Tasty reopens more than half of estate: Tasty, the AIM-listed operator of the Wildwood and Dim T brands, has reopened 33 sites for dine-in across both its brands. The company, which earlier this month revealed it was exploring ways to strengthen its balance sheet as it announced 284 redundancies, has now reopened 29 of its 51 Wildwood restaurants for dine-in. At the same time, ten of its Wildwood sites are offering delivery through Deliveroo, while its Whiteley restaurant is offering click and collect. Tasty has also reopened four of its five Dim T restaurants for dine in, with only its site in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, still closed. At the start of the month, the company said it was exploring ways to minimise costs and strengthen the balance sheet including investigating the possibility of new debt and/or equity capital and discussing terms with landlords and trade creditors.
Island Poké sets out expansion plans for France as it reports encouraging initial trading: White Rabbit Fund-backed concept Island Poké has said it plans to have eight sites open in France by the end of this year after being encouraged by the first few weeks’ trade at its debut site in Paris. The company opened its second and third sites in France earlier this month, in La Rochelle and Montpelier. Further openings this year include another site in Paris, two in Lyon and sites in Rennes and Nantes. The company will also open restaurants in Belgium and Luxembourg in 2021. Island Poké plans to open 42 sites in the next five years in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland under a joint-venture agreement, with the majority of sites in France. The business said it was also looking to expand across the UK from its eight-strong London base and explore new ways to enter new territories in the coming years. Island Poké founder James Porter said: “We are thrilled to continue our French roll-out plans, despite everything that’s happened to the industry during the past few months. It really demonstrates the faith our partners and customers have in our brand and offering. We’re encouraged by the first few weeks’ trade in Paris and look forward to bringing our unique Island vibes to the rest of France throughout the remainder of the year.”
Barkby Group secures £1m loan to support pubs business, eyes expansion opportunities: Premium gastro-pub operator Barkby Group has secured £1m through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) from HSBC UK and is looking at opportunities to add to its seven-strong estate. The company said it had used the lock-down period to make a “number of structural and operational changes” including accelerating plans to streamline the business, cutting its number of suppliers, and renegotiating key supplier contracts. Barkby Group used CBILS to furlough the vast majority of its workforce, while it has also benefited from business rate exemptions. The company has implemented a new room reservation system across its estate and redesigned pub websites. Refurbishment of the Rose & Crown Inn in Ashbury, near Swindon, has also been completed. The company stated: “We worked quickly to minimise cash outflows during this period but some ongoing monthly costs were incurred, such as utility costs, reduced rent and insurance. Following the relaxation of lock-down, our pubs reopened on 4 July. Various government incentives and the continued support of the majority of our landlords lead us to be optimistic about the trading outlook, subject to no further restrictions being imposed. We have been taking bookings for accommodation and initial demand has been better than anticipated. We’re taking this opportunity to add to our pub portfolio and carefully reviewing leasehold and freehold opportunities.” Regarding its Workshop Coffee business, Barkby said online sales grew 300% in the three months to June compared with last year, while the company said it was seeing that trend continue even as restrictions were lifted. Barkby added: “While business-to-business wholesale volumes were significantly down year-on-year for the last quarter, we started seeing an increase in May and this has continued into June. The performance of the online business has helped to partially offset the temporary decline in wholesale volumes. We look forward to seeing performance further improve as our own retail sites and those of our business-to-business partners reopen.”
Boparan to begin gradual reopening of Carluccio’s sites next week: Boparan Restaurant Group is to begin gradually reopening its Carluccio’s estate, starting with its Richmond and Beverley sites. The company, which paid £3.2m to acquire 30 Carluccio’s sites and buy the rights to the brand in May, will reopen the sites on Thursday, 30 July followed by venues in Walton-on-Thames, South Kensington and Stratford-upon-Avon on Thursday, 6 August. New safety measures will see the temperature of all team members screened daily; no staff travelling to or from work in their uniform; staggered shifts to ensure teams maintain a safe distance during start and break times; and all teams having access to gloves and face masks. The venues will also operate a reduced menu.
Roxy Leisure and Electric Playbox to expand concepts with new Manchester sites: Roxy Leisure, operator of Roxy Ball Room, is to open a second site for its Roxy Lanes concept, in Manchester. Roxy has signed a 20-year lease for 14,000 square feet of space in Withy Grove with M&G Real Estate and Intu, joint owners of Manchester Arndale, in a move first reported by Propel in October. Roxy Lanes, which has its debut site in Leeds, offers competitive games such as bowling, gaming and indoor golf alongside food and drink. The venue will be Roxy Leisure’s tenth UK venue and second in Manchester. The company, which is led by Matthew Jones, operates Roxy Ball Rooms in Deansgate, two each in Liverpool and Leeds, and one each in Birmingham and Nottingham. It also operates The Loop in Leeds. All its venues will reopen on Saturday, 1 August. A Roxy Lanes spokeswoman told The Business Desk: “We have always wanted to open a second site in the city and Manchester Arndale is perfect. It’s a great space for our customers to enjoy our fun and exciting activities.” Meanwhile, Electric Playbox has signed a ten-year lease for a 3,047 square foot unit in Halle Place at Manchester Arndale. The concept is an interactive digital adventure with each “playbox” offering a different theme. Visuals and graphics are projected on all four walls in each booth, with customers’ movements tracked by motion sensors. The concept has been co-founded by Will Dean, who created endurance race series Tough Mudder. It will be Electric Playbox’s second site after making its debut in London. Dean said: “Manchester is the perfect location for our second venue in the UK. We’re confident customers will enjoy everything we have to offer.” Intu regional managing director Colin Flinn said: “Consumer behaviour will continue to change and shopping centres will no longer just be about retail – our customers are looking for a day out and something to entertain the whole family. Extending our leisure offer means we’re providing something people can’t purchase online.”
Three Cheers Pub Co extends Eat Out To Help Out until end of September: Three Cheers Pub Co, led by Tom Peake, Mark Reynolds and Nick Fox, is to extend the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme by giving customers 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks in September as well as August. All diners will be able to benefit from the discount of up to £10 per person at each of the company’s nine sites during the two-month period. Peake said: “Lock-down has meant our customers haven’t been able to go out for a long time. It has also been a financially challenging time for us all. By doubling the period of the offer and subsiding the discount out of our own pockets, we hope to see more of our lovely customers back. We’ve missed them!”
Benares team to launch Indian concept as one of three Camden Market openings: The team behind Michelin-starred restaurant Benares is to launch a concept at Camden Market. Situated in The Stables, The Indian Alley will be the first food and beverage concept to launch in Camden Market after lock-down restrictions eased. It will be joined by Lewis Hamilton-backed, plant-based Neat Burger and Spain-inspired creperie Prep’ La Crepe, which have also agreed deals with Camden Market owner LabTech. Located in a grade I-listed building and created by Benares’ in-house team, the plan is to open the restaurant next month and refurbish it in early 2021. Neat Burger has signed for a 500 square foot unit for its second dine-in outlet in London, after Mayfair. The outlet is due to open in August. Prep’ La Crepe will open a dedicated grab-and-go kiosk for its debut London site. Camden Market is the brand’s third overall, joining its two Spanish branches including a recently opened 100-cover restaurant in Madrid. Its Camden restaurant will pay homage to the success of its French menu – sweet and savoury crepes, salads and smoothies. It will be an all-day dining concept offering main meals and snacks. Maggie Milosavljevic, food and beverage commercial director at LabTech, said: “The Indian Alley, Neat Burger and Prep’ La Crepe all have something distinctive to bring and we’re excited to welcome them.” LabTech, The Indian Alley, Prep’ La Crepe, and Neat Burger all dealt direct.
 
Innis & Gunn lodges plans for second Taproom in Edinburgh: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has lodged plans to launch a second Taproom in Edinburgh. The company has applied to the city council to refurbish the former Finn & Bear cafe in The Shore. It would bring Innis & Gunn’s estate of bars in Scotland to four following the Taproom in Lothian Road, Edinburgh, and venues in Dundee and Glasgow. An Innis & Gunn spokesman told Propel: “We can confirm we’re in the initial planning stages for a second Taproom in Edinburgh. The expansion of our retail footprint has always been a key pillar of our overall growth strategy and we look forward to unveiling more detail on what we have planned in due course, subject to relevant permissions.” In May, Innis & Gunn submitted plans for its new brewery. Located at Heriot-Watt University’s Research Park to the west of Edinburgh, it is set to be the first major brewery to open in the city for 150 years.
Wright & Bell to resurrect South Bank’s Green Room: Restaurant and bar company Wright & Bell, which is backed by Imbiba, is set to launch a 2.0 version of the Green Room bar on London’s South Bank. The Green Room #2 will launch on Friday, 31 Julyas a summer garden space offering pizza and cocktails. The original Green Room bar closed last year but the reopening will allow Wright & Bell to get furloughed staff back into work, Hot Dinners reports. Ben Hughes-Gage, head chef of Smithfield restaurant Lino, and his team will bring their bread oven to the venue to make red-and-white-based pizzas with toppings such as grilled leeks, courgette, tarragon and truffle; and passata, confit aubergine, cashew, semi-dried tomato and basil. Green Room #2 will also offer dishes from other Wright & Bell venues such as Carnaby bar Whyte & Brown’s crispy chicken burgers and Lino’s house croquettes. Drinks will come from the team at City of London bar Kitty Hawk and use herbs and botanicals grown in the bar’s garden such as mint in the Herbaceous Spritz and elderflower in the Elderflower Classico. The venue will have capacity for 100 socially distanced customers. Wright & Bell, which is led by Sarah Clark, also operates The Back Room Wine Bar.
Deliveroo makes Miller its permanent chief financial officer: Deliveroo has appointed Adam Miller as permanent chief financial officer. Miller, who has been with the company since 2019, had been holding the role on an interim basis since Raif Jacobs left in October, reports Sky News. Deliveroo founder and chief executive Will Shu announced Miller’s appointment as part of a broader shake-up of the company’s senior management ranks. The changes include the elevation of Thea Rogers, a former senior Treasury adviser, to chief customer officer, responsible for communications, policy, marketing, insights and loyalty. Its general counsel, Chantelle Zemba, will also be promoted to the company’s executive committee. Shu reportedly told staff: “Deliveroo’s vision is to be the definitive food company. From our global expansion to developing industry-leading innovations such as Editions, we have made huge strides. After a period in which we have had to adapt our offer to restaurants, riders and restaurants, we can look to the future with confidence and I’m excited about what this new structure will enable us to accomplish.” Deliveroo has been grappling with the impact of the pandemic on its restaurant partners, sparking a series of initiatives aimed at demonstrating support for the industry. New services include a direct tipping function to boost local restaurant operators. Last month the Competition and Markets Authority announced it would provisionally approve Amazon’s acquisition of a 16% stake in Deliveroo. A final decision is due shortly. Sky News said the appointment of a number of new executives would stoke speculation Deliveroo was edging closer to a stock market listing, with next year looking a realistic option, according to bankers. One insider said Deliveroo was positioned for a “period of sustained and profitable growth”.
Football-inspired restaurant concept Players to double portfolio: Football-inspired restaurant concept Players is to double its portfolio with two new sites. The company will launch the venues in Manchester city centre, adding to its venues in Rochdale and Cheetham Hill. The first opening will be in Portland Street in premises previously occupied by dessert parlour operator Creams. The site is expected to open in mid-August before the team moves on to another opening in Deansgate, reports the Manchester Evening News. Players’ venues feature turf walls, Perspex-clad football shirts covered with footballers’ signatures, and a sports-influenced menu of burgers, chicken wings and loaded cookie dough and waffle desserts.
Stafford Collection to reopen Fitzrovia restaurant Norma next month: The Stafford Collection, the luxury hospitality group that includes the Stafford London and Northcote, has announced its Sicilian-inspired restaurant Norma will reopen on Monday, 3 August. The restaurant in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, has been adapted to meet government guidelines. The dining room on the top floor is bookable for parties of up to 12 guests. Culinary director Ben Tish and his team have created a seasonal menu with a taste of Sicily. Dishes will include grilled octopus with preserved lemon and wild fennel, and mafalde with Cornish crab, chilli butter and lemon.
Mindful Chef sees 387% frozen meal sales spike during lock-down, secures first retail listing: Healthy recipe box service Mindful Chef has said it saw a 387% week-on-week increase in sales of frozen meals when the UK went into lock-down. The move has seen Mindful Chef expand its frozen foods range to 25 ready meals and 13 smoothie mixes. The company introduced frozen meals to its offering last year. The company has also secured its first retail listing. Mindful Chef will launch three frozen ready meals with online supermarket Ocado this month. The meals feature ingredients used in its recipe boxes that are 100% free from refined carbs, gluten and dairy. The meals are spicy panang chicken curry with black rice, chicken tikka masala with brown rice, and creamy coconut fish pie with sweet potato mash. Mindful Chef chief executive Tim Lee said: “We have also reported a significant increase in basket size, with multiple customers spending more than £500 in one order, equating to over 80 frozen meals. We are also excited to introduce our healthy frozen ready meal range to Ocado. This is a significant move into retail for the brand and one we hope to expand in the future.” Earlier this month Mindful Chef partnered with City Pantry, the business-to-business catering market place owned by Just Eat. City Pantry’s home delivery service, which launched in April, allows businesses to deliver meals, gifts and perks directly to employees’ homes. In June, Mindful Chef teamed up with Nando’s to launch a limited-edition recipe box of peri-peri favourites.
MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Olivia Burt to head kitchen at new Chelsea wine bar: MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Olivia Burt is to head the kitchen at Chelsea wine bar Stanley’s, which will launch in Sydney Street on Thursday (23 July). Burt comes to the venture from Fera at Claridge’s, with her menu focusing on British seasonal produce and ingredients in a “relaxed contemporary style”. Small plates will include whipped smoked cod roe with buttermilk flatbread; sourdough crumpet with Cornish crab; and hen of the woods mushrooms with smoked mustard cream. Drinks will include an own-label sparkling wine in partnership with English producer Coates & Seely, Hot Dinners reports. Stanley’s has taken over The Chelsea Courtyard, just off King’s Road, and will offer 60 covers in the outside space, which has been socially distanced using booths for groups of six and screens to separate diners. The courtyard will also feature its own bar, while inside there will be an orangery-style room with a large central banquette and private dining room. The operator is Hugh Stanley, of the renowned Stanley horse-breeding family, who ran the nearby Sydney Arms for three years.
Socially distanced events space to launch as Leeds’ largest beer garden: A socially distanced venue for eating and drinking is to launch in Leeds. Chow Down will run for ten weekends from Thursday, 30 July and will be the city’s “biggest beer garden”. The project is a collaboration between events company New Citizens, online directory Leeds Indie Food, and food and lifestyle agency Chapter 81. After New Citizens saw all plans for a “bumper 2020” cancelled, it is now working with developer CEG to create Temple Arches, a 22,000 square foot open-air venue in Globe Road. Chow Down has previously been hosted by The Piece Hall in Halifax and Lincoln Castle. Matt Long, director of New Citizens and Chow Down, told The Business Desk: “We saw all our events cancelled during the pandemic and brainstormed ideas to create a permanent space for Chow Down. The team has designed an amazing venue at Temple Arches using shipping containers and pergolas to create an alfresco setting that’s socially distanced and safe but also fun. It will be a great environment in which to enjoy all the great street food, drink, music and live art we have to offer.” Emma Clarkson, place-making manager at CEG, added: “This outdoor events space will host a series of creative, cultural and social activities in a safe way. It’s part of CEG’s ambition to breathe renewed life into the Temple area.”
Former England rugby captain Phil Vickery launches debut restaurant: Former England rugby captain and World Cup winner Phil Vickery has opened his debut restaurant. Vickery, who won Celebrity MasterChef in 2011, has opened No.3 in Cheltenham at the former Star Bistro site in Royal Crescent. The restaurant has room for 26 covers inside with another 12 spaces outside and two private dining rooms upstairs. No.3 will also continue to offer the collection service it launched in May. Vickery told So Glos: “Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere quick. Having an offering people can take away is important and something I want to do. The biggest thing we can do as individuals is wanting to make a difference. We’re going to be the ones to get ourselves out of it and move on.”
National gym chain Xercise4Less sold in pre-pack administration: National gym chain Xercise4Less has been sold in a pre-pack administration deal. Xercise4Less and parent company Wright Leisure Topco appointed Toby Underwood and Rob Lewis, of PwC, as joint administrators. They confirmed the sale of the business to a subsidiary of JD Sports Gyms. The sale included the majority of business and assets of Xercise4Less Group, including 50 of its 51 gyms. The chain’s site in Wakefield wasn’t included in the sale as it closed before administrators were appointed. The business employs 400 staff, who will all transfer to the new business. Xercise4Less faced “financial difficulties caused by an increasing competitive market, which was exacerbated by coronavirus”. The administrators confirmed there would be no interruption to customer memberships. Underwood said: “Following our appointment we immediately completed a sales process that had been running for some time. This sale puts the business on a firmer financial footing and JD Sports Gyms will work with the existing team to continue to grow and develop the new business.” Alun Peacock, managing director of JD Sports Gyms, added: “This acquisition enhances our position in the highly competitive gym market and will ensure the continued employment of many hundreds of people. We look forward to reopening the gyms and welcoming our new colleagues and members over the coming weeks.”
Shuk to launch alfresco evening dining experience at Borough Market: An alfresco evening dining experience is set to launch at London’s Borough Market on Friday, 31 July. Erev, which means “evening” in Hebrew, is the brainchild of the team behind Borough Market stall Shuk and will offer small sharing plates and houmous using produce from the market. Inspired by Tel Aviv’s street food, Erev will offer eight covers overlooking the stall’s open kitchen and 24 alfresco covers in front. Erev’s small plates will include beetroot, horseradish, orange and dill; sea bass, schug and pickled cucumber; and rare beef, smoked pickled mushrooms, zaatar and truffle pecorino. Houmous will be served with steamed pita, while desserts will include poached rhubarb and pistachio crumble. The drinks list will feature wine, Israeli beer and “market soda” cocktails. Chef Mark Jankel and operator Richard Littman launched Shuk in December 2019.