Evans & Peel starts expansion with Chiswick ‘secret bar’: Evans & Peel has started expansion by opening a 1920s prohibition-style bar and restaurant, which is disguised as an old pharmacy in Chiswick, west London. Evans & Peel Pharmacy has opened in Devonshire Road five years after the company launched its Detective Agency bar in Earls Court Road. The “hidden bar” has been styled with vintage furniture, giving guests the feeling they have walked into a 1920s pharmacy, and offers cocktails and 1920s American-style small plates. Guests who ring the doorbell are greeted by “the pharmacist”, with customers who know the secret password escorted into the bar. The low-lit venue features antique surgical equipment and secret drawers offering guests “something new every time”. The cocktail list includes pharmacy-inspired creations from the in-house bar team. Vintage Japanese whiskey and spirits are also on offer alongside wine and champagne. The food menu features grilled cheese sandwiches that arrive in a cigar box with “smoke” seeping from the sides.

Online market place BrewBroker looks to ‘disrupt’ brewing industry: BrewBroker, which describes itself as an online market place for the global brewing industry, has said it is looking to “disrupt” the sector as it prepares to launch its crowdfunding campaign. The aim of BrewBroker is to enable businesses to search, sell and buy brewing services from one other. It likens itself to Airbnb and Uber by “taking an established industry at a certain stage and disrupting it using a sharing economy model”. BrewBroker said contract brewing allows that opportunity in the beer sector, with the huge rise in consumer demand leading more breweries to contract-out production or sell excess capacity to maximise efficiency. BrewBroker said providing a “simple digital platform to facilitate mutually beneficial relationships between two parties” would “transform the way the industry operates”. The company was founded last year by drinks marketing expert Toby Chantrell and Ben Morgan-Smith, a digital industry veteran. They have been advised by Craft Beer Rising founders Chris Bayliss and Daniel Rowntree. Chantrell said: “The eye-opener was watching friends trying to launch a beer brand using contract brewing – struggling with the whole process, finding a brewery to work with, building a deal and then agreeing on a price both parties were comfortable with. The opportunity was obvious when coupled with the numerous conversations we’d had with breweries looking to contract their services to combat the challenges they meet in a rapidly changing market. So you have two parties, countless opportunities and no facilitator. BrewBroker will be that facilitator – connecting parties and facilitating brewing deals with security and market comparison. Working with our beta test group and our technical partner – ucreate.it – we have developed the prototype, we now need investment to get it live and realise the huge global opportunity. Anyone interested can find out more on our website.” BrewBroker will launch a fund-raise on CrowdCube next month, with a beta launch in the first quarter of 2018.

Star Pubs & Bars sees 10% rise in standards scores: Retail standards scores have risen 10% in Star Pubs & Bars’ venues in the past three years with the gap between the highest and lowest-scoring pubs narrowing to its lowest ever, according to an independent audit carried out on behalf of the company. The biggest improvement was in the quality of food and foodservice, with scores up one-fifth to 84%. The company said the result was proof of the growing importance of food in the leased sector and the focus licensees are giving to it. Star Pubs & Bars retail marketing manager Paul Daly said: “The results demonstrate significant improvements across the Star estate in the quality of food served and the service provided, which is particularly impressive given 74% of Star pubs sell food. The objective feedback from mystery visitors, ongoing training and investment provided by Star all contribute to raising standards and helping licensees build sustainable businesses.”

Cocktails concept Brick & Liquor opens second London site: Creative cocktails and sharing plates concept Brick & Liquor has opened its second London site, in Clapham. The concept was launched by former Novus Leisure manager David Layton in Tooting taking inspiration from neighbourhood bars in New York. The new venue has opened in Balham Hill and is larger than its sister sites – seating 100, with a larger bar snacks menu and offering weekend brunch. Cocktails include Nine & A Half Weeks (Havana 3 rum, orange curacao, vermouth and orange bitters), and a rosemary negroni. Brick & Liquor also offers dessert-style cocktails including a salted caramel espresso Martini, and Eton’s Mess with lemon and raspberry topped with toasted meringue. The concept also offers a Social Eats bar menu of sharing plates, including focaccia with dips, chicken lollipop, and rum and coke ribs. Layton told Hot Dinners he intends to open a number of neighbourhood-style bars in non-central London postcodes during the next year.

St Austell Brewery chooses Drink-IT management system to streamline operations: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has chosen the Drink-IT management system as it looks to streamline operations as part of long-term expansion plans. Drink-IT is a software system aimed at beverage businesses that helps to “boost productivity, increase revenue and capture growth”. The software manufacturer said St Austell Brewery would benefit from improved automation of its processes that would help to increase productivity, improve management reporting, and manage the “complexity and growth” of its wholesale business. St Austell Brewery said it expects the new cloud-based system to increase employee satisfaction, productivity and effectiveness; improve systems that track and ensure compliance; improve data access to allow real-time management information and reporting; and integrate financial data across its operations. St Austell’s implementation of the Drink-IT project will be split into four phases over the next two years.

South London-based pizzeria and bar operators to relaunch Powder Keg concept in Battersea: Jayke Mangion and Andy Bell, the team behind subterranean bar WC and pizza parlour Joe Public – both sited in former public toilets in Clapham Common – will relaunch Battersea bar restaurant Powder Keg Diplomacy after taking over the site. Mangion and Bell will reopen the venue in St John’s Hill as Powderkeg on Friday, 29 September with former Opera tavern chef Ben Mulock heading the kitchen. His new menu will feature mainly Spanish and Italian grilled dishes, including charred beef brisket with baby gem and pomegranate glaze, alongside Barnsley chops and whole sea trout with seasonal sides. Brunch will include spiced buttermilk-fried chicken with avocado, pickled chilli on toasted muffin, and blueberry pancakes. The drinks list will feature cocktails, wine and craft beer, with a 2am licence on Fridays and Saturdays, Hot Dinners reports. Mangion and Bell launched California-style pizza restaurant Joe Public offering 20-inch pizza, whole or by the slice in March 2016 close to its WC (Wine & Charcuterie) site.

McDonald’s to close 169 restaurants in India after legal row with franchise operator: McDonald’s is closing 169 restaurants in India after a legal row with a local franchise operator. The company’s Indian subsidiary said it was terminating its agreement with Connaught Plaza Restaurant, alleging breach of contract and payment defaults. The move means all McDonald’s outlets in north and east India including the capital New Delhi will close, although the company said it would look for a new partner. McDonald’s outlets will remain open in south and west India, where it uses a different franchise operator. McDonald’s told AFP: “We have been compelled to take this step because Connaught Plaza Restaurant has materially breached the terms of the respective franchise agreements relating to the affected restaurants.” Connaught Plaza Restaurant chief Vikram Bakshi said it was considering what legal recourse was available. He added: “This is a completely contemptuous, malafide and yet another oppressive act indulged in by McDonald’s.” Bakshi has been locked in a legal battle with McDonald’s global management since he was ousted as managing director of the joint venture in 2013. Last month an Indian tribunal restored Bakshi as the managing director and ordered McDonald’s to pay him one million rupees ($15,590).

Pret A Manger opens applications for School Leavers Programme: Pret A Manger is inviting applications for its 2017 School Leavers Programme (SLP), with the company looking to recruit up to 120 participants. Now in its sixth year, the aim of the 12-month programme is to give young people the opportunity and support to start their careers straight away, while also gaining an apprenticeship. Available to UK school-leavers, gap-year students and recent graduates, successful applicants are given a full-time, shop-based role with additional training, support and work skills courses. Regardless of age, participants are paid Pret’s starting salary of £7.85 or £7.65 an hour depending on location with eligibility to receive an extra £1 an hour mystery shopper bonus after 12 weeks. Kate, from Newcastle, who took part in the programme last year, said: “I’ve learnt how to diffuse tense situations and how to control my own emotions. I feel I’ve grown as a person. The SLP has made me more ambitious to climb the ladder and grab every opportunity I’m given.”

Chef behind Ballynahinch restaurant to open second site, in Belfast: The chef behind the Bull & Ram restaurant in Ballynahinch, Northern Ireland, is to open a second site, this time in Belfast. Kelan McMichael is launching the venue in University Road on the site of the former Beatrice Kennedy restaurant, creating 20 jobs. Due to open in October, the restaurant, which will span two floors, will have space for more than 80 diners. The decor within the grade I-listed building will be inspired by the 1920s and early 1930s. McMichael told the Irish News: “I took my time to find the right premises as the Bull & Ram is not just about food and service, it’s about creating a dining experience. Bull & Ram Belfast will offer an innovative menu showcasing the best of local, seasonal ingredients and we hope it will become a destination for diners to feast on the best oysters, steaks and cocktails.” McMichael launched Bull & Ram in a former butcher’s shop in Ballynahinch in June last year, restoring an Edwardian building to its former glory complete with original meat-hanging rail and herringbone oak ceiling.

Simon French – ‘We’re cautious on Whitbread’s wider prospects, in particular Costa Coffee in the UK’: Cenkos leisure analyst Simon French has said he remains cautious on Whitbread’s wider prospects, in particular Costa Coffee in the UK. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares with a target price of 3,793p, French said: “The Sunday Telegraph carried an interview with relatively new Costa Coffee divisional managing director Dominic Paul. He cites the need for innovation to accelerate sales growth, which we would not dispute, although creating a 20-strong innovation team seems a little excessive. The group is once again trialling a new-concept store, although this time the location has been kept secret (unlike the Tottenham Court Road Costa Fresco). There is also reference to increasing the number of UK stores by 50% to 3,000 over the next four years. We would need some convincing this is a sensible use of capital as the group is already significantly larger than its two main competitors, Starbucks and Caffe Nero, combined and divisional return on capital employed has been falling. Paul also refers to a more challenging external environment but is adamant coffee is recession-proof. It is certainly true Costa like-for-like sales growth was robust through the credit crisis, reporting 5.5% like-for-like sales growth for the year to February 2010 but recent performance has been weaker with like-for-like sales growth of just 1.1% reported for the 13 weeks to 1 June. We remain cautious on the prospects for Costa in the UK and believe growth needs to be accelerated internationally, particularly in China. We also remain cautious on Whitbread’s wider prospects, with the group appearing to underperform the London hotel market and its overall growth strategy of opening new units into a slowing consumer environment not without difficulty. The stock – trading on a CY 2017E price-to-earnings ratio of 14.8 times and an adjusted EV/Ebitdar of 9.4 times – is not expensive but we struggle to identify catalysts for the shares to re-rate. The next scheduled update is the group’s first-half results on 24 October.”

Grab-and-go concept Waka to launch in City of London next month: New grab-and-go brand Waka will launch in the City of London on Thursday, 7 September offering Nikkei dishes. The new venue will open over two floors at 39a Eastcheap with the decor marrying Japanese minimalism with bright Peruvian patterns, textiles and motifs. Prominent will be Waka’s hummingbird mascot, inspired by one of the mysterious Nazca Lines near Lima. The menu will feature ceviche, tiraditos (thinly-sliced raw fish), hot bowls and cold bowls, alongside sushi, sashimi, nigiri and dumplings. Sides will include Cancha corn, soup and salads with the full menu available to eat in at Waka’s 60-seat basement dining room or take away. The venue will open from 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Nikkei began its evolution in Peru in the late 1800s, when settlers from Japan – known as Nikkei – adapted their home cuisine using local ingredients.

Aberdeenshire-based operator acquires Stonehaven site for third Indian restaurant: Aberdeenshire-based Syed Abdul Hamid, who owns India On The Green in Ballater and Nu Spice in Stonehaven, has acquired a third site in the region. Hamid has acquired the Carron in Cameron Street, Stonehaven, which closed suddenly in March with chef Lee Soutar blaming the oil and gas downturn. Hamid said a deal had been agreed and he hoped to reopen the Carron as an Indian eatery by Christmas. He told the Evening Express: “I have lived in the area for 14 years and I have wanted that building for a long time – it’s a challenge for me. It will be a high-end restaurant. I have the local touch and I have the local support and, with my experience, I think this will be a success for the people of Stonehaven and the surrounding area.”

Four restaurant brands sign for £65m Walsall development: Four restaurant brands have signed for sites at the £65m Waterfront development in Walsall, West Midlands. Gourmet Burger Kitchen, better burger brand Five Guys, dessert cafe operator Creams and Subway will open at the town centre scheme next month. They will join other restaurant brands including PizzaExpress and TGI Friday’s at the complex, which is being developed by Kier Property. Kier Property managing director (north) Tom Gilman told the Express & Star: “We’re sure the strength of these brands will ensure the Waterfront scheme is the number-one leisure destination in Walsall.”

Lincolnshire-based pub operator to open Greek restaurant: Lincolnshire-based pub operator Joanne Macphee is to open a Greek restaurant in Lincoln. Macphee is launching Greek2Me in Burton Waters on the site of former Italian restaurant Marinos. Greek2Me will serve a range of Mediterranean delicacies including moussaka, pitico kebabs and kleftiko. Macphee, who lived in Greece for 18 years, runs The Plough in the village of Nettleham, which serves both Greek and English food. She told Lincolnshire Live: “We have been lucky to get five Greek chefs who were born, raised and trained in Greece. We have a great following in Nettleham so we hope it will receive the same positivity in Burton Waters.”

Teesside-based multi-site operators to open pizza project in Middlesbrough but delay sky bar launch: Barry Faulkner and Ashley Whem, who operate the Empire nightclub in Middlesbrough, are recruiting ahead of the launch of their new venture in the Teesside town – a pizza and charcuterie restaurant. Faulkner and Whem will launch Scrann at a former tanning salon in Norton Road close to Faulkner’s bar restaurant Canteen And Cocktails. The 80-cover Scrann will offer wood-fired sourdough pizza alongside pasta, salads and weekly specials. Meanwhile Faulkner, who also operates La Pharmacie bar in Middlesbrough town centre, has delayed the opening of his sky bar in the town. The bar, which will also house an 80-cover all-day restaurant, was originally scheduled to open on the 17th floor of Centre North East in October but will now launch in August 2018. Faulkner told Gazette Live: “I don’t want to open in an empty building. I will wait for students to be in the flats first.” Centre North East, Teesside’s tallest building, is undergoing a multi-million pound redevelopment to also contain a bowling alley, casino and restaurants.

West London-based aparthotel operator lines up two sites: West London-based aparthotel operator Room 2 has lined up two new sites – in Southampton and Chiswick. The first site in Queens Terrace, Southampton, will open in March next year and feature 71 studio rooms. The design will take advantage of large floor-to-ceiling heights. Raised sleeping decks and interior features will echo the nostalgia of the golden age of cruise liners, a nod towards the importance of Southampton in cross-Atlantic travel. Room 2’s rooms combine a design hotel aesthetic with “home comforts” including kitchen, work table, rainfall shower, free Wi-Fi, screen-mirroring TV, king-sized bed and air-conditioning. In addition, a selection of rooms feature “mezzanine top decks” for flexible stays accommodating families, children and sharers. The public area will include a grab-and-go coffee shop that turns into a bar in the evening. Founder Robert Godwin, who opened the first site in Hammersmith last year, said: “We’re really excited to bring what we feel is the first truly stylish hotel space to Southampton, taking the best of the emerging design hotel sector and designing memorable guest experiences tailored to long and short stays. We see a big need for high-quality accommodation in the city and we aim to deliver it.” The Southampton opening will be followed by a 78-bedroom hotel in Windmill Road, Chiswick.

Carlisle-based bar operators to open second site: Carlisle-based bar operators Gill and Cameron Ellis are to open their second site in the city. The mother-and-son team will launch Yellowjacket next month in Warwick Road on the site of a former Lloyds Pharmacy. The venue, which takes its name from the yellowjacket wasp, will be a cocktail and mixed drinks bar with table service. The Ellis’ currently operate The Lane Bar in Long Lane, off Fisher Street, reports the News & Star.

Whitbread opens new-build Premier Inn and Brewer’s Fayre in Abergavenny, Costa drive-thru to come: Whitbread has opened a new-build 61-bedroom Premier Inn and Brewer’s Fayre restaurant in Abergavenny, Wales, following a £6.4m investment and creating 60 jobs. The site at Llanfoist is alongside the A465, with the opening in time for the town’s renowned food festival. Whitbread will also open a Costa Coffee drive-thru at the site in early October, creating another 20 jobs. James Crawford, chief executive of landowners Johnsey Estates, which is developing the Westgate site, told Campaign: “The hotel and restaurant will deliver much-needed investment, jobs and new facilities to Abergavenny at this important location on the A465 Heads of the Valleys trunk road.” Castleoak Care Developments will also open a new-build 70-bedroom care home at the 12-acre site, which also features a McDonald’s drive-thru.