TRG Concessions makes largest investment to open Luton airport pub: TRG Concessions, part of The Restaurant Group, has opened 7,000 square foot pub The Smithfield in the redeveloped terminal at London Luton Airport (LLA). The British pub and kitchen will occupy the largest footprint for food and beverage airside since the terminal’s development. TRG Concessions has made the largest investment in its history to develop the pub concept, which is expected to serve more than one million passengers a year and generate more than £150m revenue through the ten-year contract. The Smithfield offers guests a range of classic pub snacks and main plates alongside global-influenced dishes, with menu choices available from 3am highlighting the best of British produce served from an open kitchen. The Smithfield specialises in real ales, including its own Golden IPA brewed exclusively for the pub by Greene King. The house ale sits alongside a range of beers from local and regional brewers and micro-breweries, alongside craft beer and lager from around the globe. The pub features electronic charge points, flight display boards and zoned seating areas. The Smithfield takes its influence from the famous London meat market, with a strong British focus to its menu. Nick Ayerst, managing director of TRG Concessions, said: “The Smithfield shows TRG Concessions’ ambition to give LLA’s rapidly growing passenger audience the ultimate pub experience before their flight. The new pub occupies a prime location in the terminal and we look forward to welcoming all who visit for years to come.”

Thornbridge Brewery reveals expansion plans: Derbyshire-based Thornbridge Brewery is continuing to invest in expansion as it draws up plans for the next stage of development at its site in Bakewell. Chief executive Simon Webster said a £1.6m investment in new bottling and fermentation vessels to increase production capacity last summer had resulted in an increase in sales, particularly bottled beers following new national listings in Tesco, Asda and Morrisons. Keg and cask have also recorded healthy sales increases. Webster said: “Our next stage of planning will focus on building a brewhouse dedicated to cask beer, while at the same time increasing production capacity to the main brewhouse to meet increasing demand for bottles and keg. We have demand for our beers and also the space in which to expand, so we are really well placed to move forward with the plans during 2018. We are very proud of those who have developed with us and will continue to offer opportunities to our existing team and those who join us in the future. One post we are keen to recruit is director of sales and marketing.” With staffing numbers in excess of 50 the brewery, which was founded in 2005, has doubled its headcount in the past five years.

Unique Hospitality Management appoints new marketing manager: Pub company Unique Hospitality Management has appointed Clare Haynes to the new position of marketing manager. Haynes, who joins Unique from craft gin producer Warner Edwards Distillery, will help drive the company’s increasing marketing needs as it continues to expand. The company operates two pubs in its Epic Pubs division and four Heroic Pubs, and has opened four pubs in the past year with further sites planned. Unique Hospitality Management managing director Andrew Coath said: “It has been an amazing and fast-paced year for the company. We have continued to innovate at and develop our existing pubs and open new ones, including our first pub with a fantastic new steak and seafood concept. There are exciting times ahead for the company and we are really thrilled to welcome Clare to the team. Her extensive marketing experience and knowledge of the drinks market will help us to push our pub businesses even further forward.” Haynes, who has worked for many globally recognised brands including Levi Strauss and Avon, added: “I am really excited to have joined the dynamic and passionate Unique team and to be working with such great hospitality businesses.” Unique Hospitality Management operates Epic Pubs (freeholds) and Heroic Pubs (leaseholds). Its Epic Pubs are The Golden Ball in Maidenhead, Berkshire; and 185 Watling Street, Towcester, Northamptonshire. Its Heroic Pubs are Mill Street Pub & Kitchen in Oakham, Rutland; the Knife & Cleaver in Houghton Conquest, Bedfordshire; The Anchor at Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire; and The Wheatsheaf Pub & Grill at Bow Brickhill, near Milton Keynes. Heroic Pubs and Epic Pubs operate under an Enterprise Investment Scheme overseen by Rockpool Investments, which specialises in managing private investment funds.

Bella Italia goes live with Feed It Back: Bella Italia, the 107-strong restaurant company owned by Casual Dining Group, has gone live with Feed It Back, the EPOS-linked guest feedback service, following a one-month trial across several venues. Feed It Back is the only guest feedback system that integrates in real time with Zonal’s Aztec EPOS system, among others, enabling feedback questions to be personalised to the guest’s visit. Bella Italia head of operational planning Lucy Thompson said: “We have been collecting feedback successfully for years but wanted to be more flexible and agile. We found Feed It Back provides us with a dynamic platform we can manage internally but is really easy to use at all levels for operational staff, our guest experience team and, most importantly, our guests. Feed It Back has an integrated case management system for managing positive and negative feedback. For the first time, we can understand all the reasons behind a single complaint and recovery actions are assigned to the right members of staff. We can see common causes for complaints by branch, area and brand, and communicate with staff and guests, all through the system.” Casual Dining Group chief operations officer James Spragg added: “We can now be more nimble with menu launches, immediately evaluating every dish at every restaurant and making refinements to ensure guests are happy. It also enables us to innovate and take risks and find out very quickly whether a new dish is working.” Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia said: “We look forward to helping Bella Italia continue to innovate in its menu and reach new heights in its guest satisfaction.”

Gallipoli Restaurant Group launches Mediterranean concept Tuyo in Broadway Market, fourth site: Family-owned Gallipoli Restaurant Group, led by former Salt Yard chef Ricardo Pimentel, has launched new concept Tuyo at Broadway Market in Hackney, the company’s fourth site in total. The new venture in Pritchard’s Road sits beside the canal and features an open kitchen, white walls and hanging baskets. The menu features Mediterranean and Levantine small plates with a Spanish twist. A selection of “pinchos” (small bites) include lamb rump with black olive couscous, and picos blue and date croquetas served with a selection of charcuterie and cheese, predominantly from Spain and Italy. Main dishes follow a Mediterranean theme, with hints of Turkish influence such as chicken thigh with honey-poached apricots, sumac yogurt and pistachio. The bar offers a bespoke list of house cocktails designed to complement flavours on the menu. Gallipoli Restaurant Group’s other sites are two bistros in Islington – La Farola and Gallipoli – and tapas fusion cafe El Ganso in Hackney.

Waney family opens Greek restaurant Meraki in Fitzrovia: The family behind renowned London restaurants Roka, Oblix, Zuma and The Arts Club have launched their latest venture. Peter Waney, who co-founded Roka and Zuma with his brother Arjun, has opened 150-cover Greek restaurant Meraki in Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia. The restaurant accommodates 100 covers, while the ground-floor bar holds 30 people for table and counter seating. An extra 28 covers are available for alfresco dining on two terraces. The design has preserved many details of the original building, including exposed brick and trusses over the main dining area complemented by Ceccotti brass lighting throughout. The open plan kitchen features a robata grill and wet counter display of whole fish flown in daily. Dimitrios Siamanis, who has cooked at Michelin-starred restaurants Zafferano in Belgravia, The Square in Mayfair, and Alain Ducasse’s The Grill at the Dorchester Hotel, is Meraki’s head chef. His menu features a selection of chargrilled meat and whole fish, as well as a seasonally changing choice of mezze dishes, alongside Greek wine and craft beer, and cocktails made using the country’s spirits, liqueurs, herbs and citrus fruits.

Joseph Holt boss – ‘brewing is critical to the business, not just running pubs’: Richard Kershaw, chief executive of north west brewer and retailer Joseph Holt, has said developing new beers every year is key to the business while revealing the company is considering adding a stout and premium craft ale to its range. In recent years, several brewers have scaled down production or stopped making beer entirely to focus on running their profitable pub estates, but Kershaw said Joseph Holt, which operates about 130 pubs, remained fully committed to brewing and is continuing to develop new products. He told Insider Media: “To my mind, our reason to be is we’re primarily a brewer producing quality beer and we want that to be our unique selling point in our pubs. If we weren’t brewing, we’d lose all that focus. So in terms of the broader perspective, brewing is critical to us. We’re very focused on brewing and as long as we’re around as a company that’s the key point to our success. We’re probably trying to launch a couple of new beers a year. It’s a pretty constant cycle now. It’s key to keep that brewing moving forwards and keep producing new products. We’re currently looking at potentially producing a stout beer or a craft beer as a mid-range 4.5% (ABV) ale. But all the time we want drinkability, we want that session beer. And that’s quite a key test for us, that drinkability. What do people want? What’s the market? What’s a nice long-term drinkable beer?” Joseph Holt’s range spans a range of categories, including bitter, lager, golden ale, mild, IPA and amber ale, but no stout or premium craft ale at present. At any given time, the company typically produces about 20 different types of beer. Its biggest brew capacity is 500 barrels, about 144,000 pints, while its smallest is 20 barrels (5,760 pints). Each week, the brewery produces about 250,000 to 300,000 pints of beer in total.

KFC shifts marketing to focus on quality and provenance: KFC is focusing on quality and provenance in a shift in its marketing to change perceptions about its food in the UK and Ireland. In its first work produced by creative agency Mother, KFC has taken a bold approach with a new advert – “the whole chicken” – designed to reinforce the fact 100% of its on-the-bone chicken is sourced from UK and Irish Red Tractor Assured farms, and prepared fresh on site all day. The advert features eight chickens and two cockerels dancing around a barn and ends with the tag line: “The chicken, the whole chicken and nothing but the chicken.” The campaign is supported by outdoor adverts featuring the food in a move away from the stylised format for fast food restaurants, taking the approach seen by many Instagram users. KFC chief marketing officer Meg Farren told Campaign: “At KFC we’re proud of our chicken, we’re not afraid to show it. ‘The whole chicken’ represents a step-change for us, taking a bolder stance when it comes to engaging with our loyal customers and fans.” Mother has also commissioned seven renowned graffiti artists to create murals. These are being painted on the side of a building in Shoreditch and captured on camera to share across KFC’s social channels. Mother executive creative director Hermeti Balarin added: “KFC chicken is of the highest quality but somehow, despite previous attempts at communicating this message, people never really got it. So we created a campaign that is impossible to ignore.”

Wetherspoon plans to add 38 bedrooms to Leicester site, delays Dublin ‘superpub’: JD Wetherspoon has submitted plans to transform its Last Plantagenet pub in the centre of Leicester into a hotel as part of a £2.5m project. If the application gets the go-ahead, 38 bedrooms will be created on the vacant upper floors of the building. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are keen to open a hotel above our popular and well-established pub in Leicester city centre. We believe the hotel will be a good addition to the pub and also for Leicester itself.” The council is expected to make a final decision on the proposal for the pub, which was named after Richard III, by the end of the year. It comes after the company submitted a plan to extend its Saxon Crown hotel in Corby to the borough council last month. Wetherspoon, which first branched out into accommodation in 1998, plans to spend £1.5m on the Corby hotel if its application is approved. Meanwhile, plans for a new “superpub” in Dublin city centre have suffered a setback. Wetherspoon was given the green light by the city council to redevelop two vacant buildings in Lower Abbey Street. However, according to the Times, Ireland, a resident living nearby has lodged an appeal over noise level concerns. An Bord Pleanala is due to issue a ruling on the case in November.

Boki to launch first standalone site this month, plans London roll-out: Coffee shop concept Boki is to open its first standalone site this month, in Seven Dials, and plans to roll-out across London. The concept, founded by Kim Mahony Hargreaves and Boris Becker in 2014, will open the 1,200 square foot venue in Earlham Street, Seven Dials. Serving 36 covers, Boki Seven Dials will feature a fast-service espresso bar at the entrance for takeaways alongside coffee and fresh daily food items such as sandwiches, juice and pastries. Table and window seating will be available to enjoy larger plates and a large communal bar will feature at the rear. Customers will be able to enjoy coffee, tea, wine, craft beer and a specially created menu of bespoke cocktails and aperitifs paired with the evening dishes. The evening menu will feature a selection of small plates such as smoked beef brisket taquitos with smashed avocado and chilli slaw; and chorizo toad in the hole with Harissa yogurt and crispy chicken skin crackling with lemon and paprika hummus. Hargreaves said: “Our first independent Boki venture aims to further evolve our previous coffee industry experience to provide our distinctive stamp to quality, creativity and innovation – from the suppliers sourced, dishes produced, drinks brewed, blended and paired to the atmosphere created and service delivered.”

Midlands operator Bitters ‘n’ Twisted to open fifth Bodega site, in October: Birmingham-based multiple operator Bitters ‘n’ Twisted Venues is to open a fifth site for its Mexican bar brand Bodega, in October. Bodega Cantina will launch in Sutton Coldfield at a former bathroom and kitchen fittings store in Birmingham Road. The brand specialises in street food such as burritos, nachos and tacos, alongside burgers, larger plates and Mexican and South American cocktails. Owner Matt Scriven told the Birmingham Mail: “A great opportunity has arisen for us to expand Bodega into Sutton Coldfield. We’re excited to see how popular our fresh, homemade cuisine and hand-made cocktails are outside the city centre and how we might be able to tailor our offering for a new group of fans.” Bodega Cantina launched in Birmingham in 2010 followed by Worcester, Derby and Leicester. Bitters ‘n’ Twisted also operates Birmingham’s The Victoria, Island Bar, The Jekyll & Hyde, Buffalo & Rye and Marmalade. Last month, the company reported a 13.2% rise in turnover to £7.8m for the year ending 31 August 2016. Ebitda was in line with the previous year at £1.16m.

Papa John’s franchisee expands into Scotland: A Papa John’s franchisee with five sites in south east England has expanded into Scotland. Franchisee Siddhartha Chirumamilla has opened a site in Glenrothes, Fife, and plans to open a total of seven Papa John’s in Scotland within the next couple of years. He said: “I used to work for Papa John’s when I was studying for a degree in automobile engineering in London. I worked in-store and as a driver in the Welwyn Garden City branch. After my student days, I returned to India then came back to the UK in 2013, knowing I wanted to run my own business. Coincidentally, the Welwyn Garden City Papa John’s became available and, with help from a business loan from the franchising department of HSBC, I purchased the franchise. Since then, my Papa John’s portfolio has gone from strength to strength and now we will go for it in Glenrothes. I see a great development opportunity for Papa John’s to deliver in Scotland and I have an experienced business partner, Vamsi Atluri, who will manage the Scottish stores for me. We aim to open three outlets in the region before the end of 2017. The Papa John’s incentive scheme, which helps franchisees when starting up, has been a driver to develop more stores.”

Ei Group reveals EiLive dates for 2018: Ei Group’s leased and tenanted division Ei Publican Partnerships has announced the dates and venues for EiLive 2018 – its series of national trade shows. Building on its series of shows in 2017, the five events will give existing and prospective publicans around the country the opportunity to meet suppliers and members of the Ei Publican Partnerships team, gain business advice and take advantage of exclusive deals. EiLive will kick off on 27 February at Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium followed by NEC Birmingham (1 March), EventCity, Manchester (6 March), London Olympia (13 March) and Ashton Gate, Bristol (20 March). James Armitage, group services director at Ei Group, said: “We’re dedicated to supporting and developing our publicans with the latest industry trends and insight. EiLive is a vital tool we use to achieve this. This year saw a record amount of suppliers attend the shows, including 37 new ones, and we’re looking forward to building on this success and giving publicans more face-to-face time with the industry’s leading suppliers in 2018.”

Easyhotel signs franchise deals for Iran and Sri Lanka: Easyhotel, the owner, developer and operator of “super budget” branded hotels, has signed two master development agreements with 3SV and MHA Hatfield to develop the Easyhotel brand across multiple sites in Iran and Sri Lanka respectively. The Iranian tourism industry has seen significant growth in recent years, with the government outlining ambitious plans to attract more than 20 million tourists by 2025. The agreement for Iran is expected to deliver more than 500 new Easyhotel rooms in the country. The agreement for Sri Lanka is anticipated to deliver more than 200 rooms in the country, 100 of which are expected to be open by 2022. Sri Lanka has a well established and growing tourism industry, with more than two million visitors in 2016. In both territories, the Easyhotels are expected to comprise purpose-built hotels and conversions of existing hotels and/or office buildings. These agreements take Easyhotel’s pipeline of franchise rooms under development to 1,936 rooms, in addition to the 781 rooms being developed as owned projects. Easyhotel chief executive Guy Parsons said: “Easyhotel has made good progress over the past year in its plans for the international expansion of the brand. I am pleased to announce a further extension of our franchise network, enabling us to establish the brand’s presence in new territories where there is growing demand from cost-conscious consumers for value hotel accommodation. The agreements will add at least 700 rooms to our committed development pipeline enabling us to extend our network in these exciting new markets without direct capital investment as we focus direct investment in our core markets of the UK and Europe.”

Dundee-based operator acquires second site: Dundee-based operator Sunny Mollah is to start expanding his portfolio after acquiring his second site in the city. Mollah, who owns Sunny’s Restaurant, is launching Sunny’s Bar and Grill in Mattocks Road on the site of the former Mexican restaurant Rancho Pancho. He plans on the venue hosting live music in the bar and offering a gastro-pub menu, along with curries and pizza. Mollah told the Evening Telegraph: “We are looking to get it back to where it was when local people were able to come down and enjoy the bar.” Mollah launched Sunny’s Restaurant in Whitehall Street in February last year.

Conviviality reports turnover and profits rise: Conviviality, the wholesaler and distributor of alcohol that is impulse-serving consumers through its franchised retail outlets and through hospitality and foodservice, has reported sales up 85% to £1,560m (FY16: £841m) in the 52 weeks to 30 April 2017. Profit before tax was up 147% to £22.5m (FY16: £9.1m). The company acquired Bibendum on 20 May 2016 and reported it had integrated successfully into the group and new operational structure. Of trading for the nine weeks ended 2 July 2017, the company and its businesses are “trading in line with board expectations”. It added: “Conviviality Direct continues to trade strongly with sales 9% above last year. It is particularly pleasing to see the continued improvement and confidence of Conviviality Retail, with like-for-like sales up 0.5% and Wine Rack up 4.0%. Conviviality Trading is 7.6% above last year as a result of its customers continuing to recognise the expertise and support of the agency business. The events business increased the number of events this year versus last year by 27% to 140.” Diana Hunter, chief executive of Conviviality, said: “I am pleased to report a strong set of results that demonstrate our focus and commitment to serving our customers well, working in partnership with our suppliers and delivering against our strategic plans. The balance we have created across the enlarged group, and resilience this creates, gives us confidence in the future success of the business. Importantly the culture we have created at Conviviality, with its entrepreneurial and innovative focus, remains true across the group and we firmly believe there is exciting potential for significant organic growth for our businesses, with further potential opportunities to build on the current platform.”