ASK Italian to open three sites this autumn: Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian will open a further three restaurants this autumn. The brand is opening its second site in Newcastle as part of the Grey’s Quarter development at Intu Eldon Square, a large glass-fronted restaurant in Chelmsford’s Bond Street development, and a venue at The Centre:MK in Milton Keynes, the brand’s second outlet in the town. ASK Italian managing director Harry Heeley said: “We’re looking forward to bringing the ASK Italian recipe of delicious, classic dishes, warm service and fresh design to even more hungry diners around the UK with these new openings, each in prime retail locations that should see high footfall in the run-up to the busy Christmas period.” The brand has more than 110 restaurants in the UK.
The Restaurant Group to focus upcoming closures outside of London: The Restaurant Group has said it will focus the vast majority of its upcoming restaurant closures outside of London. The company revealed on Friday it is set to close 33 of its most underperforming sites, including 14 Frankie & Benny’s branches and 11 Chiquito restaurants after a “challenging trading” period. Just two of the restaurants facing the chop within the next four to six weeks will be in the capital, a spokesperson for the company told City AM. They are a Garfunkel’s branch on the Strand and a Coast to Coast site in Wembley. The other closures will be spread across the UK, in locations such as Bangor, Newcastle and York, as well as in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The 33 closures consist of 14 Frankie & Benny’s sites, 11 Chiquitos, three Coast to Coast, two Joe’s Kitchen, two Garfunkel’s and one pub. The Restaurant Group reported sales were up 3.4% to £358.7m (2015: £346.9m), with like-for-like sales down 3.9% in the 27 weeks to 3 July 2016. Ebitda was up by 0.5% to £59.6m (2014: £59.3m). Profit before tax fell by 3.7% to £36.6m (2015: £38m).
Tonkotsu to look for Birmingham standalone site if Selfridges concession is success, eyes further expansion outside London: London-based ramen specialist Tonkotsu has said it will look for a standalone site in Birmingham if its concession in the city is a success. The company is extending its partnership with Selfridges by opening the restaurant within the department store’s food hall at the Bullring shopping centre next month – Tonkotsu’s first venue outside London. Tonkotsu co-owner Emma Reynolds said the company was keen to continue expansion beyond the capital. She told The Business Desk: “I could tell the people of Birmingham who have been to London and had ramen really love it, and there’s nowhere else to really get that in Birmingham. We’d like to have a few more Tonkotsus outside London. If this works in Birmingham, we’ll look for an individual restaurant site outside of Selfridges.” Tonkotsu, which is named after a creamy ramen typical in Kyushu, Japan’s southern-most island, will open the Birmingham concession on Monday, 5 September. Its first restaurant launched in 2012 and Tonkotsu has six restaurants across London, including its other Selfridges concession in Oxford Street.
Norfolk-based American restaurant concept Arbuckles targeting up to five sites in five years: Norfolk-based American restaurant concept Arbuckles has revealed it is targeting up to five new sites in the east of England in the next five years. The company, owned by John and Maxine Murphy, is set to open its second site, this time in Ely, Cambridgeshire. Now the Murphys, whose debut restaurant opened by the A10 in Downham Market in 2008, have outlined their expansion plans. John Murphy told the Lynn News: “Our five-year plan is for between three and five more restaurants, including Ely, but we will wait until the new restaurant has been open for about a year. We like the idea of perhaps expanding into Peterborough and Norwich in the future. Downham is our flagship and will always be the core of our business and head of operations. It is also where all our training will be done.” The company is investing between £750,000 and £1m in the 175-cover Ely restaurant, which will be housed within the Cineworld leisure complex that is under construction and due to open in February.
Koh Thai Tapas reports profitable first month at Romsey restaurant, top ranking in the company for beating budget: Koh Thai Tapas has reported a profitable first month at its new site in Romsey, Hampshire, with the restaurant ranking top in the company for beating budget. The restaurant, which is the company’s 11th venue, has averaged 90 covers a night since opening at the end of July. The layout is across three adjoining rooms, each adorned with exotic murals. The venue has sold 832 pints of Asahi beer and created 121 of its Dragon’s Ruin cocktail – a muddle of passion fruit, raspberry, orange and apple with Stolichnaya vodka. Meanwhile, Koh’s own chicken satay was the top selling tapas dish with 467 served. Founder and chief executive Andrew Lennox said: “Romsey has opened incredibly well and whilst we are in the honeymoon period that attention to detail and top class service seems to be going down well with the locals. We look forward to seeing how the site develops.” The first Koh Thai Tapas restaurant launched in Boscombe, Dorset, in 2009 and it aims to have a total of 30 sites opened by 2020.
Foodco to open second UK Jamaica Blue site, in Chelmsford next month: Foodco will open the second UK site of its high-end cafe franchise Jamaica Blue next month, in Chelmsford, Essex. The company will open the venue at the new £150m Bond Street shopping and leisure complex, reports Essex Live. Jamaica Blue aims to open in late September, alongside the majority of the Bond Street site and its flagship store, John Lewis. Jamaica Blue made its UK debut in 2014, when it opened a site in The Lion Yard Shopping Centre, Cambridge. Jamaica Blue has 170 cafes in Australia, New Zealand, China, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Malaysia and the single UK site. Other restaurants brands including Bill’s, Casual Dining Group-owned Las Iguanas, The Restaurant Group’s Coast To Coast and Azurri Group-owned ASK Italian have already signed up to the Bond Street development, which will open on Thursday, 29 September.
South Devon-based seafood restaurant Rockfish secures fifth site, in Exmouth: South Devon-based seafood restaurant Rockfish has secured its fifth site, in Exmouth. The company, run by Mitch Tonks and Mat Prowse, will open the new venue next year having completed a deal on the former Waterfront restaurant site in Pier Head. Tonks and Prowse said Rockfish was keeping true to the values of all its restaurants by having the site right on the water and close to the town’s fishing activity. Tonks told the Torquay Herald Express: “I am really excited about being in Exmouth, it is another of the places I holidayed as a child. I think that Exmouth is the perfect location for a fish restaurant and we look forward to making the restaurant a big part of the community and businesses and lives there and drawing more visitors to the town.” Rockfish, which opened its first site in Dartmouth in 2010, also has restaurants in Brixham, Plymouth and Torquay.
Tortilla applies for licence to open site in Newcastle: Mexican restaurant group Tortilla has applied for a premises licence to open a site in Newcastle. The company has lodged the application with the city council as it looks to open the venue at Intu Eldon Square’s new £25m dining zone Grey’s Quarter, which is scheduled to open this autumn. If successful it would join other brands including TGI Friday’s, Smashburger, and Thai Restaurant Group’s Chaophraya, reports Chronicle Live. Intu is reconfiguring 80,000 square foot of retail space at the Eldon Square complex as part of its strategy to attract visitors from further afield, and for shoppers to stay longer with an enhanced leisure offer. The new dining quarter will feature 20 restaurants, many of them new to the region. Tortilla, which was founded by Brandon Stephens and his wife Jen nine years ago, currently has 29 sites across the UK.
Caffe Nero looks to convert coffee grounds into energy as part of three-pronged sustainability push: Caffe Nero said it has been focusing on using waste coffee grounds to generate energy as part of a three-pronged sustainability push. Caffe Nero head of coffee Giacomo Celi said the company was currently working with innovators Bio-Bean to convert coffee into energy in 91 of its London stores, while the company was looking to roll-out the initiative nationally. Celi added that the company was also dealing with coffee cup recycling issues highlighted by celebrity chef and waste campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He told Edie.net the company was taking part in the UK’s “first high-street recycling scheme for coffee cups”. He added that the scheme, in partnership with charity Hubbub, Manchester City Council and other retailers, involved looking at how best to communicate to the consumer where their used paper cup should be put to maximise the opportunity for it to be recycled. He said: “We are in constant dialogue with cup manufacturers to understand options available that can increase the recyclability of the cups we use.” Caffe Nero is also stepping up its efforts to promote sustainable practices to coffee farmers to improve the “transparency and addressability” of its supply chain. Celi said the company would work alongside the Rainforest Alliance to promote and improve economic, environmental and social standards for coffee farmers in South America.
Bea Vo opens Stax diner sister site in Old Street: Bea’s of Bloomsbury founder Bea Vo has opened a sister site to her American diner concept Stax, this time in Old Street, London. The new venue – called Boondocks – is a much larger site than Stax Diner in Carnaby Street enclave Kingly Court, allowing for a more varied menu. Dishes on the brunch menu include crawfish boil (spiced crawfish with potatoes and sweetcorn), Polish-style beef sausage, and garlic bread with cocktail sauce, comeback sauce and Bea’s special cajun butter sauce for dipping. The rest of the menu features Stax Diner’s burgers and buttermilk chicken alongside new dishes such as chicken-fried steak, buttermilk biscuit sandwiches, and peach cobbler, Hot Dinners reports. Boondocks will also offer a takeaway service and sell bakery goods, including monkey bread, cinnamon buns, fruit pies and doughnuts available to order online for pick-up or delivery. The venue in City Road will also feature an events space for cinema clubs and comedy nights.
Liverpool-based bar and restaurant owner to open new venue in city centre next month: Jason McNeill, who owns Circo, the circus-themed bar and restaurant in Liverpool’s Albert Docks, is set to open a new venue – Castle St Townhouse – in the city centre next month. The “chic” multi-storey restaurant and bar will open in Castle Street, in a grade II-listed building formerly occupied by GT Law and in the heart of the city’s business district. McNeill described Castle St Townhouse as a “grand opulent bar”, which will feature raised seating areas. Designers DV8 Designs said the renovation would “pay homage to the bar’s historic surroundings while adding character and charm”. McNeill told the Liverpool Echo: “Our aim is to offer a distinctively elegant concept combined with immaculate service, which appeals to the city’s early-risers and night-owls alike. In a bid to blur the lines between social meetings and cocktail nights, we will provide a relaxed, quintessentially British venue that is integral within the Liverpool business and social circuit.”
Starbucks to roll-out FoodShare programme across US company-operated stores two years ahead of schedule: Starbucks is set to roll-out its FoodShare programme – in which it donates ready-to-eat meals to food banks – across its US company-operated stores two years ahead of schedule. When announcing the programme in March, Starbucks planned to complete roll-out across its 7,600 company-operated stores by 2021. Now the company is accelerating the programme to hit a 2019 target. In partnership with non-charitable organisations Feeding America and Food Donation Connection, Starbucks FoodShare has already contributed more than 300,000 meals at participating stores. Alyssa Edelen, Starbucks district manager in San Diego, said: “(Staff) take great pride in being the catalyst for this programme. They are reminded of their impact every time they work a closing shift and put salads and sandwiches in the refrigerator instead of the trash.” Starbucks senior vice-president John Kelly added: “The response to Starbucks FoodShare has been so positive we have determined we need to move even faster to serve more communities in need.” Meanwhile, Starbucks has extended its contract with UK logistics company Gist, which will secure a new, shared national distribution centre in Coventry in September. Gist handles in-bound goods, storage, order processing, and delivery to store for the coffee chain.
Papa’s Fish and Chips to open site in East Yorkshire village next month: Papa’s Fish and Chips is to open a site in an East Yorkshire village next month. The company will open the 200-cover restaurant in the former Swiss Cottage pub in Bilton, near Hull, on Monday, 12 September creating 60 jobs. It comes after Papa’s opened what it claims is the world’s biggest fish and chip restaurant in nearby Willerby – alongside a museum about the UK’s favourite dish – last year. Although a Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip restaurant in Bournemouth has more seats, the Willerby site is the world’s largest by floor space at 10,000 square feet. Owner Sid Papas told the Hull Daily Mail: “We are extending the restaurant upstairs as well as down, and it is really exciting for us. We are making it very similar to the one we have in Willerby, which people seem to like.” The restaurant chain serves traditional battered fish and chips, along with prawns, mussels and grilled seafood. Papa’s, which has about 15 sites, was founded in 1966 in Margate, Kent, and is still owned by the family.
Harrogate-based independent cafe-bar to start expanding by opening second site in town: Harrogate-based independent cafe-bar Hoxton North is to start expanding by opening a second site in the North Yorkshire town. The concept, which debuted in Parliament Street, will open the new outlet on Thursday (September 1) in Royal Parade on the site of the former La Feria restaurant, reports the Harrogate Advertiser. Hoxton North said it was creating a neighbourhood space, inspired by the relaxed breakfast bars of Sydney, Melbourne and London, with clean lines and detailed finishes. The focus will be on artisan and local food, organic, natural or biodynamic still and sparkling wines, craft beers and spirits. The menu will change on a regular basis depending on availability, seasonality and recommendations. It will also have vegan and dairy and gluten-free food options.
Parkdean Resorts plots £1bn sale amid ‘staycation’ boom: Parkdean Resorts, Britain’s biggest holiday park operator, could change hands for £1bn after bankers at Rothschild were hired to attract buyers. Private equity firms Electra and Alchemy Partners formed the caravan giant by merging Parkdean Holidays with Park Resorts last year. The merger is not yet entirely complete – the two firms’ online bookings systems have yet to be combined, for example – and only two months ago the group announced plans for major expansion. Its owners have decided now is the time to sound out buyers, however, with private equity groups at the top of their list of potential bidders, rather than a flotation or a trade sale, reports the Daily Telegraph. Parkdean Resorts made profits of £401m in 2015, up from £371m in 2014, with underlying earnings up 16% to £106.6m. The group has a core estate of 72 parks and is currently undertaking a £40m upgrade project to buy 200 new caravans and lodges and replace or upgrade another 400. It also wants to buy more sites over the next five years. The timing of the sale will be boosted by the weak performance of the pound since the EU referendum. Sterling is down 15% since the 23 June vote on a trade-weighted basis, which makes overseas holidays more expensive for Brits, as well as making UK holidays cheaper for foreign visitors. As a result domestic holiday operators hope for a boost as families choose to stay in the UK instead. When unveiling the company’s results in June, Parkdean’s chief executive John Waterworth had played down predictions of a sale, describing it as “premature” when “there was quite a lot to be doing” to complete the merger and continue the expansion.
Pirate-themed rum bar Man’s Ruin launches in Liverpool: Man’s Ruin, a pirate-themed rum bar, has launched in Liverpool. The concept, which is the brainchild of Joe McMahon, Adam Ramsey and Dan Friend, owners of the Graffiti and Wall of Fame venues in the city, has opened in Stanley Street. The bar is a separate venue but housed within the business partners’ new venture – over-21s-only nightclub Void. The bar features a dark wood interior and booths made from giant barrels, with quirky lighting, artwork and a luxury Captain’s Quarter. The owners told the Liverpool Echo: “The concept for Man’s Ruin was inspired by a venue we visited in America as we wanted to introduce something a little more edgy and out-there in this end of town. While the original idea was to create a tiki bar, we decided to expand on this and instead base it around the look and feel of a pirate ship, focusing on rum and things associated with pirates such as women, tattoos, gambling and drink. We are looking forward to adding a novel new dimension to the city’s nightlife.”
Oakman and Carluccio’s launch fund-raisers for Italian earthquake victims: Oakman Inns and Restaurants and Carluccio’s are both launching fund-raising initiatives for victims of the Italian earthquake. Oakman Inns and Restaurants will hold a 72-hour fund-raiser this week, with all pasta and pizza sales donated to the Italian Red Cross. All 17 Oakman venues will donate the full net price of every pizza or pasta dish they sell from today (Tuesday, 30 August) to Thursday (1 September). The fund-raiser will be accompanied by social media campaign #EatForItaly. Oakman Inns chief executive Peter Borg-Neal said: “Much of our menu is inspired by Italy and its traditional cuisine – therefore we have a huge number of colleagues who are Italian. We want to do something really meaningful to help the victims of this disaster. If we sold our normal amount of dishes we would be sending a cheque for around £20,000. I hope we will have to write a much bigger cheque.” Meanwhile, Carluccio’s will donate 10p for every cup of coffee sold to the Italian Red Cross. All takeaway and restaurant coffee is included until the end of the month at the company’s 100 restaurants in the UK. Carluccio’s founder Antonio Carluccio said: “I am Italian, our suppliers are Italian, and many of our staff are Italian. Every donation can make a difference.” The 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck at 3.36am on Wednesday, 24 August, devastating the towns of Amatrice, Accumoli and the village of Arquata del Tronto in the northern Lazio region of Italy.
Chicago Rib Shack set to open fifth London site, in Aldgate East: Authentic American barbecue restaurant chain Chicago Rib Shack is set to expand its London presence with a new restaurant in Aldgate East, its fifth site in the capital. The 125-cover restaurant will open in early October at a 1,993 square foot unit in Wentworth Street on a site formerly occupied by Spanish tapas restaurant Copita del Mercado. London-based agent Restaurant Property secured the lease on the site, which runs until 2029. Rib Shack chief executive Christian Arden told BDaily: “We are delighted with this new site in this up-and-coming part of London. We are sure Aldgate East will become a buzzing destination alongside its neighbour, Shoreditch.” Restaurant Property founder and agency director David Rawlinson added: “Aldgate East is an exciting and changing part of London, and I’m sure local residents and office workers will be pleased to have a Chicago Rib Shack on their doorstep.” The other Chicago Rib Shacks in London are at Camden Lock, Clapham, Westfield Stratford City and Twickenham, with another site in Leeds.
Marston’s gets go-ahead for £3m 70-bedroom lodge and pub in Peterhead: Marston’s has been given the go-ahead for a £3m, 70-bedroom lodge and pub restaurant in Peterhead, Scotland. The company has received approval from Aberdeenshire Council for the development, next to the A90 Invernettie roundabout, reports the Evening Express. The pub restaurant forms part of the Buchan Gateway scheme by Hermiston Securities, part of the Muir Group. The final development is expected to include more restaurants, a supermarket, petrol station and shops. The pub restaurant and hotel, which will have more than 100 parking spaces, will be at the north end of the development by the bypass. Marston’s operates 12 pub restaurants across Scotland.
New German sports bar concept opens in Liverpool: A new German sports bar concept has opened in Liverpool. The Kaiserkeller has launched at The Rubber Soul Complex in Mathew Street, creating 20 jobs. It screens all top sporting events live and also features pool and beer pong tables. Regular entertainment is also provided in the form of live oompah bands to create a complete German experience. In addition to a variety of German beers, food platters including bratwurst, pretzels and other themed foods are available. The Kaiserkeller is the latest addition to the growing Rubber Soul complex, which already includes Route 66, Heaven, Eric’s and the original Rubber Soul. Jimmy Boland, general manager of Rubber Soul Complex, told the Liverpool Echo: “With The Kaiserkeller we plan to give Liverpool an authentic German experience. Based underneath the original Rubber Soul, everything from the decor to the food will make you feel as though you have stepped under the city to find your own little slice of Germany. Our focus will be on creating a great atmosphere with hostesses, live oompah bands and a fantastic selection of great German beers.”
Gourmet Burger Kitchen to open Exeter city centre restaurant next month, first Devon site: Gourmet Burger Kitchen is set to open its Exeter city centre site on Monday, 12 September, its first restaurant in Devon. The venue is at the new £12m Queen Street dining quarter at the redeveloped Guildhall Shopping Centre. Gourmet Burger Kitchen will be the second restaurant to open at Queen Street, following Caribbean restaurant chain Turtle Bay’s launch of its debut Devon site last week. Other restaurant brands set to open in the dining quarter include The Stable, the artisan pizza and cider brand in which Fuller’s has a 76% stake, barbecue restaurant Grillstock, and Faucet Inn’s Scandinavian-inspired restaurant and Faucet Inn’s cafe concept Kupp. Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which was founded in 2001 in Battersea, south London, opened its 75th site earlier this month, in Staines, Surrey.
Tasty opens first Wildwood site in Lincolnshire: Tasty has launched its first Wildwood venue in Lincolnshire. The company has opened the restaurant and 70-seater cinema at the former Mall Shopping Centre in High Street, Lincoln, creating 30 jobs. The city centre spot offers pizza, pasta and grilled burgers and steaks. The ground floor of the venue houses a bar and restaurant, while the cinema – featuring 24 two-seater sofas for “cuddle couples” as well as popcorn and candy floss machines – is on the first floor. General manager Colin Gibson told the Lincolnite: “It’s an extremely exciting opportunity for Lincoln and the growth of the city. We are able to open a really good-value, interesting restaurant where you can bring your kids.” The Lincoln site is Wildwood’s 34th restaurant in the UK.
New Ethiopian restaurant concept opens in Brighton: A new Ethiopian restaurant concept has opened in Brighton. Yonas Kebede and Daisy Brook have launched Abyssinia in Baker Street. The menu is based around injera, a spongy pancake-style carbohydrate staple that is made from non-gluten grain teff, which is rich in iron, fibre, calcium, potassium and protein. It is used like a utensil to scoop up lentils, vegetables and meat. The restaurant will serve lunch through to dinner, with one traditional attraction based around Ethiopia’s greatest export – coffee. Brook told The Argus: “The healthiness of the food is a real selling point, with lots of fresh meat and vegetables. We want to make it affordable so people can come back again and again.”
Maidstone bar owner given green light to build Kent’s first five-star spa hotel: Ciaran O’Quigley, who owns Mu Mu bar in Maidstone, has had his plan to build Kent’s first five-star spa hotel approved in a concept he describes as “Claridge’s meets Willy Wonka”. Two historic buildings and an area of unused land will now be turned into £5.7m, 36-bedroom Hotel Mu Mu, with bar, restaurant and spa. O’Quigley, who has operated Mu Mu for 24 years, is working with architect Simon Judd and former Rolling Stones set designer Jeff Meades to deliver the project. A 1930s speakeasy theme is planned, with two library-style lounge areas and a retro cinema. The spa will feature a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam rooms, mud chambers and ten treatment rooms. O’Quigley told Kent Online: “I want to thank Maidstone Borough Council and its planning department. It’s a brave decision, a good decision, and the right one for the town. I believe this could be the number-one hotel in the UK.” Work is expected to take 18 months to complete and O’Quigley said he hoped construction would start in early January.