Drake & Morgan to expand Refinery portfolio to six: Drake & Morgan is to rebrand a further two of its Corney & Barrow wine bars, following its acquisition of the business last summer as part of the group’s commitment to rolling out The Refinery brand. The bars will reopen as The Refinery CityPoint and The Refinery New Street Square, bringing the total number of sites within the Refinery portfolio to six. Opening in late February in Ropemaker Street, near Moorgate, the 4,700 square foot site at CityPoint will offer 166 covers across a bar, restaurant, private dining room and lounge area. The Refinery New Street Square, near Chancery Lane, will open towards the end of March, and is 3,400 square feet with a capacity of 100 covers on the mixed use ground floor. An additional 40 covers can be accommodated on a semi-private mezzanine level. Both sites, designed by Fusion, will showcase the brand’s signature features – a large statement bar, a mix of traditional dining and lounge seating, banquettes and booths as well as distinctive dining and lounge areas. The all-day drinking and dining destinations will trade Monday to Friday for breakfast, lunch and dinner – offering a choice of seasonal dishes and small plates. An extensive wine list sits alongside premium spirits, beers and innovative cocktails. As previously reported, Drake & Morgan will open four new bar restaurants this year – three in London at West India Quay, Cannon Green and in Principal Place plus one in Manchester in St Peter Square.

Montpeliers reports decline in pre-tax profit following licensed properties revaluation: Edinburgh-based pub and restaurant business Montpeliers has reported a decline in pre-tax profits following a revaluation of its licensed properties. The revaluation forced the company to take an increase in amortisation charges, which cut pre-tax profits to £854,209 during the year to April 24 2016, down from £1,371,927 previously. Turnover fell slightly to £15,599,754 compared with £15,807,454 the previous year. The group spent £696,229 on refurbishments during the period, including the overhaul of its flagship unit, the boutique hotel, bar and restaurant facilities of Tigerlily. Montpeliers, which is owned by Robert and Wendy Elliott, and David and Ruth Wither, said this improved the use of space of the ground floor bar and restaurant and “refreshed the decor and ambience that has served us so well since the premises were created ten years ago”. The company stated: “The statement of financial position of the company shows net assets have increased over the period by £145,126, from £16,685,637 to £16,830,763. In total, the company generated cash of £2,334,829 from its operating activities. After deducting payments in respect of capital expenditure, debt servicing costs and dividends, net debt was reduced by £761,078 to £5,145,965. The directors are minded to reduce gearing as rapidly as possible over the next few years, without compromising development activity and shareholders’ dividend expectations.” The company employed an average of 364 people through the year, taking account of staffing fluctuations to accommodate busier times of the year. Its highest-paid director received £170,000 in remuneration, level with the previous year. Dividend payments were cut to £627,000 versus £2.2m in 2015. Last year, Montpeliers was in discussions to sell four of its sites to Revolution Bars Group. However, Revolution pulled out of the proposed £16m deal following “market uncertainty after the EU referendum result”.

Bill Granger set to open Granger & Co in Chelsea’s Pavilion Road development, fourth London site: Celebrity chef Bill Granger is set to open a fourth site in London for his all-day cafe concept Granger & Co, this time in the Pavilion Road development in Chelsea. The new venue is due to open in late spring alongside artisan baker Bread Ahead, London Cheesemongers, fruit and vegetable store Natoora and Provenance Village Butcher. Granger told Hot Dinners: “I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant in Chelsea. I’ve been looking for a site for the past ten years.” The other Granger & Co sites are in Clerkenwell, King’s Cross and Notting Hill.

Cha Cha Moon losses reduced in final year before sale of lease to landlord: Cha Cha Moon, the brand that was owned by Kout Food Group and established by Alan Yau, reduced its losses in 2015, the year before Kout Food Group sold the lease on the site back to its landlord. Accounts showed turnover was up 2% to £2,029,000 while its operating loss reduced to £386,000 from £587,000 the year before. After interest and tax was charged the company made a loss of £1,832,000 – the company had net liabilities of £12,745,000.

Leeds shopping centre owner set to bring Taco Bell to city as it moves to tackle shifting face of retail: The owner of a Leeds shopping centre is seeking planning approval to pave the way for Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell to open a site as competition from rivals makes it harder to attract retailers. Valad Europe is the owner of St Johns Shopping Centre, a 162,000 square foot complex of offices and shops, which incorporates a 79,000 square foot mall. In the application, Valad, which acquired the complex for £37m in 2015, said it has been actively managing the centre since its acquisition to secure “its long-term vitality and vibrancy in challenging circumstances”. It added key tenants have vacated the centre in recent years, while it had struggled to attract long-term, retail tenants due to the shift in shopping patterns caused by Trinity Leeds and latterly Victoria Gate. As a result, permission is sought to change the use of two units on the upper ground-floor adjacent to the pedestrian access off Merrion Street, in an area dominated by food and drink operators, from retail to restaurant/cafe space. Taco Bell, which currently does not have a presence in Leeds, has been lined up to occupy a 2,140 square foot unit, creating 40 jobs, reports Insider Media. Valad said it believed the change of use would contribute to the vitality of the centre as it would secure a recognised brand for the long term. Research commissioned by Valad found the city’s retail heart has moved since the opening of Trinity Leeds and Victoria Gate, leaving agents struggling to attract prime brands to different areas.

Buzzworks to branch out from Ayrshire with fifth site under House brand: Ayrshire-based restaurant company Buzzworks is to branch out from its heartland as it prepares to open a new venue in the village of Bridge of Weir. The company, owned by Alison, Colin and Kenny Blair, is launching The Coach House, creating about 40 jobs. Work has already begun on a £1m development that will transform the former Archies lounge bar and kitchen in Main Street with a modern take on a traditional bar and restaurant. Due to open in the summer, the Renfrewshire venue will be Buzzworks’ first restaurant outside of Ayrshire, but will be the fifth restaurant under the group’s House brand. It will join Buzzworks’ collection of nine venues across Ayrshire, including Scotts in Troon, Elliotts in Prestwick, Lido in Troon and The Mill House in Stewarton. Managing director Kenny Blair said: “This is a major step forward in our growth strategy as we make our debut outside Ayrshire. The Coach House will bring a new dining experience to Bridge of Weir and we can’t wait to open the doors this summer. It’s an exciting time for the brand as we continue to extend our portfolio and move into central Scotland. The Coach House will be a stunning venue with a welcoming, relaxing atmosphere featuring our trademark contemporary twist. What’s more, we will be providing a number of excellent employment opportunities for the local area and beyond.”

Living Ventures lines up first Alchemist site in East Midlands as it looks to increase Nottingham presence: Living Ventures is lining up its first Alchemist site in the East Midlands as it looks to increase its presence in Nottingham. The company, which is about to bring its Gusto brand to West Bridgford, is aiming to open the Alchemist in the Hockley area of the city. It has applied for a licence to operate at the site of the current All Saints clothing store just off Pelham Street. Ben Tebbutt, of property agency FHP, who helped bring Gusto to West Bridgford, is also trying to get the deal over the line for Alchemist. He told The Business Desk: “I’ve seen the plans for the bar and restaurant and it will look fantastic. It’s a wonderful building and it’s great that Living Ventures are investing so heavily in Nottingham. We’re still working on the deal, but Living Ventures are looking to get the deal over the line as soon as possible.” If the deal goes ahead, it will be the first Alchemist bar and restaurant in the East Midlands. Others are located in Alderley Edge, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Newcastle.

Motorway services operator Westmorland reports turnover and pre-tax profit surge: Motorway services operator Westmorland has reported a surge in turnover and pre-tax profit. The family-owned business, which runs Tebay Services on the M6 in Cumbria and Gloucester Services on the M5, saw turnover grow to £92.9m from £71.8m for the year ending June 2016. Pre-tax profit climbed to £6.1m from £3.6m. The results were for the first full year of trading at Gloucester with the southbound services opening in May 2015 and northbound services in May 2014. 2016 also saw the first 12 months of Cairn Lodge services on the M74 in Scotland under Westmorland’s ownership. The group is known for selling “home-cooked, locally sourced produce in beautiful settings”. Chief executive Sarah Dunning told The Business Desk: “Working with local and independent producers has remained a priority. Gloucester and Tebay Services each have an established network of about 130 local producers, within 30 miles of the services.” Meanwhile, Westmorland will welcome newly appointed chief executive Rob Swyer in April. Swyer started his career in manufacturing and buying with Mars and has since had a career in retail with Asda, Pets at Home and most recently as retail director with Halfords. Dunning will move to the role of chairman. Bryan Gray will remain with the business as non-executive director and Laurence King will become vice-chairman.

Microsoft co-founder to turn Hollywood hotel into first US venue for The Hospital Club: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is set to transform his Redbury Hotel in Hollywood into a US venue for his London social club for the creative arts, The Hospital Club. Allen paid $41m for the Vine Street hotel and will pour more than $10m into its redevelopment, the Los Angeles Times reports. It will reopen in April 2018 and feature a screening room, recording studio, performance space and lounges. Members will be able to network and collaborate on creative projects, according to The Hospital Club chief executive Sue Walter. There will also be a rooftop restaurant with a desert garden and two additional dining spaces, as well as a swimming pool and gym. The hotel portion of the Redbury will be reduced to 36 rooms from the current 57 and will close in July for renovation work to begin. The Hospital club was founded by Allen and musician Dave Stewart, who opened the venue in Covent Garden in 2004 on the site of the former St Paul’s Hospital.

Not On The High Street co-founder opens coffee shop and crafts concept in Twickenham: Holly Tucker, co-founder of Not On The High Street, which champions small creative businesses, has launched a coffee shop and crafts concept in Twickenham, south west London. The new venue in the St Margarets area of Twickenham offers the usual coffee shop fare but also provides a shop window for local craft workers to show their wares, with a further trading area to the rear of the venue. Tucker is encouraging startups to work at the venue. The Holly & Co logo incorporates the phrases “artisan advice” and “inspiration”. Its website states: “Something new and exciting is coming – made for anyone who has ever dreamt of starting their own business, those who are in the process of building one, or those who already run their own enterprise.” Tucker founded Not On The High Street with Sophie Cornish ten years ago to “bring together the most unique, stylish and never-before-seen products that are hard to find anywhere else”. The business partners with more than 5,000 small creative businesses in the UK.

Red Trousers Entertainment opens Himalayan-inspired bar in Tooting, fourth site to date: London-based Red Trousers Entertainment has opened a Himalayan-inspired bar in Tooting – its fourth site to date. The company, founded by brothers Alastair and Nicholas Heathcote, has launched The Hill Station in Broadway Market. The bar, which has capacity for just 12 people, is inspired by the brothers’ treks in the Himalayas. The exterior of the bar is modelled as an exact replica of a hill station in the Annapurna mountain range in Nepal. Inside, the walls are adorned with reclaimed wood and mountain memorabilia, some of which were actually used to scale Everest. The drinks menu has been derived from flavours native to the Himalayas, using local spices, herbs and liquors with the cocktails served in travelling mugs, reports The Handbook. There is also a small food menu featuring the Basecamp Burger and the mountain cheese platter. The Heathcotes also operate Guerrilla in Tooting Broadway, The Imperial Durbar in Tooting Bec and La Cabina in Shoreditch.

Dorset-based Chicken & Blues submits plans for fourth site: Dorset-based Chicken & Blues has submitted plans to open its fourth site. The company has applied to convert the Beau Hair and Beauty shop in Seamoor Road in the Westbourne area of Bournemouth. According to the application, the property “can be converted to a restaurant with minimal building work required”, reports the Bournemouth Echo. Chicken & Blues currently has three sites – in Boscombe, Bournemouth and Poole.

New seasonal cuisine and cocktails concept Lassco launches in former Bermondsey warehouse: A seasonal cuisine and cocktails concept Lassco Bar and Dining has launched in the former Ropewalks warehouse in Bermondsey, London. Lassco is the brainchild of bar manager Jerome Slesinski and chef James Knox Boothman, who worked together at Coal Vaults restaurant in Soho. The name comes from the warehouse in Maltby Street where London Architectural Salvage and Supply Company (Lassco) houses its reclaimed wonders. The venue will offer seasonal and ingredient-led food with a fixed price menu. Dishes will include Rye Bay scallops with lemon-steamed black cabbage, cauliflower and white truffle, and Sussex wild boar braised in sherry, Hot Dinners reports. Desserts will feature salted chocolate cake with olive oil ice cream. Drinks will complement the food, with newly created cocktails named with a nod to the area’s history. The Salter, made with smoky mezcal, pomelo citrus and spicy galangal, is based on Alfred Salter, an early 20th century politician, while the St Saviour is a sparkling cocktail with fortified wine named after the nearby dock.

Bayswater hotel sells off £7m asking price: Arianya Group has bought the Caring Hotel in Bayswater, London, through agent Fleurets off an asking price of £7m. The company also owns and operates The Garden Court Hotel in Bayswater. Jayesh Popat, of the Arianya Group, said: “We are delighted to have acquired the Caring Hotel which will sit well within our estate. We look forward to enhancing the family spirit that has characterised this property during a long and successful period of ownership.” The Victorian Caring Hotel is a 25-bedroom business with a Hyde Park location. Andy Frisby, of Fleurets, added: “Interest levels were particularly strong right from the outset with more than ten separate parties viewing.”

Village East team to launch Rail House Cafe with first week ‘honesty policy’: The team behind Village East in Bermondsey and Riding House Cafe in Fitzrovia is to open the Rail House Café at the Nova development near Victoria station with an “honesty policy” that will invite guests to pay for what they enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or dinner (drinks bill not included). Menus will feature “playful and innovative twists on contemporary favourites”, such as “green tea waffles” and the “burgerdict” (an eggs Benedict-burger hybrid). But the main focus is on healthy food for every day, incorporating raw dishes such as “sea bass ceviche”. A spokesman said: “During its soft launch week, Rail House Cafe is putting its trust into the hands of guests, by asking them to pay for what they enjoyed. Love a dish, pay for it – if you didn’t, don’t – as a way to get guests’ feedback before opening day.” Reservations go live on Thursday (9 February) with full restaurant launch on Saturday, 4 March.

Loungers launches Exeter site: Loungers, the Lion Capital-backed cafe bar operator, has opened its second site in 2017 – Puerto Lounge in Exeter. The new venue in Commercial Road is at Exeter Quayside at the site formerly occupied by live music bar Havana. The group has confirmed additional quarter one 2017 Lounge openings will follow in Poole and Weston-super-Mare as well as a 17th Cosy Club, which will open in Cheltenham at the end of February. The group intends to open a minimum of 20 new sites in 2017 and will reach the milestone of 100 sites by the end of April. Exeter is the 77th Lounge in total. The chain operates a Cosy Club in Exeter, while its closest Lounges are in Plymouth and Torquay. Loungers was founded in 2002 in Bristol by friends David Reid, Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop.

Red Mist Leisure launches training academy: Red Mist Leisure, the pubco founded by Mark Williams and Mark Robson, has launched a training academy. Inspired by global leadership guru Simon Sinek’s thought-provoking talk “Start With Why”, the Red Mist Academy is designed to inspire growth and development within the business and will train staff about the core values of the brand and give them the key skills they need to work front or back-of-house. Part of the academy is an online training programme and all staff need to complete a number of modules even before they start working with the company. This is then followed by an informal training half day at head office, led by Robson, covering HR, marketing, the brand’s mission, vision and values and gives new starters a better understanding of the business, who’s who, benefits they can expect, and what the company expects from them in return. Depending on their role, they will then be required to complete up to 15 additional modules within their first three months. It also gives employees the opportunity to develop their skills by undertaking optional modules such as wine or coffee training. Staff are then tracked by head office to monitor their progress via their online training record card and through their 90-day review and annual appraisal. Robson said: “Red Mist Leisure strongly believes that talent needs to be attracted to the industry, then nurtured to be retained. Our staff are ultimately our biggest and best asset. From the moment they start, we invest time and money into all of our staff at all levels and ultimately that shines through.” Red Mist Leisure currently operates seven sites in Surrey and Hampshire and earlier this week acquired its eighth venue, in Odiham.

Eddie Rocket’s opens second Belfast venue at former Ed’s Easy Diner site: US-style diner and burger bar Eddie Rocket’s has opened its second venue in Belfast at a site formerly occupied by Ed’s Easy Diner, which closed days before Christmas. Franchise holder Justin Ward already runs Eddie Rocket’s other Belfast restaurant – in Lisburn Road – and its other Northern Ireland site, in Newry. A third Belfast site, this time in the city centre, is due to open soon. Eight former Ed’s Easy Diner employees, who were made redundant when owner Boparan Restaurant Holdings closed the business in Boucher Crescent, have been retained by Eddie Rocket’s at the new 280 square metre venue. Ward told the Belfast Telegraph: “Eddie Rocket’s has proven incredibly popular with Northern Irish consumers since its arrival in 2015 and we are committed to further expanding the franchise throughout the province in the future.” Other openings in the pipeline include Lisburn Leisure Park in Northern Ireland along with three venues in the Republic – Portlaoise, County Laois; Point Village, Dublin; and Celbridge, County Kildare. They are mostly franchisee-owned in line with the company’s business strategy for 2017. Rocket Restaurants Group currently has 47 restaurants across Ireland and the UK, of which 25 are owned by long-standing multi-unit franchisees.

Cornwall-based Warrens Bakery to open first branch outside West Country: Cornwall-based bakery Warrens Bakery is to open its first branch outside of the West Country in the West Midlands. The company, which was formed in 1860, has joined forces with George Abuaita for the launch, who will lead the Mulberry Walk store in Sutton Coldfield. It will serve a range of sandwiches, artisan breads and cakes, as well as Cornish pasties. Warrens Bakery chairman Mark Sullivan told Insider Media: “This is an extremely momentous occasion for all the team at Warrens. Last year we unveiled our first store in Bristol and now we’re set to open one outside of the West Country. We are delighted to be expanding our portfolio across the country and this marks a tremendously exciting time for the business.” Abuaita added: “I really felt there was a gap in the area for a good quality bakery. I’m positive Warrens will fill that gap and we already have hopes to expand the number of bakeries across the West Midlands in the next few years.” Warrens Bakery has more than 50 stores across Cornwall, Somerset, Devon and Bristol.

Busaba Eathai launches mindfulness initiative: Busaba Eathai, the modern-Bangkok restaurant group, is taking an alternative approach to engaging its colleagues and guests with the introduction of mindfulness classes this month. In partnership with charity Breathing Space, part of the London Buddhist Centre, staff and guests are being invited to take part in free 60-minute classes of “Mindful Based Approaches” to improve their mental health and live in the present moment. Designed to sit in line with Busaba’s philosophy and culture of Nam-Jai, the sessions begin with an introduction to mindfulness, its relevance and how to approach and practice it in daily life. Mindfulness practice stems from the pillars of Buddhist teaching – kindness, generosity, contentment and communication, and is known to improve mental clarity, emotional positivity and even productiveness. The first exclusive event for staff was hosted at Busaba Shoreditch in January and a second class, open to guests, will take place on Monday, 20 February. Following the classes, the participants have the opportunity to discuss the experience over some complimentary refreshments. The mindfulness classes are part of Busaba’s ongoing plan to engage with colleagues and guests. Jason Myers, chief executive of Busaba, said: “At Busaba, guest and colleague engagement and being a force for good are our priorities and we pride ourselves and work hard to have a real and positive workplace culture – our employee’s well-being as part of the Busaba family is at the forefront of everything we do. Mindfulness classes, inspired by the Buddhist teachings popular in Thailand, are a great way of giving back to our fantastic teams and we hope it will resonate with them and our guests.”

Fitzwilliam Estate submits plans for restaurant and distillery in North Yorkshire: The Fitzwilliam Estate has submitted plans to turn two sites in Malton, North Yorkshire, into a restaurant and distillery. The distillery application to Ryedale District Council is for an empty unit at Talbot Yard in Yorkersgate, with the application also covering the creation of retail space and offices. The restaurant is planned for a vacant building on the corner of Wheelgate and Finkle Street. Listed building consent has been sought and proposals include the “reinstatement of an opening between the two properties and fitting-out works to form a restaurant, including the installation of a wood-fired pizza oven”. The move follows the establishment of several new breweries in the area and the remoulding of Malton as the “food and drink capital” of Yorkshire, the Gazette & Herald reports. Agent Savills is representing the Fitzwilliam Estate during the application process.