Comptoir Libanais to open Leeds site next week: Comptoir Libanais, the Lebanese canteen specialising in fresh Middle Eastern dishes, will open a site in Leeds next week. The company will open the venue at Trinity Leeds Shopping Centre on Tuesday, 15 November. The venue will also feature the Comptoir Libanais Souk Shop, selling a range of imported foodie gifts, handcrafted accessories, spices and sweets, reports The Business Desk. Last month, Comptoir Libanais chief executive Chaker Hanna told Propel the company has the foundations in place to execute its “measured” expansion plans as it plans to grow the brand in London and the regions. Comptoir Libanais has 17 sites, with further restaurants set to open next year in Oxford and Reading.




Five Guys launches second Leicester restaurant, fifth tie-up with L&G: Better burger brand Five Guys has opened a 2,000 square foot unit at Legal & General’s new Meridian Leisure Park development in Leicester. Five Guys joins Casual Dining Group brand Bella Italia as well as The Restaurant Group-owned Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito at the complex, while the opening is the second Five Guys site in the city. The latest opening is the last of five the company signed to open at Legal & General sites, with the others already operating in Aberdeen, Sheffield, Dundee and Ashton-under-Lyne, amounting to roughly 10,000 square feet in total. All five lettings were agreed on 15-year leases. Legal & General fund manager Andrew Ferguson said: “Three of the new sites are already trading well and have collectively raised the tone of their schemes to great effect. We continue to see demand for a diverse and high-quality food and drink offer throughout the leisure sector.” Five Guys was founded in Virginia in the US in 1986 by the Murrell family, and opened its first UK restaurant in Covent Garden in 2013. It operates more than 50 restaurants in the UK, including its other Leicester outlet in Cheapside, which opened in October 2015.




Social entrepreneur to launch live music venue in Nottingham offering opportunities for trainee chefs: Social entrepreneur Robert Howie-Smith has had plans approved for a new live music venue in Nottingham’s Creative Quarter, which will include opportunities for trainee chefs and kitchen staff. The entrepreneur runs the Howie Smith Project – a charity that takes derelict spaces and redevelops them for the artistic community to use. The 150-capacity Hub@The Corner, on the corner of Stoney Street and Warser Gate, will host stand-up comedy, literary and spoken word events, live music, live art and small-scale performance theatre. During the day, the space will also provide an opportunity for trainee chefs and part-time kitchen employees to practise and develop their skills, The Business Desk reports. It will also serve as a mid-size conference space for meetings, workshops, rehearsals and presentations, and as a co-working space and hub for creative professionals. The Project runs venues such as City Arts, The Nottingham Writers Studio, and Oriel Chambers Courtyard in Nottingham as well as Sixty-Eight Humberstone Gate in Leicester.




Papa John’s UK unveils 2017 incentive programme: Papa John’s UK has announced its incentive package for new franchisees in 2017. Special deals on marketing, equipment and discounted royalties are on the table for qualifying franchisees that set up stores within the next year. “By offering a helping hand right at the outset, our aim is to provide franchisees with all the right ingredients to enable them to taste success quickly,” said Papa John’s business development manager Anthony Round. “Many of our franchisees start out with just one store and go on to open multiple Papa John’s. We now have almost 350 stores in the UK and we are still growing rapidly. The benefits of our franchisee incentive deal for 2017 specifically include a 15-month royalty reduction programme, a free pizza oven (subject to terms and conditions) plus a marketing launch package provided by Papa John’s. This targeted support has been specifically designed to help franchisees in their first year of trading in order to improve cash flow, reduce capital spending and drive sales from day one.”




Pod adds bao buns to menu to mark beginning of ‘food revolution’: London-based healthy eating brand Pod has introduced three bao buns to its menu to mark the beginning of its “food revolution”. The company has added its healthy twist to the Asian street food, traditionally steamed and filled with protein and sticky sauce. The buffalo chicken is paired with colourful slaw and crispy onions; the smoked miso tofu is served with slaw and spicy seeds, while the barbecue pulled pork bun includes edamame beans, peas, kale, chilli and crispy onions. The range is available throughout the company’s 24-strong estate. Pod executive chairman John Postlethwaite said: “These buns are incredibly delicate to get right and training the entire company in how to make them to Pod’s meticulous standards has been a rewarding challenge. Our thorough training programme and heavy investment into state of-the-art equipment in each of our restaurants means we can now offer this latest food frenzy to our customers in a matter of minutes. Once again, Pod is bringing the latest international food trends to the capital.”




Lobos Meat and Tapas starts expansion with Soho site: Lobos Meat and Tapas, which launched last year in Borough Market, has started expansion by opening its second London site, this time in Soho. The new, 80-cover venue has opened in Frith Street and is spread across three floors on the former site of Top Dog Diner. Lobos specialises in meat, with a focus on Iberico pork, which comes on a sharing platter with different prime cuts of the free-range, acorn-fed, prized pig. Lobos Meat and Tapas was founded by Roberto Castro, Joel Placeres, Ruben Cortés and Ruben Maza, who first met while working together in London tapas restaurant Brindisa. It is backed by Singaporean restaurateur Ellen Chew, who also runs Rasa Sayang in London’s Chinatown; noodle bar Noodle Oodle in Bayswater; hand-pulled noodle kiosk Lotus Leaf in Stratford; and Japanese teppanyaki eatery Chikara in Shepherd’s Bush. The team plans to open another one or two outlets and, if all goes well, Chew could look to take Lobos back to Singapore.




Yorkshire-based Ambiente Tapas opens fourth site, in Hull: Yorkshire-based independent tapas restaurant Ambiente Tapas has opened its fourth site, this time in Hull. The company, which offers “gourmet Mediterranean tapas with a Yorkshire twist”, has opened the venue in Humber Street. Ambiente Tapas is inspired by traditional Spanish tabancos, an Andalusian mix of taverna and wine shop, where people can enjoy a drink and some tapas before buying wine in bulk. Head chef Gäel Soulard has created more than 30 hot tapas dishes, including some cooked in a Josper charcoal-fired grill and oven. On its website, the company states: “Our Hull site is nestled in the heart of the Fruit Market in a former fruit and veg warehouse. While the exterior retains a touch of the building’s past, the interior has been transformed into a contemporary, vibrant and energetic space. For those summer days, our outdoor seating area overlooking the marina will whisk you away to the Mediterranean.” The opening marks the first of many new businesses that will operate in Humber Street as part of the former market’s £80m regeneration, which has been unveiled as part of an “urban village” vision for the area. Ambiente Tapas operates two sites in York and one in Leeds.




Living Ventures planning to convert Olive restaurant in Liverpool to Blackhouse brand: Living Ventures has applied to convert its Olive restaurant and bar in Liverpool into the company’s Blackhouse seafood and steakhouse brand. As well as rebranding the venue in Castle Street, the company is looking to expand into the upper ground floor of the grade II-listed building. A report issued to Liverpool City Council stated: “The unit will be operated as a Blackhouse, part of the Living Ventures Group, a well-known and highly respected north west business chain that operates a mixture of high-class restaurants and bars. The works will enable the upper ground floor to be brought back into use and are necessary for the space to function effectively.” Living Ventures operates two Blackhouse sites in Manchester and one each in London and Glasgow, although it recently closed its site in Chester. Last month, the company signed a 25-year lease extension to its venue at the Bond Court development in Leeds city centre after developers Evans Property Group got the go-ahead to create a terrace and introduce improvements amounting to about £1m.




Folkestone-based Follies Pizzeria opens third site, in Dover: Folkestone-based Follies Pizzeria has opened its third site, this time in Dover. The company, owned by sisters Abigail and Amy Lauder, has opened the site in an empty building in King Street. Its pizzas feature ingredients sourced from Italy, while the dough is homemade. The restaurant also features a bar selling a range of wine and prosecco on tap as well as coffee. The walls are adorned with huge, opulent mirrors, while grandiose sparkling chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Amy Lauder told Kent Live: “Dover’s been on its knees for too long and somebody has to be the person to bring something to the town. That’s how we felt about it. We just took a punt on it. We just thought why shouldn’t Dover have something nicer? We want to see seaside areas develop independently.” Follies Pizzeria’s other sites are both in Folkestone.




Camerons Brewery sees first members of staff qualify as beer sommeliers: Camerons Brewery has seen its first members of staff qualify as beer sommeliers. The company announced last year it would train employees in its growing pub estate to gain the qualification, which is run by the Beer Academy. Chris Nelson, general manager of The Head of Steam in Leeds, and Graham Frost, general manager, and Jen Gibb, bar supervisor, both of Tilleys Bar in Newcastle, have all passed their final exams and join an elite club of only 131 qualified beer sommeliers in the world. Camerons Brewery director and general manager Chris Soley said: “It’s fantastic to see the first group of our team gain this qualification. We are delighted Chris, Graham and Jen have passed their final exam and we recognise the great deal of time and effort invested by them to achieve this. As the low numbers of beer sommeliers worldwide suggest, it is an extremely difficult qualification to gain, so we are so pleased to see these first three members of our team pass. The course teaches each person details about the brewing process, beer styles, food matching and also how to identify any faults with the beer. We believe these skills are vital to ensure we offer a premium experience to our customers.” Camerons hopes to have further staff pass the qualification this year and will enrol its next group of employees early next year.




Handmade Burger Co shortlisted for award: Handmade Burger Co has been shortlisted for the Small to Medium-Sized Business of the Year category at the 2016 Lloyds Bank National Business Awards. The finalists were chosen from hundreds of businesses that entered or were nominated across 18 award categories. They have completed live presentations to a judging panel, which will decide the overall winners. Described as the “Oscars of great British business” by former prime minister David Cameron, this year’s winners will be revealed on Tuesday, 15 November at Grosvenor House in Park Lane, London. Handmade Burger Co owner Chris Sargeant said: “We are proud of our growing family business, being able to create handmade food from scratch every day for our wonderful customers, and being able to grow further by opening more restaurants across the country meaning we can give even more people the chance to enjoy what we do.” The company opened its first restaurant in Birmingham in 2006 and currently has 27 sites.




New world buffet-style restaurant concept to open in Dunfermline: A new world buffet-style restaurant concept is set to open in Dunfermline, Scotland. Yanli Zhao is launching the unnamed concept in Carnegie Drive on the site of the former Velocity nightclub, which closed seven years ago. She has been granted permission by Fife Council to convert the building into the restaurant, creating 20 jobs. On the first floor, there will be seats for up to 200 diners, the kitchen, preparation area and bar, while the mezzanine level will be available for private functions and parties. Zhao told the Dunfermline Press: “The new world buffet-style restaurant will provide a great link to the city centre and encourage members of the public to remain in town using the facilities following their visit. This will be the first restaurant of its kind in the Dunfermline area, with its competitors being in Edinburgh, Stirling or Glasgow.”




New Turkish restaurant concept opens in Sunderland: A new Turkish restaurant concept has opened in Sunderland. Yilmaz Perek and Chris Wall have launched Grand Didyma in John Street on the site of former Italian restaurant Gusto Vero. Turkish trinkets and decor have been imported and the menu includes traditional grills, moussaka and casseroles as well as Turkish desserts such as baklava and kunafeh. Meat and vegetarian options are also cooked in the traditional Turkish method on a custom-made open-fire grill. Turkish-born Perek told the Sunderland Echo: “I’ve lived here for 15 years and most of the restaurants are either Italian, Indian or Chinese, so we wanted to add something different.”




Wedding venue directors buy Gower hotel: Directors of the Oldwalls Gower wedding venue, near Swansea, have bought the Fairyhill Hotel in Gower in a seven-figure deal backed by funding from HSBC. The grade II-listed hotel, which features a two-AA Rosette fine dining restaurant, had been under the ownership of Andrew Heatherington and Paul Davies since 1993. It will be renamed Fairyhill by Oldwalls following the deal and will form part of the newly established Oldwalls Collection, which will specialise in developing luxury wedding venues. The deal was supported by HSBC and funding from the bank will enable the new owner to inject significant investment into the refurbishment of the Georgian mansion. Oldwalls managing director Andrew Hole told Insider Media: “This exciting acquisition is testament to Oldwalls’ commitment to business growth and expansion. We plan to build on Fairyhill’s success and will continue to operate as a five-star restaurant with rooms while we develop a high-end wedding venue market. Our wedding industry expertise will be utilised to transform Fairyhill into a luxury wedding venue to match the award-winning standards of our flagship, Oldwalls Gower.” Hetherington added: “We’re confident its success will continue as part of the dynamic Oldwalls Collection and we look forward to witnessing the developments. After more than 20 years, we felt the time was right to sell.”