Pho opening three new sites in next two months: Vietnamese street food restaurant group is opening three new sites in the next two months. The company has opened a restaurant in Reading at the Atlantis Village development in King’s Street. The venue, which has about 100 covers, is the third Pho restaurant to open this year. The company has now confirmed it will open at the Highcross shopping centre in Leicester in mid-September followed by a site at the Westgate shopping centre in Oxford in October. Pho, founded by Stephen and Juliette Wall in 2005, has 23 sites across the UK having opened its first restaurant in Clerkenwell, London.

Cottons secures Vauxhall site: Cottons Caribbean, led by Chris Singam, has secured a site at St George Wharf in Vauxhall, previously trading as Souk, through agent CDG Leisure. The brand currently operates in Camden, Notting Hill and Shoreditch. Salvatore Di Natale of CDG Leisure previously sold the lease for the Shoreditch space earlier this year. David Kornbluth, who advised the landlord on the new letting, said: “Cottons is an exciting brand to work with, well recognised for its array of rums and its ability to provide a great time. We have worked with Chris for many years and we are delighted to have helped him secure another two sites for his flagship brand, which shows promise for continued growth. The American Embassy is going to be moving nearby and there is a lot of development in the area.”

Franco Manca opens site in Oxford as it continues regional expansion: Pizza brand Franco Manca, which is owned by Fulham Shore, has opened a restaurant in Oxford as it continues its regional expansion. The company has opened the 60-seat site in George Street. Franco Manca openings manager Bruno Leal told the Oxford Times: “With Franco Manca Oxford being the first of our pizzerias in the area, we look forward to introducing our authentic Neapolitan sourdough to locals and students alike.” Franco Manca has 37 sites and expects to open another nine in the next year. Fulham Shore chairman David Page said last month: “We are encouraged by our expansion outside of London so far, in particular the openings in central Brighton and Reading, which are serving more customers per week than our average London pizzeria. This gives us confidence the Franco Manca concept will continue to grow and flourish outside of the capital.”

London-based Caravan to open site in Fitzrovia: London-based Caravan, the restaurant, bar and coffee roasting concept, is to open a site in Fitzrovia. The company is opening the site in Great Portland Street in part of Yalding House, which used to be a BBC building. The restaurant, coffee bar and bar, will seat about 100 people, split over a ground floor and basement, reports Hot Dinners. Caravan was founded in 2010 by New Zealanders Miles Kirby, Laura Harper-Hinton and Chris Ammermann. It has sites in Exmouth Market, King’s Cross and Bankside and is also opening a venue at the Bloomberg Arcade in the city.

Crazy golf operator Junkyard reveals plans for ten-strong estate by 2020, aims to hit £9m turnover this financial year: Crazy golf operator Junkyard Golf has revealed plans to have ten sites by 2020. The company, which has venues in Manchester and London, also aims to increase turnover from £5.4m last year to £9m in 2017-18. It is about to launch its third venue, in the Westgate shopping centre in Oxford and is close to signing for sites in Liverpool and Leeds. Junkyard is also investigating opportunities in Bristol, Glasgow, Birmingham and Newcastle. It has also outgrown its original site in Piccadilly Place, Manchester, and will move next week to premises in First Street with double the floor space. In May last year, Junkyard secured a site at the Old Truman Brewery in east London, again on a temporary basis although the company is hoping to secure a longer-term deal. Chris Legh, who founded the concept with Bart Murphy, Lyndon Higginson and Mat Lakes, told the Evening Standard the venue welcomes 7,000 players and takes £150,000 on an average week. The Oxford site, which opens in October, will have three crazy golf courses and five cocktail bars. Legh said the company is aiming to open three to four new sites a year. It has been self-funded by the founders apart from a £300,000 facility from Barclays. Outside investors have registered an interest but Legh said they are going it alone for now. He added: “The creativity is what sets us apart, so you don’t want to risk that.”

Luke Johnson puts Florida restaurant site on market: Sector investor Luke Johnson is to sell the site of the Bernard’s Surf restaurant in Cocoa Beach, Florida, he bought five years ago. Johnson, who has a holiday home in Cocoa Beach, acquired the freehold of the restaurant in May 2012 for a reported $600,000 out of bankruptcy. The restaurant, which was an early space age astronaut hangout, has now been bulldozed to make way for a new development with the site up for sale. Tom Molnar Snr, whose son Tom Molnar Jnr is co-founder of Gail’s Bakery, which is backed by Johnson, told Space Coast Daily: “We’re working on it. It’s up for sale right now. In the meantime, we’re putting together plans to develop – another restaurant of two storeys, some retail units – that kind of thing. It’s not going to go to waste – someone is going to do something with it but it will be somebody else.” Bernard’s Surf was opened in 1948 in S. Atlantic Avenue by Bernard Fischer and it was one of the first restaurants in Cocoa Beach. He was a member of the Fischer family, which owned and operated a fleet in Port Canaveral when it was nothing more than a small fishing village. The Fischer family operated the business until 2006 when it was sold to new owners. The restaurant’s decline followed its sale to a European group, but the business suffered badly in the recession and was eventually closed before being bought by Johnson.

Malhotra Group starts work on £5.6m Newcastle project: Newcastle-based pub, restaurant and hotel operator Malhotra Group has started work on a £5.6m project to transform a city pub into a 64-bed hotel, bar and restaurant. The company is spending 18 months revamping the Three Mile Inn in Gosforth, which will remain open during the three-phase scheme. The first phase involves the creation of a three-storey extension to provide additional accommodation for the hotel. Further phases will include the conversion of the existing building from two to three storeys and the creation of conference, function and private dining facilities, a residents’ lounge, cafe, bar and restaurant. Operations director Atul Malhotra told Chronicle Live: “Our aim is to create a hotel and leisure facility that will be a real credit to Gosforth and a genuine asset to the community, and we very much hope our customers will support us, both during the transition period and once it is complete.” The Three Mile Inn development is one of several current leisure projects by the company, which began with the recently completed £1.2m refurbishment of the Grey Street Hotel. Other plans include a sports-themed bar, new gin bar and additional bedrooms at The New Northumbria Hotel in Jesmond, while Market Lane in Pilgrim Street is to be fully refurbished over both floors. Meanwhile, Balmbras is set to be regenerated in a £1.4m makeover.

Independent coffee company Bean to open 11th site as it adds to Liverpool presence: North west-based independent coffee company Bean is to open its 11th site as it adds to its presence in Liverpool. The company, which operates shops in Merseyside and Greater Manchester, is opening the venue at office development 20 Chapel Street. It has agreed a deal with landlord Canmoor, which purchased the freehold on the building last year, to take 1,300 square feet on the ground floor following a £3m refurbishment of the property. The venue will give Bean a presence in the heart of the city’s commercial district when it opens in September. Bean co-founder and director Jon Whyte told BDaily: “We’re really looking forward to opening our latest venture in one of the most distinctive buildings in Liverpool’s business district and giving tenants a completely new space where they can take a break from the office or hold an informal meeting.” Canmoor director Sam Walker added: “Bean is a firm favourite in Liverpool and we’re delighted to have it on board at 20 Chapel Street. The addition of a cafe operator was an important part of our refurbishment plans to give tenants a new amenity and create more of a community within the building.” Worthington Owen acted for Canmoor on the deal.

South London-based Italian restaurant Lorenzo’s to open third site: South London-based Italian restaurant Lorenzo’s is to open its third site, in the Croydon suburb of Shirley. The family-owned business is opening the venue in Wickham Road in the former Bella Vita premises on Wednesday (16 August). The restaurant, which is set across one floor with a conservatory at the back, will have seating for 80 diners. The decor will be brown, cream and mocca, with wood around the walls, pendent lights and a tiled bar, reports the Croydon Advertiser. Dishes will include large hollow pasta tubes with king prawns, mushrooms, courgettes and onions sauteed in white wine with a touch of cream, as well as homemade meatballs, pizza, and ravioli with spinach and ricotta. Natalie Bouzid now oversees the business she started in 1985 by her father Lorenzo Nargi and wife Jane. Its original restaurant in Crystal Palace has been running for 32 years, while the other site is in Dulwich. The family also owns Café St Germain in Crystal Palace.

Stonegate to open Slug and Lettuce site in Coventry next week: Stonegate Pub Company will open a Slug and Lettuce site in Coventry next week. The company is opening the venue on Thursday, 24 August in Bayley Lane in the former Establishment Bar & Grill. The grade II-listed building dates to the late 18th century when it served as a courthouse. Some of the original features are still there including the entrance to the court cells and the judge’s chair. Coventry Business Improvement District manager Trish Willetts told the Coventry Telegraph: “The Slug and Lettuce will be a welcome addition to Coventry. The business is a trusted and recognised brand and I’m sure it will be a hit with shoppers and visitors.” The lease of the Establishment Bar & Grill was acquired by Intertain in May last year. Stonegate took over the site when it bought Intertain from private equity firm Better Capital for about £39.5m in December. Stonegate operates more than 690 pubs split into two divisions – Branded (Slug and Lettuce, Yates’s, Walkabout, Common Room and Venues) and Traditional (Proper Pubs, Town Pub & Kitchen, and Classic Inns). Earlier this month, Stonegate made a bid to buy Revolution Bars Group.

Star Pubs & Bars launches free workshop to help licensees in competitive job market: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has launched a free one-day workshop to help its licensees address the hospitality industry’s staffing shortage and improve staff engagement at a time of increasing wage costs. The Great Team, Great Business workshop is designed for both individual and multiple licensees and their managers. It focuses on three key areas – recruitment, induction and reward – and looks at how licensees can become great employers and thereby attract and retain committed staff. A third of attendees at Star Pubs & Bars’ most recent national forum highlighted rising wage costs as an issue. The workshop also majors on how licensees can offset this by engaging staff and helping them to reach their full potential. Recent data showed unemployment is at its lowest level for 42 years and more than a third (38%) of hospitality and tourism vacancies are hard to fill, making staff recruitment a significant challenge for the pub sector. Star Pubs & Bars said the problem is exacerbated for leased operators who compete for staff with larger managed pub operators with a dedicated HR resource. Star Pubs & Bars lessee capability manager Michael Soderquest said: “Pubs don’t just sell food and drink, they sell experiences. Having a great team is key to giving customers an outstanding experience and building a successful business. Licensees can’t afford to be mediocre employers nowadays, they have to be great employers if they want to recruit and keep staff in a challenging job market.” Great Team, Great Business will be delivered by CPL using top industry trainers selected by Star Pubs & Bars for their knowledge and experience of the sector.

Hotel and brasserie in Essex village goes on market for £1.75m: A fully refurbished hotel and brasserie in Old Harlow, Essex, has been put up for sale for £1.75m. The grade II-listed property is being marketed by agents Colliers. The building features eight bedrooms, an open plan restaurant/bar with 90 covers and a function room with capacity for about 40 people. There is also planning permission for eight garden suites. Located in the village of Old Harlow, a designated conservation area that has retained much of its original market town character, the original parts of the property date to about 1600 when it was a chantry house to the local church. It is believed the property was sold by the crown into private ownership in the early 17th century and the house, as it is seen today, was constructed about 1650. Paul Barrasford, director in Colliers International’s hotels agency team, who is selling the property, said: “The refurbishment has been undertaken to an exceptionally high standard and is a great opportunity for a new owner to capitalise on this fantastic offering in a strong trading location.”

Startle signs agreement with BBC for nationwide PopMaster pub quiz: Interactive music service provider Startle, which was previously called Virtual Jukebox, has signed an agreement with the BBC to take its PopMaster quiz to pubs nationwide. The agreement will see Startle roll-out PopMaster, which is listened to by about 8.2 million people daily on Ken Bruce’s BBC Radio 2 show. The PopMaster Quiz is a fully digital offering, with pre-prepared questions and an automatic digital scoring system, meaning customers can enjoy the quiz while alleviating added pressure for bar staff. Startle said the option to play against other pubs throughout the UK allows for a bigger prize for the winning team and in turn encourages more pub-goers to join in. Startle head of music Phil Swern said: “This agreement with the BBC will allow us to extend the UK’s most listened to quiz to allow a much wider audience to participate and I’m excited to continue to think up new questions for the nationwide PopMaster.”

Sheffield-based food producer lodges plans for ‘pie cafe’ in Leeds: Sheffield-based food producer Pie Eyed has submitted plans to open a “pie cafe” in Leeds. The pie manufacturing has lodged plans with the city council to turn an empty unit in North Street into a cafe to sell its own produce. The space was previously occupied by Dorchester Ledbetter photography studio, which was established in 1926 and has been owned by the same family for more than 50 years. The application stated: “It is proposed to utilise the lower ground floor area for the preparation and baking of the pie products with the ground floor area being used as the ‘front-of-house’ cafe area. The lower ground floor area would also accommodate office and storage space. At present, it is proposed the cafe will be open between noon and 9pm Wednesday to Sunday, with food preparation taking place in the lower ground floor area between 8am and 5pm Tuesday to Friday.” Pie Eyed was founded in late 2014, and launched as a mobile retailing space in the back of a horse box. Since then, the business has been a regular feature at pop-ups, street food events, festivals and weddings.