Crepeaffaire to launch in Saudi Arabia: Crepeaffaire, the UK branded creperie group, is to launch in Saudi Arabia. The company has signed an area franchise agreement with Food & Entertainment Co, a subsidiary of Riyadh-based retail and leisure conglomerate Fawaz Alhokair Group, to open 50 units during the next eight years. The deal comes as Crepeaffaire moves to consolidate its presence in Gulf Co-operation Council countries – it will open an additional three sites in Kuwait in 2017 following its launch there in late 2015. Crepeaffaire founder and chief executive Daniel Spinath said: “We are very pleased to be partnering with Fawaz Alhokair Group. Its wide reach, top-class malls and proven history of developing retail and food and beverage brands in the region provide the perfect opportunity for the Crepeaffaire brand to flourish.” Food & Entertainment Co vice-president Sultan Alhokair added: “We are excited about taking Crepeaffaire to the Kingdom. The brand’s sweet and savoury offer is highly relevant and versatile, representing a delicious and wholesome meal and snack option for all dayparts. Its launch in Saudi Arabia is compatible with our aim to partner with category gold-standard concepts.”
Arc Inspirations to start expansion of Manahatta concept with second Leeds site: Arc Inspirations, the multi-brand bar and restaurant operator, is set to start expansion of its Manahatta concept with a second site in Leeds. The new, £1.2m Manahatta will be in the heart of the city in Greek Street at a site formerly occupied by Gourmet Burger Kitchen and acquired from Evans of Leeds. Set over 5,500 square feet, the new 150-cover venue will offer cocktails crafted by award-winning mixologist Mark Austin, bringing his expertise from the American Bar at The Savoy Hotel in London. Additionally, Manahatta’s kitchen will serve an extended food menu in comparison with its sister site in Merrion Street, which is currently celebrating its second anniversary. The opening, scheduled for March, will create 60 jobs. Arc Inspirations chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said: “I’m extremely proud to be developing the Manahatta brand with the launch of a second site in Leeds. The prestigious Greek Street location is a fantastic setting and will complement the existing Merrion Street site perfectly. Our £1.2m investment into creating this second site not only reinforces our offering and reassures customers of its quality but allows us to create a brand that we can roll-out to other cities in the future. The expansion cements our reputation as a pioneer of innovating dining and drinking experiences in the north of England, and I’m confident we can continue to offer the people of Leeds a fantastic experience every time they visit an Arc Inspirations site.” Arc Inspirations, founded in 1999 by Wolstencroft and Chris Ure, operates 15 venues in Yorkshire and the north west, including six sites for its Banyan Bar & Kitchen brand – three in and around Leeds and one each in Harrogate, Manchester and York. It also operates four venues for its American-style barbecue concept The Pit.
Living Ventures granted licence for The Alchemist in Newcastle after appeal rejected: Living Ventures has been awarded an alcohol licence for its The Alchemist site in Newcastle after an appeal was rejected. Earlier this year, Newcastle City Council granted permission for the cocktail bar to open in Intu Eldon Square’s new multimillion-pound Grey’s Quarter, to serve alcohol until 2am. But Endless Stretch, the company involved in nearby Harry’s Bar, and resident Michael Rea lodged a formal legal appeal. Gerald Gouriet QC and James Rankin, acting for Rea and Endless Stretch respectively, said the issue wasn’t if The Alchemist would, on its own, cause crime and antisocial behaviour but if it would add to the “cumulative impact of alcohol issues in the city centre”. However, Phil Kolvin QC, for The Alchemist, and Rory Clarke, for the council, refuted the claims. They told the court the 5,400 square foot venue was similar to other premises in Grey Street, such as its sister bar The Botanist, in that it had more seats, was more stylish, and had more expensive drinks so would not attract the clientele who frequent pubs in Bigg Market and Newgate Street. The court was also told police and environmental health had no issues over awarding the licence. Rejecting the appeal, chairing magistrate Nick Lowe said: “The decision of the local authority was done properly and was not wrong. The licence is, therefore, granted with the same conditions as was set out previously by the licensing committee.” Speaking after the hearing, The Alchemist managing director Simon Potts told Chronicle Live: “We’re grateful for the decision and look forward to opening.”
Wok&Go opens 25th site, in Canterbury: UK noodle bar brand Wok&Go has opened its 25th site, in Canterbury. Franchisee Saif Qahar has launched the venue in Saint George’s Street, creating 15 jobs. He said he was keen to open further sites in Kent, adding: “I wanted to go down the franchise route as I’ve not run my own business before and I was attracted to Wok&Go because it’s a unique concept. Canterbury seemed like the perfect location because there is nothing like Wok&Go in the city centre. Here, customers can get food that is freshly prepared with fresh ingredients. They can customise their orders to their taste and it’s a lot healthier than many of the other options in town.” Qahar plans to convert the upstairs area to create additional seating.
Chestnut Group to open Bury St Edmunds site this month: Suffolk-based hospitality company Chestnut Group will open a site in Bury St Edmunds this month. The company will launch The Northgate on Thursday, 24 November following an extensive renovation of Ounce House, a Victorian property. As well as a bar, dining area, heated terrace, private dining room, and meeting room facilities, The Northgate will have a chef’s table, allowing diners to see their meal being prepared from start to plate. There are also ten bedrooms. The menu will change throughout the day, showcasing the best regional produce. Guests can enjoy breakfast, brunch and lunch while, in the evening, dishes with modern European flavours will be served. There will also be an extensive drinks menu. Chestnut Group founder and chief executive Philip Turner said: “The concept of The Northgate is about creating an informal and relaxed space.” The company’s other sites are The Packhorse Inn in Moulton; The Rupert Brooke in Grantchester; The White Horse in Easton, near Woodbridge; and the Three Blackbirds in the village of Woodditton. Earlier this year, Chestnut Group raised £2.5m under the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme, with plans to expand to ten sites by the end of 2018.
The Real Greek launches street food concept at Boxpark Croydon: Mediterranean restaurant The Real Greek, which is owned by Fulham Shore, has launched new street food concept Greek On The Street at Boxpark Croydon. The menu has been inspired by Athens’ dynamic street food culture, a culinary movement that has burst on the scene in recent years as, amid the challenging economic climate, Athenians demanded value for money and substantial, nutritious food. Greek On the Street’s menu focuses on authentic Mediterranean ingredients – combining olive oil, vegetables, pulses, grains and lean protein. Staying true to the brand’s ethos, produce will be largely sourced from Greece and Cyprus to create dishes such as souvlaki wraps filled with chicken, lamb, pork or sausage and Greek plates combining meat and vegetables, alongside a traditional meze selection. The new venue offers eat-in and takeaway menus. Fulham Shore managing director Nabil Mankarious said: “We’ve been serving authentic Greek food for more than 15 years so we’re excited to take it to the next level, reinventing modern Greek dining with a street food twist. Boxpark is a trailblazer on the London street food scene and the perfect setting to launch Greek On The Street, bringing our fresh Mediterranean cooking to a street food setting.” Fulham Shore operates ten venues under The Real Greek brand, nine in London and one in Windsor. It has also signed for a unit at the £85m WestQuay Watermark scheme in Southampton, which is being developed by Hammerson.
M&B agrees deals to bring Miller & Carter and All Bar One brands to £30m Stratford-upon-Avon development: Mitchells & Butlers has agreed deals to bring its Miller & Carter and All Bar One brands to the new £30m Bell Court development in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. The company has signed a 25-year lease for a 5,078 square foot Miller & Carter steakhouse that will cater for up to 200 diners, with additional seating outside. The restaurant will be on the ground floor below the new Everyman cinema. Meanwhile, All Bar One will be housed in a 4,007 square foot unit that will open out on to the development’s central courtyard. Arranged over the ground and first floor, the bar will also have an outdoor dining area and will cater for about 110 people in total. Mitchells & Butlers acquisitions manager Edward Peel said: “We’d been looking for an opportunity to open some of our most successful brands in Stratford-upon-Avon for a number of years and Bell Court presented the perfect opportunity. The high-quality landscaping and overall improvements to the buildings and public space, as well as the tenants already agreed, will complement the offering of both Miller & Carter and All Bar One perfectly.” UK & European Investments, the developer behind Bell Court, has already secured deals with Everyman and better burger brand Byron and is currently in detailed conversations with other potential occupiers. Bell Court is due to open in the spring delivering more than 70,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and leisure space. Time Retail Partners acted on behalf of UK & European Investments and Mitchells & Butlers were advised by KWL Property Consultants.
Tasty to bring Wildwood to Skipton: Tasty is set to open a site for its Wildwood brand in Skipton, North Yorkshire, which will be its most northerly venue in England. Planners have given permission for Tasty to erect two illuminated signs on the front of a grade II-listed building next to Skipton Town Hall. The new venue is expected to be open by Easter but it is not clear whether it will feature a cinema, as some of the brand’s venues do. Cllr John Dawson told the Craven Herald & Pioneer: “The signs look appropriate and tasteful. I welcome the company coming to Skipton.” Earlier this month, Tasty opened its first Wildwood site in Wales – at Llandudno – and announced it would launch a 180-cover Wildwood restaurant in Birmingham city centre. Wildwood currently operates 49 restaurants, with openings due in the next couple of months in Worcester Park in Surrey, Bournemouth and Edinburgh, which will be the brand’s first site in Scotland. The nearest site to Skipton is ten miles away in Ilkley.
YO! Sushi rolls out new restaurant technology after partnering with NCR: YO! Sushi has completed the roll-out of a new restaurant technology solution after partnering with consumer transaction firm NCR Corporation. YO! Sushi was seeking greater efficiency, business intelligence and operational control across its business and has taken on NCR software, hardware and services, including the NCR Aloha point-of-sale (POS) solution. YO! Sushi is also using NCR’s Insight and Pulse applications to support business intelligence and drive efficiency by enabling management to see what is going on across its portfolio in real time via a smartphone app. YO! Sushi is also rolling out NCR Orderman hand-held devices, which enable mobile POS across stores where Wi-Fi connectivity is a challenge. YO! Sushi chief executive Robin Rowland told Business Wire: “The UK’s hospitality industry is seeing a seismic shift in consumer attitudes and this is having a significant impact on businesses, changing our servicing requirements. The likes of Deliveroo and UberEats mean everyone expects you to be online and offering a seamless operation – working with NCR is a vital part in being able to be at the forefront of this transformation.” YO! Sushi opened its first Japanese “kaiten” or conveyor belt-style, fast-casual sushi restaurant in London in 1997. Since then, the brand has grown to 71 sites in the UK, six in the US and 15 franchised across the world.
Whitbread to start expansion of Bar + Block with King’s Cross opening next month: Whitbread will start expansion of its latest brand – Bar + Block – with an opening in King’s Cross, London, next month. Following the success of the debut Bar + Block in Birmingham earlier this year the flagship, steak-focused, all-day casual dining restaurant will open on Thursday, 1 December. The site will neighbour King’s Cross and St Pancras International stations. The 5,522 square foot, 212-cover site has been developed by Harrison Design and will include a 68-cover central feature bar with copper detailing, a large open kitchen, branded mosaic signage at the entrance, and a mix of stand-alone seating and leather booths. Exposed brick walls will showcase a number of contemporary artwork pieces, including the company’s signature neon cow signage and preserved moss “Hello” sign, as well as wall calligraphy detailing the Bar + Block brand story. Bar + Block has an emphasis on high-quality steaks at affordable prices, all hand-cut to order. The “Butcher’s Block” will feature a range of rotating specials. Bar + Block will also offer an extensive drinks list, with a focus on craft beer and cider from BrewDog, innovative cocktails, and a specially curated wine list. David Murdin, chief operating officer of brand developments for Whitbread Restaurants, said: “We’re very excited to be launching our flagship site in London following its success in Birmingham. We’re keen to develop the brand further and aim to have several venues open by the end of this financial year.”
TGI Friday’s, Byron and Individual Restaurants to roll-out Qkr! app: TGI Friday’s, better burger brand Byron, and Individual Restaurants are set to roll-out Mastercard’s Qkr! with Masterpass app across their UK sites. Customers ordering food at any one of Byron’s 68 restaurants, TGI Friday’s 76 sites or Individual Restaurants’ 34 venues will have the option to pay via smartphone. The deals bring the total number of individual outlets offering the Qkr! app to more than 1,000, joining Carluccio’s, Wagamama and Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi and ASK Italian restaurants as well as Young’s and Geronimo pubs. Byron marketing director Paul Coppin said: “Qkr! gives us one more way to deliver proper hamburgers and stand-out service to our customers, even when they’re pressed for time.” Individual Restaurants IT director Adam Purslow added: “I am truly excited about this new relationship, bringing our guests the ability to easily pay their bill and integrating this across all our sites and related businesses.” The app allows diners to view items they have ordered and pay via their phone. Diners wishing to split the bill can view the entire order and select and pay for what is theirs.
Sector law firm Freeths reports turnover and pre-tax profit surge: Sector law firm Freeths has reported a surge in turnover and pre-tax profit. The company saw turnover increase to £65.3m in the year to 31 March 2016, compared with £56.6m the previous year, according to accounts filed with Companies House. The figures come three months after Freeths hailed its “most successful” financial year to date, revealing annual income reached £63.8m, a 14.37% hike on the previous 12 months. A statement signed off by chairman Colin Flanagan said he was pleased to report “another record year”. He added: “Although this was in some respects a period of consolidation, we saw considerable progress in many areas of the firm, continuing the process of unlocking the potential created by the expansionist investment strategy of the previous period.” Flanagan added that in the first quarter of Freeths’ 2016/17 financial year, the company achieved zero net borrowing for the first time in two decades. Freeths is headquartered in Nottingham, where it employs more than 300 staff. It also has offices in Birmingham, Derby, Leicester, Leeds, Manchester, London, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Sheffield and Stoke. The firm’s national workforce increased to 742 during the year.
Coq d’Argent to bring back winter pop-up restaurant: Coq d’Argent, the City restaurant owned by D&D London, is bringing back its winter pop-up Lodge d’Argent. Designed by AM Creative and running from Wednesday, 23 November until the end of February, this year’s Lodge d’Argent – located on the restaurant’s skyscraper terraces – will be inspired by the Little Red Riding Hood story, evoking the French fairytale with rustic wooden walls, and fur blankets and cushions. Head chef Damien Rigollet’s menu will focus on hearty French classics, including raclette gratin with ratte potatoes and Alpine dry-cured ham; pomme frites with chablis and black truffle mustard mayonnaise; and leek and comté tart with mixed leaf salad. The dessert menu will offer dishes paired with Hennessy Cognac, including chestnut macarons and fresh waffles with hot chocolate and Chantilly cream. The bar will feature winter warmer cocktails in collaboration with Hennessy Cognac, including the Holly Winter with sweet vermouth, ginger, spice syrup, cranberry juice and ginger ale; and Mitten with Mozart dark chocolate and gingerbread, topped with hot chocolate.
Knead Group gives Stamford pub facelift to extend food offer: East Midlands-based pub operator Knead Group, headed by Michael Thurlby, has given its Tobie Norris site in Stamford a facelift in order to extend its food offer. The company has installed a £150,000 kitchen, a patio and given the pub an overhaul. When Thurlby opened the pub ten years ago it was a real ale destination with a simple pizza menu but, as the pub’s popularity has risen, it has outgrown its kitchen. Knead Group executive chef Nick Buttress said: “The Tobie had got to the stage where we couldn’t grow our food any more. With this new kitchen we can offer our customers a more extensive and exciting menu, including Sunday lunches and our Tobie pub favourites but also more individual and quirky dishes such as the trio of game and the Hyderabadi lamb shank.”
Nottinghamshire-based brewer Lincoln Green adds two pubs to growing portfolio: Lincoln Green Brewing Company has added two pubs to its growing portfolio. The micro-brewer, which is based in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, produces a range of beers, including Tuck, Marion, Hood, Sherwood, Sheriff and Little John. Working alongside Leicestershire-based Everards Pubs, the brewer took over its first pub in 2014, when it became tenant of the Robin Hood and Little John in Arnold. Now it has teamed up with Everards once more to take over Greene King-owned The Lord Clyde in Kimberley, while it is also in partnership with Star Pubs & Bars to become the new tenant of The Station Hotel in Hucknall, a three-storey venue with function rooms on the middle floor and six bedrooms on the top floor. Both venues will undergo major refurbishments. Anthony Hughes, who founded Lincoln Green in 2012 with wife Lynette, told the Nottingham Post: “It wasn’t our intention to get two pubs so close together but these opportunities don’t come around all the time. Half the battle is to find a pub that has had a good reputation and traded well but in recent years has fallen on worse times. Our role as custodians is to bring them back to the standards people want. The next step is to consolidate our position and start looking to expand again in 2018. The intention is to have five or six pubs in total, which will help to make Lincoln Green a self-sufficient brewery that can supply all its beer into its own pubs.” The company also runs the Sir John Borlase Warren in Canning Circus.
JD Wetherspoon seeks operators for £4.5m Ramsgate development: JD Wetherspoon is seeking operators to join it at its new £4.5m site in Ramsgate, Kent. The company is redeveloping the Royal Victoria Pavilion into one of its largest pubs in the UK. The pub, which is due to open in July, will be set over two floors and occupy the majority of the site. However, Wetherspoon’s has appointed agent Savills to market two ground-floor units that will available for rent to other operators. They might include restaurants, bars or cafes but Wetherspoon’s said it would also consider non-food retailers. The first unit, which covers 3,531 square feet, is available for £70,000 per annum, while the second, spanning 3,391 square feet, has a rent of £67,500 a year. There is also an outside terrace area on the first floor of up to 5,135 square feet, which will be made available to occupiers of the units at a cost of £5 per square foot. The pavilion in Harbour Parade has been derelict since 2008 and was seriously damaged by a blaze in 2011.
Team behind Arras restaurant concept returns from Australia to launch York site: Adam and Lovaine Humphrey, who owned and operated award-winning restaurant Arras and its cafe and bakery arm Arras Too in Sydney, Australia, have acquired a venue in York. The Humphreys have bought Le Langhe Restaurant and Deli in Peasholme Green via agents Christie & Co and have brought their Arras concept back to Adam’s home town. Le Langhe features a deli and retail area on the ground floor and a first-floor restaurant seating 50. It also has a rear patio and is one of the few restaurants inside York’s walls to feature external space. Former owner Ottavio Bocca focused the business on Italian produce and an extensive wine collection, acting as a wholesaler to other York restaurants. Le Langhe featured in last year’s Michelin Hotel & Restaurant Guide and Waitrose Good Food Guide. Oliver Brown, business agent at Christie & Co’s Leeds office, who brokered the sale, said: “This is the latest in a recent string of successful sales for us in York, following Monroe’s in Gillygate and The Parish in Micklegate. Le Langhe continues this process of moving successful businesses from established operators into safe hands.” Le Langhe Restaurant and Deli was sold on a leasehold basis for an undisclosed sum.
Numis Securities – JD Wetherspoon’s first-quarter trading update raises doubt on long-term leverage: Numis Securities leisure analyst Tim Barrett has said JD Wetherspoon’s first-quarter trading update has raised doubts on its long-term leverage. Issuing a ‘Reduce’ note on the shares with a target price of 445p, Barrett said: “First-quarter like-for-like sales growth of 3.5% was lower than Numis estimates of 4.0% and 4.1% in the first six weeks. Management suggested the early period was helped by weather factors and still sees 1% to 2% as reasonable for FY17. We can broadly reconcile the strong first-quarter operating margin of 8.6% versus guidance of 7% for the year. Cost inflation will be second half-weighted, including the National Living Wage (April, £22m annualised), business rates (April, £7m) and imported food/beverages, together a minimum hit of 70 basis points. In addition a 1% slowdown in like-for-likes could impact margins by 100 basis points. Management had previously anticipated a ‘slightly improved trading outcome’ for FY17 and has reiterated this. Maintenance capex guidance has increased from £34m to £60m (0.95 times depreciation). We forecast free cash flow to equity of £69m, factoring in the £18m of share buyback from the first quarter, £14m dividend and £40m of growth capex results in a small increase in net debt (£654m) and leverage to 3.7 times (4.4 times lease adjusted). Wetherspoon’s has repurchased 55 million shares in the past ten years meaning buybacks have contributed about 50% of annual earnings per share growth on average. We move our like-for-like sales growth to 2.5% (from 3%) and add 20 basis points to margins in FY17 (to 7.1%), giving a 3% increase to earnings per share. In FY18, when the full impact of business rates and the National Living Wage is felt, we expect Ebit margins of 6.7%, hence our earnings per share is unchanged. Wetherspoon trades on a stable free cash flow yield of 7%, price-to-earnings ratio of 16.7 times and EV/Ebitda of 9.5 times. Given margin pressure and degearing, we see no earnings growth in the next three years making the valuation full compared with both peers (average price-to-earnings ratio of 12.1 times) and the market 13.9 times). We retain a ‘Reduce’ recommendation.”
Moneycorp founder opens Berkshire boutique hotel: Bassam Shlewet, founder of foreign exchange company Moneycorp, has opened a boutique hotel in Berkshire. Shlewet has launched Hurley House Hotel in Hurley on the site of the former Red Lion pub. It features ten bedrooms as well as bar, restaurant, private dining room for 14 people, and large garden with outdoor barbecue. With a nod to England’s integral pub heritage, the hotel has been restored to highlight key features including exposed wooden beams and brickwork, combining leather, granite, limestone and oak. There is rustic furniture, olive-green banquette seating, fine wine cabinets, and fireside armchairs. The seasonally changing menu features locally sourced ingredients with dishes such as blow-torched Brixham mackerel with tartar sauce, Granny Smith apple and horseradish; and Herefordshire beef fillet with Jacob’s Ladder and Roscoff onions. There is an extensive wine list as well as a selection of locally brewed ales, artisan beers, spirits and cocktails.