Roger Payne enters private members’ market with acquisition of Blacks Club in Soho: Restaurateur Roger Payne, the man behind celebrity hangouts Gilgamesh and Shaka Zulu, has entered the private members’ market by acquiring Blacks Club in Soho from a private investor. The purchase comprises the long leasehold of 25-year-old Blacks, which includes two restaurants, bars and an art gallery. Payne is understood to have paid about £500,000 for the club and will plough a further £500,000 into refurbishing the bars and revamping menus. Membership at the Dean Street venue costs £500 a year. Payne told the Evening Standard: “There are challenges in the dining sector but I believe customers are still willing to spend on individuality. There is a queue for membership.” Jonathan Moradoff, of agent Davis Coffer Lyons, which advised Payne on the deal, added: “There is still enormous demand for leisure sites in Dean Street because of the critical mass of trendy restaurants and bars.” In July, Payne acquired authentic American barbecue restaurant chain Chicago Rib Shack in a pre-pack administration for a consideration of £210,500 plus 50% of the rent deposits for the company’s five sites.

C2 Investment increases shareholding in Lancaster Brewery, reports drop in pre-tax profit: C2 Investment has increased its shareholding in Lancaster Brewery and has reported a drop in pre-tax profit. The company saw turnover fall slightly to £5,743,681 for the year ending 31 January 2017, compared with £5,757,918 the year before. Pre-tax profit dropped to £354,661 compared with £462,516 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. C2 Investment now owns 84.5% of Lancaster Brewery having bought a 1% shareholding during the financial year and a further 1% in February. C2 Investment also owns The Brewhouse And Tap in Lancaster, The Sun Hotel in Lancaster, The Duke of Edinburgh hotel, bar and restaurant in Barrow-in-Furness, The Mill pub in Ulverston, and The Palatine pub in Morecambe, which is tenanted. The company stated: “The brewery has carefully managed its sales levels and product pricing during the year to reflect both the quality of the product, which is exceptionally high, and its market position. The stable and capable management of the business remains an asset and 2017 will see a further improvement in performance. The Sun improved performance in 2017 across all aspects of the business. The Duke of Edinburgh Hotel has continued to expand and nine rooms were added in 2016. The hotel enjoyed a steady 2016-17 bearing in mind the disruption of adding to the room numbers. The directors are very positive about its prospects for 2017-18. The tenant at the Palatine changed in January 2017 and has further improved the performance of the business. The Mill had a steady year but an investment programme undertaken in the last three months of the year has considerably improved the whole operation.”

Steamin’ Billy gets back to 11 sites with Warwickshire opening: Leicestershire-based Steamin’ Billy Brewing has opened its latest pub – The White Horse in Atherstone, Warwickshire. Earlier this month, the company closed The Three Crowns in the market town of Oakham in Rutland, with the launch of The White Horse following a refurbishment taking Steamin’ Billy’s portfolio back to 11 pubs. The venue in Long Street offers stone-baked pizza, steak and burgers made in an open kitchen, plus a drinks list of Steamin’ Billy ales, wine, cocktails and craft beer. The restaurant includes a private dining area for parties of up to a dozen people. A company spokesman told the Leicester Mercury: “Steamin’ Billy continues to expand with its latest venture in Atherstone offering a comprehensive food menu.”

Wellington Pizza Co opens fifth Buca Di Pizza site, in Hull: Leeds-based Wellington Pizza Co has opened its fifth Buca Di Pizza site, this time in Hull. The company, founded by brothers Geoff and Nicolas Thornton, has opened the restaurant at the £80m Fruit Market development. They have invested £175,000 to fit-out the venue in Humber Street, converting a 1,900 square foot former fruit and veg warehouse into an 80-cover pizzeria and bar with seating outside for a further 20 diners. Buca di Pizza’s offerings include the Hickory Pig (smoked cheese, pancetta and pulled pork), and Seafood of Mirth (Goan curry sauce, mixed seafood, buffalo mozzarella, rocket and lime wedge). The venue offers Birra Mia, Peroni and Aspall cider on draught, alongside bottled beer and a guest ale from the Yorkshire Brewing Company. There is also a selection of Italian wine and cocktails. Geoff Thornton told BDaily: “The building has some great features that give it a really special feel, from the skylights that give the restaurant area so much natural light to the tiled floor. We’ve taken these assets and added our own quirky style.” Wellington Pizza Co opened its fourth Buca Di Pizza site, in Beverley, in August to join the brand’s other venues in Leeds (two sites), and Manchester.

Wagamama to open Reigate restaurant this month: Wagamama will open a site in Reigate, Surrey, this month. The company will open the restaurant on Monday, 13 November in the former Edward Dean kitchen showroom on the corner of Bell Street, creating 50 jobs. Wagamama applied to Reigate and Banstead Borough Council for planning permission for the venue last year but it was refused on the grounds it would lead to a loss of retail space in the town centre. The decision caused an outcry, with more than 1,000 people signing a petition calling for Wagamama to be allowed to open a branch in the town. Wagamama then appealed to the planning inspectorate, which overturned the refusal in February. A Wagamama spokeswoman told Get Surrey: “Since many of the lovely people in Reigate signed the petition to bring us to the area we have really been feeling the love and we can’t wait to bring Wagamama to the town.”

Oakman to open fourth Beech House, in Amersham in January: Oakman Inns and Restaurants will open its fourth Beech House, in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, in January. The company will invest £1.7m to develop the pub and restaurant in Hill Avenue, creating 60 jobs. The restaurant, which will feature a Mediterranean-inspired menu including pizza and grilled fish as well as cocktails, will cater for 140 guests, reports the Bucks Free Press. Last month, Oakman Inns and Restaurants reported like-for-like sales increased 8.6% for the 26 weeks ending Sunday, 1 October with total group sales up 27.5% at £13.5m. The company operates 20 sites, including its three other Beech House venues – in Beaconsfield, Solihull and St Albans.

The Ivy Collection gets go-ahead for Cambridge site: The Ivy Collection has been given the go-ahead to open a site in Cambridge. The company has been granted permission by the city council to open the venue in Trinity Street. The grade II-listed building is owned by Trinity College and its upper floors are used as student accommodation. The Ivy Cambridge will provide seating for 140 customers, reports Insider Media. The Ivy launched its flagship eatery in Covent Garden more than a hundred years ago. The brand now has venues across the capital as well as Bristol, Bath, Cobham and Edinburgh and is preparing to launch in Cheltenham, Guildford, Harrogate, Leeds, Manchester, Tunbridge Wells, Winchester and York.

JD Wetherspoon launches Brexit beer mats: JD Wetherspoon has placed 500,000 beer mats in its pubs featuring a message to parliament. The Brexit beer mats call on MPs to endorse Wetherspoon’s three-point manifesto, which states that from March 2019 the UK should unilaterally grant rights of citizenship to legal EU immigrants; eliminate import taxes on food; and stop paying the European Union £200m per week. Chairman Tim Martin said: “David Tyler, the chairman of Sainsbury’s, recently told the Sunday Times imported food prices could rise by 22% without a ‘deal’ with the EU. This is highly misleading. Parliament has the power to reduce food prices at a stroke in March 2019. The EU imposes huge taxes on food imports from the rest of the world. World Trade Organisation rules, contrary to the urban myth, allow the UK to follow free-trade champions such as New Zealand, Australia and Singapore, which have drastically reduced or eliminated these taxes. Wetherspoon calculates it will save an average of 3.5p per meal and 0.5p per drink if we leave the EU and abolish food import taxes in March 2019 – similar savings are likely to be made on meals consumed inside or outside the home in the UK. These savings will be lost in a ‘transitional deal’ since tariffs on non-EU food will still apply. There is absolutely no doubt food prices will be cheaper without a deal if the UK chooses the free-trade option.”

London-based Chinese restaurant Jun Ming launches sister site in Victoria: Chinese restaurant Jun Ming, which is located in Colindale, north west London, has launched a sister site in Victoria. Dragon Inn Club has opened in Upper Tachbrook Street and specialises in hot pots and Sichuan cuisine. The ground-floor space is a “casual dining zone” offering dim sum, Sichuan noodles and street market-style small plates, while the lower ground floor features a bar and two restaurant spaces – the Dragon Dining Room and Hot Pot Temple Room. There is also a private dining suite and eight private booths. Head chef Qing Song Fan’s menu is a modern take on Sichuan-style cooking, including starters such as corn-fed chicken in Sichuan oil and main dishes such as sea snails with red and green chilli. The Dragon Inn Club also specialises in hot pot, with diners able to choose a soup base (chicken, chilli, seafood or vegetables) before adding ingredients such as meat, tofu, dumplings and wonton, which cook in the stock in front of them. The drinks menu includes wine and signature cocktails influenced by the Far East.

Ground Espresso to open three new sites: Northern Ireland coffee shop Ground Espresso Bars is to open three new sites. The company is opening at the newly refurbished Pump House in Portadown, Laganbank Retail Park in Lisburn, and Victoria Square Shopping Centre in Belfast. The three openings will create 40 jobs, increasing the company’s workforce to 290. Darren Gardiner, who runs the company alongside wife Karen, told Amarghi: “The coffee industry in Northern Ireland is more than able to compete with the big high-street chains. The quality and the local offer is there and we know that’s what people want.” The company currently has 18 sites in Northern Ireland as well as one south of the border, in Dublin.

Bournemouth-based operator acquires fourth site: Bournemouth-based operator Tom Russell has acquired his fourth site. Russell will launch New Orleans-style venue Bayou in Richmond Hill on the site of former Mexican restaurant Coriander, which closed in September after 30 years. Work is under way to convert the building with the new venture expected to open in December. The restaurant will serve Louisiana-style food alongside drinks and cocktails. Russell told the Bournemouth Echo: “We know there is nowhere else in Bournemouth doing anything like this – but we always try to do something we are passionate about and enjoy rather than actively look for a gap in the market.” Russell also owns Buffalo Bar in Winton, The Four Horsemen in Commercial Road, and The Anvil in Lansdowne.

Nando’s opens restaurant at £45m Weston-super-Mare leisure complex: Nando’s has opened a site at the new £45m Dolphin Square leisure complex in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. Nando’s joins a number of restaurants at the development, including buffet brand Mimosa, PizzaExpress, Prezzo, Brazilian grill-house Preto and The Rank Group’s bingo cafe concept Luda. The complex will be anchored by an eight-screen Cineworld cinema, which will open in January. A Nando’s spokesman told Somerset Live: “We know there are a lot of peri-peri fans in Weston-super-Mare. We can’t wait to start hosting people at the new restaurant.” Nando’s has more than 1,000 restaurants across the globe, with almost 400 in the UK and Ireland.

Jamie Rollo – Merlin has ‘long runway of global growth and attractive business model’: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has said Merlin Entertainments has a “long runway of global growth and an attractive business model”. He said: “We remain ‘Overweight’ on Merlin shares. We think the company offers an attractive way to invest in the structural growth in experiences and travel, with a long runway of global growth and an attractive business model (high margins, strong underlying free cash flow). On our 2020 forecasts, which reflect most of the announced expansion, the shares trade on 12.7 times price-to-earnings ratio, 8.0 times EV/Ebitda and a 9.6% free cash flow yield (excluding expansion capex), all well below historical levels and peers. We recognise the concerns over Midway trading and the weak third-quarter performance in its other divisions, but think there is enough evidence to suggest these were caused by external factors outside its control. Still, to be conservative we have minimal like-for-like profit growth in our forecasts now yet still see a 2017-20e 14% earnings per share compound annual growth rate.”

Huddersfield-based chef entrepreneur gets go-ahead to start expansion of gourmet burger concept: Huddersfield-based chef entrepreneur Eric Paxman has had plans to open a second site for his gourmet burger concept Pax Burger approved. Paxman applied to Kirklees Council to convert a former Yorkshire Building Society branch in Mirfield, near Dewsbury. The venue is now scheduled to open in February featuring a 32-cover restaurant and central bar, the Huddersfield Daily Examiner reports. The debut Pax Burger opened in the Huddersfield suburb of Lindley in February last year. Paxman, who trained under Marco Pierre White at L’escargot in London and Australian chef Bill Grainger in Sydney, also runs fine-dining restaurant Eric’s in Lindley, which he opened in 2010. Paxman is also eyeing a third venue in the Huddersfield suburb after submitting plans for a champagne bar.

Bill’s to open restaurant at former Ed’s Easy Diner site in Plymouth this month: Bill’s Restaurants, owned by Richard Caring, is to open a site in Plymouth this month. The company will open the 2,068 square foot venue on Monday, 27 November at Drake Circus Shopping Centre in a unit previously occupied by Ed’s Easy Diner. Bill’s has more than 80 sites around the UK, with founder Bill Collison having opened the first restaurant in Lewes, East Sussex, in 2001. It launched its latest venue at the Rushden Lakes development in Northamptonshire this week.

Australasia-based aparthotel operator to make UK debut, plans ten sites in next five years: Australasia-based aparthotel operator Quest has secured its first UK site and revealed ambitious expansion plans to open ten venues across the country in the next five years. The company will invest £10m to open the aparthotel in a commercial office block in Liverpool city centre in 2019. Quest will convert the vacant office space on three floors and add a two-storey extension, creating 100 serviced apartments, a reception, conference room, gym and back-of-house facilities. Founded by entrepreneur Paul Constantinou in Melbourne almost 30 years ago, Quest has 160 aparthotels across Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. It has 27 sites in the pipeline and 12 under construction in its home markets. The Liverpool site will be its first outside Australasia. Quest director of UK development Andrew Weisz said: “Hospitality brands have a huge role to play in opening up city centre locations for business again but, against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, it is clear businesses want to spend travel budgets wisely. We’ve immersed ourselves in the UK market in recent months and can see the potential for the aggressive expansion of both our brand and the apartment hotel industry here.”

Bristol-based operator to open second site for Greek restaurant concept: Bristol-based operator George Kotsias is to open a second site in the city for his Greek restaurant Taka Taka. Kotsias will launch the venue in Bridewell Street early next year, which will be seven times bigger than its existing Clifton Triangle premises. Taka Taka serves fresh kebabs and other Greek speciality dishes including souvlaki, salads and gyros wraps. The new site, which will create 40 jobs, will also include a supermarket that will stock a selection of Greek products, building on the success of its small deli counter. Kotsias, who also owns Opa restaurant in Baldwin Street, told the Bristol Post: “We’ve done really well at our Clifton branch since opening nine years ago and our new restaurant will build on our growing popularity. It’s going to be much, much bigger and customers will be able to buy virtually any product you’d be able to buy in Greece in our new supermarket as well as being able to eat food in or take it away.”

London-based charcuterie owner launches neighbourhood restaurant: Simon Hodge, who owns The London Charcutier store in London Fields, has launched neighbourhood restaurant Hodge Podge in Crouch Hill. Hodge describes his menu as “casual, modern British”, offering dishes such as mussel broth with warm fennel salad, blackened tomato ravioli with apple and miso stock, and choux buns with black sesame, caramel, peanuts and chocolate, Hot Dinners reports. At The London Charcutier, Hodge merges classic British flavour pairings, such as beef and ale, with traditional curing methods. He makes everything by hand, bringing together local artisan producers to create products such as beef in ale, duck in sloe gin, and mackerel in cider.

Yorkshire-based Italian restaurant concept opens second site, in Harrogate: Yorkshire-based Italian restaurant concept Galo’s Kitchen has opened its second site, in Harrogate. The family-run company has opened the venue in Montpellier Street at a site previously occupied by fine-dining restaurant Van Zeller. The independent business, which specialises in home-cooked food, already runs a restaurant in Bingley. A spokesman told the Harrogate Advertiser: “We are passionate about food and cooking the finest, freshest home-cooked recipes.