Caffe Nero to continue US expansion with Boston University opening: Caffe Nero is to continue its US expansion by opening a site on the campus of Boston University. The company will occupy space in a building in Commonwealth Avenue that currently houses Boston University students, according to the company’s director for US operations Jay Gentile. The building is situated between an Eastern Mountain Sports store and Planned Parenthood, near the Star Market at Packard’s Corner, reports the Boston Eater. Caffe Nero has more than 600 locations in the UK and Ireland and has seen tremendous growth in Massachusetts within the past year. There are now 11 Caffe Nero sites operating in the area, and the Boston University shop is set to join the mix late in spring or early summer.
The Restaurant Group to sell further six sites: The Restaurant Group has instructed agent Savills to sell a further six of its former restaurants in England, Scotland and Wales, adding to those brought to market by Savills in January. The units are available on an individual basis and comprise four Frankie & Benny’s sites and two Coast to Coast restaurants. The properties, which are not currently trading, are being sold with existing planning and licensing consents, meaning they could be reoccupied quickly. The six new restaurants for sale are Frankie & Benny’s in Borehamwood, Frankie & Benny’s in Edinburgh, a former Frankie & Benny’s in Gateshead (Clasper Way), Coast to Coast in Hemel Hempstead, Frankie & Benny’s in Newport (Friars Walk), and Coast to Coast in Nottingham (Intu Victoria Centre). David Bell, head of UK leisure at Savills, said: “We are pleased to be marketing these properties on behalf of The Restaurant Group. Those brought to market earlier this year have attracted interest from a range of established retail and leisure operators as well as new entrants thanks to the diverse mix of locations involved, and we expect these additional sites to do the same.” Savills has also been retained to acquire new sites for The Restaurant Group across the Midlands, East Anglia, the south of England and Wales.
Just Eat appoints chief data officer: Just Eat, the global marketplace for online food delivery, has appointed Alex Rahin to the new role of chief data officer. Rahin, who has worked for Microsoft and Amazon and is former vice-president of data and machine learning products at German e-commerce company Zalando, will lead Just Eat’s rapidly expanding data organisation, from infrastructure to platforms and its customer-facing applications. The role aims to “drive the benefits of enhanced insights from the company’s products in real time to understand what is driving trends across its customer and restaurant partner bases”. In January, Just Eat revealed it would bolster its technology team by creating two new senior roles. At the time, it promoted director of technology, service operations and assurance Dave Williams to the new position of chief information officer.
Generator Hostels acquired by private equity firm for £395m: Private equity real estate fund manager Queensgate Investments has agreed to buy chic hostel owner and operator Generator Hostels for €450m (£395m). Generator, which operates 8,639 beds including in London, Paris and Copenhagen, was owned by Patron Capital and co-investment partner Invesco Real Estate. Queensgate plans to invest about €300m to add further sites. Generator Hostels earns revenues of more than €70m with 14 predominantly freehold assets, two of which are under development. It aims to attract millennial travellers with a focus on capital cities, artfully designed interiors and shared social spaces. Queensgate chief executive of investments Jason Kow told City AM: “Generator Hostels plays to Queensgate’s strengths of working with incumbent management to improve the customer experience, to streamline operations and to bolt on additional assets to this impressive platform.” Patron managing director Keith Breslauer said: “Generator has performed strongly under Patron’s ownership, during which time we have expanded the business significantly from two hostels to 14, and have redefined the hostel concept into the design-led hospitality experience today’s guests want. We are confident the business will continue to grow and thrive under (Queensgate’s) stewardship.”
American chef Johnny Hernandez to start expansion of MEXIco concept with second site, in Maidstone: American chef Johnny Hernandez is to start expanding his MEXIco restaurant concept by opening a second site, in Maidstone, Kent. Hernandez, who cooked at the White House for former president Barack Obama’s Cinca de Mayo celebration, launched the concept at the Intu Derby shopping centre last July. Now he is opening his second site, in Earl Street, Maidstone. Along with an authentic Mexican food menu, the restaurant will serve varieties of the classic cocktail margarita, as well as a range of tequilas and mezcals and distilled alcoholic drinks made from agave plants native to Mexico. The building is being refurbished to give it a “colourful, Mexican-themed makeover”. Hernandez, who opened his first restaurant in 1994, told Kent Live: “It is as exciting launching a new restaurant now as it was doing the first. I love to see it come together. I am committed to this. It is important for me to be connected to the food, the service and the design, so I will be in Maidstone every other month.”
Bavava Restaurants to launch kebab and beer concept in Sunderland: Bavava Restaurants, which operates Indian restaurant and craft beer venue Papadoms, is set to launch new kebab and beer concept Döner Haüs in Sunderland. The company will convert its debut Papadoms site in High Street West to the new-look kebab house in the first of what the company plans to be a chain of eateries. Bavava brand development manager Nathan Alexander, who carried out market research in Germany, told the Sunderland Echo: “Burgers have become virtually a fine dining offering because the quality has improved so much. This is what we intend to do with kebabs, which will bear no resemblance to those people eat on the way home after a night out. The kebabs we ate in Berlin were incredible – and that’s what we intend to bring to Sunderland. At the same time, we’ll also bring a range of amazing German beers so it will be dining with a difference.” In January, Bavava Restaurants opened a second Papadoms venue, in Bradford, following a £1.4m investment. Bavava Restaurants founder and chief executive Sanjeev Sanghera has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years.
UK operators could learn from the US and Thailand regarding guest experience – HGEM survey: The UK has ranked third behind the US and Thailand in a new poll by guest experience management experts HGEM that asked respondents “which country or culture stands out as being the most hospitable”? Despite the country’s high ranking in the survey, HGEM suggested that with record-breaking numbers of tourists expected to visit the UK following the fall in sterling, it was a pivotal time for operators to review visitor expectations to capitalise on the upsurge and ensured staff “lived and breathed” their brand to boost the guest experience. HGEM managing director Steven Pike said: “It’s very encouraging the UK is in the top three but, with VisitBritain forecasting 4% growth in overseas visits to 38.1 million and visitor spend increasing by 8.1% to £24.1bn, UK operators should examine why the US and Thailand stand out and what lessons can be learned. There are lots of examples of creative practice throughout the industry – Thaikhun being just one. If we look at brands learning from American hospitality, which led the way in our poll, Hard Rock Cafe stands out having built an international brand renowned for US-style service, authentic dining and memorable entertainment. What’s important is each member of the team is briefed to live and breathe a brand’s values as part of their induction and then looks to implement them wherever possible as part of the ongoing guest experience.” The rest of the top ten in HGEM’s poll were Italy in fourth, followed by the Caribbean, Japan, Spain, Australia, Mexico and France.
Further details revealed about fourth Wagamama opening in Massachusetts: Further details have been revealed about Wagamama’s fourth opening in Boston, Massachusetts, in the US. The company is opening the venue in the growing Seaport District at 100 Northern Avenue. The restaurant will operate within nearly 6,000 square feet of space on the ground floor of the building, with a kitchen and bar as well as a seasonal patio. The Seaport District is in the midst of massive growth that is bringing in a wealth of new dining options, reports Boston Restaurant Talk. Wagamama’s other area locations are in Faneuil Hall, at the Prudential Center, and in Harvard Square. Earlier this month, Wagamama reported like-for-like sales at its three Boston sites rose 11.8% in like-for-like terms in its third quarter to 29 January 2017.
Michelin-starred management team to operate food-led pub in Oxfordshire: David Holliday and Alex Sergeant, who have both managed London’s only Michelin-starred pub The Harwood Arms, will reopen The Bottle & Glass Inn in Oxfordshire at the end of March under a free-of-tie lease. The grade II-listed pub in Binfield Heath, near Henley-on-Thames, has undergone an 18-month restoration by owners The Phillimore Estate. Sergeant will oversee the drinks menu, championing local beers, including Loddon beer brewed on the estate, plus a carefully curated selection of wine and champagne. The food menu will focus on seasonal wild game and locally sourced produce, with dishes likely to include Oxfordshire wood pigeon with beetroot, pickled berries and cobnuts, and estate fallow deer chop with brewer’s malt, parsley root and seasonal greens. The Bottle & Glass Inn will feature a separate “locals’ bar”, wood-burning stove, and an outdoor dining terrace. Holliday was also head chef of Berkshire gastro-pub Pot Kiln and co-founded David Oliver Fine Foods and Natural Blender, the UK’s first subscription-based smoothie business.
Interesting Hotels acquires sixth site, in North Wales: Interesting Hotels, which is owned by West Midlands businessman Roger Hancox, has acquired its sixth site, a grade II-listed French-style chateau in North Wales. The company has bought Château Rhianfa, set in two acres of land in Menai Bridge, which was built in 1849 as a gift from Sir John Hay Williams to his wife. It is now used as a venue for “fairytale-style” weddings. The property was refurbished in 2011 by Mike and Carol Clare, the founders of Clarenco, who reopened the building as a hotel in 2015. It features 30 bedrooms and a restaurant. Clarenco chief executive Suzanne Hurndall told Insider Media: “We are delighted Château Rhianfa has been acquired by Roger’s Interesting Hotels group. He shares the same vision as us for this special property and we are certain he will continue the journey we have started.” Hancox founded Interesting Hotels in 2012.
Galvin brothers open first overseas site: Michelin-starred chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin have opened their first overseas site, in Dubai. The Galvins have launched Demoiselle by Galvin in City Walk with a second to follow – Galvin Dubai – later this year, which will also open in City Walk. The brothers opened their flagship Demoiselle in Harrods department store in London in 2012. The Dubai branch is a 210-seat cafe across two levels, complete with terrace and a modern parlour hosting afternoon tea. Signature dishes include lobster fish cakes, steak tartar and apple tarte tatin. Guests can also pick up bread, cakes and pastries, all hand-made on site. While the plan is for the Dubai location to be a trendy, casual cafe, the second outlet will be a more refined affair. Jeff Galvin told The National: “We like our restaurants to be welcoming, relaxed and friendly. Demoiselle offers warmth and hospitality, good value and a great product.” Chris Galvin added: “We are fortunate enough to have some amazing people running the restaurants here; people who are like family to us and have been with us for many years.” The brothers operate ten restaurants and two pubs in the UK under Galvin Restaurants and Galvin Pub Co.
Revolution Bars Group to open Revolution site in Southend next month with new-look design: Revolution Bars Group, the operator of 66 premium bars across the UK under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, is opening its latest Revolution site in late April, in Southend, Essex. The bar, which will create 100 jobs, will showcase a new-look design, moving away from the current trend of urban reclaimed materials. The 206-cover bar and restaurant will be spread across 3,700 square feet on the ground floor and 1,500 square feet on the first floor. The main bar and dining area will take inspiration from 1950s New York, with feature bookcases, lighting, soft leather and brass. A central staircase will lead to the terrace bar, a rooftop garden with retractable roof and “living” wall. Chief executive Mark McQuater said: “We’re incredibly excited to be opening Revolution in Southend. This opening represents an excellent regional opportunity in the south of England for the group.”
Restaurateur Bea Vo to launch American-influenced bakery and tea room in Shepherd’s Bush: Restaurateur Bea Vo, who is originally behind the Beas of Bloomsbury chain, is to launch an American-influenced bakery and tea room in Shepherd’s Bush, west London. Vo is opening Butterscotch Bakery in the old BBC media village – White City Place. The new venue is inspired by Vo’s American roots and the menu will include layer cakes, pies, cobblers, brownies, marshmallows and cupcakes, reports Hot Dinners. The site is due to open in the summer but the bakery will launch as an online business next week, with collections available from Vo’s Boondocks restaurant in City Road. Vo is also behind Stax in Carnaby Street and Famous Flames in Kentish Town Road.
Aria Leisure launches Middle Eastern concept at former Quill site in Manchester: Aria Leisure, a new company founded by Allied London commercial director Andrea George, Fazenda co-founder Terence Langley, and Leeds-based entrepreneur James Coubrough, has launched Middle Eastern concept Suri in Manchester. The venue has opened at a two-storey site in King Street previously occupied by the ill-fated Quill restaurant. Suri – Persian for “red rose” – offers Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. George told Manchester Evening News: “King Street is the ideal destination in the heart of the city’s business and leisure district. The menu offers a diverse selection of plates using local suppliers and served in a relaxed and informal style to encourage a sharing culture, along with a carefully crafted drinks list. Suri represents our passion for the vibrant and diverse dishes of the Mediterranean, to which we have added inspiration from the rich cultures of the Middle East.” Quill closed in June 2016 less than a year after its launch following a £1m investment.
Brakspear invests in managed estate with Stratford-upon-Avon pub refurbishment: Henley-based pub operator and brewer Brakspear has invested in its managed estate with a major refurbishment of the Townhouse in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. The makeover at the Townhouse – previously called Church Street Townhouse – has been sympathetic to its heritage. It is a 400-year-old, grade II-listed building in the heart of Stratford. The bar and adjoining dining spaces, which have 74 covers in total, have been renewed, while the 12 bedrooms have also been redeveloped. Brakspear executive chef Antony Ely has introduced a new menu with a focus on seasonal, rustic dishes. Food is served from breakfast to dinner, including a pre-theatre supper. The Townhouse offers a range of Brakspear ales as well as craft beer including Camden Hells, Punk IPA, Meantime London, Brooklyn lager and Sierra Nevada. It also offers an extensive wine and spirits list including a speciality gin menu. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “We’re delighted with this refurbishment, which has given the Townhouse a stunning new look while retaining the historical character that is important to so many visitors to Stratford. We are reopening just as the town’s tourist trade moves into top gear.” Brakspear bought the Townhouse in autumn 2015. Its managed estate now comprises nine sites – the Townhouse, four pubs in the Cotswolds and one each in Henley-on-Thames, Marlow, Mickleham in Surrey and Shepherd’s Bush.
Great British Menu winner James Durrant launches The Game Bird in Stafford London Hotel: James Durrant, former best main course winner in BBC television show Great British Menu, has launched The Game Bird in The Stafford London Hotel. Durrant, appointed executive chef at the St James’s Place hotel in September, has devised an “ultra-British” menu focusing on game including roast grouse, fallow deer, quail’s eggs, and wood pigeon. There are also pies, Sunday roasts and a special oyster menu offering shellfish from around the British Isles, alongside smoked and cured fish and caviar. Durrant has worked in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, including Jason Atherton’s Maze, and joined Stafford London Hotel after a spell as executive chef at D&D London’s Bluebird Chelsea. His first solo restaurant, The Plough Inn in Longparish, Hampshire, won a Michelin Bib Gourmand.
Scots-Italian chef to launch second restaurant in Glasgow this week: Scots-Italian chef Nico Simeone is set to launch his second restaurant in Glasgow. Simeone, who owns 111 by Nico, is opening Six by Nico, which will be a nexus for a series of “carefully curated and constantly evolving restaurant concepts”. Split over two floors with 40 covers, the main restaurant upstairs will showcase an open plan kitchen and have a minimal design, starkly contrasted by grand fixtures and fittings and atmospheric mood lighting. Located in the Finnieston area of the city, the new eatery will serve a new six-course tasting-menu – each one themed on a different place, memory or idea. New menus will only be published two weeks prior to the launch of each new concept. Running from Tuesday (14 March) to Sunday, 23 April, “The Chippie” will be the first in the series and will aim to showcase the “Best of British” flavours. An extensive selection of world wines (served by the glass and bottle) and local beers will also be available, as well as a list of specialty signatures drinks. Simeone told the Scotsman Food and Drink: “It is the first of its kind in Glasgow and one that we hope will add to the appeal of the already burgeoning restaurant scene in Finnieston.”
Robinsons partners with Co-op to launch Members craft beer range: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has partnered with Co-op to launch a Members craft beer range available exclusively in Co-op stores. Robinsons head brewer Martyn Weeks worked closely with Co-op to develop three own-label craft beers, with Co-op members influencing tasting descriptions on the labels. The beers are a 4.0% ABV Golden Ale, 4.5% IPA, and 5.5% Triple Hop. Robinsons export and off-trade sales manager Kate Flanagan said: “Inviting customers to ‘have their say’ prior to the product being produced not only helps with real-time customer feedback, which in turn informs the production process, but it also means that when the product is launched everyone owns it, not just the brand owner, which is extremely powerful and engaging. We’re delighted to be working with Co-op on its first Member beers.” Co-op beer buyer Richard Dennett added: “2016 was a big year for Co-op as we invested in building our local sourcing strategy for beer as we continue to champion British. Local craft beers were introduced to stores across the UK and a local ale and cider plan was implemented in West Country, East Anglia and Wales.”
Oak Taverns plans £175,000 investment in Bicester pub: Thame-based multi-site operator Oak Taverns is to invest £175,000 to refurbish its newest pub, The Angel in Bicester, Oxfordshire. The company, which is looking to start work on the revamp next month, said it would develop the bar area, making it one long bar and adding more cask ale hand pumps. The pub in Sheep Street will be decorated inside and out, with new signage and lighting. The outdoor space at the back will see the biggest transformation, turning it into a multifunctional space with new floor coverings, while the trade kitchen will be turned into a food hut. The walled garden will see a roof/marquee installed to make it a year-round space. Oak Taverns said it aims to have a number of different food partners operating in the outdoor space.
Vaulkhard Group signs Newcastle Gin distribution deal: Newcastle leisure firm Vaulkhard Group has signed an exclusive distribution deal with licensed drinks company LWC for its premium Newcastle Gin brand. Vaulkhard launched the brand in summer 2015 when it opened the city’s only working in-house gin distillery as part of Newcastle city centre venue Bealim House. Harry Vaulkhard, director of Vaulkhard Group and Newcastle Gin Company, said customer response had been “very positive”, while annual sales topped 6,000 bottles last year. He added that with sales only achieved in Vaulkhard’s own venues, now was the time to “test the wider market” and look to expand the brand across the region. The LWC distribution deal will include point of sale, gin training and cocktail creation support for venues looking to list Newcastle Gin. Vaulkhard added that the company was also working on a premium vodka offer and seasonal variations of its gin. Earlier this month, Vaulkhard Group reported a 36% jump in turnover 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. Vaulkhard Group’s other venues include Barluga bars in Newcastle and Morpeth, and Perdu in Newcastle city centre.
Indian group acquires third UK hotel: MGM Muthu Hotels, which is part of the MG Muthu Group from India, has bought its third UK site. The company has acquired the Clumber Park Hotel & Spa in Nottingham for an undisclosed sum. The hotel was put on the market last May for a price of £7m. The four-star hotel was recently refurbished and has 73 bedrooms, a courtyard restaurant, five meeting rooms, a spa, wedding venue and swimming pool. Monicca Maran, MGM Muthu Hotels corporate communications director, told The Business Desk: “We are delighted with our new acquisition and are keen to expand our business further in the UK and abroad.” MGM Muthu Hotels, which has its roots in an Indian logistics firm, has 25 hotels in its portfolio. It bought the Belstead Brook Hotel in Ipswich in 2014 and added the Westcliff Hotel in Essex in 2015.