Leon to open ninth site this year, at London Bridge station: Natural fast food brand Leon will open its ninth site this year, at London Bridge station today (Tuesday, 6 December). The opening, which is the company’s 43rd outlet in total, is on the ground concourse (travel side), where passengers ascend to platforms eight, nine and ten, and has 36 covers. London Bridge station is in the midst of a multimillion-pound transformation programme and is the fourth busiest station in the country. Leon’s director of brand and marketing Kirsty Saddler said: “At Leon we want to help everybody to eat well and live well. Where better to do that than at the heart of a bustling train station serving 56 million passengers a year? Train travel can leave you tired and frustrated; we want to lift passengers’ flagging spirits and send them on their way with a spring in their step.” Leon secured £19m funding in the summer to fund its regional expansion. The team opened restaurants in Brighton and Oxford in the autumn and has its sights set on Manchester for the spring.

Burgers-and-ribs brand The Smoke Haus to open fourth site, in Bristol city centre: American-style burgers-and-ribs brand The Smoke Haus is set to open its fourth site, this time in Bristol. The restaurant will open on the ground floor of Colston Tower in the city centre, although the company has yet to announce the launch date, the Bristol Post reports. Jayne Myall and Mark Power opened the first Smoke Haus in Swansea in 2012 and began expansion with a second venue, in Cardiff. In June, the company opened its first site in England – a 150-cover venue above Stonegate Pub Company’s Slug and Lettuce in Birmingham. The company’s ethos is to provide “quality food in a great atmosphere, huge portions, masses of meat and a challenge not for the faint of heart”. Burgers include The Big Bertha (five 8oz cheeseburgers topped with jalapeños, smoked streaky bacon, fried onions and burger sauce), alongside a wide range of meat combos, large helpings and sweet treats. The restaurant provides a music playlist, and diners with an iPhone can help to choose the running order.

London-based vegetarian restaurant The Gate opens third site, first of its venues to serve breakfast: London-based vegetarian restaurant The Gate has opened its third site, this time in Marylebone. The company has opened the 86-cover venue in Seymour Place and it is the first of its outlets to offer breakfast. The restaurant has simple furnishings and plain walls while there is also a terrace, reports The Handbook. Dishes include green banana fritters, aubergine teriyaki and plantain chips, while its breakfast menu features scrambled tofu with smoky shiitake mushrooms; bagels with avocado and poached eggs; and egg white and spinach omelette with avocado. There is also a range of freshly made juices and non-alcoholic and alcoholic cocktails. The Gate’s other restaurants are in Hammersmith and Islington.

Craft Beer Co launches eighth site with new look: The Craft Beer Co, which operates six sites across London and one in Brighton, will open its latest site on Wednesday (7 December), this time in London’s Limehouse. Previously trading as the Railway Tavern, the pub will reopen as The Craft Beer Co Limehouse following an extensive refurbishment. Craft Beer Co managing director and founder Martin Hayes said: “It’s a smaller site than many of our others but it has a lot of character, it’s full of history and in an area that’s progressive. I like that. We’ve also taken a very different approach to the look and feel of the site – I’d place the design mid-20th century, there’s a lot of 1950s and 1960s influence, it’s pretty daring. Customers will recognise a lot of usual Craft Beer Co touches, though, not least our commitment to an amazing line-up of beers. We’ll have six cask beers on tap, 21 keg beers and a wide selection of bottled and canned craft beer, along with a wide range of wines and spirits.”

Oakman Inns reopens Hertfordshire hotel following £1.5m joint investment: Oakman Inns and Restaurants has reopened the former Banyers Hotel in Royston, Hertfordshire, following a £1.5m joint investment with Beechdale Homes. The hotel has been renamed Banyers House and is Oakman’s 17th venue in its growing portfolio of pubs and restaurants. The grade II-listed building features a 90-cover restaurant, a private dining room, bars and nine boutique en-suite bedrooms. The restaurant offers breakfast, brunch, pizza, bar snacks, afternoon tea, wines, cocktails and dinner. Mediterranean-influenced dishes are cooked in a Josper charcoal-fuelled grill and oven, while Italian-trained pizzaiolos use a traditional wood-fired oven to produce hand-made Neapolitan pizzas. Oakman Inns chief executive Peter Borg-Neal said: “Royston is really great town and we are all looking forward to providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere and seeing Banyers once again play a key part at the heart of Royston’s community.”

London-based arcade bar Four Quarters to start expansion with second site, in Hackney: London-based arcade bar Four Quarters is set to start expansion by opening its second site, this time in Hackney. The company will open the new venue in East Bay Lane in late January, reports The Londonist. The site, which will be called Four Quarters East, will be modelled on its existing site in Peckham, featuring retro arcade games such as Sega Rally and Pac-Man, alongside American craft beer, cocktails and bar food. The company stated: “We’re working on a bunch of arcade cabs at the moment, ready to unleash in tip-top condition at the end of January! What games would you like to see at Four Quarters East?”

Burger King franchisee fined almost £180,000: A Burger King franchisee has been ordered to pay almost £180,000 for health and safety breaches before and after a worker was scalded by hot oil. KFG Quickserve, which runs 35 Burger Kings, including the outlet in Westgate Street, Ipswich, was fined £166,600 at South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court after previously pleading guilty to two charges of breaching a duty to an employee. The company must also pay £12,000 costs and a victim surcharge of £125. The prosecution was brought by Ipswich Borough Council after 18-year-old Burger King employee Michael Firth was injured in March last year. One of the charges related to health and safety failures on or before the accident. The other offence involved breaches that had not been rectified until some time after the accident. District Judge Celia Dawson said the incident occurred when Firth was tasked with emptying oil from three of the branch’s four fat fryers. The fryers should not have been cleared until the oil had cooled to a temperature of 40C or below. However, the oil was still hot on the night of accident. Firth spilled oil on himself as he was carrying it in a bucket up some metal stairs. The bucket should have had a lid, but it did not. Although protective clothing – including an apron, boots, and gauntlets – should have been worn it was said to only have been available in a very large size. Firth was not wearing the equipment at the time of the accident. KFG Quickserve made a pre-tax loss of £265,000 in the year to 31 December 2015 on turnover of £35,474,000. The year before it made a profit of £1,152,000 on turnover of £35,093,000.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen bids to launch Leicester site: Gourmet Burger Kitchen has applied to open its first restaurant in Leicester. The company has submitted an application to Leicester City Council to install a timber-framed, glazed shopfront to a unit in Highcross shopping centre that was formerly occupied by Laura Ashley. The 122-cover restaurant would be set over two floors with an open kitchen. Gourmet Burger Kitchen hopes to open the new venue in the summer. Gourmet Burger Kitchen marketing manager Laura Pettingale told the Leicester Mercury: “This new restaurant will give burger-lovers in the city a place to relax and enjoy GBK favourites such as the Major Tom or avocado bacon burger after a long day of shopping or before catching the latest film.” She added that the company chose Highcross for its first Leicester restaurant as it had been “massively developed” over recent years and offered a “great retail experience”. Gourmet Burger Kitchen operates almost 80 sites across the UK, with openings planned for Oldham and Bristol. The nearest site to Leicester is in Nottingham.

Farmstand eyes London expansion: Farmstand, the fast-casual concept led by US entrepreneur Steven Novick, is planning to increase its brand awareness in the capital through the launch of further standalone sites, virtual Farmstands, stands, mini-stands and an online stand. The concept, which launched its flagship Farmstand restaurant in Drury Lane, Covent Garden, earlier this year, currently operates four virtual Farmstand restaurants, as well as one mini-stand. It is also set to embark on a new partnership with Planet Organic, which will see its Mini Stands housed in the chain’s seven sites across London. The concept, which is backed by a number of high-profile investors, has plans to eventually open five flagship Farmstand restaurants, ten stands, 50 mini-stands, and an online stand subscription service in London, before assessing global expansion targets. The company sells healthy, sustainably-sourced food in a fast casual aspirational environment or the food is delivered to where a customer needs it. It plans to launch its corporate-focused subscription service by quarter two 2017, leveraging its existing offline presence, with a goal to have up to 50% of its revenue originate online. Stands are pop-up restaurants that reside in a corporate canteen one day a week, while mini-stands operate five days a week and sit inside a corporate canteen, supermarket, gym, yoga, cycling or fitness studio. Virtual Farmstand restaurants operate from 11.30am to 3pm five days a week, where customers can order a limited selection of food from Deliveroo. Founder Novick has extensive business and startup experience during his 25-year career. The concept takes its name from US roadside stalls known as ‘farmstands’, which sell locally grown fresh fruit, vegetables and other produce, and which are common in Novick’s home town, Milwaukee.

London-based Pure Waffle secures Knightsbridge site: London-based waffle house Pure Waffle is opening a restaurant and tea room in Knightsbridge in the new year. The company has secured a 3,500 square foot unit, covering three floors, in a deal brokered by agent Restaurant Property. The site, which will serve waffles with savoury or sweet toppings, plus sandwiches, cakes, pastries, shakes and coffee, is expected to open in January. The rent for the new site is £145,000 per annum and the lease runs for a term of 25 years. Pure Waffle co-founder Arash Anvar said: “Due to the success the brand has enjoyed over the past decade through its flagship store in Duke Street, Mayfair, Pure Waffle is now undertaking an expansion plan in London and the Home Counties. In 2005, the UK food and beverage industry had only a handful of waffle outlets – Pure Waffle has been responsible for helping to educate the UK market in its recognition of waffles. The influence of the Pure Waffle brand hasn’t just stopped at these shores, negotiations are currently taking place for the opening of stores across the Middle East. Pure Waffle is privately funded by its co-founders and will remain as such for the foreseeable future.”

Intertain’s training app leads to rise in employee engagement and helps streamline recruitment strategy: Intertain has said Pulse, its app designed to help staff train, communicate and share best practice with each other, has led to higher employee engagement and helped streamline its recruitment strategy. The company launched Pulse in July, which was developed by CPL Online, provider of e-learning courses and online business system solutions for the licensed retail hospitality sector. In an engagement survey carried out by Intertain, 87% of employees said the app had increased their engagement in training. Since the launch, CPL has already recorded more than 12,600 log-ins into Pulse. The app also alleviates staff supply challenges by encouraging movement of employees between venues and has allowed Intertain to move common HR functionalities, such as rotas, appraisals and inductions, online. Within the app, “Mojos” (managers on job observation) are created by general managers to carry out a comprehensive review of employees’ training progress. The other bespoke feature – “Chunks” – is designed to deliver bite-sized e-learning sessions for site staff. There is also a financial dashboard, which highlights where Intertain can make substantial cost-savings. Intertain head of HR Nina Marshall said: “As well as improving the accessibility of training, Pulse is making staff more engaged in their learning. Thanks to CPL, we have a bespoke app that connects with our staff and embodies our company culture. In the long-term, it will help us attain high standards of efficiency and business management.” CPL account director Andrew Rannard added: “Nina played a crucial role in the development, especially with the concepts of Mojos and Chunks. It’s a fresh approach to learning and development that enthuses employees to push on and improve. Not only that but combined with our big data system, it’s helping Intertain save time and money.”

Merseyside-based operator Mikhail Investments opens third site: Merseyside-based operator Mikhail Investments has opened its third site. The company has launched Irish-themed pub Punch Tarmeys in Southport. It has converted the former Mulligan’s bar on the corner of Lord Street and Union Street into a “classically designed pub”, with a heritage throwback to company owner Andrew Mikhail’s Irish great-grandfather Michael Tarmey, who was a champion boxer in the early 1900s. Mikhail told The Champion: “I am very excited to be opening Punch Tarmey’s as part of my portfolio. It means a lot to me to be able to integrate my family history and such an interesting story of my great-grandfather into an amazing pub. Punch Tarmey’s will take the best of old pub culture and integrate it with the trends of today. It marks an important step in the future of pub experiences in the Southport area.” Mikhail Investments also operates The Bold Hotel in Southport and the Eccleston Arms Hotel in St Helen’s.

Northern Creative Group rebrands Manchester bistro as Mexican-inspired restaurant: Manchester-based multi-site operator Northern Creative Group has turned its Ancoats bistro The Cutting Room into a Mexican-inspired restaurant. The new restaurant and bar – Mexica – offers a fiery menu of burritos, tacos and nachos alongside a wide range of beers, cocktails and a selection of mezcal and tequila. Northern Creative Group co-director Sophie Jarvis told Manchester Evening News: “Cutting Room was a daytime, early morning-led establishment. We felt this area would benefit from being evening led.” Northern Creative Group is also working on another Manchester venture – the Goose Fat And Wild Garlic restaurant – that will open in the spring. It has also taken over former Northern Quarter nightclub Cuba Café to house music bar and restaurant Stage And Radio. The venue in Port Street is open but not yet complete as the team is putting the finishing touches to its top-floor New York-style pizzeria.

Leela Palaces launches first Jamavar restaurant outside India, in Mayfair: Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts has launched its first site for signature restaurant Jamavar outside India, in London. The new venue has opened in Mount Street, Mayfair, and is the groupʼs sixth Jamavar restaurant in total. The kitchen at Jamavar London is headed by executive chef Rohit Ghai, who has led several Michelin-starred kitchens, including Gymkhana, Trishna and Benares. While Jamavar London reflects the essence of its Indian siblings, Ghai and his team has ensured the concept is adapted to suit London diners, with smaller sharing plates an exclusive addition alongside signature dishes such as lobster neeruli, sindhi gosht and coconut payasam. The restaurant is set across two floors, with the decor designed by Fabled Studio and taking inspiration from the Viceroy’s house in New Delhi. Jamavar is named after the 16th century shawls of Kashmir, and Chaturanga dining tables are combined with vibrant colours, rainforest emperador marble, dark timber panelling, and a mirror-embellished bar. The two dining rooms draw inspiration from India’s sacred temples. There is also a private dining area for eight, with a personal wine vitrine and views of a private garden.

Gastro-pub owner to transform Enterprise site in Tonbridge into tapas restaurant: Dan Ward, who owns fine dining gastro-pub The Ivy House in Tonbridge High Street, is set to launch a tapas restaurant at an Enterprise Inns site in the town centre. Ward has taken over the lease of Mojo’s Bar in Barden Road and will turn it into The Clockhouse restaurant and bar. Work is set to begin to extend the kitchen and redecorate inside and outside. It is expected the restaurant will seat about 80 diners and offer authentic and classic tapas dishes, craft beer and Mediterranean lager, wine and premium spirits. Ward launched The Ivy in 2009 with wife Polly and help from Michelin-starred chef John Burton-Race. Ward told Kent Live: “This has been a pivotal decision for us and we are keen to make the most of it. I am confident we can make the new restaurant a real success.” An Enterprise Inns spokesman added: “Mojo’s will be transformed from a late-night bar into a food-led venue. We are certain the new concept will be well received and successful and will bring a new dimension to the social scene in the area. We wish our partners all the best in their new venture.” Ward plans to open The Clockhouse before the end of February.

Herefordshire-based cafe operators open second site: Herefordshire-based cafe operators Cindy Thomas and Glen Baker have started expanding their portfolio by opening their second site. The siblings, who run Caffe No 21 in Ledbury, have launched The Little Bridge Kitchen and Bar in Hereford. They have converted an empty shop in Bridge Street into the venue. Thomas told the Hereford Times: “We do a lot of Mediterranean food but we do a mixed menu. We are pitching ourselves mid-market. We focus on seasonal, quality local produce.”