TRG announces further leisure brand reopenings: The Restaurant Group (TRG) is set to reopen more Chiquito, Frankie & Benny’s, Coast to Coast and Filling Station sites. A further 12 Chiquito venues – including Liverpool Edge Lane and Manchester Printworks – are set to reopen for click and collect, delivery and dine-in from bank holiday Monday (31 August) following the restart of three sites on Monday (24 August). Frankie & Benny’s in Bury St Edmunds will open Thursday (27 August) for click and collect, delivery and dine-in along with delivery options from 14 other sites, including Tamworth and Oxford. Meanwhile two Coast to Coast and three Filling Station operations began full reopening on Monday (24 August). Leisure division chief executive Mark Chambers said: “We are delighted to be reopening more of our restaurants and very much look forward to welcoming back our guests. Our priority will be to ensure the health and safety of our teams and guests while providing a first-class experience. We are very pleased with the feedback we have received from returning guests so far and we will be monitoring feedback very closely to ensure we continue to deliver a great and safe experience.” All dine-in outfits in the TRG stable are taking part in the government’s Eat Out To Help Out initiative.
Itsu to reopen nine more venues and offers chance to win 50% off menu items: Itsu will reopen a further nine sites, offer customers the chance to win a 50% off card and is launching nine new recipes. Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, will reopen sites on Friday (28 August), which it claims are some of the firm’s most popular venues, including The Shard and Regent Street. Metcalfe said: “It was heart-breaking for us to close in March, so the fact we are reopening our doors just makes me well-up with gratitude. I wanted to celebrate this big moment by giving back to our beloved returning customers.” Winners of the “pink card” will be entitled to 50% off all menu items, including sushi, broths and bao buns for three months. Itsu will also give gifts such as free sushi boxes and refill flasks to the first 1,000 customers back to each of its UK stores and restaurants, visiting stores or ordering via delivery. New recipes will includes the debut of veggie meatballs and coconut pot’soup.
McDonald’s widens Easterbrook probe: McDonald’s is examining whether former chief executive Steve Easterbrook covered up improprieties by other McDonald’s employees. The Wall Street Journal said there are fears potential misconduct took place within the company’s human resources department because former managers have alleged their complaints were ignored and they were scared of a backlash for reporting misconduct. Easterbrook was sacked in November over a consensual relationship with an employee but the business received information that he had been involved in multiple affairs with staff members. McDonald’s said: “The board will follow the facts wherever they may lead.” New chief executive Chris Kempczinski has vowed to improve the firm’s work environment and hired Boeing’s Heidi Capozzi as its new global chief people officer.
Qoot to open The Lebanese Bakery in Harrods for second London site, plans further expansion: Qoot Restaurant Group, which operates a number of fast-growing brands in London, is to open a second The Lebanese Bakery site in the capital, within department store Harrods. It follows the launch of the first London outlet, in Covent Garden in 2018 – and more are set to follow. The Lebanese Bakery is the creation of brothers Samer and Bassam Chamoun. They opened the first site in 2016 and as well as the Covent Garden venue they also have an outlet in Bahrain. Two more are in the pipeline – in Riyadh and Cairo. As well as its signature offer, the restaurant and bakery in Harrods will feature some exclusive dishes including aubergine fattoush, lentil tabbouleh and cauliflower freekeh salads. Scot Turner, vice-president of operations at Qoot, said: “Following the success of our first opening in Covent Garden we have ambitious plans for The Lebanese Bakery, and despite the current climate we are confident of our expansion. We have seen such big demand for the food concept, driven largely by the increase in popularity of Lebanese cuisine within the city and this allows us to cater for more of that demand, especially in such a renowned location. Covid-19 has been challenging for us and the industry overall but we are looking for opportunities as they arise and will have more plans to announce soon.” Samer Chamoun added: “As a Lebanese-born brand coming from a neighbourhood in Beirut, we take pride in being in such a prestigious institution like Harrods. This will be a great opportunity to promote the Lebanese food culture to an exclusive and international crowd.” Qoot’s other brands include plant-based brand By Chloe and delivery brand Vegan Dough Co. The company is also bringing Kuwait chef Ahmed Al Bader’s hot sandwich concept 77 Josper Bar to the UK.
Star Pubs & Bars invests £250,000 to continue discount eating-out initiative:Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is ploughing £250,000 into its Just Add Talent (JAT) managed operator pubs so they can continue to offer 50% off meals from Monday to Wednesday during September. The move by Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is to consolidate food sales growth at JAT managed pubs, which have risen from 14% to 30% of pub turnover during the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Four new premium mains dishes are being added to the menu to meet a trend towards premiumisation, which the government initiative fuelled. There will be no cap on individual expenditure with customers able to use the scheme as often as they like. Star Pubs & Bars retail concept manager Beki Davies said: “The dishes we sold during the Eat Out To Help Out scheme reflect the change in profile of customers and in their desire to trade up, which wasn’t immediate but continued to grow over three weeks. For the first time, our children’s menu and desserts made our top ten best-sellers. We sold 680 rump steaks in the first week compared to 1,800 last week. While we expected to see a rise in food sales Monday to Wednesday, we actually saw a week-on-week increase in Thursday to Sunday total sales. Customers are changing their behaviour, coming out more often and increasing their spend per head.” The Eat Out To Help Out programme saw turnover across the JAT estate increase by 43% since pubs reopened post lock-down. Star Pubs & Bars owns 2,500 pubs, of which about 130 operate on its JAT model.
Papa John’s continues to see sales soar as international like-for-likes jump: Papa John’s has continued to see sales soar with like-for-likes in North America up 24.2% for the period between 27 July and 23 August. The company, which had a record-breaking second quarter, also saw international like-for-like sales jump from 6% in June to 23.3% in the reported period. “Papa John’s sales, driven by product innovation, remained strong in August,” president and chief executive Rob Lynch said. “As we have added new customers throughout 2020, our customer satisfaction and brand affinity scores also continue rising. Our international business gained further momentum in August too and continues to improve as more countries across the globe open back up for business.” As of the third week in August, 150 of the company’s 2,100 international stores remain closed, mostly in areas of Europe and Latin America, as recovery from the pandemic continues. Papa John’s also reiterated it would be continuing to release monthly updates as “the uncertainty and volatility related to the pandemic” continued.
Treetop Adventure Golf tees up Birmingham site for fourth venue: Discovery Adventure Golf, a partnership between former Goldman Sachs entrepreneur Elizabeth Stanway and experienced leisure operator Chris Richards, has secured a site for its Treetop Adventure Golf concept in Birmingham. The site – its fourth in total – will open at the Bullring shopping centre in the spring following an investment of more than £2.5m. Treetop Adventure Golf has signed a 25-year lease for the former Forever21 unit with landlord Hammerson. The site will offer two indoor 18-hole mini golf courses – the Tropical Trail and Ancient Explorer – as well as a bonus 19th hole that gives guests the chance to win a free round. The food and drink offer will include pizza from “Pizza Cabana”, cocktails and mocktails from The Thirsty Toucan bar, as well as coffee from the Rainforest Roast Cafe. Stanway said: “The Bullring is a landmark location and we can’t wait to be a part of the fantastic offering.” Iain Mitchell, UK commercial director at Hammerson, added: “It’s clear now, more than ever, consumers are looking for a memorable experience, something they can share with their friends and family. Treetop Adventure Golf delivers that in spades, and I am certain it will be a great addition to Bullring. It’s a challenging time for the retail and hospitality sectors, but the investment Treetop is making in the site highlights that strong brands with a distinctive offer are still seeking growth opportunities.” Treetop Adventure Golf also operates sites in Cardiff, Leicester and Manchester.
Whitbread increases discount for NHS and front-line workers: Whitbread is offering an increased discount for Blue Light Card members of up to 33% off their food bill this September. The offer is exclusive to Blue Light members who dine in any of its restaurants, UK-wide, on presentation of their membership card. The increase in discount is also open to Defence Privilege Card holders. Only one card per party is required though a minimum purchase of two main meals from the main restaurant menu must be made. Phil Birbeck, managing director of Whitbread Restaurants, said: “Those working in the NHS and all the public services dedicate their lives to helping others and, since the start of the pandemic, it has made us all appreciate their work more now than ever. Now our restaurants are open again we want to show our thanks.” The Blue Light Card is available to those working in the NHS, emergency services, social care sector and armed forces.
Signature Living announces deal to ‘protect all areas’ of the business: Aparthotel firm Signature Living has thrashed out a deal with investors “to protect business” and plans to open four hotels and create 500 jobs. Owner Lawrence Kenwright said the deal will help refinance parent company Signature Living Hotel Ltd, parts of which fell into administration during the past 12 months. A company statement read: “We have decided to align ourselves with a group of our investors by creating two new companies that will house a range of assets along with our trading businesses. These new companies will also be exploring funding options to buy back those assets that have been placed into administration. Put simply, this new structure will see Signature Living continue to grow, continue to deliver wonderfully unique experiences for its customers, continue to create new jobs and deliver new hotels and developments.” The statement said there are plans to open four more hotels and create 500 jobs within the next six months, and added: “We believe our future is now stronger than ever.”
Inn Collection Group launches recruitment campaign focusing on flexible working, creating more than 200 jobs: The Inn Collection Group has launched a recruitment campaign that centres on flexible working for staff and is creating more than 200 jobs. The company is rolling out its INNtelligent campaign across the group’s 13 pubs with rooms in Northumberland, County Durham, Yorkshire and the Lake District. Flexible working hours and a raft of employee benefits, including free online training, bonuses plus family and friends’ discount, are key features of the campaign. In Cumbria alone, the group is offering more than 200 full and part-time positions. Managing director Sean Donkin said: “Our INNtelligent campaign is all about building a happy, skilled team across our inns. We want to dispel the old school mentality that jobs in hospitality equate to long, unsociable hours, working every weekend and low rates of pay. INNtelligent recognises people are individuals with differing needs and requirements when it comes to work. We are offering people more flexibility with full and part-time positions in roles ranging from chefs and kitchen opportunities through to housekeeping, maintenance and front of house. It’s all about working with people to find solutions that are a fit for everyone.” The Alchemy-backed group has invested more than £100,000 in free, online training for its workforce, including a bespoke training app that takes staff on a learning journey, from initial induction to core modules such as food hygiene and customer service, up to management level.
Meatless Farm launches plant-based drive-thru: Meatless Farm has launched a pop-up drive-thru diner targeting meat eaters. Taking place at the American Car Wash in Hackney, east London, the stand-out item on the menu is the McBluffin – a plant-based take on the McDonald’s breakfast staple. However the drive-thru is not just for cars – bikes and walkers are welcome with dedicated service lanes. Meatless Farm has collaborated with street food, burger maestros, Mother Flipper, to recreate its classic mighty meaty menu but without the meat. The drive-thru will run from Wednesday (26 August) to Monday (31 August). Meatless Farm founder Morten Toft-Bech said: “We’ve been working hard over many years to perfect our original burger patty recipe. Our unique blending process uses ingredients like pea protein alongside other plant-based goodness to create a remarkably meaty experience. The only way to get the world eating more sustainably is to make delicious food. We hope that our drive-thru is another step towards making plant-based a preference rather than an option.” Meatless Farm claims if everyone in the UK swapped just one more red meat meal to a plant-based meal per week, it could cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 8.4% – the equivalent of taking 16 million cars off the road.
Halewood to shut Huyton site and make redundancies: Halewood Wines & Spirits will close its Merseyside headquarters as covid-19 continues to crunch sales. The company will give employees the opportunity to apply for voluntary redundancies while the business seeks alternative warehouse facilities “within a 15-mile radius” of its site in Huyton. The company, whose core products include Whitley Neill gin, Liverpool Gin, Crabbie’s and Dead Man’s Fingers rum, said: “We are committed to our ongoing strategy of building a range of premium artisanal spirits with strong provenance. However, the impact of covid-19 and the recent abolition of duty dilution has had a major impact on our sales mix, meaning our carbonated drinks have become less profitable. Consequently, we are considering outsourcing Lambrini to a contract packer, and moving the production and bottling of Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer to our manufacturing site in Chorley.” However, Halewood claimed it is enjoying “strong international growth” for its premium brands. The current Huyton site is a 30-acre facility with six bottling lines, capable of producing 28m cases per year. Some operation roles are expected to transfer to the business’s Chorley site in Lancashire.
Neighbourhood cafe Beam to open third London site, in Notting Hill next month:Independent neighbourhood cafe Beam is pressing ahead with plans to open its third London site, in Notting Hill, next month. Beam focuses on healthy breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes inspired by Mediterranean and British cuisine. The site in Westbourne Grove, which will launch on Monday, 7 September, will feature mid-century modern interiors to create a “warm, cosy and chic vibe”. The Beam menu includes goat’s cheese and beetroot benedict, Turkish eggs and a vegan breakfast alongside halloumi wraps, gluten-free buttermilk pancakes and brioche French toast. Family-run Beam made its debut in Crouch End in 2013, opening a second site, in Highbury, five years later. Founders Ozgur and Sidar Akyuz said: “We are excited to bring Beam to west London. We hope to provide locals with a space to catch up with friends and family over breakfast and brunch.”
Beavertown opens ‘London’s largest brewery’: London-based brewer Beavertown, which sold a minority stake to Heineken in 2018, has opened the “capital’s largest brewery” in an expansion that will create 150 more jobs. The £40m from the Heineken investment has funded the site in Enfield, dubbed Beaverworld, which will make 90 million pints annually as Beavertown increases its capacity tenfold. Builders started work on the site early last year and the brewery is recruiting 150 more staff as it starts selling its first beers produced at the brewery. Founder Logan Plant said the expansion would help drive his aim of getting the beer “in the hands of people in every pub on every street corner”. “It’s been quite the journey to turn this from home brewing at the kitchen table to making beer in London’s biggest brewery,” he told PA. “It’s been three years in the planning, from when we needed to expand from the Tottenham Hale brewery. This is even bigger than we first planned and really does show the leaps and bounds we’ve been able to make.” Plant said about 85% of its revenue was cut off after pubs and restaurants were forced to close, but revenues have steadily improved in recent weeks after hospitality businesses reopened. Plant said: “Covid-19 has absolutely had an impact but we are seeing signs it will shift back towards a more normal pattern.” Jochen Van Esch, craft development director for Heineken added: “Logan and his team of highly creative craft visionaries will be able to experiment and collaborate with other brewers and share knowledge, ultimately adding excitement to the British beer scene, value to pubs and more choice for beer lovers.”
 
Hollywood Bowl opens new £2.8m York site: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, has opened a new site in York following a £2.8m investment. The 24-lane site forms part of the 28,000 square foot York Stadium leisure complex and sits alongside a range of other food and drink operators. The new Hollywood Bowl, which has created 30 jobs, features plush furnishings, contemporary American decor, four exclusive VIP lanes and an American-style diner. In accordance with coronavirus-safe conditions, booking slots are less frequent to control capacity, with only alternate lanes in use, and amusement machines – as well as bar and dining seating – are spaced out.
Bespoke reopens Warwickshire hotel following £5.6m refurbishment: Independent hotel group Bespoke has reopened the Billesley Manor hotel in Warwickshire following a £5.6m refurbishment. The 16th century manor house hotel near Stratford-upon-Avon has been transformed during lock-down, with upgrades made to its Stuart Restaurant as well as the majority of its 71 bedrooms. General manager Stephen Fearnley said: “The unprecedented closure of the hotel has, of course, been both challenging and disappointing. However, we’ve remained positive by channelling our energy into our refurbishment programme, using this period as a time for transformation and improvement so that guests will have an even more enjoyable experience.” The hotel’s spa and leisure facilities have also reopened in line with the government’s current guidelines to include the treatment rooms, heated indoor pool and fitness centre.