M&B planning to open more than 25 Miller & Carter sites in 2017: Mitchells & Butlers has revealed it is planning to open more than 25 Miller & Carter steakhouse restaurants in 2017. The company is continuing expansion of the 57-strong brand with a site in Bournemouth, creating 55 jobs. The restaurant will open at the new BHS development on Friday, 24 February. The 512 square metre venue will have capacity for 190 covers. Miller & Carter regional business manager John Crayford said: “Following the success of Miller & Carter Poole, we can’t wait to bring a new restaurant to Bournemouth. The next year is a particularly important one in terms of investment, as we have more than 25 new sites planned to open throughout 2017, adding to Mitchells & Butlers’ existing portfolio of 57 Miller & Carter restaurants. Guests will have the chance to experience the first-class service, top-quality steaks and sumptuous interior decor Miller & Carter serves across the UK, and we can’t wait until the doors finally open on 24 February.”

Innis & Gunn appoints finance director as it aims to double turnover in three years: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has appointed Esther Binnie as finance director and board member. Binnie will contribute to the strategic direction across all areas of the business, providing leadership to the board on the company’s financial management and ensuring the company meets its goal of doubling turnover to £25m in the next three years. Binnie joined Innis & Gunn seven years ago when it employed only five staff and has been involved in the substantial growth of the business, which now employs more than 50. Binnie has held a number of senior roles in the company’s finance team, overseeing the financial modelling for Innis & Gunn’s equity crowdfunding campaign, AdventureCapital, which raised £2.5m and brought in more than 2,000 new shareholders in November. Binnie also led the integration of the Inveralmond Brewery into Innis & Gunn following the purchase of the Perth-based brewery in April and built a new finance team to support the expanding business. She said: “My priority is to ensure we accelerate delivery of our growth priorities, effectively investing the capital raised from investors to build our bars, add new brewing capabilities to our brewery, and bring exciting new beers to the market.” Expansion plans include opening four venues for its bar and restaurant concept Beer Kitchen in the next 12 months, taking the total number of sites to seven, and tripling production at The Innis & Gunn brewery in the next two years to 30,000HL.

Enterprise Inns to reopen Manchester venue as new sports bar concept: Enterprise Inns’ leased and tenanted division Ei publican partnerships is set to reopen a Manchester city centre pub as a new sports bar concept. The fully refurbished Beef and Pudding, formerly a New Moon Pub Company site, will reopen at the end of January as The Directors’ Box following a £75,000 investment by Ei publican partnerships. It will be operated by the team behind Manchester’s The Vine Inn and will be their second Enterprise site. The Directors’ Box will open in the morning for coffee, while nine 4K UHD screens will show live broadcasting from Sky and BT Sport later in the day. Up to four different sporting events will be shown at any one time. The food menu is in development but will include American-style dishes as well as lighter bites, while the drinks offer will be a mix of lagers, real ales and Belgian beers. Ei publican partnerships regional manager Paul Hirst said: “The team at The Vine in Kennedy Street has been successfully running the pub for 13 years and are great operators who understand how to cater for local needs. We’re delighted they’re taking on The Directors’ Box. We worked together to come up with the concept and, as the name suggests, the idea is ‘hospitality while watching sports’. We felt that was missing from the area.”

TGI Friday’s to open third new-look venue, in Southampton next month: TGI Friday’s is set to open its third new-look venue, this time in Southampton. Following the concept’s launch in Newcastle in November and another opening in Bournemouth earlier this month, the new venue will open at the city’s West Quay Watermark development towards the end of February, creating 90 jobs. The new TGI Friday’s concept features a spacious bar and lounge, a bespoke menu for all-day dining, and live music. The breakfast menu includes American pancakes and Jack Daniel’s American breakfast, with a bottomless prosecco brunch at weekends. The lunch menu includes fresh and light options, such as duck salad, chargrilled chicken sandwich and Texas chilli bowl. The main menu features new creations from chef Terry McDowell, including bacon lollipops, six different types of chicken thighs, and the Gravy Seal Burger (chicken escalope, beef burger, popcorn shrimp, caramelised onions and Colby cheese served with beef gravy).

Leela Palaces acquires former Hibiscus site in Mayfair: Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts has acquired the Mayfair site formerly occupied by Claude Bosi’s two Michelin-starred restaurant Hibiscus. David Rawlinson, founder of agents Restaurant Property, which acted on Bosi’s behalf, said the lease to the 2,900 square foot site had been bought by the Mumbai-headquartered group at a rent of £185,000 per annum with a £1m premium. The lease will run until 2032. The 60-cover site comprises 1,800 square feet of ground-floor space and a 1,100 square foot basement. The group is expected to open an Indian restaurant on the site in Maddox Street in the spring. It already owns nearby Jamavar London, which opened in Mount Street last month. Rawlinson said that despite a downturn in premiums being paid, demand for commercial property in Mayfair remained “very high”. Hibiscus closed on 1 October after nine years in London. Bosi has teamed up with Sir Terence Conran to launch Claude Bosi at Bibendum in South Kensington, which is due to open in the spring. Established in 1986, Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts operates nine sites in major cities and leisure destinations across India. It is owned by Hotel Leela Venture, a publicly listed company. No other agents were involved in the Hibiscus deal.

Good Life Group opens first The Diner outside London, in Southampton: The Diner, which is owned by Good Life Group, has opened its first site outside London. The company has opened the restaurant at Southampton’s West Quay Watermark scheme and is its tenth venue to date. The restaurant features an open kitchen with a mix of luxe pink booths and classic Brooklyn, New York-style seats. The bar area has bespoke blue leather bar stools, shake stations and the brand’s first “Sno-Cone” machine. The menu includes all-day breakfasts, Diner dogs and burgers, homemade meatloaf, buttermilk-fried chicken as well as a series of sides. Drinks feature hard shakes, cocktails and craft beer. The Diner’s other sites are all in London – in Camden, Covent Garden, Dalston, Gloucester Road, Islington, Shoreditch, Spitalfields, Soho and the Strand.

D&D London to open Aster at Nova in Victoria next month: Restaurant operator D&D London will open its new venue – Aster – in the Nova development at Victoria on Wednesday, 1 February. The 10,000 square foot space has been designed by Russell Sage Studios and will be set across two floors, with a 161-cover cafe and deli on the ground floor and a 122-cover restaurant and cocktail bar upstairs. The restaurant will also include a 16-cover private dining room and glass-walled wine room seating up to eight guests. The kitchen will be headed by executive chef Helena Puolakka, who has returned to the company after leaving in 2013. The menu will feature the Nordic cuisine of her Finnish heritage using the classic French techniques she has refined during her career. Each month, Aster will host “Series of Senses”, a five-course experiential dinner held in the private dining room, with diners donning virtual reality goggles. Puolakka said: “In Nordic countries craftsmanship, the presence of hand-made food and local produce has always been a key part of daily life. At Aster, a sense of belonging and the harmony in my Nordic-French cuisine is important, whether we are cooking for the laid-back deli or the more refined restaurant.”

Former alleged Mafia conspirator opens Notting Hill restaurant: A former alleged Mafia conspirator has opened a restaurant in Notting Hill, north west London. Luca Longobardi – who was known as “The Mafia’s Banker” – has launched 108 Garage in Golborne Road. Longobardi left his native Italy at 21 to become a financier on Wall Street but, 20 years later, by then co-owner of a Brazilian investment bank, he was arrested at the US embassy in Sao Paulo. He spent 30 days in a maximum security prison in South America, an experience he later featured in a book. Longobardi has been fully exonerated of any wrong-doing. The new restaurant is the result of a collaboration between Longobardi and chef Chris Denney, formerly of Covent Garden Italian Four To Eight. Denney is known for his time in Michelin-starred Hambleton Hall and Piazza Duomo in Alba, Italy, which is rated as one of the top 20 restaurants in the world. They met after Longobardi posted an advert on Gumtree. The new eatery is, as the names suggests, in a former garage and promises seasonal dishes and flavours as well as “overlooked cuts”, reports the Evening Standard. The pair hope the Notting Hill site will be the first of many and have plans to open sister restaurants in, among others, a laundry in New York, a hardware store in Los Angeles and a pharmacy in Miami.

Peel Hunt – JD Wetherspoon’s higher pricing is paying off: Peel Hunt leisure analysts Ivor Jones and Douglas Jack have said JD Wetherspoon’s higher pricing is paying off. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the company’s shares with a target price of 925p, they said: “Like-for-like sales rose by 3.4% in the first half of the year (3.5% in first quarter, 3.3% in second quarter). Our full-year assumption of 2.5% reflects a tougher comparable in the second half of the year (3.9% versus half one’s 2.4%). We expect accommodation to continue to outperform, followed by food, then drinks and gaming machines (which is now just 3% of sales) in a market in which eating out volumes rose 2.4% (eating in: +2.1%) in quarters one to three in 2016, compared with drinking out volumes falling 0.8% (drinking in: +5.2%) partly due to differences in costs/prices. Ebit margins rose by 170 basis points in the first half of the year (280 basis points in first quarter; circa 100 basis points in second quarter), which we believe were driven by average drink prices rising by 4.5% versus a 0.4% fall in the prior year (our estimates based on CGA data). Our forecast anticipates a 30 basis points rise in Ebit margins in 2017E and a small decline in 2018E, reflecting slower forecast like-for-like sales, and the timing of the impact of business rates (£7m per annum from April), the Apprenticeship Levy (£2m per annum from April) and increasing imported food and drinks costs. With higher relative costs (lower margins), Wetherspoon is more exposed to cost inflation than its pub peer group, in our opinion. Also, its pricing differentials against the supermarkets are likely to be forced even higher due to current inflation being oriented to labour (costing the equivalent to 85p/pint at Wetherspoon versus 10p/pint in supermarkets) and rates (17p/pint versus 2p/pint); ie to hold cash margins under 4.5% labour inflation (pre-mitigation) and 8% rates inflation, Wetherspoon has to raise prices by 5p/pint versus supermarket’s 0.6p/pint. Further, Wetherspoon like-for-like profits have weakened historically when commodity costs have risen. In the first half, two pubs opened and 21 were sold. Historically, Wetherspoon used to succeed in acquiring, rebranding and repositioning competitor sites but we now expect the estate to reduce in size for a second consecutive year. However, the estate average quality is improving and most of the estate is now freehold. The shares have re-rated to 8.9 times EV/Ebitda (versus a 7.4 times ten-year historic average) against a backdrop of net debt/Ebitda reaching 3.6 times (up from 2.9 times since 2013, due to freehold purchases and share buy-backs), the maturing swaps benefit ending this year, and the long-term expansion target being cut from 1,500 to between 1,000 and 1,200 outlets. Our 925p target assumes the EV/Ebitda rating holds in 2018E, a year that should bring greater cost pressures, and will require further price increases to compensate.”

Camerons to reopen first refurbished Leeds Brewery pub: Camerons Brewery is set to reopen its first refurbished Leeds Brewery venue since it purchased the pubco in July. The Crowd of Favours in Harper Street, next to Leeds Market, will reopen on Friday (20 January) following a £100,000 makeover. The traditional city centre pub sports a new-look exterior, including signage inspired by the area’s industrial heritage, a fully renovated interior, contemporary furniture and a new bar area. The basement will host weekly events, with comfortable sofas, old-fashioned brickwork and cabaret seating. Drinks will include beers from the Leeds Brewery cask and keg range as well an extensive choice of American and British craft beers. Additional beer lines have been added meaning consumers will be able to choose from five rotating keg and four rotating cask beers. The new food menu will offer pub classics, burgers, hotdogs, and sharing options, with all ingredients locally sourced and meals freshly prepared to order. Camerons chief executive Chris Soley said: “We were delighted to purchase the Leeds Brewery pubs into our managed group last year. As well as investing in new venues it is vital for us to look at refurbishment schemes for existing pubs within our group. We identified the need to develop the look and offering at the Crowd of Favours and we’re sure the improvements will make this an exciting venue.” This week, Camerons also invested £100,000 to upgrade the PA and lighting system at its Cluny music venue in Newcastle.

Cinnamon Collection launches chef de partie training programme: The Cinnamon Collection, which is owned by Boparan Restaurants, has launched “Cinnamon Starts”, a chef de partie training programme. Aimed at novice chefs who have completed an NVQ Level 2 or college equivalent, the programme will train young chefs for jobs across all four of the group’s London restaurants – The Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen, Cinnamon Soho and the newly opened Cinnamon Bazaar. The year-long programme is led by group development and training chef Rakesh Ravindran Nair, who has worked with The Cinnamon Collection since the opening of The Cinnamon Club in 2001. It offers a guaranteed chef de partie position on successful completion and financially supports trainees with a £22,000 salary throughout the course, which will rise to £25,000 on finishing. After two years of working at The Cinnamon Collection, trainees will have the opportunity to enrol in a sous chef development programme. An open day and interview session will take place on Monday, 30 January at Cinnamon Kitchen in Devonshire Square, Liverpool Street. Offering a path to potentially achieve a head chef position within six years, the programme is part of the ongoing expansion of The Cinnamon Collection, an investment in talent from within the group. Executive chef and chief executive Vivek Singh said: “I’m delighted to be launching Cinnamon Starts this year, supporting the next generation of chefs and bringing even more talent into The Cinnamon Collection as we grow. Rakesh’s training programme will offer young chefs a clear path of career progression and I look forward to seeing many young chefs rise through the ranks with us!”

McDonald’s US franchisees expecting drop in like-for-like sales in fourth quarter: McDonald’s franchisees in the US are expecting a drop in like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter, according to new research. In a survey by broker Nomura-Instinet, 22 franchisees, which own about 168 stores collectively, estimated like-for-like sales had declined 1.2% in the quarter. Based on these results, Mark Kalinowski, a Nomura-Instinet analyst, has lowered his like-for-like sales estimate by 70 basis points to be down 1.2%. He noted consensus for the quarter is for sales to be down 1.4%, reports CNBC. “An adverse December (partially if not wholly due to weather) is to blame,” Kalinowski said. Earlier this month, Kalinowski said December was slated to be the only month where the industry as a whole showed negative like-for-like sales growth. However, he noted November sales, which were the second-best month for US chain restaurant like-for-like sales during 2016, “should prevent quarter four as a whole from being a disaster”. It seems December wasn’t the only month affected by adverse weather and Kalinowski said he expected January like-for-like sales would also be poor because of these conditions. Nomura-Instinent polled the same franchisees about the first quarter of 2017 and, in aggregate, they expect sales to be down 1.9%. Kalinowski cut his like-for-like sales estimate by 240 basis points to an expected 1.9% drop. He noted consensus for the quarter is for sales to be down 0.6%.

Paul UK raises £15,000 for homeless through ‘sharing daily bread’ initiative: French artisan bakery and patisserie Paul UK has raised £15,013 to help people less fortunate. Paul donated 50p for each loaf of bread sold at its 35 bakeries between 12 December and 15 January to The Felix Project, which distributes London’s surplus fresh food that would otherwise go to waste to the homeless, those living in poverty and families struggling to get by. Paul donates unsold products to the charity on a daily basis and expanded the partnership through the Sharing Our Daily Bread initiative. Paul UK chief executive Jean-Michel Orieux said: “Not only are we able to provide our leftover bread but we are baking a bread pudding fresh on a daily basis to further increase our contributions to those in need across London. It was wonderful to see how many of our customers embraced the additional Christmas campaign, helping us to raise such a significant sum.” The Felix Project founder Justin Byam Shaw added: “Paul leads the way in terms of its thoughtful, creative and compassionate response to the twin problems of food waste and food poverty.”

Ilkley Brewery launches can range: Ilkley Brewery has launched a range of its award-winning beers in cans. Alpha Beta and Lotus are both available in boxes of 12 x 330ml cans from suppliers nationwide, online and from the brewery itself. Ilkley Brewery turns over almost £2m a year and produces more than 50,000 pints per week. It also exports to more than ten countries, including the US, China and across mainland Europe. In January, it appointed Josie Ludford as its new head of sales and I Like Press as its retained PR company to deliver national growth. Ilkley Brewery director Luke Raven said: “We have seen the benefits of cans for a long time but wanted to ensure every step of the process was right. From a sales point of view there are more and more opportunities for cans, whereas an expensive draught install or just the safety aspect of glass means doors would otherwise be closed. Cans open that door – beers in the park, at a gig, train beers. We are focused on quality too and knew if we were going to put our great beer in cans it had to be using the best equipment and techniques.”