Incipio Group appoints Brand as finance director: Incipio Group, which received £5m from entertainment and leisure investor Edition Capital earlier this year to open six venues in 18 months, has appointed Tom Brand, formerly of Jascots Wine Merchants and Amnesty International, as its new finance director. Brand spent more than a year and a half at Jascots as its head of finance. Previous to that, he spent more than three years at Amnesty, including a stint as its head of management accounts and procurement. Incipio will launch its latest site in Kensington next month. The company will open Bloom in Kensington High Street on Friday, 8 November, having acquired the site that was previously occupied by Mahiki. Bloom will have room for 350 people and feature two bars, a restaurant and a “secret dance floor”. Incipio’s estate consists of Lost in Brixton, Pergola On The Roof in White City, Pergola Olympia, Pergola Paddington, The Prince in West Brompton Crossing, Feast in Hammersmith and W12 Studios in White City. In the next 18 months the group will launch sites in Putney, Wimbledon and Birmingham, the latter being its first outside London. The company recently launched Wildcard Kitchen – its first in-house restaurant at The Prince.
McDonald’s workers in London to strike as part of international day of action for fast food workers’ rights: McDonald’s workers are set to go on strike next month as part of an international day of action for fast food workers’ rights. The Bakers Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) is notifying six London McDonald’s sites – Downham, Balham, Catford, Crayford, Deptford and Wandsworth Town – that its members will go on strike on Tuesday, 12 November. The McDonald’s workers are calling for a “new deal” for staff, including £15 an hour pay, an end to lower youth pay rates, the choice of guaranteed hours of up to 40 hours a week, notice of shifts four weeks in advance, and trade union recognition. The strike will take place on a global day of action for fast food workers called by the International Union of Food (IUF) workers, which will see fast food workers take to the streets around the world. McDonald’s workers in the BFAWU have previously gone on strike three times, starting in September 2017 with two stores, and with two subsequent strikes last year. A McDonald’s spokesman told Left Foot Forward: “The BFAWU is calling for 40 hour guaranteed contracts, which is something we already offer – but has been chosen by very few of our people. With all given the choice, around 90% of our employees have chosen to remain on flexible contracts, valuing the ability to work their shifts around their lives. We remain committed to our people and value the contribution they make to our organisation, and would like to reassure them, and our customers, that the six restaurants will remain open if industrial action takes place.”
Mark Hix ‘in talks to close West End restaurant’: Restaurateur Mark Hix is in talks to close his Soho restaurant as he reduces his company’s presence in London. The restaurant and bar in Brewer Street represents his final presence in the West End after Hix Mayfair closed two years ago. Another branch in the City shut its doors last year. The Soho premises could become the first UK branch of Tortilla Republic – a “modern Mexican” casual dining venture with restaurants in Hollywood and Hawaii – according to reports. The company’s website said a London branch is coming soon. Hix is believed to be turning his attention to Dorset, where he grew up, reports The Sunday Telegraph. His Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis is understood to be doing well, and he has considered launching a venture in Weymouth, where he supports training courses for young chefs. Hix currently has three other restaurants in London – in Farringdon, Shoreditch and Southwark. The Farringdon branch, Hix Oyster & Chop House, was his first solo restaurant, opening in 2008. Since joining forces with hospitality outfit WSH in 2016, Hix’s company’s post-tax losses have climbed from £1m to £5.3m last year. Turnover fell from £11.7m in 2017 to £10.6m in 2018. Hix declined to comment but said he would be happy to discuss it “when the time is right”.
Neil Rankin to launch plant-based concept this week: Chef Neil Rankin will launch plant-based restaurant Simplicity Burger in east London this week. Rankin will open the venue in Brick Lane, Shoreditch, on Friday (1 November). Rankin, who is behind ventures such as Smokehouse, Temper and Pitt Cue in which meat played a pivotal role, has spent more than eight months developing his take on the plant-based burger. The resulting recipe – while something of a secret – uses techniques such as dehydration and fermentation to create its patties. The 45-cover venue won’t feature single-use plastic and use compostable plates while Rankin will re-use the venue’s previous decor as part of the drive for sustainability and minimum waste. Simplicity Burger will also feature a bar serving cocktails and snacks.
Lina Stores to open King’s Cross site next month: Soho delicatessen Lina Stores, which launched its debut restaurant last year, will open its latest site, in King’s Cross next month. The White Rabbit Fund-backed concept will launch the 100-cover site in Stable Street in one of the area’s few remaining heritage buildings. The opening on Friday, 15 November will mark 75 years since the Italian delicatessen first opened in Soho. Housed within a Victorian transit shed behind Granary Square, the venue will build on the Soho site and feature a deli and restaurant under one roof for the first time. The deli at Lina Stores King’s Cross will feature the brand’s green-and-white stripes and stock Italian “pantry essentials”. Diners and shoppers will be able to watch pasta made by hand while enjoying an espresso, made-to-order sandwich or after-work aperitivo. “Lina Stores has always welcomed Italians seeking a taste of home, people travelling to visit from across the UK and Londoners who return again and again to stock up on quality Italian ingredients,” said Marina Dentamaro, who has managed the deli at 18 Brewer Street for a decade. “We can’t wait to have a restaurant and deli all under one roof in King’s Cross.” Last year the company opened a 51-cover restaurant in Greek Street.
M&B hits 50-site mark for O’Neills: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has hit the 50-site mark for its Irish pub brand O’Neills. The company has converted its Hy Brasil site, which had a focus on live music, in Bristol city centre to the brand. M&B retail business manager Callum Mclean told Bristol Live: “Hy Brasil got a little stale. It was very good a few years ago but then trade started to drop off, especially in the weekdays. As a result we took the decision to close it and rebrand as an O’Neills. Over the past few years O’Neills has really come on as a brand across the UK and it’s a far cry from the O’Neills of old. While O’Neills has historically been seen as a bit of an old man’s drinking pub, it’s much different now. We’ve brightened it up and made it more family friendly.” Alongside its focus on craft beer, the pub also offers three cocktails on tap and a selection of spirits. The food menu consists of pizza, burgers alongside other pub classics. There are also eight televisions showing sport and the pub still offers live music.
Gainford Group adds Newcastle venue to portfolio: North east-based operator Gainford Group has added another Newcastle venue to its portfolio. The company has acquired the grade I-listed Moot Hall, which was formerly Newcastle’s crown court and has Ancient Monument status. The building is still used as a courtroom and hosts weddings, conferences and seminars, which will continue under the new ownership. Gainford Group director Imran Khaliq said: “This acquisition marks yet another significant investment for us in the north east and adds another highly sought property to our portfolio. We continue to grow strongly across all aspects of the group and this is the latest exciting development.” Gainford Group owns and operates six hotels in the UK, six restaurants and bars, 14 care homes and a number of children’s day nurseries. Alok Loomba, of law firm Sintons, supported Gainford Group on the Moot Hall deal.
Inglenook Inns & Taverns takes on Dewsbury pub: Pub operator Inglenook Inns & Taverns has taken over the running of a site in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. The company has acquired the lease of The Black Bull in Market Place. It comes after Mood Developments, which specialises in the refurbishment of heritage pubs, bought the listed building in 2017 and has now finished giving it a new lease of life. James Waddington, managing director of Inglenook Inns & Taverns, told the Bradford Telegraph & Argus: “We are proud and excited to be associated with the Black Bull in Dewsbury – our aim is to ‘put the hub back into the pub’ – and make it accessible to all. We try to ensure our pubs are a pivotal part of the community and the Black Bull will most definitely be back in its rightful place as a vibrant and central part of Dewsbury.” Mood Developments said: “We are lucky to have had the opportunity to redevelop this beautiful old site set in the context of the Market Place at the centre of this historic town. Mood believes pubs are a crucial part of any community and we have striven to make a modular space that we hope the residents of Dewsbury will enjoy.”
Urban Pubs and Bars to relaunch Ember Yard next month: Urban Pubs and Bars, led by Nick Pring and Malcolm Heap, will relaunch Ember Yard in Soho next month. Urban Pubs and Bars acquired the Italian-Spanish restaurant in Berwick Street last year as part of its deal for Salt Yard Group. Now the venue is “going through an exciting transformation” and will offer a revamped menu, reports Hardens. Ember Yard opened in 2013 and has long been a hotspot for tapas and food cooked over fire. Urban Pubs and Bars said it wanted to go “back to basics” with the new look and feel of the restaurant, “stripping it back to reignite the lively, relaxed atmosphere and top-quality Spanish and Italian-inspired dishes it became known for.” Italian head chef Christian Parisi will lead the new menu. Dishes from the Josper grill will include glazed pork ribs with spring onion, hazelnuts and smoked chilli jam; and grass-fed rib-eye with chicken jus. Other dishes will include marinated chicken thigh with celeriac, truffle and date mascarpone; smoked confit sea trout with mussel sauce; and spiced roasted cauliflower with pistachio puree and onion jam.
JD Wetherspoon joins not every disability is visible campaign following student complaint: JD Wetherspoon is taking a major step forward in the drive for inclusivity by installing “Not Every Disability is Visible” signs in all its pub toilets. The company has announced it will also train staff to help them better understand invisible conditions. It has signed up to Crohn’s and Colitis UK’s “Not Every Disability is Visible” campaign, which aims to stop the stigma and discrimination towards people with hidden health conditions. The move comes after a student shared her experience of being asked by a bouncer if she had been dealing drugs after constantly coming out of a disabled toilet. Amber Davies, 21, uses an ostomy bag because she was diagnosed with bowel condition ulcerative colitis aged 13. Following the incident, Davies shared an open letter to the pub chain on Instagram, which quickly went viral. Crohn’s & Colitis UK originally launched their campaign in April, sending more than 48,000 emails to the 15 largest pub and restaurant chains across the country. A Wetherspoon spokesman told The Metro: “We want to make sure all of our customers feel comfortable when visiting any of our pubs. We’re delighted to install these signs that help to both increase awareness that not all disabilities are visible, and to ensure that anyone who needs to, can feel confident using our accessible toilets.”
Merlin reveals significance of Halloween for business: Merlin Entertainments has revealed the significance of Halloween for the business. Spending by visitors at specially themed events at Merlin’s Alton Towers and Thorpe Park resorts reached 17% of annual revenue for the attractions last year. Visitor numbers at Alton Towers have grown from 12% of the annual total in 2015 to 16% in 2018, and revenue at Thorpe Park has risen from 14% to 20% of the yearly total. While summer has traditionally been the peak period of activity for theme parks, Halloween weekend at Alton Towers now marks the busiest weekend of the entire year at the attraction. Ian Crabbe, managing director, Resort Theme Parks said: “The development of our Halloween-themed offering at our UK resort theme parks reflects Merlin’s strategic priorities, allowing guests to focus on immersive experiences, building on our strong IP partnerships and delivering on our strategy of positioning our theme parks as multi-day family destinations, based on our world-class themed accommodation.”
Former Le Gavroche chef opens St John’s Wood restaurant for debut solo venture: Former Le Gavroche chef Elliot Moss has opened his first restaurant, in St John’s Wood, north west London. Moss has been away from the UK dining scene for about ten years but has returned to launch fine-dining restaurant Plu. Plu, which means to “have pleased” or “enjoyed”, serves a tasting menu of modern international dishes with a French accent, inspired by Moss’ classic French training. The menu at the venue in Blenheim Terrace changes regularly to make the most of seasonal British produce and is paired with wine from across the world.
Meliá to open Mediterranean and British fusion restaurant at South Kensington hotel: Spanish group Meliá Hotels is to open a restaurant with a fusion of Mediterranean and British cuisine at its Hotel London Kensington site in South Kensington. SW7 will launch at the end of next month, replacing The Jam Cupboard restaurant, reports Hot Dinners. It will feature the work of head chef Javier Rodrigo Alviz, who started his career in Madrid before moving to London in 2014. With experience at the Waldorf Hilton, Claridge’s and Adam Handling’s The Frog in Covent Garden, Alviz most recently headed up Melia’s White House restaurant in Regent’s Park. Hotel London Kensington is also part of the Melia-owned group. The menu at SW7 will include an Italian blues burger with gorgonzola and figs. The decor in the 74-cover dining space will be heavily inspired by the nearby V&A museum’s designer, William Morris. The bar will serve cocktails inspired by Morris’ designs and love of nature, including the Kensington Gardens (Hendrick’s gin, elderflower liqueur and apple juice).