Kout Food Group confirms several bids for Little Chef: Kuwait-based Kout Food Group has confirmed it has received several bids for Little Chef. Reports have suggested Euro Garages, the petrol forecourt and service station operator that features food outlets, was interested in acquiring Little Chef. However, Kout Food Group has released a statement confirming more than one party has made a bid. It said: “Kout Food Group confirms that more than one corporation (including an international chain) has expressed interest in commencing operations within the Little Chef portfolio of more than 70 sites. Kout Food Group will evaluate all strategic options for this unique portfolio, keeping in view stakeholders, including customers and staff.” Kout Food Group bought Little Chef in 2013 for £15m. Last year it opened its first rebranded Little Chef site with a new look and menu – in Warminster, Wiltshire – ahead of a planned UK roll-out. Launched in 1958, Little Chef reached its peak in the late-1990s with 439 restaurants across the UK. However, that number had shrunk to 78 sites due to increased competition.

Joseph Holt acquires four Greene King pubs: North west brewer and retailer Joseph Holt has acquired four pubs from Greene King. They are The Chesterway in Northwich, The Egerton in Cheadle, The Railway in Buxton, and The Quadrant in Stretford. Joseph Holt chief executive Richard Kershaw said: “We are delighted to have purchased these quality pubs from Greene King. All four will join our managed house division and receive substantial investment this year. We continue to look for quality pubs to expand our estate.”

SSP to bring three Jamie Oliver restaurants to Vienna airport, first sites in Austria: SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, is to open three Jamie Oliver restaurants at Vienna airport. Following an agreement with Flughafen Wien, SSP will launch Jamie’s Deli, Jamie’s Italian, and a free-standing bar covering 800 square metres on level one of Terminal 3. Jamie’s Deli is scheduled to open in May, Jamie’s Italian in December, with the free-standing bar, which will offer exclusive cocktails and small snacks, expected to launch by the middle of 2018. Vienna airport will be the first site in Austria to host Jamie Oliver restaurants. Flughafen Wien management board member Julian Jäger told Airport Business: “Around the world, Jamie Oliver stands for high-quality products and a simple but innovative approach to cooking. These new catering facilities will expand the culinary offering at Vienna airport and provide our passengers with a new and particularly high-value gastronomic experience. In this way we are resolutely continuing our quality strategy. The new restaurants are an important milestone on this path.”

Manchester multi-site operator MAD puts Northern Quarter diner on the market: Manchester-based multi-site operator Mark Andrew Developments (MAD) has put its Northern Quarter venue Infamous Diner up for sale to “concentrate on its wet-led offer”. The High Street site has been listed on agent Christie & Co’s business sales website for £500,000 with a 25-year lease starting from its opening date. The 1950s-style American diner, which launched in July 2015, remains open but Christie & Co said it could close the deal swiftly as there had already been interest from multiple north west-based operators since the property went on the market on Monday (23 January). Christie & Co told the Manchester Evening News: “Mark Andrew Developments is looking to really concentrate on its wet-led offer, rather than the food offer.” MAD closed Didsbury bar Chalk in November, stating it would focus on its city centre “megabar” Selfless, which is still at the planning stage. In December, a spokesperson said the company was planning a “number of exciting openings” in early 2017 and the “expansion of an existing brand to three times its current size”. MAD’s other Manchester venues include Fitzgerald, Hula, Rosylee and Tusk.

Marston’s eyes first London opening in a decade: Marston’s is lining up its first London opening in more than ten years, chief executive Ralph Findlay has told the Evening Standard. He said: “It will open in Hammersmith by the end of the year. I don’t think we have opened a pub in London for around a decade. The market there continues to be strong, so we’ve decided to expand.”

Coach House Inns acquires third site, in Worcestershire, aims for eight: Coach House Inns, which is backed by investment firm Clark Group, has acquired its third site, in Worcestershire – and is aiming to build an estate of eight sites. The company has bought the Manor Arms in Abberley for an undisclosed sum from a private vendor following an off-market deal brokered by agent Colliers International. The 17th century inn, which is in the old village square, features six individually decorated en-suite bedrooms, a lounge bar with wood-burning stove, 100 covers, a function room and car park. Coach House Inns’ current sites are The Fox and Hounds in Llancarfan and The Riverside at Aymestrey. The first phase of investment from Clark Group will see Coach House Inns grow from two to eight sites, with a central head office responsible for all systems and controls. Each site will be run by a chef patron “responsible for the whole customer experience” and will “retain the feel of an independent pub”. Colliers International hotel director Peter Brunt said: “We are increasingly being asked to conduct sales off-market and this was the case with the Manor Arms, which was brought to the market with the utmost confidentiality. The Manor Arms is a superb example of a residential pub in an idyllic setting and was the subject of a comprehensive refurbishment by our clients when they purchased the Manor Arms in 2013.”

Greene King receives two apprenticeship accolades: Brewer and retailer Greene King has received two apprenticeship accolades. The company has featured in the 2016 Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers List. Run in partnership with the National Apprenticeship Service, it is the second year running that Greene King has appeared in the list. In addition, the company’s apprenticeship scheme has also been given the seal of approval from the apprentices themselves. The business was named 27th out of 70 businesses in the Rate My Apprenticeship Top 70 School Leaver Employers Table 2017. Greene King was the only company in the pub industry to feature on the list, which is decided by apprentices who review their programme and give it a rating. Chief executive Rooney Anand said: “It’s fantastic to see Greene King being celebrated as one of the UK’s top apprenticeship employers by both the National Apprenticeship Service and those who have gone through our programme. We passionately believe apprentices are vital for the hospitality industry and offer long-term career opportunities. We’re always striving to improve our apprenticeship scheme and help participants to get the most out of it, so it’s an honour to receive this accolade from those who matter the most – the apprentices.” Since 2011, Greene King has supported more than 8,700 apprentices and offers bespoke qualifications that support a range of job roles including front-of-house, kitchen, and management that are tailored to each of the Greene King pub and restaurant brands.

Buzzworks to expand outside Ayrshire heartland as it prepares to open three sites this year: Ayrshire-based restaurant company Buzzworks is to expand outside its heartland as it prepares to open three sites this year. The company, owned by Alison, Colin and Kenny Blair, is taking its brand north, starting in the village of Bridge of Weir. Work has already started on a £1m project that will see the business transform a dilapidated building in Main Street into a traditional bar and restaurant. With The Coach House set for a summer opening, Buzzworks is also looking to bring its brand to other areas in Scotland, with two further sites earmarked for 2017. Managing director Kenny Blair said: “We are really excited about The Coach House. It will be a stunning venue once complete with a warm, relaxing atmosphere and our unique contemporary twist. As one of Scotland’s largest hospitality employers, our staff define who we are as a brand, and the company is deeply passionate on creating and fostering an environment where employees can thrive and be the best within the industry. Last year was an exciting time for Buzzworks and as a company we achieved some fantastic results. However we are constantly looking forward and our focus is now on how to make 2017 even more of a success as we expand into more areas of Scotland.” The company’s other sites include The Corner House in Kilwinning, The Treehouse in Ayr and The Longhouse in Kilmarnock. It now has more than 400 employees and had a turnover of more than £15m in the past financial year.

Inn Britain launches ‘surf, turf and earth’ concept at Charles Wells pub in Hertfordshire: Inn Britain, which operates six carveries in and around the home counties, has launched a new “surf, turf and earth” concept in Welwyn Garden City. Inn Britain has taken a long-term lease on The Beehive pub from Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells. The 18th century thatched pub closed last summer but has reopened as new concept Cooper’s. General manager Jason Tudor told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “We believe our gourmet burgers, aged steaks and seafood dishes bring something unique to Welwyn Garden City. We also offer a wide range of vegetarian options so we’re a great choice for groups of people with different tastes.” Charles Wells retail development manager Kevin Burton added: “Charles Wells is excited about the reopening of The Beehive following an extensive investment by Jason Tudor of Cooper’s. The new-look Beehive will offer an innovative ‘surf, turf and earth’ menu alongside a range of Charles Wells beers, including our new craft beer Charlie Wells Dry Hopped Lager. This is a great opportunity to launch a new style of pub restaurant in Welwyn Garden City and we wish the management and staff all the very best with the relaunch of The Beehive.” Inn Britain’s carveries are in Bletchley, Ely, Hemel Hempstead, Leighton Buzzard, Newport Pagnell and Wixford, near Alcester.

Tom Kerridge to launch series of dining experiences at ‘The Shed’: Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge is to launch a series of dining experiences at “The Shed”. The private dining space is based in West Street in Marlow, a stone’s throw from Kerridge’s two Michelin-starred pub The Hand & Flowers. The Shed will host a series of one-off culinary events throughout 2017, with The Dopamine Diet Supper Clubs and West Country Week coming up in February and March respectively. West Country Week will see chefs including Peter Sanchez, owner of Bristol-based, Michelin-starred restaurant Casamia, and Nathan Outlaw join Kerridge to create a series of one-off theatrical dining experiences showcasing the best of West Country produce. Meanwhile, to mark the launch of his new book – Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet – The Shed will also host a week of one-off supper clubs. Guests will watch recipes brought to life by The Hand & Flowers team and get the chance to try the food afterwards.

Renowned chef Martha Ortiz to open London restaurant this spring: Renowned chef Martha Ortiz is bringing her Mexican gastronomy to London this spring with the opening of Ella Canta. The restaurant will be at the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel and promises to “deliver the beauty, vibrancy and spirit of modern Mexico to London”. It takes its name from the Spanish for “she sings”, a phrase Ortiz said symbolises the “expressiveness, passion, pride, and femininity communicated through her cooking”. At Ella Canta, Ortiz will showcase her celebrated style, which blends long-established cooking traditions with contemporary techniques and artistry. Drawing inspiration from Dulce Patria, her world-renowned restaurant in Mexico City, the London menu will feature several of her famed dishes, including seafood and lobster pozole, and cacahuacintle maiz with traditional garnishes. The menu will also showcase mole, the rich, cacao-tinged sauce with a deep history that is said to date to the 16th century when each Mexican woman had her own family recipe. Ortiz will serve a tasting menu of seven moles, which contains an average of 20 to 30 ingredients and a hand preparation process that can take at least a day to accomplish. The bar will have a mezcal and tequila focus, with signature cocktails and a small plate-style menu. The new restaurant and bar will join Theo Randall at the InterContinental, uniting two renowned chefs under one roof.

JW Lees seeks head of property as part of expansion plans: Brewer and retailer JW Lees is seeking a head of property as the company continues its expansion plans. The online job description states: “As head of property your purpose is to manage and develop an efficient, robust and creative property department to ultimately deliver outstanding pub environments for each of our customers, while ensuring the team maximises every opportunity to deliver quality capex projects that are right first time and within project timelines and budgets. This will include overseeing redesign, new-builds, and ongoing maintenance programmes of all of our current and future managed and tenanted pubs as we rapidly grow the business! Your influence within each project will ensure a profitable return week in, week out and, by implementing a full project review cycle, you will improve the quality of delivery and return on investment on each and every refurbishment. Working on both short-term and longer-term objectives, you will have the autonomy to prioritise and plan capex and maintenance programmes across the entire business and across several years, while actively seeking out recommendations of where your team can further add projects and improvements to increase potential sales opportunities, reduce costs and improve overall efficiency.”

Yorkshire-based entertainment group gets go-ahead for high-end restaurant and bar in Skipton: Yorkshire-based Peel Entertainment Group has had its plans for a high-end restaurant and bar in Skipton High Street approved. Peel Entertainment Group has acquired the freehold of the grade II-listed building, which previously housed Forage restaurant and The Russian Tea Room, the Craven Herald & Pioneer reports. The three-storey building will be refurbished to create a ground-floor restaurant with a bar and a store selling drinks outside restaurant opening hours. Function rooms will take over the first floor, with a manager’s flat above. The rear of the premises will be developed to add outdoor seating overlooking the Leeds and Liverpool canal, with fire pits and heaters creating a year-round space. Founded in 1993, Peel Entertainment Group provides a range of services, from live entertainment to innovative visitor apps for the heritage, leisure and museum sectors.

Stonegate Pub Company to launch ‘cider emporium’ concept, in Bristol: Stonegate Pub Company is to launch a “cider emporium” concept as it unveils a new look for its Cider Press site in Bristol. The company has invested £260,000 to transform the Gloucester Road pub, which will have more than 30 ciders on tap alongside craft beer, gin cocktails, artisan pizza and tapas, and enhanced sports-viewing facilities. The cider range involves fruit combinations such as strawberry, apple and pear, and mango alongside Rosie’s Pig, Black Dragon, Bees Sting Same, and Crazy Goat. Meanwhile, the food menu will have a street food twist. The site, which opens on Friday (27 January), will feature reclaimed wood, industrial-style light fittings, eccentric wall hangings, and a neon-lit back wall paying homage to “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, preserving the pub’s 19th century cider roots. New boss Steven Docherty said: “Investment and diversity is fantastic news for keeping Gloucester Road right on-trend. Quirky, new-look, independent crafted drinks and dishes are perfect for us and our customer base – it’s a fantastic offer for Bristol.”

Sankeys asks public to vote on where it should open next UK nightclub: Sankeys, which announced last week it is closing its legendary nightclub in Manchester, is asking the public to vote on where it should open its next venue. The company’s website lists 25 UK cities for its #DoYouWannaSankeys campaign – a list that doesn’t include Manchester. The website states: “We are not just going to leave Manchester and never come back but let’s let the dust settle at least for a few weeks! #DoYouWannaSankeys is about bringing the vibe that started in Manchester to the rest of the country.” Sankeys, which is owned by David Vincent, has estimated it will take three to six months for a new club to open, which would be permanent or temporary depending on demand. The number of venues set to open still hasn’t been finalised, the Manchester Evening News reports. Manchester Sankeys, which is based in grade II-listed Beehive Mill, is understood to have been sold to a property developer, which plans to turn it into apartments. Sankeys operates successful franchises in London, Essex, Ibiza, and Tokyo, with plans to open a club in Birmingham in March.

Balans Soho Society reports 18.3% increase in like-for-like sales during 30th anniversary year: London-based casual dining group Balans Soho Society has reported an 18.3% year-on-year increase in like-for-like sales for the year ending 31 December 2016. The company celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016, refurbishing its five London restaurants and bars during the period and opening a sixth – in Monmouth Street, Seven Dials – in June, with the company stating it had enjoyed an excellent first half-year. Ebitda and refurbishment and opening costs rose by 43.7% during the period. The company recently acquired a site in Clapham that formerly housed American-style bar Honky Tonk. The venue will reopen in March as the first Balans Soho Society bar and restaurant south of the Thames. Balans Soho Society owner David Taylor said: “During a period when trading conditions for restaurants everywhere can be said to be somewhat challenging, I’m delighted the reinvigorated Balans Soho Society is bucking the trend and proving to be increasingly popular. We’re anticipating maintaining momentum in 2017 as we continue to open new sites.” Balans Soho Society opened its first venue in Old Compton Street, Soho, in 1987.

North west healthy cafe concept Nourish to convert Hale site for new meal preparation business, opening outlet in Altrincham: North west-based healthy cafe concept Nourish is converting its Hale site for its new meal preparation business after outgrowing the premises – and opening a new outlet in nearby Altrincham. Owners James Cumbes and Tom Groves launched the Hale site in May 2014. They now plan to open an outlet in Altrincham in April that more closely resembles their larger cafe in Wilmslow. It will be more of a “Nourish Express”, offering wraps, sandwiches and coffee. Groves told Altrincham Today: “I opened the Hale cafe when I was 20 and had zero experience. It took off and has been amazing but now Nourish has outgrown that site for what we want it to become.” Groves said the decision was also linked to the imminent launch of a spin-off online business called Nourish Fit Food, a bespoke meal delivery service that will see it deliver “quality, healthy and fresh food” to customers’ doors. Nourish will now use the Hale Road site as the headquarters and main kitchen of the meal preparation business.

Revolution Bars Group makes Ketel One Vodka its official house pour: Revolution Bars Group, the operator of 66 premium bars across the UK under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, has made Ketel One Vodka its official house pour. Ketel One Vodka will commence pouring terms on Tuesday, 21 March across the group’s two brands after signing a three-year agreement following a competitive pitch. Diageo Reserve will work with Revolution Bars Group by providing enhanced vodka training for its 2,000-strong operations team and support with cocktail development. Revolution Bars Group commercial director Myles Doran said: “The group has always focused on providing innovative, expert serves using only the best spirits and ingredients. The opportunity to trade up to a super-premium vodka reaffirms our credentials, providing our cocktail consumers with best in class.” Nick Temperley, head of Diageo Reserve GB, added: “We’re excited about this partnership and expect to see continued growth in the super-premium vodka category this year so this is the perfect time for the spotlight to be on Ketel One Vodka. We’re looking forward to working closely with Revolution Bars Group and confident tat this will be a successful relationship.”

Marco Pierre White to bring Steakhouse Bar & Grill brand to Plymouth in March: Celebrity chef and restaurateur Marco Pierre White is bringing his Steakhouse Bar & Grill brand to Plymouth in March. Pierre White will open the 160-cover restaurant on the top floor of the Holiday Inn Plymouth in Armada Way, soon to be rebranded to a Crowne Plaza. It follows an agreement between Black and White Hospitality, which owns a number of Pierre White’s restaurant brands, and Valor Hospitality Europe. Valor Hospitality Europe, the management company behind the Holiday Inn Plymouth as well as 18 other hotels in the UK, currently operates two other Pierre White steakhouses in Chester and Liverpool. Pierre White said: “The south west is such a beautiful part of the country. Having opened a restaurant in Bristol, Exeter and now Plymouth, I’m incredibly excited to spend more time in the region and to watch this new restaurant unfold.” Black and White Hospitality chief executive Nick Taplin added: “After the success we’ve had working with Valor Hospitality across the country, we’re certain this latest partnership at the new Crowne Plaza hotel will be a resounding success. I am looking forward to bringing the Steakhouse brand to Plymouth and to add a fourth rooftop restaurant to our portfolio.”

Former owner of whisky-making firm opens Scotland’s ‘first’ alcohol-free pub: Jamie Walker, former owner of high-end whisky-maker Adelphi Distillery, has opened what is believed to be Scotland’s first alcohol-free pub. Walker has launched Dry Bar in the Edinburgh suburb of Stockbridge. The venue offers non-alcoholic beer, wine and cocktails. Walker came up with the idea for Dry Bar while in South Africa, 12 years after ending up in a rehabilitation centre there with a drink problem. He told STV: “I thought it would be great to have somewhere to go that wasn’t a pub but had a pub-like environment. I’m not taking anything away from people who do drink, I used to be a drinker myself. People are grown-up enough to make their own choices, I’m just giving them another. A choice hasn’t really been given in Edinburgh to be able to go to an alcohol-free space. We are offering that.”

Fentimans hires Elliotts: Fentimans Botanical Beverages has hired Elliotts Agency to undertake consumer and trade PR to highlight the heritage brand’s craft credentials and showcase its expanding range of premium mixers and soft drinks. Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott said: “Fentimans is a powerful brand and it’s going from strength to strength. The business has grown in an increasingly competitive market place and it’s our job to ensure it has the share of voice it deserves as that growth continues. The products are unique and the owner, Eldon Robson, is a single-minded visionary, committed to the time-honoured process of botanical brewing in the pursuit of incredible flavour. It’s an exciting time to be involved with such an innovative brand and we can’t wait to get started.” The agency will devise media strategies to communicate Fentimans’ depth of flavour and craft USPs across a broad spectrum of consumer and trade media.