Hakkasan Group to expand into Mexico with $150m investment planned in partnership with Grupo Vidanta: UK-based restaurant and nightclub company Hakkasan Group is set to invest $150m in a new venture in Mexico. It has partnered with top Mexico resort operator Grupo Vidanta for the planned investment into the new concept, including beach clubs, nightlife venues, restaurants, and hotels at Vidanta Resorts. The partnership is reportedly the result of a recent visit to the Middle East, where Grupo Vidanta’s founder Daniel Chavez Morán and Hakkasan Group began discussing the potential for new ventures. “We are thrilled to partner with one of the most renowned global hospitality companies and create new opportunities and original experiences in Mexico,” Morán said. “Through our partnership with Hakkasan Group we will bring world-class dining and entertainment offerings like no other in Mexico to destinations across the country.” The partnership will see three new concepts in the first half of 2017, including two restaurants and a beach club at Vidanta Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo. For the next five years, Hakkasan Group will be introducing a new venue at a different Vidanta property each year, along with a new hotel with Grupo Vidanta. “Our latest collaboration with the world-renowned Hakkasan Group further exemplifies our long-term vision and ongoing commitment to progressing the growth of tourism in Mexico and evolving the Vidanta brand,” said Iván Chávez, executive vice-president of Grupo Vidanta. Vidanta has a portfolio of resorts in destinations including Nuevo Vallarta, Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, Acapulco, Puerto Peñasco, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlán. Hakkasan has more than 50 venues across the US, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. Its stable of brands include Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Herringbone, Searsucker, HKK, and Sake no Hana.
Nearly half of restaurant diners have sent food back, new research reveals: Nearly half of diners have sent back food they’ve been served in a restaurant, largely due to issues with quality control, new research has revealed. The survey by technology company Altodigital revealed 45% had returned their meal, with the main complaints including food containing a hair (10%), served with a foreign object (8%), and being mouldy (7%). Meanwhile, 94% said they would never return to a restaurant if it had a bathroom with poor hygiene standards. Though restaurants came at the top of the list of places customers would boycott if they had a bad experience, leisure facilities such as swimming pools and gyms came a close second (92%), with shops (85%) and public facilities (84%) not far behind. The survey was commissioned by Altodigital to better understand the attitudes towards quality management and the effect it had on customer perceptions. Altodigital found the majority (80%) of British-based companies don’t have a digital quality management system in place. Group marketing manager Alistair Millar said: “The main benefit of a digital system is to avoid human error and identify quality issues more effectively, saving a firm time and money, and even helping them to avoid reputation damage down the line.”
More than 10,000 fish ‘n’ chip shops in the UK: Market insights firm NPD Group has reported the UK market still has more than 10,000 fish ‘n’ chip shops. Fish is also driving one of the biggest anomalies presented in the research – loyalty. “There are more fish and chips shops in this country than the six major players have outlets combined,” NPD senior account manager Jack MacIntyre said. The average shop has a relatively small but loyal customer base of 578. “It is a real anomaly, and this loyalty is really good,” said MacIntyre. “Each of those 578 is buying more regularly than the chains see.” In 2015, UK consumers made 11.2 billion visits to a foodservice provider, up 1.3%, with spend up 2.6% to £52bn. This gave an average spend of £4.60 per visit, also up 1.3%, with the number of purchases up by the same margin too. “Every element on the measure is positive or static, and that is the first time in the last five years,” MacIntyre added. “To see the number of items also increasing is a really positive sign.” Online food orders are rocketing too, and collection orders in particular. “There is an obsession with gaining time,” MacIntyre said. Delivery is also up 7.2%, with aggregators, such as Just Eat, driving 4.7% of it. Despite positive trends, overall spend is still £500m behind 2008.
LGA urges restaurants to freely offer tap water: Restaurants should not wait for families to ask for tap water but offer it freely to help fight child obesity, according to the Local Government Association (LGA). Many restaurants only offer tap water on request, despite a legal requirement that licensed premises provide it, and most diners do not ask for it, a survey for the LGA found. The survey found eight out of ten people usually drank tap water at home, but only a third do so when eating out at restaurants. It also revealed 15% of those who usually drink tap water at home never think of asking for water in cafes or restaurants, while 13% said it made them feel awkward. Izzi Seccombe, the LGA’s community wellbeing spokeswoman, said: “While most restaurants will happily provide a glass of tap water on request, we’re saying it shouldn’t be something you have to ask for. Some people may be too embarrassed or find it awkward to ask for tap water. Others may simply forget it’s an option. Water brings important health benefits and keeps people hydrated. For children it’s an alternative to a sugary drink, while for adults it might dissuade them from ordering another alcoholic drink.” British Hospitality Association (BHA) chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said: “The BHA core objective is to promote responsible hospitality, which includes offering healthy and trusted food and drink across our 40,000 members’ establishments. Free tap water is available wherever alcohol is sold, in line with licensing conditions. We acknowledge the wider public health concerns around childhood obesity and will review the impact of proactively offering tap water as a point of discussion with our members. Tackling obesity requires a multi-disciplinary approach, including nutrition and physical activity.”
Sugar Hut secures former Living Ventures site in Liverpool for second venue, targets Newcastle and Cardiff: The Only Way is Essex star Mick Norcross has acquired the second site for his Sugar Hut brand, this time in Liverpool, and is targeting Newcastle and Cardiff for further expansion. The brand has secured the three-storey building in Victoria Street, which was previously operated as the Living Room and Mosquito by Living Ventures. The building will undergo an extensive £1.6m refurbishment overseen by interior designer Shaun Clarkson with Sugar Hut Liverpool due to launch in September. Chief executive Terry Pullen said: “Liverpool is an exciting opportunity for Sugar Hut to extend its brand, delivering a magical mix of quality, well served, fresh food. The venue will be an inspired luxury environment, offering unique and classic cocktails, aspirational entertainment and clubbing infused with Sugar Hut’s famous brand of glamorous and positive people.” The original Sugar Hut in Brentwood, Essex, is about to undergo refurbishment with a new menu concept planned for the restaurant. The company is looking to acquire sites in Newcastle and Cardiff Bay to continue its expansion into 2017.
Pop-up ‘beats and eats’ concept Smokey Tails opens permanent site in Hoxton: “Beats and eats” concept Smokey Tails, which operated as a pop-up in Haggerston, has opened a permanent site at the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen venue. Owner Seth Troxler is a DJ who has taken his eats and beats concept around the world. He describes the food as “Midwest modern”, with dishes such as spicy sofrito smoked pork with pineapple salsa, apple wood-smoked buffalo chicken wings, and miso-glazed smoked aubergine and marrow with mint and pine nuts. The 64-cover restaurant has a large terrace overlooking Hoxton Square, where Troxler hopes to hold an outdoor barbecue every Sunday, Hot Dinners reports. The brunch menu includes French toast and cornmeal pancake, poached egg and Berkswell muffin, and smashed avocado on toast with a choice of poached eggs, bacon or smoked salmon. Smokey Tails opens from 8am to 11pm, Monday to Friday, 10am to 11pm on Saturdays, and midday to 10pm on Sundays. Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen opened in 2001 and is a well-known music venue, which includes a 300-capacity live room.
Michelin-starred chef Mark Birchall to launch first restaurant and hotel this autumn: Michelin-starred chef Mark Birchall will launch his first restaurant and hotel in Aughton, near Liverpool, in the early autumn. Birchall, most recently executive chef with Simon Rogan at two Michelin-starred L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, is to develop Moor Hall, a grade II-listed 16th century house, set in five acres. The building will be fully restored and redesigned in partnership with Andy and Tracey Bell. There will be two reception rooms, a bar, and a lounge on the ground floor, all featuring wood-panelled walls, carved fireplaces and leather sofas. The 50-cover restaurant will have porcelain floors and glass walls giving panoramic views, with adjacent cheese and wine rooms. A private dining room for up to 12 will feature a handmade oak dining table and a large fireplace, while there will be five bedrooms in the main house, with two additional bedrooms in the nearby gatehouse, the Liverpool Echo reports. Birchall’s menus will showcase his own style of modern British cuisine, using produce grown on site. Once the main restaurant is up and running, Birchall plans to convert a large former barn into a second, more informal dining space that will feature a small dairy, a charcuterie, a curing room, and a meat ageing room.
Solita refused permission to open steakhouse inside Victorian shopping arcade in Manchester: Manchester-based burger and steak company Solita has put its proposals to open a steakhouse in the city on hold after running into planning issues. The company was planning to launch the 1950s-style restaurant and cocktail bar, complete with its own salt-ageing room, in Barton Arcade this summer. But the city council has refused the application on the grounds the proposed works would affect the fabric of the grade II-listed Deansgate building in the Victorian shopping arcade. Co-owner Franco Sotgiu told the Manchester Evening News: “We’re obviously disappointed with Manchester City Council’s decision as our sympathetic design scheme exposed many original features that had been covered for many years, which we were keen to bring back to life. We will now consider our right to appeal or possibly relocate the concept to another site either in Manchester or another city.” Earlier this month, the company revealed it was planning to bring Solita to Preston, which would be its first site outside Greater Manchester and biggest yet. Starting with a single site in the Northern Quarter in 2012, the group now operates branches in Prestwich, where it plans to open a second site as a wood-fired pizzeria and craft beer bar in the autumn, and in Didsbury. It also took over Back Turner Street bar Montpellier’s, behind the original Solita, earlier this year.
Punch reopens former Lifestyle Hospitality Group pub in Taunton: Punch has reopened a pub in Taunton, Somerset, which closed after former owner Lifestyle Hospitality Group went into administration. The Apple and Parrot in Corporation Street is back in business having shut in January and has created seven jobs. Licensee Justin Bushen told the Somerset County Gazette: “We will be refurbishing later this year and rebranding the pub’s name again as the Moat House, which is what it was before it was Apple and Parrot.” Lifestyle Hospitality Group was placed into liquidation earlier this year. It went into administration in January about eight weeks after aborting a £250,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to expand its Burgerfest brand.
McDonald’s – all-day breakfast in the US has paid off beyond expectations: McDonald’s, which reported a 35% increase in profits in its quarter two on Friday, has claimed offering all-day breakfast in the US had paid off beyond expectation. Sales in its stores open at least a year grew 6.2% across the country. Profits grew to $1.1bn from $811.5m in the period last year. Steve Easterbrook, chief executive of McDonald’s, said the company’s decision to offer some of its most popular breakfast items, such as Egg McMuffins and hash browns, throughout the day had paid off beyond its expectations. And promotional deals the company offered this year, such as McPick 2, also propelled sales, he said in a conference call with investment analysts. But he also said operational changes, such as retooling the company’s organisation to have better insight into individual markets and its decision to commit to sourcing cage-free eggs, were also helping draw customers back to the restaurants and in a way that would stick. “We have a restless energy here, and we’ve just got going,” Easterbrook said.
Soho branch of Pret A Manger to go vegetarian-only for a month: A Soho branch of Pret a Manger is to become the first in the world to go “veggie only” following a surge in sales of its meat free dishes. The outlet will be a “no carnivores” zone for a month during an experiment in June. The exact location of the store involved has not yet been revealed. Pret boss Clive Schlee said a double-digit growth in veggie sales was down to both an expansion of the menu and improved recipes. Pret sold 17,000 of its beets, squash and feta superbowl a week last year, outpacing chicken and salmon items. Schlee said: “Vegetarian (products) haven’t looked or tasted good enough for meat eaters to give them a go. Once they start to get vibrant colours, textures and a good enough mouth-feel people will go across quite easily.” He credited Pret’s fastest-growing ingredient, avocado, with boosting the appeal of many veggie choices. Last year Pret customers ate five million of them. Schlee warned the Soho pop-up might not be a money-spinner, but the objective was rather to encourage more people to forego meat more often, as part of its wider “Not Just For Veggies” campaign. Schlee said: “Our takings in the shop will probably drop, but the pop-up will signal that Pret is serious about providing veggie and vegan options.” Of the “Not Just For Veggies” campaign, Schlee said: “We are not trying to evangelise and I won’t be forgetting that our number one selling sandwich in the UK is the chicken caesar and bacon baguette! The idea behind it is that we should all try to lean towards eating veggie choices more often. Pret’s role is to make that choice easy and delicious. We’ve expanded our meat-free options to celebrate the campaign, with tasty additions such as the chana chaat flat bread, a vegan red tapenade and avo superbowl salad, and a mushroom and avocado sushi salad. We will also sell two new veggie chef’s specials each month throughout the summer and invite customers to tell us if our chefs have ‘hit the spot or lost the plot’ with the new recipes.” Meanwhile, Pret reported its New York’s Penn Station site has become its highest-selling store per square foot.
New York dessert cafe concept Pirlo’s opens in Birmingham city centre: Pirlo’s, a New York dessert cafe concept, has launched in Birmingham city centre. The loft-style cafe and bakery is near Moor Street Station in Digbeth and serves cakes, sundaes, crepes, cookie dough, waffles and 23 flavours of gelato. Co-owner Arfan Rehman told the Birmingham Mail: “We saw the potential of a high-end dessert parlour that would open late in the city centre. We wanted something that was classy and, above all, we wanted to offer quality desserts so we spent a lot of time trying to find experienced pastry chefs.” Pirlo’s head pastry chef Mohan Singh, who formerly worked at Resorts World and Malmaison hotel, said: “I’ve always been really interested in molecular gastronomy and applying that to my desserts.” As well as coffee supplied by Quarterhorse Coffee, based at nearby Bristol Street, the cafe will offer mocktails, fresh juices, teas, and hot chocolate. Pirlo’s will open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, 11pm on Sundays and from 7am to midnight during the rest of the week.
Artist Residence secures fourth site in Bristol: Artist Residence, the boutique hotel, restaurant and bar operator, has secured its fourth site, this time in Bristol. The company, founded by Charlie Newbury and Justin Salisbury, has acquired two properties in Portland Square. As well as opening a 36-bedroom hotel, it plans to launch a restaurant in the neighbouring property, which was once a Victorian shoe factory. Both buildings are listed but a planning application has been lodged with the city council to convert the properties. It hopes to open the hotel and restaurant next year. Salisbury told the Bristol Post: “We always take our time because we want to get to know each location well. We want to create something very special and new and in order to be able to do that we need to understand the local market.” Artist Residence has sites in London, Brighton and Penzance in Cornwall.
Merlin Entertainments pleads guilty to breaking health and safety laws following rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers: Merlin Entertainments has admitted breaking health and safety regulations following a crash involving The Smiler rollercoaster at its Alton Towers theme park last year. Five people were seriously injured in the accident in June, which resulted in Alton Towers being closed for four days. The ride has since reopened. Merlin Entertainments admitted the crash was caused by “human error” in November, with the ride’s safety control system being manually overridden. At a hearing at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, Merlin pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws and could now face a multimillion-pound fine. A statement from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said: “We welcome the guilty plea entered by Merlin Attractions Operations. Merlin has acknowledged that it failed in its legal duty to protect people on the Smiler ride. The incident was profoundly distressing for everyone involved, both physically and mentally. It left some with life-changing injuries. We hope this first milestone will help those affected to continue their recovery from this tragic incident.”
East Lancashire’s first community pub raises £50,000 for restaurant: East Lancashire’s first community pub has unveiled plans for a two-level restaurant. The Dog Inn in Belthorn, near Blackburn, reopened in December after being saved by a group of residents who raised £180,000 through a share issue. Now, after raising £50,000 in grants, the committee in charge of the pub has proposed to refurbish and extend the facilities. As well as the restaurant, the plan includes a volunteer-run coffee house, a village shop and the conversion of accommodation to community rooms, the Lancashire Telegraph reports. The pub’s newsletter stated: “Full-length windows in the lower restaurant will make the most of the stunning views the Dog Inn has to offer, and may also be able to open out on to an outdoor decking/seating area in the future.” The pub was granted £10,000 by the Big Lottery Fund and £30,000 by Lancashire Environmental Fund towards the refurbishment, in addition to £7,500 from the WM & BW Lloyd Trust (Darwen) and £2,500 from the Leech Trust.
Marston’s agrees deal for new-build pub at Derbyshire residential development: Marston’s has agreed a deal for a new-build pub restaurant at a residential development in Clay Cross, Derbyshire. The company has signed up to the St Modwen scheme, which has been named Egstow Park. The 150-cover pub restaurant is scheduled to open in the summer, creating up to 60 jobs. Marston’s acquisitions manager Rachel Newnes told The Business Desk: “We are delighted to be part of the new Clay Cross development. This pub will offer about 150 covers, and is part of our ongoing new-build scheme as a drive to provide top quality pubs and lodges across Britain.” St Modwen development surveyor Gregg Titley added: “We’re pleased to announce this first deal with Marston’s at Egstow Park, which will anchor the first phase of development at this site. We have also now received planning consent for a new supermarket and fast food restaurant at the development, and are actively marketing these to potential occupiers.” When complete, the Egstow Park development will provide more than 900 family homes. St Modwen bought the 204-acre former Clay Cross Bi-Water site in 2013 and secured planning consent for the new community from North East Derbyshire District Council last year.
Tony Macaroni granted licence to open 13th restaurant in Irvine: Scottish restaurant company Tony Macaroni has been granted a premises licence to open its 13th site, this time in Irvine. The company has had its application approved by North Ayrshire Licensing Board and is now set to open the venue at Riverway Retail Park on the former Blockbuster site, creating up to 40 jobs. The 158-cover outlet will also feature a takeaway, reports the Irvine Times. It will be the fourth restaurant brand at the retail park, which is home to Frankie & Benny’s, owned by The Restaurant Group, KFC and McDonald’s. Tony Macaroni opened its first site in East Kilbride in 2007 and its other restaurants include Dunfermline, Motherwell and Livingston.
Cheshire Cat adds bar dedicated purely to port in Staffordshire pub: Cheshire Cat Pubs and Bars, the north west of England multiple operator led by Tim Bird and Mary McLaughlin, has added a bar dedicated purely to port at its newly acquired pub The Fitzherbert Arms. The 19th century pub, which sits on Lord Stafford’s estate in the village of Swynnerton, is the company’s seventh site and first in Staffordshire. Cheshire Cat reopened the pub last month following an extensive refurbishment. The bar will feature more than 30 ports, including 13 vintage ports dating from 1977 to 2004, curated in partnership with Symington Family Estates, whose portfolio includes Graham’s and Cockburn’s. All ports will be served by the bottle with a selection served by the tot, glass or half-bottle decanter. Charlotte Symington, of Symington Family Estates, told The Drinks Business: “The Fitz has a wonderful, traditional English pub feel to it, whilst the port element adds a novel twist. This gives its customers a unique opportunity to gain or expand their knowledge of port”. Cheshire Cat Pubs and Bars also operates five sites in Cheshire and one in Dorset.
Chilango opens Manchester venue, first site outside London: Mexican brand Chilango has opened its first restaurant outside London – in Oxford Street, Manchester. The 70-cover restaurant features a large, comic book-style graffiti mural and neon artwork, along with a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Customers order from a large open kitchen. As well as burritos, Chilango offers tacos, nachos, salads and nudos, while drinks include frozen margaritas and lageritas, Mexican lagers and Se7en Brothers craft beer. The restaurant will also offer a takeaway service. Chilango co-founders Eric Partaker and Dan Houghton said they were “actively looking” for more sites in Manchester city centre. Chilango operates ten sites in London and last year raised more than £3.4m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube for expansion. The company has also signed for a proposed £8m development in Leeds. Partaker told Manchester Evening News: “I’ve always thought the quality of Mexican food we do is not something precious to London but something the whole country would enjoy. Manchester was the logical next step for us. It feels really vibrant, urban and cool and at the same time very worldly and up for new things, so I think it’s a great fit for us.”
Worcester-based bar operators to open third site in Hereford: Worcester-based bar operators Ray Velasquez and Matthew Pugh are to open their third site. Velasquez and Pugh are launching The Firefly on Friday (29 April) on the site of the former Orange Tree restaurant in King Street, Hereford. The bar, which will stock 16 different beers on tap and serve street food, will be the second The Firefly for the pair, who opened the inaugural site in Worcester 11 years ago. They also operate the Hand in Glove bar in the city. The duo said they had originally been looking to open a site in one of the nearby bigger cities such as Birmingham or Cheltenham but when they stumbled on the venue in Hereford they decided it was the perfect place to launch a second The Firefly. Pugh told the Hereford Times: “If anyone has been to our Worcester site they will know it’s a pretty easy-going sort of place. We don’t pretend to be anything that we aren’t. We want people to have a good time.”
Nando’s opens flagship restaurant in £14m Bolton redevelopment: Nando’s has opened its latest venue – in the Vaults in Bolton’s Market Place shopping centre. Nando’s is the flagship restaurant of the £14m redevelopment, with Italian restaurant brand Prezzo taking up another unit. Market Place manager Nikki Wilson-Cook told the Bolton News: “It doesn’t get much bigger than Nando’s and, importantly, it is a restaurant that covers all walks of life – including families, young people, students as well as different communities in Bolton – it ticks all the boxes.” Bolton Council leader Cliff Morris said it was essential to get an “anchor tenant” like Nando’s. He said: “Once you get that key anchor tenant in place, it helps to attract other people into the town centre.” Other brands set to open in the Vaults include Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Mexican burrito specialist El Mexicana alongside a nine-screen cinema.
Specialist lasagne restaurant Mister Lasagna launches in Soho: Mister Lasagna, a specialist restaurant dedicated to the humble pasta dish, has launched in Soho, London. The restaurant is the brainchild of Alessandro Limone, with lasagna dishes including bolognese, ham and cheese, mushroom, pesto, carbonara, vegetable, four cheeses, and Napoletana (meatballs, egg, bolognese, ricotta and bechamel), Hot Dinners reports. The venue in Rupert Street also offers rotating specials such as truffle, pumpkin, smoked salmon, chicken, artichoke, courgette, vegetable, aubergine, cherry tomato and basil, mashed potato and egg, spinach, onion, and spicy tomato sauce. There is a choice of four sauces to accompany each lasagne, plus desserts including tiramisu, caramel panna cotta, and white chocolate soufflé. The 40-cover restaurant is an all-day venue with a takeaway service and also offers coffee, traditional savoury tarts, sweet pastries, as well as pasta, sauces and a selection of Italian liqueurs.
Truffles and prosecco concept Trufflesecco opens in Camden High Street: Trufflesecco, which as the name suggests is a concept that specialises in prosecco and truffles, has opened in Camden High Street in north London. The restaurant has shutters on the wall to evoke the feeling of sitting on a pavement outside a cafe in Florence and offers dishes such as burrata with black truffles, truffle carpaccio tapenade, as well as meat and cheese platters. The drinks menu is dominated by seven different bottles of prosecco, along with prosecco-based cocktails, non-sparkling Italian wines, and even a truffle-infused grappa. Trufflesecco co-founder Irina Lily told the Evening Standard: “Prosecco is all about having fun, and truffles add a real sense of luxury. Our philosophy here is to celebrate every day as if it’s a special occasion.” Trufflesecco is open Monday to Saturday, from 5pm to midnight.
Director of multi-site operator CAF (Scotland) banned for six years for failing to pay tax and rates: Claire Fraser, director of multi-site operator CAF (Scotland), has been disqualified from acting as a director of a limited company for six years for failing to address the firm’s tax and business rate affairs. An Insolvency Service investigation found CAF (Scotland) failed to pay taxes due to HMRC, business rates to Fife Council, and preserve accounts. Fraser was sole director of Fife-headquartered CAF (Scotland), which operated four bars in Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy. The company ceased trading in early 2014 and went into liquidation on 13 August that year owing creditors £186,732. The Insolvency Service said CAF (Scotland) failed to pay business rates to Fife Council of £130,746, and made no PAYE or NIC payments to HMRC, resulting in a liability of £25,985. The investigation also found Fraser failed to provide accounting records for CAF (Scotland) to the liquidator and, without those records, it had been impossible to explain the purpose of payments totalling £186,127 paid out from the company’s bank account; what cash sales were generated by its four venues; what wages and benefits were taken by Fraser, and the exact dates the company began and ceased trading.
Inn Collection Group opens first city venue in Durham following revamp: North east hospitality company Inn Collection Group (ICG), which is backed by private equity firm Kings Park Capital, has reopened The Kingslodge Inn in Durham following a five-week refurbishment. ICG acquired the pub last month, its seventh site but its first in a city, and is part of the company’s expansion plans across the north east. Two additional bedrooms have been created, bringing the total to 23, while the restaurant has been made an integral part of the pub. ICG operations director Sean Donkin said: “We are pleased to be opening our first city inn. The Kingslodge Inn will offer a cosy and welcoming traditional pub with en-suite accommodation, serving fine beers along with home-cooked food.” ICG’s other sites are The Lindisfarne Inn near Holy Island, The Bamburgh Castle Inn in Seahouses, The Hog’s Head Inn in Alnwick, The Seaton Lane Inn near Seaham, The King’s Head Inn at Newton under Roseberry in North Yorkshire, and the soon to open Commissioners Quay Inn in Blyth.
Apartment Group opens new gourmet burger restaurant concept in Sunderland: North east-based leisure operator Apartment Group has opened its new gourmet burger restaurant concept in Sunderland. The company, owned by Duncan Fisher, has converted its tapas restaurant Dr Feelgood in Hylton Riverside into Saucy Burger. The venue, which is Sunderland’s first dedicated burger restaurant, features retro graphic walls, flashing neon signs, a photo booth and cowshed-style booths that people can book for large groups. Apartment Group operations manager Donna Cope told the Sunderland Echo: “There are still some people who have a massive affection for Dr Feelgood, but people were using it more as a special occasion place. It was doing well, but after a couple of years we felt the tapas thing was tired, and we wanted to try something new. We have kept a couple of people’s favourite dishes, like the popcorn chicken and spiced harissa skewers, but our primary focus will be burgers. We’ve also got a couple of other dishes on there like a chilli with big chunks of steak, tacos, and a Memphis pulled pork, which we’ll be serving with claws so people can shred it themselves.” Apartment Group’s other venues include As You Like It in Jesmond, Florita’s in Newcastle city centre, and Newton Hall in Newton-by-the-Sea.
Tunbridge Wells-based leisure company opens fourth site in town: Tunbridge Wells-based leisure company Fonthill has opened its fourth site in the Kent town. The company has reopened the former TN4 bar in Mount Ephraim as The George pub, which features a large beer garden. It said it would aim to recreate the vibe of its other pubs, with a focus on “good food and drink, craft beer and wine, and music for customers of all ages and all walks of life”. Co-owner Rich Simm told the Kent & Sussex Courier: “After a few all-nighters the team are very tired but really happy with what we’ve done in a short space of time.” The company also operates music venue The Forum along with The Ragged Trousers and The Sussex Arms pubs in The Pantiles.