YO! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe – I want to be the next Richard Branson: YO! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe has revealed the success of the restaurant business is not enough to satisfy his entrepreneurial appetite, adding that he harbours ambitions to emulate Sir Richard Branson. He wants to take the YO! brand far beyond its humble beginnings and across a number of sectors, just like Branson has done with Virgin. Woodroffe is no longer involved in the day-to-day running of YO! Sushi, which he founded in 1997. He offloaded a majority stake in YO! Sushi in 2003 and sold his remaining 22% stake in 2008, reportedly earning him £10m. Woodroffe is still paid an annual royalty of 1% of gross sales and has held on to the YO! brand name. After YO! Sushi, he set up Yotel, a hotel chain offering “small but luxurious cabins” and sold it to a Kuwaiti property giant. It currently operates hotels in Gatwick, Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, and plans to open new ones in Singapore, San Francisco and Boston among other cities, including a first European city centre hotel, in London. His latest offering is YO! Home, a firm that makes prefabricated homes where walls slide away and dining tables rise from the kitchen floor. The first set of flats is expected to launch in Manchester this year. Woodroffe told City AM: “I want to launch a spa chain called YO! Zone, and a floating island project called Yotopia, whose tagline will be ‘everybody dreams of owning an island and now you can too’.” He also wants to launch a recording studio called “YO! You’re Famous” and a laundry business called “Wash and YO”. He also dreams of people investing in his businesses through a vehicle called “YO! Dough”.

Star Pubs & Bars’ gaming machines outperform market, success driven by smartphone app: Gaming machine income in Star Pubs & Bars sites has risen 3% in the past 12 months – making it the only leased pub company whose sites have grown gaming machine income year-on-year, it said. The company put the performance down to initiatives it introduced in 2015, including giving its business development managers (BDMs) a smartphone app that allows them to analyse machine data when with licensees. The app enables BDMs to share a snapshot of machine income, the amount of Machine Gaming Duty (MGD) owed, and the amount of reclaimable VAT. As a result of its success, Star Pubs & Bars has also made the app available to machine suppliers. The company said it had also seen the number of amusement with prizes (AWP) machines in its estate increase for the first time. Star Pubs & Bars machines manager James Sharpe said: “The app has helped BDMs and licensees to identify issues and opportunities to grow income as it highlights when income is up or down and enables it to be compared against wet sales. It has also helped by working out MGD, which was a headache for licensees previously and the reason given for wanting AWPs removed.” Star also undertook a comprehensive retendering exercise, which resulted in a 2% reduction in rental charges “without an impact on quality of service”. Sharpe added: “We don’t charge for management services or take royalties so any savings are passed directly to licensees.”

Veeno launches franchise: Veeno, the Italian wine cafe brand, has launched a franchise offer. The pitch states: “A Veeno wine cafe ranges from 1,000 square foot to 2,000 square foot – the required investment depends on the size of the unit and contingent factors but is generally lower to other operators on the market. This is thanks to the distinctive operating model and high efficiency. Each location is carefully selected by the franchisor in urban areas with a very high potential, such as business districts or city centres. The choice is made through rigorous geo-marketing criteria to identify the best spot to maximise trade. In just three years, the company’s turnover has grown by 800% and today Veeno operates eight direct stores as well as franchise-operated stores in the UK, employing more than 100 people.”

Davis Coffer Lyons instructed to sell five London pubs operated by Winnicott Group: The pubs and bars team at leisure property advisers Davis Coffer Lyons has been instructed by The Winnicott Group to sell the five pubs within its London­based estate. The team will market the pubs the group operates in the capital – the Winnicott sites in Camden, Stoke Newington and Bermondsey, as well as The Amwell Arms in Islington and The Perseverance in Shroton Street, Marylebone. The pubs are available individually or as a portfolio. Davis Coffer Lyons associate director Connie Start said: “These pubs reside within some very desirable London leisure hot spots and there is great scope for a multiple operator or corporate business to acquire and develop trade.”

Matthew Clark celebrates record online sales in December: Drinks distributer Matthew Clark has reported a record-breaking month for its online ordering platform Matthew Clark Live, with online sales up 27% and orders up 29% in December compared with the same month in 2015. Prosecco accounted for three of the month’s five best-selling products, with vodka taking the other two top slots. Yorkshire and the northwest saw the biggest demand for vodka, with 40% of online orders, while Greater London reported a thirst for non-vintage Champagne (31% of orders for the category). Demand for fortified wine was strongest in the south west, while in London gin was the order of the day, with 17% of sales. Matthew Clark marketing director Geoff Brown said: “We know how hard our customers worked over the festive season and many have told us how much they value saving time on ordering by using Matthew Clark Live. Features such as being able to order any time, anywhere, as well as the speedy repeat order function have contributed to December being our biggest month yet for online ordering.”

London-based startup Feast It launches street food catering website: London-based startup Feast It has launched a website to streamline the process of booking an event caterer. Working in partnership with more than 100 of the capital’s street food vendors and restaurants including Patty & Bun, The Breakfast Club, Dirty Burger, Blu Top Ice Cream, Hummus Bros and The Cheese Truck, Feast It will offer a platform enabling event planners and businesses to discover, compare and book their ideal caterer, all on one site. Feast It, which was founded by Digby Vollrath and Hugo Campbell in May last year, recently raised £340,000 in seed funding from angels in the technology and hospitality industries. Vollrath said: “Having worked in events and festivals for years we really wanted to create a platform that would take as much of the hassle out of organising events, as well as celebrate London’s incredible independent culinary scene. The process of booking catering hasn’t really changed over the past ten years – it’s needlessly labour intensive and almost impossible to find the full range of food that’s actually available when you need it. We wanted to create a platform that helps people realise the amazingly diverse and delicious options available to them as well as book event catering from the chefs they already love!” While Feast It is launching into the street food scene, the long-term ambition is to move into more traditional aspects of the catering industry as well as partnering with craft breweries, entertainers, and other suppliers to offer a platform that will let users book everything they need for their next party or event.”

Freehold of Cotswolds boutique hotel goes on market for almost £2m: The freehold of Number Four At Stow, a contemporary boutique hotel with restaurant in the Cotswolds, is on the market with Colliers International for £1,950,000. Run by sisters Caroline and Patricia Losel, it was ranked in the top ten in the UK by TripAdvisor and has 18 air-conditioned bedrooms, suites and a family room. Facilities include restaurant Cutler’s, a meeting suite, a car park and gardens. In addition, there is a two-bedroom cottage that can be used as staff or self-catering accommodation. The original building was a two-storey pub that became the Roman Court Hotel. The current owners bought the property in 2010 and have completed an ambitious refurbishment. Colliers International hotels director Peter Brunt said: “Our clients bought the property when it was closed and transformed a rather drab business into the smart-set favourite you see today. However, they never wanted to relocate from their home in Thames Valley and, after years of commuting, they have decided to sell – giving new operators a chance to take over a fantastic and flourishing business with a proven revenue stream.”

Staffordshire-based Lymestone Brewery acquires third pub: Staffordshire-based Lymestone Brewery has acquired its third pub. The company has taken on The Quiet Woman in Leek, nine months after it shut. Lymestone Brewery is refurbishing the grade-II listed building in St Edward Street, which dates to the 1700s, ahead of reopening by Easter. The company also operates the Lymestone Vaults in Newcastle-under-Lyme and The Borehole in Stone. Owner Ian Bradford told the Stoke Sentinel: “The Quiet Woman will continue in the style of our other pubs, with real ale as the focus. There won’t be mainstream drinks available. Leek is already an extremely good place to go for beer. We are very excited to be expanding our business into the town. We are still a small family firm and this is the next stage in our development.”

M&B introduces Meantime’s Brewery Fresh tank beer at reopened Nicholson’s pub in Hatton Garden: Mitchells & Butlers has introduced Brewery Fresh tank beer from Greenwich-based Meantime to its reopened Nicholson’s pub, the Sir Christopher Hatton in Hatton Garden, London. Brewery Fresh Lager is delivered by tanker direct from maturation vessels in Meantime’s brewery in Greenwich to be dispensed straight from specially engineered, custom-built tanks. The lager continues to mature in the tanks, allowing the flavours to develop even while in the pub. The process also means the beer has no contact with oxygen until it hits the glass. Meantime has pioneered the integration of Brewery Fresh tanks into bars and pubs in the UK since 2013, and expects the number of installations to increase throughout 2017. In 2016, Meantime expanded its Brewery Fresh offering by being the first in the UK to introduce Brewery Fresh Pale Ale, a tank-dispensed version of its London Pale Ale, into four London outlets. Meantime marketing director Rich Myers said: “Our Brewery Fresh tanks ensure our beers retain the complex flavour the brewer originally set out to create. We use the latest technology to transport our beer straight from the maturation vessels to the Brewery Fresh tanks and, ultimately, into the glass, meaning it is the freshest beer you can find.”

Drake & Morgan promotes James Sherrington to chief financial officer: Drake & Morgan, the London-based bar and restaurant group backed by Bowmark Capital, has promoted James Sherrington to chief financial officer. Sherrington’s role will include responsibility for commercial and consumer insight as the business accelerates its growth plan this year. In the past six months, Sherrington has overseen the buyout of the 11-strong Corney & Barrow Wine Bars group and he will be key to supporting the pipeline of openings planned for 2017. These include three new London sites in West India Quay, Bishopsgate and Cannon Green as well as a second site in Manchester. Drake & Morgan’s strategy is to build a significant multi-brand bar and restaurant portfolio in London and regionally. By the end of 2017, the group will have grown to 25 sites. Drake & Morgan founder and managing director Jillian MacLean said: “James has proven himself to be invaluable to the business and his promotion is thoroughly deserved. I am delighted to be working with him on our next stage of growth”. Sherrington joined Drake & Morgan in 2014 from Caprice Holdings and the Birley Group, where he was financial director, reporting directly to Richard Caring.

Pho to make Liverpool debut: Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho is set to open a site in Liverpool. The new venue will open in Bold Street at the former Seoul Love restaurant site. Work is under way to convert the ground floor and basement into an 80-cover restaurant. The grade II-listed frontage will also be restored. Agents CBRE acquired the Bold Street restaurant on behalf of Pho. Nick Huddleston, associate director at CBRE’s Manchester specialist markets team, told the Liverpool Echo: “We were delighted to acquire this key site for Pho in one of Liverpool’s most exciting locations. Bold Street, Liverpool’s hub for independent stores, artisan cafes, boutique bars and restaurants, has continued to flourish, with a host of new openings from a range of independent and national operators. Pho’s acquisition in Bold Street will further enhance this vibrant and thriving location.” Pho was founded by Stephen and Juliette Wall in 2005 after they fell in love with Vietnamese food on a visit to the country. Their first restaurant was in London’s Clerkenwell. Today Pho has 21 sites across the UK and last month the company signed to open a unit at the £440m Westgate Oxford development.

Campari UK acquires Bulldog London Dry Gin for $58.4m: Premium spirits maker Campari UK has acquired Bulldog London Dry Gin for $55m (€50.9m) plus working capital and assumed liabilities for $3.4m. The agreement foresees the possibility of an earn-out payable on achievement of certain incremental sales volumes according to agreed volume targets. Campari has distributed Bulldog Gin since 2014 through its own network by virtue of an exclusive five-year agreement with an attached call option to acquire ownership of the brand in 2020. Following a renegotiation of the deal terms, Campari accelerated its purchase of the brand. The overall consideration of $58.4m implies a multiple of about 13.6 times the expected Contribution After Advertising and Promotion of about €4m in 2017 calculated on a pro-forma basis. The deal is expected to close by mid-February. Launched in the US in 2007 and subsequently in Europe, Bulldog Gin is the fourth biggest-selling premium gin in the world and is available in 95 countries, with a strong concentration in Europe. It achieved net sales of about €11m in 2016, an increase of about 22% on 2015 on a like-for-like basis, with about 150,000 nine-litre cases sold globally.

LGBT venue Royal Vauxhall Tavern being sold to new owner: The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, an LGBT venue in London, is being sold to a new owner amid a battle to make the building a community-owned venue. Campaign group RVT Future has been fighting to protect the 1860s landmark after recent uncertainty about its future amid talks of new owners. The bar became a grade II-listed building last year in recognition of its LGBT history, meaning redevelopment of the bar is almost impossible. However, campaigners fear developers could transform the bar into a “straight” destination or turn the upper floors into offices and accommodation. RVT Future was applying for the sui generis classification on the property, which would have stipulated the building must be preserved as an LGBT performance space. This allegedly pushed owners Immovate to put the bar back on the market for an estimated £4.1m. However, RVT claims Immovate sidestepped allowing a community bid for the property despite securing an Asset of Community Value (ACV) status. It is believed Immovate is selling its shares in the property, rather than the property, meaning the ACV status does not have to be upheld. Co-chairman of the campaign group Rob Holley told GSN: “Obviously we’re thrilled Lambeth Council has officially designated the Royal Vauxhall Tavern an equal mix of pub, nightclub and cabaret, plus protected ancillary use of the accommodation.” Holley stressed Immovate’s move was legal but “frustratingly sneaky”. He added: “RVT Future is now ready to launch a community bid. The community group, made up of Tavern performers, promoters and punters, is ready to kick off the biggest community buyout in Britain. We want to bring the Royal Vauxhall Tavern into community ownership to safeguard its future for its hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide.” James Lindsay, who sold the bar to Immovate but still runs it on a day-to-day basis, said the new owner was willing to operate the bar as a LGBT venue.

Tooting to launch its version of Pop Brixton: A concept similar to Pop Brixton and featuring “street food stalls, craft beer and live sports screenings”, is set to open in Tooting High Street by the end of February. A tweet under the name Tooting Pop stated the project would create an “all-day destination and add to the recent openings nearby”. Pop Brixton is Lambeth Council’s space dedicated to startup businesses. It is a community initiative that has “transformed a disused plot of land into a pioneering space”. Pop Brixton is now home to 53 independent businesses, including restaurants, street food traders, designers, digital start-ups, a community barber’s shop, a youth radio station and a number of social enterprises. The site is currently set to run until autumn 2018