Zia Lucia founders plan pasta concept: The founders of the Zia Lucia pizza format plan to launch a pasta concept in Islington, north London. The pasta restaurant, Berto, will feature an open kitchen, 40-plus covers and a large counter. It is set to open in May close to the group’s Zia Lucia site in Holloway Road. Zia Lucia, which is Italian for “Auntie Lucia”, is the brainchild of Claudio Vescovo and Gianluca D’Angelo and launched in Holloway Road in 2016. It has since opened sites in Brook Green and Boxpark Wembley. It’s thought a fourth Zia Lucia site is set to open this summer, with Aldgate a mooted destination. The group is understood to have plans to open five restaurants in London during the next four years. Zia Lucia offers wood-fired pizza, with bases made from 48-hour fermented dough. The menu also features Italian-style starters, seasonal specials, salads and desserts. The drinks menu focuses on spritzers, negronis, bottled beer from Italy and local brewers, and wine and prosecco sourced from small Italian producers.
VQ trials takeaway and delivery concept: VQ Restaurants, the extended-hours restaurant concept, is trialling a takeaway and delivery concept in Clapham, south west London, which it will look to roll out if successful, Propel has learned. The five-strong group has launched the smaller-format site, which focuses predominantly on takeaway trade, in Clapham High Street. The pared-back menu focuses on burgers, salads and starters. The Simon Prideaux-led company opened the fifth site under its 24-hour bar restaurant concept last year in Euston, at the Euston Square Hotel. The opening followed sites in Bloomsbury, Aldgate, Notting Hill and Chelsea. Prideaux, who is backed by Richard Northcott, chairman of Theo Fennell, has previously said he would like to open ten sites in the capital under its core format. Alexander “Langy” Langlands Pearse, chief executive of Cirrus Inns, is a non-executive director of VQ.
Red Dog Saloon to launch Nashville hot chicken concept in Hoxton Square basement: Red Dog Saloon is to launch a Nashville red-hot chicken concept in the basement below its restaurant in Hoxton Square, east London. Louie’s will open in May offering a menu focusing on a local speciality of Tennessee. Unlike lightly seasoned chicken from Louisiana or New Orleans, Nashville fried chicken is served “red hot”. Coated in buttermilk, seasoned with paprika, garlic and brown sugar, and fried in cayenne-infused hot oil, the chicken has a “distinctive deep red colour and a fiery, crispy coating”. Customers will be able to create their own bespoke serve – from the cut of chicken to the level of spice – served with sides such as coleslaw and pickles. Red Dog Saloon founder Tom Brooke said: “This is an exciting time to be introducing Nashville fried chicken to London for the first time. Louie’s will serve red-hot chicken like nowhere else in the city.” Red Dog Saloon offers barbecue-style ribs, wings, pulled pork and burgers that are cooked using aromatic hickory wood in US-imported smokers. The brand operates two other London restaurants, in Soho and Clapham, and one each in Liverpool, Nottingham and Southampton.
Department for Coffee and Social Affairs continues to build UK portfolio of brands: The Coffeesmith Collective, the US-listed company behind the Department for Coffee and Social Affairs (DoCaSA), has continued to build its portfolio of businesses in the UK with the acquisition of further sites, roasteries and wholesalers. The company recently took a majority stake in Brighton-based, seven-strong Small Batch Coffee group, which was previously backed by sector investor Luke Johnson. During the past few months it has also acquired Baker & Spice, the Patisserie Holdings brand; Bea’s of Bloomsbury; Tap Coffee; mobile coffee brand Café 2 U; and two Bristol-based independent coffee shops. Propel has learned the company also recently acquired the Urban Tea Rooms business, which has sites in Kingly Street and St James’s Market. At the same time, it has taken stakes in Bristol-based independent coffee roaster Roasted Rituals and Yorkshire-based La Bottega Milanese, which operates two cafes in Leeds plus a wholesale arm. The company has further added to its regional artisan coffee house portfolio by acquiring the Brew & Bake business in Cheltenham. Propel has learned the company, which operates 22 UK sites under the DoCaSA banner – 20 in London, plus sites in Bristol and Manchester – has lined up two further openings in the City for its core coffee shop brand, plus another two in Manchester. At the same time, it plans to open a fourth US site for the brand in Chicago.
Kababji concept to make UK debut: Kababji, the Lebanese grill house concept that operates 26 restaurants across the Middle East, is to make its UK debut later this month with a tweaked version of its format, in Wimbledon. The business, which is led by Hylton Patterson, formerly of Tortilla, and backed by Ziad Joumblat and industry veteran Douglas Smillie is investing more than £500,000 in the launch of the Wimbledon site. The restaurant, which will open at a former Chimichanga site, will feature sit-down dining and a takeaway offer. The company said the restaurant would specifically target millennials by featuring tech-savvy kiosks that allow customers to order and track the progress of their food on-screen and through an app, and order food direct to their table via the click of a button. A loyalty scheme will also be available on the app. Patterson, head of UK operations, said: “Wimbledon will be our first urban village opening before we expand into central London and the rest of the UK. With several formats and approaches in place, we have a number of store openings set for 2019.” It’s thought the company has targeted sites in the City of London and Birmingham. Launched in Lebanon 25 years ago, the brand said it differentiated itself from other kebab and Lebanese restaurants through its healthy brand positioning and “transparency surrounding ingredients and production methods”, with everything prepared fresh each morning to create an “authentic Lebanese taste”. Patterson said: “Kababji has sold 21 million sandwiches since inception. We know they are a firm favourite, which is why we’ve kept our menu 100% authentic Lebanese. However, we are about more than just wraps and have introduced more vegetarian options to the menu as the health trend for vegetarianism continues to grow. Our Wimbledon menu is 40% vegetarian and features dishes such as aubergine grill, falafel, halloumi and hummus, which is made fresh every morning using a secret blend of herbs and spices and authentic tahini shipped from Lebanon.” The price point for sandwiches starts at £4.50. Smillie was formerly director of My Kinda Town and managing director of Henry J Beans Group. He is also former director of Busaba and Tapas Revolution. Joumblat is managing director of Joel Robuchon International and chairman of Big Fernand Restaurant Group. He is also former director of YO! Sushi.
Spuntino to relocate: Restaurant entrepreneurs Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, the pair behind Polpo, are to relocate their Spuntino restaurant in Soho following an agreed return of the lease to the landlord. Hallmark Estates, which owns the premises in Rupert Street, will take back possession of the lease on Wednesday, 31 July. The restaurant continues to trade with staff aware of the situation, while management described business as “excellent”. Hallmark has instructed Davis Coffer Lyons to market the site at an annual rent of £200,000. Polpo has been exploring replacement sites for Spuntino in Soho and working with industry property expert Richard Wassell. It is offering a £10,000 finder’s fee. Spuntino, which means “snack” in Italian, is known for its tagline “27 stools and a popcorn machine” and offers New York comfort food. Last year, Norman and Beatty signed an exclusive franchise agreement for Spuntino with The Restaurant Group Concessions and the debut partnership site has opened at Heathrow’s Terminal 3. Beatty said: “Losing Spuntino’s original home is going to be tough. Rarely has a restaurant been so closely associated with the physical space it inhabits. But we have been greatly encouraged by the success of Spuntino at Heathrow airport and have seen the potential for a reborn Spuntino in Soho that is bigger and better. Additionally, the love Londoners feel for that pewter-topped bar and 27 stools means we must find a new home. We are confident there’s somewhere nearby that’s just right for us and, to show our commitment to this happening quickly, we are offering a £10,000 finder’s fee to anyone who informs us of an off-market site we end up signing on.” Polpo, the holding company behind the eponymous brand and Spuntino, had its restructuring proposals under a company voluntary arrangement approved by creditors last week.
Jolly swaps Welcome Break for Sticks ‘n’ Sushi: Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, the Japanese restaurant brand, has appointed Karl Jolly, formerly of Welcome Break, as its people director. Jolly joins the 21-strong group, which currently operates eight restaurants in the UK, after almost 13 years as director of people at the motorway services operator. He joins former Welcome Break chief executive Rod McKie at Sticks ‘n’ Sushi after McKie became its international chief executive last year. The company opened its biggest site to date, in Chelsea last year, featuring its debut “restaurant within a restaurant” private dining space. The three-storey restaurant in King’s Road accommodates 220 guests. The company, which also operates sites in Denmark and Berlin, has a further opening lined up in central London, in Beak Street. Last year Applegreen acquired a majority shareholding in Welcome Break, which operates 27 sites in the UK, attracts more than 85 million customers a year and employs almost 5,000 staff.
Oslo Fish + Bun concept to launch in London: Oslo Fish + Bun, a new fast-casual concept, is to make its UK debut near Oxford Circus after securing a site in Argyll Street. The concept, which is the brainchild of a family-owned, Turkey-based company, has taken the Café Fred site for its flagship opening. The concept will focus on “traditional and progressive Mediterranean cuisine”. The company behind the venture currently operates the Cansin restaurant concept in Turkey. Sammy Weinbaum, of CDG Leisure, acted on the Argyll Street deal.
JD Wetherspoon teams up with Good Food Talks to make menus easier for visually impaired customers: JD Wetherspoon has partnered with Good Food Talks to help blind and visually impaired people access menus across its estate. The Wetherspoon menu was available in Braille but only 1% of blind people in the UK can read Braille, leaving almost two million who don’t. Customers at Wetherspoon pubs across the UK and Ireland can now browse and listen to the menu through a website and iOS mobile app. The app will replace the Braille menu, although large-print menus will still be available on request. Good Food Talks was founded in March 2013 by Kate Bennett Wadsworth and Matt Wadsworth, who launched the app in November last year. Wetherspoon website manager Hannah Brennan said: “Matt invented the app after experiencing his own frustration at Braille menus in restaurants and pubs. We are pleased to subscribe each of our pubs to the service.” Matt Wadsworth added: “We have made a real difference to the way in which people make their choices in restaurants. We are excited to have the opportunity to bring our solution to Wetherspoon diners across the UK.” Meanwhile, Wetherspoon stated on Wednesday (13 March) that a list of 16 pubs it had put on the market included The Cliftonville Inn in Hove and The Foxley Hatch in Purley. The company would like to point out those two pubs are not for sale. However, the list failed to include two pubs that have been put on the market – The Vulcan in Coatbridge and The Queens Hotel in Newport. The company is also handing back the keys of The Baron Cadogan in Reading to the landlord. The final day of trading will be Sunday, 24 March with all staff offered jobs at other Wetherspoon pubs.
Bristol-based operator plans six-strong estate after taking on second pub: Bristol-based operator Paul Frost plans to build a six-strong estate in the area after taking on his second pub. Frost, who runs the Colston Arms in central Bristol, has taken on the lease of The Langton Court Hotel in St Anne’s. Both properties belong to Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. Frost and Star Pubs & Bars are undertaking a £500,000 refurbishment of The Langton Court, which will reopen in early May offering food and barista-style coffee for the first time. The pub will feature a recreational games area with a dartboard, pool table and other traditional pub games, while the skittle alley is also being renovated. A layout change will create seating for an additional 40 people, doubling the number of covers. The covered all-weather terrace is also being extended to increase seating from ten to 50. Frost said: “Bristol is buzzing. It’s also an innovative place so pubs that don’t keep up with changing consumer needs and aren’t invested in get left behind.” Neil Convery, regional operations director for Star Pubs & Bars, added: “We are delighted Paul is taking on The Langton. He’s an experienced operator with a keen understanding of customer service, which is key to running a great community pub.”
Antic gets go-ahead for third pub in same Crystal Palace road: Antic, the Downing-backed London pub operator led by Antony Thomas, has been given the go-ahead to open a third pub in the same road in Crystal Palace. The company has been granted permission by Croydon Council to convert a disused Plumbase shop in Westow Hill, reports My London. The venue will be called Cambridge Coopers and serve coffee in the morning before “morphing into a lively meeting place” in the evening. Antic’s other pubs in Westow Hill are Westow House and Walker Briggs.
Clarke and Boxer open third London restaurant, in Notting Hill: Andrew Clarke and Jackson Boxer, the pair behind London restaurants Brunswick House and St Leonards, have opened a third site in the capital, in Notting Hill. Orasay has launched in Kensington Park Road inspired by the Hebrides and focusing on the islands’ seafood such as lobster, crab, scallops, oysters, razor clams and langoustine. Vegetables, honey and eggs, meanwhile, are supplied by Clarke and Boxer’s organic farm near Midhurst, West Sussex, and like-minded producers. Wine is available by glass and carafe from tap and keg, including bottles from Boxer’s personal cellar. The 50-cover site, formerly occupied by Mexican restaurant Peyotito, also offers a 12-cover private dining room. Building on the success of Brunswick House in Vauxhall, Clarke and Boxer opened St Leonards in Shoreditch in June 2018.
Chipotle launches new customer loyalty programme: Chipotle has launched a new customer loyalty programme. Chipotle Rewards members will receive ten points for every dollar spent at any Chipotle location, online or in the app. For every 1,250 points accrued, members will get a free entrée and other bonuses such as extra points days, and free chips and guacamole after they sign up, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Chipotle has previously experimented with a more complex loyalty platform, based on visits rather than spending. Chief digital and information officer Curt Garner said: “Similar to how we build restaurants where people live and work, we want to have a presence in all the places our customers spend time digitally.” Chief executive Brian Niccol first mentioned the possibility of a new rewards programme in May last year, when he teased the idea as part of Chipotle’s detailed comeback strategy.
BrewDog begins 2019 bar hunt: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has launched its bar hunt for 2019 with a finder’s fee of £5,000 for a bar and £10,000 for an “outpost” (brewpub). Bar sites must be 2,000 to 6,000 square feet, while Outpost sites should be between 6,000 and 10,000 square feet. All sites should have the majority of space on the ground floor and be in a “high-visibility” location with lots of footfall. Outside space is “essential”, the company stated on its blog. In the UK, BrewDog is targeting sites in Bath, Belfast, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Chester and Exeter. In France it is eyeing Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse, with Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt and Munich and on its wish list for Germany. Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht are the favoured cities in the Netherlands, with Barcelona, Madrid and Seville on the list for Spain. Entries for the bar hunt run until Tuesday, 30 April.
Greater Manchester-based operator to turn ‘meat shacks’ into Chinese casual dining concept: Greater Manchester-based operator Henry Yau is to convert the two remaining sites of his “meat shack” CockaDoodleMoo to a new Chinese casual dining concept. The venues in Rochdale and Stockport will be be transformed into WowYauChow. The move comes after Yau launched WowYauChow in Altrincham last year after converting his CockaDoodleMoo site in Stamford New Road. CockaDoodleMoo, which was launched in 2013, offered a meat-heavy menu with burgers, ribs, hotdogs, steak and wings. The WowYauChow menu includes small plates such as salt and pepper chilli chicken wings, bao buns and dumplings, alongside noodle dishes, rice bowls, British Chinese mains such as beef in black pepper sauce, and cocktails. Yau told Manchester Evening News: “We are taking time out on CockaDoodleMoo. It has been an amazing journey and I look forward to possible opportunities as they present themselves. With the recent launch of our casual dining Chinese restaurant in Altrincham, I have decided to reopen all our existing sites under the WowYauChow brand.”
Gordon Ramsay gives glimpse of new Asian-inspired restaurant: Gordon Ramsay has given a glimpse of the menu at his new Asian-inspired restaurant concept Lucky Cat, which will launch in Mayfair this summer. The “authentic Asian eating house” and late-night lounge, which will be inspired by the drinking dens of 1930s Tokyo and the Far East, will launch in place of his Maze restaurant in Grosvenor Square, which shut last month after 14 years. Each dish will be designed for sharing at the centre of the table and feature classic Asian small plates and Robata-grilled dishes. They will include seared otoro with house soy, wakame oil and baby kale, and a seasonal take on chawan mushi, a savoury custard steamed and finished with flavours such as truffle, mushrooms and caviar. The venue will also feature a raw bar offering sushi and sashimi, and chef’s tables with seasonal menus. Meanwhile, the cocktail menu will put a creative spin on well-known classics using Asian ingredients. There will be a selection of Japanese gin and more than 40 premium sakes, alongside wine, beer and whisky. There will also be loose-leaf tea on offer hailing from south east Asia and Vietnam. Ramsay said: “Lucky Cat has been a long-time vision for me and I can’t wait to bring it to life. I’ve toured and worked in much of Asia over the years and the culture, flavours and incredible cooking never fail to inspire me. We’ve got a great team on the project and we’re ready to bring something really special to London this summer.”
 
Chelsea restaurant Cheyne Walk Brasserie to reopen next month with new name, chef and menu: Chelsea restaurant Cheyne Walk Brasserie will reopen as No. Fifty Cheyne next month featuring a new head chef and menu. Sally Greene, founder-director of The Old Vic and proprietor of Ronnie Scott’s, opened the venue in 2003 but has recruited Iain Smith, former head chef at Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House, to create a menu featuring dishes such as belted Galloway beef ragout with spatzli, spicy sausage and rose harissa. The Sunday menu will allow guests to pre-order roast dinners such as whole suckling pig, rib of beef or whole salmon. The refurbished ground-floor restaurant will seat 70, with a 50-cover cocktail bar and “drawing room” on the upper floor. Set in Cheyne Walk, the venue will reopen on Monday, 1 April offering views of the Thames and Cheyne Gardens