boldon, has taken on the former Smugglers pub on Sunderland seafront. The seafront pub in Marine Walk – and two flats upstairs – have been transformed to create Grannie Annie’s, which features a mishmash of reclaimed materials and retro trinkets. It has been named after Ski’s mother Anne Karczewski, from Hebburn, who is known affectionately as Grannie Annie. Despite the new name and look, the venue will maintain the live music ethos the Smugglers was known for. While the upstairs bar offers a more cocktail-led menu, the bar downstairs features six hand-pulls alongside premium lager. Plans are in place to start offering food and Ski also hopes to obtain planning permission to open a beer garden-style balcony at the rear, the Sunderland Echo reports.

Dalata acquires Birmingham city centre hotel for £31m: Ireland’s largest hotel operator, Dalata, has bought the Hotel La Tour in Birmingham for £31m. Hotel La Tour Birmingham owns the long leasehold (effective freehold) interest of the hotel, which is in Park Street in the centre of Birmingham. The consideration is payable from Dalata’s existing banking facilities. Hotel La Tour was purpose-built in 2012 and has 174 bedrooms, a restaurant, bar, and conference and meeting facilities. The hotel will be rebranded as a Clayton hotel in the final quarter of this year. Ebitdar attributable to the hotel was circa £1.9m (€2.14m) for the year ended 31 March 2017. Dermot Crowley, deputy chief executive business development and finance, said: “Hotel La Tour in Birmingham represents an outstanding opportunity to operate a newly built hotel in the centre of one of the largest cities in the UK. The acquisition is consistent with our stated strategy of rolling out our Maldron and Clayton hotel brands across the larger UK cities.”

Wrexham-based coffee shop operators start expansion with second site: Wrexham-based coffee shop operators Phil and Andy Gallanders have started expansion by opening their second site in the town. The brothers have launched Bank Street Coffee in an empty property in Bank Street. The site features large benches, new decor and some industrial lighting. The menu includes a variety of coffee, tea, iced drinks, cakes and loose leaf tea, reports Wrexham.com. The Gallanders opened their first site, King Street Coffee, in the bus station in April last year.

Preston-based Indian restaurant operator acquires second site: Preston-based Indian restaurant operator Mohammed Enayet is to start expansion after acquiring his second site. Enayet, who runs Silk Route, has taken on Naaz, which shut in April after 28 years, in the nearby village of Bamber Bridge. The restaurant in Station Road is being refurbished and is expected to reopen in six to eight weeks. Enayet said Naaz would still offer traditional Indian dishes “but with some slight twists”. He told the Lancashire Post: “It was such a shame when Naaz closed in April but we are confident we can get it back to its best for the people of Bamber Bridge.”