Bill’s to launch Bill’s Academy apprenticeship programme: This spring, Bill’s Restaurants is launching its first dedicated Bill’s Academy apprenticeship programme, which will offer industry-recognised level two hospitality diplomas to 250 chefs and front-of-house staff to progress and enrich their careers at the company. The scheme is a new concept for Bill’s and will run in addition to the restaurant group’s extensive training and development programme. Apprentices will be nominated internally by Bill’s restaurant managers across the UK. Those selected will be enrolled in the year-long course, which starts at the end of March. An official Bill’s graduation ceremony will take place next year in Lewes, East Sussex, where Bill’s Restaurants was established by Bill Collison, who started out as a greengrocer. The course will be mainly taught by Bill’s internal instructors, most of whom are longtime Bill’s employees, as well as Collison himself, who will host classes on heritage and food passion. Classes will take place at various venues across the UK. The diploma covers topics such as hospitality retail, drinks knowledge, and general food courses such as breakfast, mezze and dessert. Although currently open to internal staff only, Bill’s has plans to extend the academy to external candidates next year. Bill’s head of people development Lucy Craig said: “Everyone at Bill’s is part of a hard-working and close team, which we’re really proud of. We want to continue nurturing and encouraging our staff to achieve great success, and as such launching the Bill’s Academy is our chance to show how serious we are about giving people the best training possible.” Collison added: “This is an exciting new venture for Bill’s. The people who work for us are a huge part of who we are and the Bill’s Academy is an innovative way of reinforcing and building on the high standards our customers expect.” Bill’s currently employs nearly 3,000 staff across 72 sites, serving an average of 145,600 people a week across the UK.
Nick Knowles becomes co-owner of vegan cafe in Shrewsbury: Television presenter Nick Knowles has become co-owner of a vegan cafe in Shrewsbury. Knowles, who fronts BBC1 show DIY SOS, has invested in O’Joy in Wyle Cop after hearing about the cafe while attending a hot yoga class at My Soul Space, another business in the Shropshire town. He said the vegan cafe, which was known as Optimum Joy before a recent refurbishment that has seen it open as a bistro at night and launch a takeaway menu, chimed with his own eating habits. He told the Shropshire Star: “Optimum Joy is not here to bully you into being healthy, we’re here to help. Let’s face it, if a 16-stone, six-foot two-inch rugby playing builder like me can get healthy and enjoy the food then who can’t?” Becky Porter, who originally opened the cafe in 2013, added: “Nick had been filming DIY SOS in Ludlow, and because he had been to a retreat in Thailand where he developed his passion for healthy food, My Soul Space recommended he come and eat with us. We got chatting and discovered our shared passion, and we thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for the business if Nick got involved.”
D&D London eyes Manchester site: Restaurant operator D&D London is eyeing a site in Manchester. The company is understood to be in talks to take up a prime spot in the No 1 Spinningfields tower being built in Hardman Square, reports the Manchester Evening News. Plans for the redeveloped Quay House include a rooftop bar, restaurant and terrace on the top floor of the 19-storey building, as well as more restaurant and cafe space at ground level. The £73m project is currently under construction and is due to be completed next year. It is understood the Manchester restaurant would be a new brand. A D&D spokeswoman confirmed it was looking in Manchester but declined to reveal any more details. D&D already owns and operates 35 restaurants in London, Leeds and overseas. Two of them, Launceston Place and Angler, have Michelin stars.
JD Wetherspoon has plans for €4m pub and hotel in Dublin put on hold: JD Wetherspoon has had its plans for a new €4m pub and hotel in Dublin put on hold because of concerns there may be an over-concentration of pubs in the area. The company is planning to develop the former homeless hostel at Camden Hall that is part of a wider plan to open 30 pubs in Ireland over the next five years. But following a number of objections from local residents against the plan, which includes a 98-bedroom hotel, Dublin City Council has requested further information from JD Wetherspoon. The council said it has “concerns in relation to the over-concentration of bars and restaurants on Camden Street”. The council has asked JD Wetherspoon to justify the reduction in the number of hotel bedrooms it proposes and submit a map showing the number of existing bars in Camden Street and Wexford Street in order to establish if there is an over-concentration in the area.
Juice bar and healthy food concept SHOT opens in St Paul’s: Cold-pressed juice bar and healthy food concept SHOT has launched in St Paul’s, London. SHOT – which stands for simple, healthy, organic, tasty – features a menu that comes with a list of guidelines, ensuring all ingredients are chemical-free, have no refined sugars, and are organic and unprocessed, reports Hot Dinners. Offerings include baked sweet potato and quinoa falafel with cauliflower rice, and tabouleh salad and cucumber with tahini mint yogurt dressing. Meat dishes include spicy chicken pho made from house-made bone broth and sous-vide chicken, alongside gluten-free sweet potato, buckwheat noodles and super-food smoothies. SHOT is the brainchild of former music director and DJ Asad Naqvi and ex-City worker Rahil Malik. The venue in Bride Lane will also host consultations for City workers who want to make their lunches as healthy as possible.
Hush replaces Silver Room with 1960s-style steak, lobster and whisky concept: Hush, the Mayfair restaurant and cocktail bar founded by Jamie Barber, has created a new dining space on its first floor to replace The Silver Room. Blades at Hush specialises in steaks, lobster and hand-crafted whiskies, which can be sipped neat, sampled in a range of whisky “flights” or enjoyed in a Blades Tipple, such as The Bowler, mixed tableside. As well as steak and lobster, Hush starters feature whisky-cured salmon with sourdough and lemon, while alternative main dishes include white truffle tortellini with truffle cream. Desserts feature whisky and brown butter brioche pudding. The room has been inspired by “the Mayfair of a bygone era, the chic 1960s dining rooms when Mayfair was the place to go”. The name Blades is a nod to James Bond character M’s private club. Barber said this reflected his “long-standing ethos that Hush is a private members’ club without the membership fee”. Barber launched Hush in 1999 and has since co-founded Brazilian barbecue brand Cabana.
All-day market food concept Farmer J to launch in Leadenhall: All-day market food concept Farmer J is set to launch in Leadenhall in London in May. Farmer J founder Jonathan Recanati has promised City workers “wholesome, balanced, but above all tasty, fast food”, with seasonal ingredients sourced from high-welfare farms based in the UK wherever possible. Set meals at the 40-cover venue will consist of chargrilled meat and fish served with grains, roasted vegetables and salads, all infused with Mediterranean flavours. The breakfast menu will include protein smoothies, paleo granola pots and baked shakshuka (an Israeli twist on poached eggs), alongside cold-pressed juices. The venue will also offer take-out boxes. Recanati said: “At Farmer J, we’ll serve up food that’s good for you, is ready when you are, doesn’t leave you hungry (and) doesn’t require a mortgage.”
Devon boutique hotel on the market for £1.1m: Agent Savills, on behalf of a private client, is selling Browns boutique hotel in Dartmouth, in the South Hams region of south Devon, for a guide price of £1.1m. The four-storey boutique hotel offers eight en-suite bedrooms, a wine bar, restaurant and a three-bedroom owner’s flat, which may be suitable for conversion to further letting accommodation, subject to the necessary planning consents. Located in Victoria Street, the property is less than 150 metres from Dartmouth Harbour. South Hams remains a popular tourist destination, with 2.45 million overnight stays per annum and a total annual visitor spend of £114.2m. Martin Rogers, head of UK hotel transactions at Savills, said: “This established townhouse hotel offers numerous income streams and has a particularly buoyant trade during the summer months, thanks to Dartmouth’s appeal as a tourist destination. This is supplemented out of season by a strong local trade in the popular wine bar and restaurant.”
Ilkley venue sees food sales rise 85% as Twisted Burger Company sells 5,000 burgers within two months of launching residency: Twisted Burger Company has sold 5,000 burgers within two months of launching its residency at The Yard in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, which has seen its food sales rise by 85%. Among the burgers on offer are Holy Cluck (chicken, jalapeno, chorizo and guacamole), Hallouminati (red pepper, halloumi cheese and salsa), plus its signature Pig Daddy Kane (double beef, pulled pork, special, “dead twisted” barbecue sauce and chorizo). Ali Allawa, from The Yard, said: “Since we launched the new concept we have seen an unprecedented demand for these mouth-watering burgers with food sales up by 85% and expected to rise to 150% by the summer. Plus the outstanding reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook pays testament as to why people keep coming back!” To mark the 5,000-burger milestone, The Yard will be offering all of its “Main Attraction” burgers for £5 from Sunday, 20 March to Thursday, 24 March, although the offer must be pre-booked.
Nottingham’s 200 Degrees secures Birmingham site: Nottingham-based specialist coffee roaster and retailer 200 Degrees has secured a site in Birmingham. The company, which has a venue in Nottingham’s Flying Horse Walk and is due to launch a cafe in the city’s train station in the spring, will open at The Grand in Colmore Row. It has agreed a ten-year lease on a 1,500 square foot unit at an annual rent of £90,000 with the landlord Hortons’ Estate. As well as serving fresh ground coffee, the new site, which is expected to open in late May, will feature a 16-seat barista school and meeting room. Set up in 2012 by friends Tom Vincent and Rob Darby, 200 Degrees roasts its own beans, which it supplies to cafes and restaurants around the UK, as well as supplying equipment, such as commercial espresso machines. Vincent said: “There’s a vibrant coffee scene in Birmingham with a number of good independent operators, who have raised the bar in terms of the quality of coffee being served and the overall customer experience. We believe we can bring something different to the city and we’re looking forward to sharing our knowledge and love of coffee when we open our new shop at The Grand in early summer.” Ben Tebbutt, director at agent FHP, which acquired the store on behalf of 200 Degrees, said: “The Birmingham acquisition is just the start of what will be an exceptionally busy few years of growth for 200 Degrees.” FHP was appointed by 200 Degrees in December to find new sites across the UK for its artisanal coffee house offer.
New American-themed sports bar and club opening in Brixton on Friday: A new American-themed sports bar and club is opening in Brixton, south London, on Friday (18 March). The BXT Frat House is launching in Brixton Road on the site of the Dahlak Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurant. It will show a spectrum of live sport while “cheerleader waitresses” serve burgers, ribs, fries, slaw, and eight-pint kegs of beer and cocktails, reports the Brixton Buzz. There will also be ping pong tables, pool tables and table foosball throughout the venue. At 10pm, the bar will become a nightclub with table service, live performances and DJs until 3am. Its Facebook page said: “Our cheerleader waitresses would be happy to serve you in our private area The Patron Den. A cool basement with private patron bar, exclusive patron cocktail menu, private projector for live sport, and PS4. With every inch of the walls masterfully decorated with graffiti art, you can turn on the UV cannons and transform the room into the ultimate private club.”
Steamin’ Billy Brewing launches pub at Leicester Racecourse: Leicestershire-based brewer and retailer Steamin’ Billy Brewing, led by Billy Allingham, has opened a pub at Leicester Racecourse. The Winning Post had been closed for a number of years but now becomes the 12th pub in the company’s portfolio. The pub, which is located in the Premier Stand, will be open on race days, with the next meeting on Friday, 8 April, at the start of the flat-racing season. The company described The Winning Post as a “quirky, equestrian-themed bar”, with stools made from saddles and decorated with old wine cases.
Entrepreneur buys back Leeds restaurant: A director at Yorkshire restaurant brand Mumtaz Food has reacquired a Leeds restaurant. Rab Nawaz, the younger brother of millionaire Mumtaz Food founder Mumtaz Khan, has bought restaurant The Chandeliers back into the fold. The 250-seater restaurant at Leeds Dock was initially launched in March 2009. It covered 10,000 square feet and Mumtaz had undertaken a £3.3m fit out, creating 50 jobs on opening. Fast-forward to 2012 and the restaurant had been placed under new management, with a new name – The Chandeliers – while still serving Mumtaz food. The deal sees the return of a milestone site for the business, as it was the first Leeds offering from the Bradford-based brand. Nawaz is currently refurbishing the restaurant, having held a pivotal role in its initial fit out. He told The Business Desk: “Mumtaz Leeds was really a labour of love for me all those years ago and, whilst we had to make some hard decisions at the height of the recession, I never stopped believing the restaurant could be a huge success.” Mumtaz Food was launched by Khan in 1978 in Bradford as a takeaway. He grew the business from scratch, and now has a flagship restaurant in Great Horton Road. The business supplies Harrods, as well as Fortnum & Mason, and exports to more than 30 countries.
18th century Lancashire coaching inn goes on market: Ye Horns Inn, an 18th century pub in Goosnargh, near Preston, has been brought to market. Available freehold, Christie & Co is seeking offers of about £700,000 for the pub, which has been under family ownership since 1952. The coaching inn has been extended to include an outdoor seating area and barn conversion housing six en-suite rooms. The pub itself consists of a parlour bar and three dining rooms, plus a function room and meeting room on the first floor. Planning permission has been obtained to extend the restaurant. An additional ten-acre parcel of land is also available. Keith Stringer, Christie & Co associate director, said: “The continued success of independent operators such as Ribble Valley Inns and the recent acquisition of Haighton Manor by Brunning & Price have highlighted the popularity of the area.”
British Raj restaurant concept opens in Kensington: A new Indian restaurant inspired by the British Raj has opened in Kensington, west London. Raj of Kensington offers dishes such as Ajwani Jingha (tandoori-style jumbo prawns), a dish that originated in Jaipur, and Achari Hiran, a venison dish created in Bhopal. Owner Salim Sheikh has a background in fine dining and has “opened his personal wine cellar” for use at the restaurant in Abingdon Road. The restaurant will also offer a takeaway facility and feature gin-style cocktails using Jodhpur gin. The venue’s website states: “We bring you some of the finest regional cuisines of India, with dishes made popular during the Raj era.”
Prezzo opens restaurant at £60m complex in Hinckley: Italian restaurant brand Prezzo has opened its venue at the £60m Crescent shopping complex in Hinckley, Leicestershire. The £600,000 venue joins companies including Sainsbury’s, Cineworld and traditional ale and cider house Elbow Room at the complex, which has been developed by Tin Hat Partnership. Prezzo spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Hinckley Times: “We are confident that our restaurant will be a great addition to the town’s dining scene. Prezzo has an excellent reputation for the quality and choice of its food and we believe the restaurant will prove popular with a wide range of people in the town.”
Wadworth consolidates brewery sites, builds shire horse stables: Brewer and retailer Wadworth has invested £600,000 to consolidate its brewery facilities in Devizes, Wiltshire, including a new stable for its three shire horses. The move is part of a long-term investment plan that began four years ago. The Wadworth shire horses – Max, Monty and Archie – are among the last remaining horses used by a British brewer. Wadworth’s wine and spirits facility has been moved across town to the main site to further streamline the distribution process, while the hand-painted pub sign shop has also been relocated, meaning all aspects of the business are now in one location, close to the visitor centre. Chris Welham, Wadworth chief executive, said: “The consolidation of the two sites is something we have been working towards and now the transition is complete, we can benefit from operating a more efficient brewery and distribution system. The last stage of the investment was to move our horses, and they are now settled and enjoying their new environment.” As well as the brewery, family-run Wadworth operates 240 pubs across the southern part of England.
Whitbread secures licence for Premier Inn at Arndale Centre site in Leeds: Whitbread-owned Premier Inn has secured a premises licence for its proposed 96-bedroom Premier Inn in Headingley, Leeds. The licence was granted as applied for by Leeds City Council’s licensing committee during a hearing on Tuesday (15 March) for the proposed conversion of former office block Arndale House, above the Arndale Centre, to which residential objections were received. Last month, Whitbread agreed a 25-year lease with stock-market developer Town Centre Securities to create a 136-bedroom Premier Inn at its Whitehall Riverside scheme within the growing West End business district of Leeds.
North Devon-based pop-up pizza company lodges plans for first permanent site: North Devon-based pop-up pizza company Stoned has lodged plans for its first permanent site. The concept, launched three years ago by 20-year-old Tom Honey, has found success creating and cooking custom pizzas at campsites every summer. Now Honey, who set up his first business at the age of 16 selling ice-cream in Lee Bay, has submitted plans to transform the former Devon Made shop in Exeter Road, Braunton, into his first restaurant, which he aims to open in May. Honey has also been working with a former pastry chef at a two-Michelin star restaurant to expand Stoned’s offer, including hand-made pastry treats, sandwiches and soups. He told the North Devon Journal: “I thought going from nothing to the pop-ups I learned so much, but there is so much more to learn when setting up the shop. It is a different league but it is really exciting at the same time.”
Costa and Harvester scoop family friendly awards: Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee won Best Family Friendly Cafe at the Tommy’s Awards for the third year in a row, while Mitchells & Butlers brand Harvester won the Best Family Restaurant category for a fourth year running. The awards, nominated and voted for by the public, recognise the UK’s best family friendly companies. This year 44,688 votes were cast, double the amount of votes received last year, with winners announced at a ceremony at the Landmark Hotel, London. Jane Brewin, Tommy’s chief executive, said: “We believe it is important to express our gratitude to those companies who go the extra mile. Being a mum-to-be or parents is tough enough and all the companies, both the shortlist and winners, do that.” Now in its 21st year, the Tommy’s Awards recognise heroes of families who have been touched by pregnancy complications or the loss of a baby. Tommy’s funds medical research into the prevention of premature birth, stillbirth and miscarriage.