Freshii opens first UK site: Canadian-based health brand Freshii has opened its first UK site – in Donegall Square, Belfast. Freshii offers tossed salads, hot bowls, burritos, healthy wraps, soup, fresh-pressed juices, smoothies and frozen yogurt. Meals are based on fibre-rich, slow-burning carbs, essential fats and lean proteins, and cater for dietary requirements including paleo, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and wheat-free. Last month, Freshii raised $96m in an IPO to fund its plan to triple the company’s store count by the end of 2019. Freshii Ireland master franchise holders Dave O’Donoghue and Cormac Manning plan to open 40 to 50 sites across Ireland in the next five years. O’Donoghue said: “We are really excited about bringing Freshii to Northern Ireland – we want to energise people in the north and satisfy the consumer demand for healthy and fresh food at affordable prices.” Since founder and chief executive Matthew Corrin opened the first Freshii site in Toronto in 2005, the brand has grown to more than 300 stores in 20 countries, including six in the Republic of Ireland. Each Freshii restaurant features its own look and feel to fit within its local community.

Thwaites adds 56-bedroom hotel in York to portfolio: North west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites, which owns the Judge’s Lodging in York under its Inns of Character brand, has bought the 56-bedroom Middletons Hotel in the city. Middletons is spread over six grade II-listed buildings, which have been built up by a local family during the past 40 years. After York Minster, it is the largest single property within York’s city walls. The acquisition takes Daniel Thwaites’ portfolio of hotels and inns to 16. Thwaites chief executive Rick Bailey said: “Middletons is an outstanding property in a stunning location and has a fascinating history. The Clark family has built a unique asset over many years – with a wonderful reputation and huge character – from a series of unused and almost derelict buildings. It is a well-run business and York is a strong market. We are delighted to have been able to acquire it and look forward to continuing to develop it.” Daniel Thwaites first moved into hotels in the early 1980s and has grown steadily across the UK. Bailey added: “Middletons is joining our company at an exciting time, we were recently awarded AA hotel group of the year and have a strong pipeline of openings. Over the next few months it will be joined by the Crown Inn in Pooley Bridge, Cumbria; The Royal in Heysham, near Morecambe; and Lodge At Solent, near Southampton, all of which are under development.”

Whitbread secures Hub by Premier Inn go-ahead in Shoreditch: Whitbread has secured a premises licence for a Hub by Premier inn site in Shoreditch, despite opposition from local residents. It will be a new-build, 246-bedroom site in Quaker Street in the middle of the Tower Hamlets Cumulative Impact Policy area and involves an investment of circa £30m. Whitbread hopes work on the site will start this year and be complete by May 2019. The site is about 300 metres from the Brick Lane hub, which opened a year ago. Meanwhile, Whitbread has secured a premises licence for a 123-bedroom Premier Inn in Botley, on the outskirts of Oxford. The proposed premises, part of the locally controversial West Way Shopping Centre redevelopment, was granted a premises licence at a hearing before the Vale of White Horse Licensing Committee in the terms applied for. Provisionally, being part of a wider development, it is hoped the development will start on-site this year and open in 2019.

Caffe Nero invests £6.5m in US expansion: Caffe Nero had invested £6,530,000 in its US expansion up to the end of 31 May 2016, according to documents at Companies House. The accounts report the company invested £4,114,000 of the total in this most recent financial year. Last month, Propel reported Caffe Nero had opened its eighth site in the Boston, Massachusetts, area with an opening in Brookline’s Washington Square. The launch comes two months after the company opened in nearby Brookline Village in the midst of strong competition – a couple doors down from Starbucks and across the street from Dunkin’ Donuts and Clover. Privately owned Caffe Nero first opened in Boston about two and a half years ago. Jay Gentile, director USA at Caffe Nero, said: “Washington Square is similar to where we would build in Europe. It’s a little centre and public transportation trains are right. It became a bit of a no-brainer when you looked at social media and the requests from people to come to Brookline. I think we’ll do quite well there.”

Turnover nears £5m at Hoste Arms in Norfolk’s Burnham Market: Companies House documents show turnover at the Hoste Arms in Burnham Market, Norfolk, which was developed into an iconic hostelry by the late Paul Whittome, grew turnover to £4,984,302 in the year to 30 April 2016, up from £4,832,300 the year before. However, operating profit dropped to £263,436, compared with £326,782 the year before. Pre-tax profit was £138,696, compared with £206,025 in the previous year. The company stated: “We commenced a number of further improvements to the hotel, including a luxury cinema, an extension to the historic bar, a new gymnasium and a new private dining room. As a result of these additions, there has been an impact in the year under review. However, turnover increased year-on-year and we expect to report that the 2015 to 2016 financial year results will be improved on in 2016 to 2017.” The Hoste Arms is currently owned by Brendan and Bee Hopkins.

Burger King promotes flame-grilled burgers using photos of real restaurant fires: Burger King’s latest print advertising campaign shows its restaurants on fire – a consequence, according to the adverts, of the company always flame-grilling its burgers. The photos in its three adverts show firemen putting out blazes at restaurants in Oregon, Pennsylvania and Italy, Business Insider reports. Miami-based agency David based the campaign on research that revealed that, since 1954, more Burger King restaurants have burned down than any other fast-food chain. The campaign’s tagline is “flame-grilled since 1954.”

Yummy Pub Company becomes Yummy Collection: Yummy Pub Company, led by Anthony Pender and Tim Foster, has rebranded to become The Yummy Collection. The company stated: “We have always been far more than ‘just a pub company’ and for some time our name has not allowed us to shine – so we’ve decided to have a bit of a makeover. We are now rebranding our image to become The Yummy Collection. It’s not a huge multimillion-pound campaign, just a simple refresh to show what we do to people who are lucky enough to have just found us. As a collection, we intend to continue to break the pre-conceived notions of what a ‘pub’ is.”

Brewhouse & Kitchen to celebrate International Women’s Day with free brewery experience: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the UK’s largest brewpub group, will celebrate International Women’s Day (Wednesday, 8 March) by hosting free brewing experiences for women at its pubs. Brewhouse & Kitchen will join thousands of women across the world who are brewing a Unite Local beer. The initiative has been co-ordinated by Project Venus, a UK-based group of female brewers passionate about supporting women in the industry. Each Unite Local beer brewed will be unique to the pub and, once available on draught two weeks later, a donation from each pint sold will go towards breast cancer research charities. Brewhouse & Kitchen’s Brewery Experience Day package offers guests a hands-on introduction to brewing and usually retails at £85 per head. The day will start with breakfast before an introduction to the recipe and brewing process. Lunch and beer tastings will also be included during the day, with eight spaces available at each Brewhouse & Kitchen pub. To book, email lucy.deare@brewhouseandkitchen.com

Merseyside-based Stange & Co to reopen North Wales inn to feature restaurant and rooms, seventh site: Stange & Co, which operates venues in Merseyside and North Wales, is set to transform the Erskine Arms in Conwy into its seventh site. The pubco will reopen the redeveloped historic inn to feature a restaurant and 12 rooms, with the project granted £140,000 by the Welsh government’s Tourism Investment Support Scheme. The opening will create 23 jobs. Economy secretary Ken Skates told Insider Media: “Being right in the centre of Conwy, the Erskine Arms is going to be a welcome addition to the town and it is fantastic to see a historic inn being given a new lease of life and transformed to become a very high-quality product providing employment for the area. Tourism is a significant industry in Wales employing nearly 10% of the workforce.” Stange & Co’s other pubs, some with rooms, are The Glengower in Aberystwyth, The Cottage Loaf and The Snowdon, both in Llandudno, and The Fox & Hounds, The Jug & Bottle, and The Ship, all in the Wirral.

Japanese steakhouse opens seatless restaurant in New York: Japanese steakhouse concept Ikinari Steak has opened a seatless restaurant in New York City that also offers no desserts or coffee. Customers at the venue in Manhattan’s East Village start at the butcher’s station and choose the cut and weight of their steak before standing at tables to dine. The restaurant said it can sell more steaks, make more money and serve more customers if they are in and out within 30 minutes. There are no appetisers on the one-page menu and no desserts or coffee. However, there have often been 30-minute queues developing outside. Ikinari Steak founder Kunio Ichinose said that to make money, the restaurant must pull in 200 customers a day. He told Reuters: “When I wanted to open in New York people said, ‘American people don’t want to eat steak when they’re standing.’ It was the same in Japan and there wasn’t a culture – now there’s a culture.” One customer, Eli Kies, who opted for a chuck-eye steak with salad, soup and rice costing $20, added: “I think it’s a really good experience because I can burn calories as I eat. I’m standing up, keeping good posture, and eating some protein.” Ichinose said he intends to open ten sites in New York this year and aims to list his company on the Nasdaq exchange in three years.

BrewDog increases bar finder’s fee to £10,000: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has increased its bar finder’s fee to a minimum of £5,000, and £10,000 if the site is large enough to house a brewpub. In June last year, the company was offering £1,000 to anyone who identified a suitable location. The company has identified a “hit list” of regional cities it is specifically targeting – Bath, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford and Reading – as well as Brixton, Peckham, South Bank and Waterloo in London. Its non-UK targets are Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Madrid, Paris, Vienna and Zurich. BrewDog is seeking sites between 2,000 and 4,000 square feet (or more than 5,000 square feet for a brewpub), a ground-floor location (all on one level preferred), and with prominent frontages. The company stated in its blog: “We can’t patrol every street and city centre – so you guys helping us is the best way to ensure we can open a BrewDog bar where you live. If you aid us by unearthing a site we end up converting into a BrewDog bar, we will reward you with a cool £5,000. If you manage to discover a larger site we can transform into a BrewDog brewpub, your finder’s fee will be £10,000.” Entries have to be submitted by Thursday, 1 June.

Vaulkhard Group reports turnover and profit increase: Newcastle leisure firm Vaulkhard Group has reported a 36% jump in turnover. Vaulkhard Group was formed in April 2015, when four businesses run by different members of the Vaulkhard family merged. A three-year plan to rejuvenate its portfolio began, which involved spending more than £600,000 on transforming Fluid bar in Gallowgate into a gin bar and restaurant entitled Bealim House, complete with its own gin distillery, and laying down plans to remodel The Quilted Camel, Perdu and Blake’s Coffee House. Accounts for Vaulkhard Group show those investments have paid off, with turnover growing from £7.37m to £10.08m in the year ended 31 March 2016. Operating profit also rose from £1.6m to £1.74m in the period, while the overall profit for the financial year rose from £1.38m to £1.57m. The group, which changed its name from 42nd Street Reality to Vaulkhard Group, said the major corporate restructure had been carried out to strengthen the balance sheet and profit generation. In a note accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Our aims have been broadly achieved, with significant profit generation in this first year, continued revenue growth and significant capital expenditure. Our capital expenditure programme for the year began with a major refurbishment of an existing freehold property to launch a new concept called Bealim House. At the same time, the group helped fund a new subsidiary company called Newcastle Gin Co, which saw the release of a new product called Newcastle Gin. Sales of the product are growing apace and it is on track to produce 5,000 bottles a year of gin that is consumed within our leisure business, with a view to taking to third-party customers in early 2017. Additional investment was made in one of our leasehold venues, with the addition of a private dining room in Barluga Morpeth.”

Young’s to sell Epsom pub freehold: London pub retailer Young’s, represented by agent Savills, has brought The Kings Arms in Epsom, Surrey, to market. The pub, which is currently closed, is available freehold with vacant possession or to let on a new lease. Located in East Street, the pub totals 4,361 square feet (405 square metres) over basement, ground and first-floor levels and features a large, attractive trade garden with seating for up to 140 customers as well as a private car park for 22 vehicles. The surrounding area is a mix of residential and office properties. Paul Breen, director in the licensed leisure team at Savills, said: “We are pleased to be marketing this well-known Epsom pub and anticipate strong interest given its prominent main road location and the scarcity of high-quality opportunities in this part of Surrey.”

JD Wetherspoon opens Chester hotel featuring Ricky Tomlinson’s pre-fame story: JD Wetherspoon has opened its £2.3m 11-bedroom hotel and bar in Chester – The Bull & Stirrup – which features a display about actor Ricky Tomlinson and his life before he became famous. Tomlinson met his late friend Des Warren in 1972 at the venue when it hosted a strike committee in an upstairs room. Tomlinson, who at the time was a plasterer, and Warren were imprisoned the following year for their role in the first national building workers’ strike. The pair were among 24 flying pickets involved in action at Shrewsbury who were jailed under the obscure 1875 Conspiracy Act and became known as the “Shrewsbury Two” as they received the longest sentences. Warren died in 2004 but Tomlinson is campaigning to clear their names, arguing they were political prisoners. JD Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told The Chester Chronicle: “We always reflect the history of the building with information displays in our pubs. We are pleased to feature information about the famous event in the new-look pub.” JD Wetherspoon began work on the city centre hotel and bar in October following a two-year delay.

Nando’s launches its hottest sauce yet: Nando’s has launched its hottest sauce yet – the Peri-Peri Vusa – containing more chillies than any of its other dressings. Vusa, which means “excitement and fire” in Zulu, also contains citrus, garlic and onion that gives the sauce an “intense, full-bodied taste”. Nando’s claims Peri-Peri Vusa is “versatile enough to drizzle on everything from flame-grilled chicken wings with peri-peri chips to supergrain salad, yet fiery enough to impress mates and dates alike”. The chain’s previous hottest offering was its Extra Extra Hot Peri-Peri. The new sauce is available across the UK and Ireland.

Papa John’s tests $2.99 fee for ‘priority’ deliveries: Papa John’s is taking a page from the airline industry and testing a fee that lets people fast track their pizza orders to the front of the queue. The chain said the $2.99 “Papa Priority” fee is being trialled at select US locations, with the company looking for ways to expand the test. Papa John’s said the fee did not guarantee delivery within a set time but sent an order to the “front of the line so it is made faster”. The option is limited to five orders per night, per location. The company said the option had received “great customer reception”. Papa John’s has more than 350 sites across the UK and over 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.

Signature Living plans Liverpool’s first Michelin-starred restaurant, in Cunard Building: Aparthotel developer and operator Signature Living plans to open a wedding venue and restaurant inside the Cunard Building, in which it hopes to win a first Michelin star for Liverpool. There was confusion about the council-owned building after adverts appeared last week for a “Signature Living-backed scheme” for office spaces inside the Cunard. However, the advert was withdrawn and Signature Living has now announced its ambitious plans for the Pier Head building. A company spokesman told the Liverpool Echo: “We have always been clear that investing in the Cunard building is of interest since the space was marketed by Liverpool City Council. We may have been premature in talking about it but we are looking forward to putting our plans forward, which would involve creating Liverpool’s most special wedding and events facilities and potentially a Michelin-starred restaurant. Last month, Signature Living unveiled plans to open a George Best-themed hotel in Manchester, paying tribute to the legendary Northern Ireland and Manchester United footballer. The company opened the Shankly Hotel in a joint collaboration with the Shankly family in Liverpool city centre in 2015. Signature Living founder Lawrence Kenwright said in January the company also plans to take the Alma de Cuba brand nationwide after buying the bar in Liverpool and rights to the name.

Urban Splash snaps up former Sankeys venue in Manchester: Manchester-based developer Urban Splash has snapped up Beehive Mill in the city, the birthplace of nightclub Sankeys. The grade II-listed former cotton mill in Ancoats, which closed earlier this year, will be converted into work spaces. Urban Splash director Nathan Cornish told the Manchester Evening News: “We’re delighted to have finally bought Beehive Mill. We make no secret we’ve tried and failed to buy this building in the past, so it’s been a long-term target for us. A lot of people know the building as the home of Sankeys, which took up around a fifth of the building. Our focus and responsibility now is to give it an exciting future to further boost this booming part of Manchester.” In January, Sankeys asked the public to vote on where it should open its next UK nightclub, listing 25 cities for its campaign. The website states: “#DoYouWannaSankeys is about bringing the vibe that started in Manchester to the rest of the country.” Sankeys, which is owned by David Vincent, has estimated it will take three to six months for a new club to open, which would be permanent or temporary depending on demand. The number of venues to open has yet to be finalised. Sankeys operates successful franchises in London, Essex, Ibiza, and Tokyo, with plans to open a club in Birmingham this month.