Soho House eyes stock market float in US: Soho House is eyeing a stock market flotation in New York that would value the company at about $2bn. The company has hired investment banks Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan to review fund-raising options, with the current preference being for an initial public offering later this year. It is also evaluating alternatives, including selling stock to a private investor in Asia. The group has opened 18 clubs around the world, and has plans to open three to four more every year. In 2017, Soho House signed a £275m refinancing agreement with Permira Debt Managers for a secured loan that will mature over five years, with the option of a further £100m of potential financing. The new loan will enable the company to immediately repay £152.5m in existing bonds and £40m in payment-in-kind notes. In December 2015, it failed in an attempt to tap the bond market. Soho House blamed market conditions for the aborted £200m issue, but investors spoke of concerns around debt levels at the company. In the year to January 1, 2017, Soho House said revenues increased 3.4% to £294.6m, while global membership had increased 23.9% to almost 70,000, helping to increase membership dues by 44%. The privately held company said it remained unprofitable, but did not provide figures. Yucaipa, the private equity firm founded by US billionaire Ron Burkle, owns 60% of Soho House, UK entrepreneur Richard Caring owns 30% and the remainder belongs to Nick Jones, who is chief executive.
Hakkasan Group hires culinary VP: Hakkasan Group has appointed Jacques Sorci as vice-president culinary global. Sorci will oversee culinary operations across Hakkasan Group’s portfolio and provide leadership to all brand and development chefs on menu creation and refinement. He joins Hakkasan Group with more than 30 years of experience in fine dining, most recently having served as executive chef at Lotte New York Palace. Before joining Lotte New York Palace, Sorci lent his expertise as executive chef at The Carlyle New York, where he led all culinary operations. For almost 20 years, Sorci has also held a number of positions at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, where he was named the inaugural “Maitre Cuisiner de France” in 2003, a title awarded to those who exemplify excellence in the culinary community. “I am excited to join Hakkasan Group, known worldwide for its refined approach to fine dining and roster of culinary talents,” Sorci said. “I look forward to collaborating with the visionaries across Hakkasan Group’s diverse portfolio and developing culinary programmes indicative of our position as a worldwide leader in hospitality.”
Winchester-based pizza concept Pi Woodfired to open Clapham restaurant this month for second site: Winchester-based pizza concept Pi Woodfired is set to open a site in Clapham this month as it expands into London for its second venue. Founder Rosie Whaley will open the 85-cover restaurant in Battersea Rise. The concept is based on 20-inch sharing pizzas with up to three flavour combinations. A key focal point of the new restaurant’s dining area will be a living tree. The tables are being hand-carved from fallen oak trees found in woodland in Salisbury, while there will be banquette seating. An open kitchen will sit off the dining room, while the bar will feature a ceiling installation of dried flowers. Pi is currently running a £500,000 campaign on crowdfunding platform Growthdeck to fund three openings in south London to go alongside its debut Winchester site, which opened three years ago. Whaley is offering a 30% equity stake in return for the investment and so far the campaign has raised £410,000 from 26 investors. Pi is targeting three London openings by 2020 at the rate of one a year. The £500,000 is offered to investors in two strips – £250,000 of EIS-qualifying equity and a secured loan of £250,000 paying interest of 8% per annum. The equity strip offers investors the prospect of 8.3 times money return after the benefit of 30% initial income tax relief. Whaley said of the Clapham site: “It’s been three whirlwind years since we brought Pi to Winchester and I’m so excited to be opening a second site. Londoners have an insatiable passion for pizza and I hope we can bring a slice of something special to the table.”
Which Wich Superior Sandwiches to make London debut this month: Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, the US sandwich brand, will launch in London this month. Which Wich creates customisable, hot sandwiches using high quality, locally sourced ingredients that are freshly made to order. Which Wich Superior Sandwiches was founded in Dallas, Texas, in 2003 by entrepreneur Jeff Sinelli. In 2017 the brand was recognised in the top ten of the Fast Casual.com top 100 movers and shakers. Which Wich Superior Sandwiches has grown to more than 500 locations open or in development in ten countries and has received industry accolades and local recognition in nearly every market it serves. Which Wich Superior Sandwiches UK is led by Rami Awada of AAA Investment House, an entrepreneur with a strong track record of investments in UK and Canada. The launch is overseen by industry leader Kevin Todd, formerly managing director at Mitchells & Butlers. The first UK restaurant will be adapted to match Londoners’ sophisticated needs and will feature a “hip new look” and a bespoke London menu. “Innovation is essential to enter the London market,” said Awada. “We have looked at every aspect of the guest journey and taken each element apart and built it back again with ‘quality, speed and fun’ in mind. The brand is famous for its ordering system, which we have enhanced, and our menu innovation from breakfast through to lunch and even dinner is very exciting.” Which Wich Superior Sandwiches will open its first London restaurant at the end of February in the St Giles Plaza, Central St Giles, near New Oxford Street.
Former Barrafina head chef and manager launch solo venture in Mayfair: Nieves Barragán, who was head chef of renowned tapas brand Barrafina from its debut a decade ago, and its general manager Josè Etura have launched their own venture in Mayfair. Sabor has opened in Heddon offering regional dishes from across Spain, including the Basque and Catalonia regions. Dishes include diver-caught scallop with ham consommé, and wild rabbit empanada. The main dining counter is on the ground floor, surrounding the open kitchen, while there is a separate bar offering sherry, Vermouth, beer, Spanish wine and a large selection of Spanish gin. The bar also has its own menu with dishes such as fried chicken oyster bocadillo. The upstairs space focuses on the Galicia and Castile regions, with octopus and suckling pig a speciality. Galician octopus is cooked in traditional copper pans with olive oil and paprika, while Castilian roast suckling pig is cooked in an asador (a traditional wood-fired oven). Large sharing tables overlook the open kitchen. Barrafina is owned by the Hart brothers, with two sites in Covent Garden and one in Soho.
Vegan fast food concept The Vurger Co to open permanent site next month following Crowdcube’s fastest restaurant fund-raise: Vegan fast food concept The Vurger Co is to open its debut permanent site next month following Crowdcube’s fastest restaurant fund-raise. In July, founders Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts offered a 23.08% equity stake on the crowdfunding platform as it looked to raise £180,000 to open its first bricks and mortar site following a series of pop-ups and appearances at markets and festivals. It hit that target within 30 hours of launch and closed the campaign having reached its overfunding target of £300,000 from 284 investors in only 77 hours – 66% more than the brand’s target and allowing Hugh and Potts to raise the equity offer to 33.33%. The 30-cover restaurant will open in Richmix Square, Shoreditch, on Monday, 12 March offering four varieties of vegan burger, mac ‘n’ cheese and milkshakes alongside Canyon Coffee, beer, wine and soft drinks. Following the fund-raise, Hugh and Potts said: “We just love that everyone has got behind our mission, believed in us and our team, and understood how much of an impact our concept can have on the future of food.”
Santa Maria opens third London pizzeria, in Fitzrovia: Neapolitan pizza concept Santa Maria has opened its third London site, in Fitzrovia. Pasquale Chionchio and Angelo Ambrosio launched the concept in Ealing in 2010, with a second site opening in Chelsea in 2016. Now they have added to the portfolio by opening a 40-cover venue in New Cavendish Street, Fitzrovia, offering an increased number of vegan dishes and chef collaborations. The decor features art deco pinks, greens, yellows and blues inspired by 1960s Italian coffee bars in London. Chionchio said: “From the dough and the temperature of our hand-made oven to the order we place our ingredients on the dough and the way we stretch it, you name it, we’ve thought about it!” Ambrosio added: “We’re so excited about opening in central London. It’s a huge move for us but we’re quietly confident.” The duo also operate a pub – The Red Lion in Ealing, which is owned by Fuller’s and is next to the Santa Maria restaurant – as well as Sacro Cuore pizzerias in Kensal Rise and Crouch End.
JD Wetherspoon lodges plans to add £2.5m hotel and roof garden to Stirling city centre pub: JD Wetherspoon has lodged plans to add a 32-bedroom hotel and roof garden to its Crossed Peels pub in Stirling (population 91,600) in a £2.5m investment. An application has been submitted to Stirling Council for the change of use of offices above the ground-floor city centre pub. The move comes fewer than three years after the company ditched a bid to open a second pub in Stirling at a four-storey listed building in nearby King Street, which would have included a 29-bedroom hotel. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Observer: “We believe the addition of a hotel and roof garden would be a great asset to the pub and the town itself.” Meanwhile, the company will open a pub in Downham Market in Norfolk (population 9,994) next month after completing a £2.4m redevelopment. The company acquired The White Hart in Bridge Street from Oak Taverns in June 2016 and will reopen it on Tuesday, 20 March as The Whalebone, creating 60 jobs. The name is a reference to an inn in Bridge Street in the 1700s, when nearby King’s Lynn was a flourishing whaling port.
Teashop brand Waterloo Tea to open fifth site: Waterloo Tea is to open it fifth site, this time located at Penarth Pier Pavilion, this Tuesday (6 February). The brand serves an extensive range of speciality teas and has three sites in Cardiff – Penylan, Lakeside and the city centre – and one already in Penarth, at the Washington Buildings. Owner Kas Ali said: “I love beautiful buildings and this (the pavilion) really fits in with that. It will be the fifth venue we will now operate and from our point of view we hope to encourage visitors who are already in the locality to make a day of it, instead of leaving the area for food or drink. With the already established businesses in the area we believe the Penarth esplanade can continue its journey to truly be recognised as a destination for those seeking outstanding natural beauty combined with quality services.”
Pieminister to open much-delayed Sheffield city centre site this month: Bristol-based Pieminister is set to open its much-delayed restaurant in Sheffield city centre this month. The 50-cover venue will launch in Division Street at a unit formerly occupied by Nosh cafe. It was originally due to open in September. As well as embracing “everything pie”, the restaurant will offer local beer, cider, wine, coffee and music, The Star reports. The menu will feature more than a dozen gourmet pies, ranging from Moo (classic steak and ale) to Deer Stalker (venison), with vegetarian options such as Feta Attraction. Sides will include traditional mash and mushy peas. Brothers-in-law Jon Simon and Tristan Hogg launched Pieminister in 2003. In December, the company secured a £1.65m finance package from HSBC to open three restaurants, invest in a new plant, and improve efficiencies. The company currently operates 14 restaurants and cafes, while it also runs a number of dedicated kitchens at pubs across the UK. In late December, Pieminister reported turnover increased 17% to £12,556,000 for the year ending 31 March 2017 compared with £10,749,000 the previous year. Pre-tax profit fell to £148,000 compared with £315,000 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House.
Portsmouth-based Indian restaurateur to open third site in city: Portsmouth-based restaurateur Ruman Karim is set to open his third site in the city. Karim, who owns and operates The Ghandi Restaurant in Fratton and Bombay Bay in Southsea, will launch India Quay in Port Solent. The restaurant will be in The Boardwalk at a site formerly occupied by Brasserie Fish And Grill, which has relocated to another site at the marina. Karim and his family have run Indian restaurants for 40 years. He told The News: “I am very excited about India Quay because it isn’t going to be a traditional Indian restaurant. We plan to make it more flamboyant and it will serve a range of street food. Port Solent is a marina full of entertainment and we hope to reflect that with India Quay. It no longer has an Indian restaurant so we are excited to bring this option back to diners.”
Warrington-based operators to open third site: Warrington-based operators Charles Dobosz and Adam Smith are to open their third site in the Cheshire town. Dobosz and Smith, who met while working at Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines’ Abode in Manchester, will launch Italian restaurant San Lorenzo in April. They are transforming part of the Treasury Building into the restaurant, which will overlook Palmyra Square and create 50 jobs when it opens. Original features have been restored including exposed wooden beams above an open plan, 200-seat restaurant on the first floor. There will also be an open kitchen, a large Italian-style cocktail and prosecco bar with an open fire, and an outside terrace. Smith told the Warrington Guardian: “We feel privileged to be able to develop our passion for food and service into our third restaurant in Warrington, and in such a historic building.” It is Dobosz and Smith’s third venture in Warrington in eight years following The Grill On The Square and Las Ramblas Wine and Tapas.
Scotland international rugby players eye expansion of Glasgow steakhouse concept: Scotland international rugby players Stuart Hogg and Alastair Kellock are eyeing expansion of their Glasgow steakhouse concept Finsbay Flatiron. Hogg, who has more than 50 caps for the national team, and Kellock, who retired from the game in 2015, launched the concept in Milngavie. They have now opened a pop-up version of Finsbay Flatiron in Woodlands Road in the West End – timed to coincide with the start of this year’s NatWest Six Nations tournament – with plans to make the site permanent. Finsbay Flatiron specialises in 8oz flat iron steaks with sides such as mac ‘n’ cheese and triple-cooked chips. Both venues also feature bars, Glasgow Live reports. Considering the owners’ pedigree, all major rugby matches will be screened at the venue.
Norwich-based multi-siters close smokehouse restaurant less than year after launch: Norwich-based multi-site operators James Sawrey-Cookson and Ecky Limon have closed their E Street Smokehouse restaurant less than a year after launch. Sawrey-Cookson and Limon, who operate Last Wine Bar and the Blue Joanna Bar & Kitchen in Norwich, opened the venue in Exchange Street in July last year. It offered dishes cooked in a US-style hot smoker and over coals on a gaucho-style grill that was designed especially for the restaurant. However because of the “tough trading climate”, Sawrey-Cookson and Limon have taken the decision to shut the site. A spokesman for E Street Smokehouse told the Eastern Daily Press: “Like others before us, we have attempted to bring locally owned and independent eateries into the city centre. And, like others before us, we have found the tough economic climate and the relentless march of corporate chain restaurants with deeper pockets than we can ever hope for impossible to compete with.”
Wiltshire-based Greek mezze bar and restaurant opens second site, in Bristol: Wiltshire-based Greek mezze bar and restaurant Athena has opened its second site, in Bristol. The family-owned company has opened the venue in Westbury-on-Trym on a site formerly occupied by Flour & Ash pizzeria. Athena serves a range of authentic Greek meat, fish and vegetarian dishes, with classics such as moussaka, kleftiko and tzatziki on the menu. Restaurant manager Kostas Somascinos told the Bristol Post the family had wanted to come to the city after successfully opening a site in Chippenham but had struggled to find the right location.
Mexican bar and grill concept Los Banditos to start expansion with Lichfield city centre site: Mexican bar and grill concept Los Banditos is to start expansion by opening a second site, in Lichfield city centre. Founders Ross Hawkesford and Steve Floyd opened the first Los Banditos in a former HSBC bank in Boldmere, Sutton Coldfield, in December 2016. They have now submitted a planning application to launch a venue in Market Street, Lichfield, with hopes to open in May, the Birmingham Mail reports. Los Banditos offers a wide range of Mexican food including burritos, tacos and fajitas, chilli, paella and chipotle chicken burgers. Desserts include Chocotorta – a “boozy, triple-layer cake with Kahlua” – and Quesillo, a South American take on crème caramel. Its website states: “Comfortable seating and the chilled sounds of South America and Mexico make the atmosphere in Los Banditos not unlike a holiday.”
Isle of Wight Distillery turns Ryde pub into cocktail bar and shop: Isle of Wight Distillery has transformed the former Wishing Well pub in Pondwell, near Ryde, into The Mermaid, a fully working distillery, cocktail bar and shop. Visitors can sip cocktails while watching the distilling process in action through a glass wall. The on-site shop sells the distillery’s full range, the Island Echo reports. Currently, The Mermaid is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 11pm. From March onwards, the venue will open daily, from 11am to 11pm.
Whitbread gets go-ahead to add restaurant and rooms to Leamington Spa Premier Inn: Whitbread has got the go-ahead to add a restaurant and further bedrooms to its Premier Inn site in Leamington Spa. Warwick District Council has approved a move to extend the hotel in Parade into a former bank branch next door. As well as 19 extra bedrooms, a 148-cover restaurant will be created, Insider Media reports. A document submitted to the council on behalf of the applicant stated: “The hotel is in a town centre location and the development proposals take full account of the heritage value of the site.” Last month, Whitbread reported like-for-like sales at its Premier Inn brand rose 0.5% in the 13 weeks to 30 November 2017, with sales increasing 5%.
Somerset-based Italian restaurant Alfresco Cucina Italiana expands into Bristol: Somerset-based Italian restaurant Alfresco Cucina Italiana has started expansion by opening a second site, this time in Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol. The debut Alfresco launched in the village of Cleeve 18 months ago. The restaurant offers traditional Italian pasta dishes alongside pizza and adventurous offerings such as egg tagliatelle with slow-cooked shredded lamb ragout, mushroom and asparagus. Co-owner Fats Hyka told the Bristol Post he was inspired to open in Westbury after the site was recommended to him by a friend. He said: “We thought it sounded like a really good opportunity. We have done very well in Cleeve so we thought we would come and have a new adventure in Westbury. We looked at the place and the area and thought it was a great opportunity.”