Industry pays tribute to Gary Rhodes: The industry has been paying tribute to Michelin-starred chef Gary Rhodes following the shock news he passed away in Dubai on Tuesday (26 November) at the age of 59. Rhodes, who moved to Dubai in 2011, where he ran two restaurants, died peacefully with wife Jennie by his side. A family statement read: “The Rhodes family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of beloved husband, father and brother, Gary Rhodes OBE.” Gordon Ramsay tweeted: “We lost a fantastic chef today in Gary Rhodes. He was a chef who put British cuisine on the map. Sending all the love and prayers to your wife and kids. You’ll be missed.” Jamie Oliver posted on Instagram: “Gary was a fantastic chef and incredible ambassador for British cooking. He was a massive inspiration to me as a young chef. He reimagined modern British cuisine with elegance and fun. Rest in peace, chef.” The Michelin Guide called Rhodes an “inspirational chef”, adding: “British gastronomy owes him a huge debt.” Rhodes trained under Brian Turner at the Capital before becoming head chef of the Greenhouse restaurant in Mayfair in 1990, where he gained his second Michelin star six years later. Renowned for reviving classic British dishes, the chef opened City Rhodes in 1997 followed by Rhodes Twenty Four. He also fronted several television shows and published a number of cookbooks. He was made an OBE in 2006. In a recent interview the chef revealed his plans to revisit TV series Rhodes Around Britain to see “how the UK and its culinary scene have changed”.
Som Saa launches £200,000 crowdfunding campaign to open second London site and build platform for further concepts: Thai restaurant Som Saa has launched a £200,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to open a second London site and build a platform from which to explore “future concepts such as food halls, grab-and-go sites and takeaway brands”. Som Saa founders – MasterChef finalist Andy Oliver and fellow chef Mark Dobbie – are offering 6.91% equity in return for investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £2.69m. The company reported £273,000 Ebitda in the trailing 12 months to the end of October 2019 at its Spitalfields site, with £1.95m turnover in 2018/2019. The company said it was free of long-term debt and had more than £500,000 cash in the bank and more than 27,000 followers on Instagram. Having operated as a pop-up in London Fields, Som Saa opened its debut permanent site in Spitalfields in April 2016 after raising £700,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The pitch states: “With our second site we want to bring the Som Saa experience to a wider audience and at an even better price point. The menu will be focused on street food classics and Thai drinking snacks. The food will be as good as Som Saa but in a more informal, communal environment. Our new concept will be innovative and exciting with a street food-focused menu. We want the food, drinks and experience to remain at the highest quality but have designed the menu to be more efficient to prepare and serve at a fantastic price point. To maximise the number of guests we can serve, we are looking at central London locations with a minimum of 80 seats. By taking our experience and track record of offering exceptional-quality Thai food and applying it to a more efficient and scalable menu, we intend to stand alongside industry friends such as Bao, Padella and Flat Iron. Ultimately, we believe this will feed through to healthy margin, establish a model for further growth and build a platform from which to explore future concepts such as food halls, grab-and-go sites and takeaway brands.”
Chilango postpones AGM: Mexican brand Chilango has postponed its annual general meeting amid continued questions over its future. Chilango is in talks with restructuring firm RSM to secure its long-term future and is almost eight weeks late posting its accounts to Companies House. The company, which runs 12 restaurants in London, Manchester and Birmingham, has raised £5.8m from the sale of two mini-bonds – dubbed “Burrito Bonds” – to about 1,500 small investors. The Financial Conduct Authority has announced a ban on the marketing of some mini-bonds to retail investors but, as funds raised through Chilango’s bonds were used to finance the company directly, they wouldn’t be covered by the ban. The AGM, which was scheduled for Friday (29 November), will now take place on Thursday, 19 December to ensure the company can provide a “full update”, reports City AM. Mini-bonds allow investors to essentially buy company debt for a set period in exchange for regular interest payments. More than 700 investors backed Chilango’s first bond, which was raised in 2014. Its most recent bond – promising an 8% return for four years – closed in April 2018. The offering was oversubscribed and exceeded its initial £1m target to raise £3.7m from almost 800 retail investors. The minimum investment for the bond was £500 but 194 backers invested more than £10,000, qualifying them for a “free weekly burrito for the duration of the loan”. Accounts for Chilango were due to be filed with Companies House by the end of September but are marked as “overdue” online. A Chilango spokesman previously told City AM it was working with its auditor Grant Thornton to get the accounts published “as soon as possible”.
Turquoise secures former Café Rouge site in Highgate: Turquoise Kitchen, the Turkish concept from the group behind The Real China, is to open in Highgate, London. Propel understands the six-strong business will replace the site in South Grove that was formerly occupied by Café Rouge. Earlier this year Propel revealed Turquoise Kitchen would replace the ASK Italian in Guildford’s Chapel Street after the Azzurri Group-backed brand closed its site following 13 years of trading in the town. Turquoise, which offers charcoal-grilled meat, mezze, salad and Turkish pizza, is aiming to capitalise on a lack of mass-market national operators specialising in Turkish cuisine. The company is backed by HJ Tenger Holdings, which operates The Real China buffet brand, pan-Asian buffet concept Kungfu, and Tang’s, an even larger Chinese buffet format. AG&G is understood to have acted on the Guildford deal. DMR Property acts for HJ Tenger. According to its website, DMR has been instructed to secure ten more restaurants for Turquoise in the next 12 months. AG&G is understood to have acted on the Highgate deal.
Former Carluccio’s operations director joins Whistle Punks: Former Carluccio’s operations director Chris Poole has joined urban axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks as head of operations. Poole left Carluccio’s earlier this year after more than ten years with the company, including stints as regional director and central operations director. Last week Whistle Punks, which is backed by Edition Capital, opened its fourth site, at the former Panache nightclub in All Saints Street, Bristol. The venue features six axe-throwing lanes and offers alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. On the food side, it is working with Bristol-based pizza brand Pizzarova. Jools Whitehorn and John Nimmons launched Whistle Punks in 2016, with its other sites in Birmingham, Manchester and London. Earlier this year it secured £1.5m of new investment from Edition Capital, which will enable the business to expand across the UK as the popularity of alternative sports and experiential leisure continues to rise.
Simit Sarayi founder launches food retail concept in Westfield London: Haluk Okutur, founding partner, honorary president and board member of global Turkish cafe concept Simit Sarayi, has launched food retail concept Kernel & Roast in Westfield London. Focusing on natural and organic produce, the store will also feature a coffee offer highlighting local coffee roasters, with the first companies named as Caravan, Modern Standard and 39 Steps. The plan is to introduce new brands every four to five months. Propel understands marketing and brand expert Mark McCulloch, creative agency WE ARE Spectacular and Kate Skerritt, formerly of Starbucks, Le Pain Quotidien and Pret A Manger, worked on the concept’s launch. Simit Sarayi operates more than 500 stores across 25 countries.
Australian brand Butcher and the Farmer makes UK debut, at O2 Arena:Australian brand Butcher and the Farmer has made its UK debut by opening at London’s O2 Arena. The farm-to-table, shared-dining concept was created by Steve Flood and Will Stewart, who won competitive cooking television show My Kitchen Rules in 2015. The brand operates two sites in Australia, with a third “opening soon”. The 266-cover restaurant has launched in a 6,996 square foot space in The Icon Outlet at The O2 as the brand’s “first step in its international expansion”. Marion Dillon, leasing director for the O2 and Icon Outlet, said: “Securing the international debut for Butcher and the Farmer at the O2 highlights our appeal and trend-led food and beverage offering.” Lunson Mitchenall and Davis Coffer Lyons are the F&B agents for the O2, while CBRE and CWM are the retail leasing agents.
Mexican chef secures debut solo site, in London: Mexican chef Santiago Lastra, who has worked in some of the world’s best restaurants, has secured a site in London for his first solo restaurant. Kol will open in Seymour Street, Marylebone, in March offering Mexican influences but celebrating the “finest of British ingredients and craftsmanship”. The two-storey, 4,600 square foot site will house a 56-cover dining room, open kitchen and tortilla station on the first floor. The venue will offer a set menu or a la carte dishes, with a wine list focusing on biodynamic wine from central and eastern Europe. Specialist mezcal bar Mezcaleria will be on the lower ground floor and also offer rare agave spirits alongside cocktails. A 20-cover chef’s table will be next to the bar. Lastra first came to the attention of the London food scene during his residency at Marylebone restaurant Carousel in 2016 followed by a pop-up at Tate Modern the following year. He has also worked at Mugaritz near San Sebastian and Bror in Copenhagen.
Michelin-starred chef to head kitchen as Bancone expands for second London site: Bancone, the all-day fresh pasta concept led by Will Ellner and backed by David Ramsey, will open its second London site, in Soho next month. The 4,000 square foot venue will launch at the former Foxlow site in Lower James Street on Thursday, 12 December with the kitchen led by Bancone’s new culinary director, Michelin-starred chef Claudio Melis. The restaurant will feature several “banconi” (counters) for about 90 diners, window seating and an olive tree as a centrepiece. The large basement will feature a cocktail bar and private dining for 16 people, while the whole space will be available to hire. Ellner said: “It is every restaurateur’s dream to open a restaurant in one of the buzziest areas of London and with Claudio boosting the team we’re in a really strong position to enjoy a successful foray into London’s restaurant heartland. We can’t wait to bring our beautiful pasta to new audiences.” Bancone launched in William IV Street in Covent Garden in June 2018.
Daniel Humm to take over Claridge’s restaurant next month: Daniel Humm, the chef behind New York restaurants Eleven Madison Park and NoMad, is to take over operations of the main restaurant at Claridge’s in London next month. Named Davies and Brook after the streets in which the Mayfair hotel is located, the project will replace Fera at Claridge’s – Simon Rogan’s Michelin-starred restaurant that closed at the end of 2018. The space also hosted Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s. Dinner service will launch on Monday, 9 December followed by lunch service three days later. The kitchen will be headed by executive chef Dmitri Magi, former chef de cuisine of Eleven Madison Park. Humm said: “Having the opportunity to bring our cuisine and hospitality to the most storied hotel in the world is a remarkable feeling and a dream come true. On a more personal level this is my first time opening a restaurant in Europe, a place I left so many years ago to forge a career in the US. I worked at Claridge’s when I was 15 years old and it left an indelible mark on me. Claridge’s has always been a place I’ve felt connected to so being able to come full circle is really emotional and exciting. It feels likes coming home.”
Roadchef rolls out coffee cup recycling in partnership with Costa: Motorway services operator Roadchef has introduced 87 more Costa Coffee cup recycling bins across its 30 locations as part of efforts to divert waste from landfill and recycle as much as possible. The move follows a trial at Roadchef’s Sandbach services on the M6. Roadchef chief executive Mark Fox said: “Working closely with Costa to recycle disposable cups takes us another step closer to becoming the first motorway services operator to achieve zero landfill status.” A Costa Coffee spokesman added: “We are continuously working to drive change in the industry to ensure more takeaway cups are disposed of and recycled, inside and outside our stores.” Other Roadchef waste-cutting initiatives include turning 220 tonnes of coffee grounds into biofuel and buying all energy from renewable sources, including on-site solar panels.
Joël Robuchon International to launch deli concept in London next week: Joël Robuchon International is to launch a deli concept in London next week. The opening of Le Deli Robuchon in Piccadilly on Saturday, 7 December will be the second London concept launched by the company in five weeks – it opened Le Comptoir Robuchon at the Clarges Street development in Mayfair on 1 November. Le Deli will offer a “casual yet sophisticated” all-day dining space with eat-in and takeaway options plus a patisserie. There will also be a selection of products available to buy, while the off-site boulangerie will offer fresh pastries, sandwiches, salads, afternoon tea, and cheese and charcuterie boards. Le Deli will offer a mixture of high-top and traditional seating surrounded by decorative displays and a central retail hub. Robuchon, who died in August 2018, was the most decorated chef in the history of the Michelin Guide, at one time holding 32 stars. The openings herald a return of the Robuchon name to London after L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon closed earlier this year.
Belfast-based brothers open second restaurant, plan third: Belfast-based brothers Gerard and Christopher McQuillan are to open a second site for their restaurant concept Freight. They will launch Freight 2 in Lisburn Road on Friday (29 November)and have ambitions for a third venue. The brothers opened their first cafe and restaurant inside shipping containers in CS Lewis Square in 2017. Christopher McQuillan told the Belfast Telegraph: “The restaurant in Lisburn Road was never meant to be Freight 2. We had a different concept in mind and the builders were due to start on it three weeks ago. However, the Saturday before they started we had a massive queue out the door at Freight. I said to Gerard we needed to open a Freight 2. He agreed so we have put the other concept on the back burner and plan to open it as a third restaurant as soon as we can.” The brothers’ journey began with a series of pop-ups called The Gypsy Kitchen, while their relationship with Belfast community organisation East Side Partnership led to them taking over the shipping containers.
Catering company founders acquire Somerset village pub with rooms: The founders of London-based catering, consultancy and events company LucasGardiner have acquired a pub with rooms in the Somerset village of Holcombe. Caroline Gardiner and Alan Lucas have bought the 11-bedroom Holcombe Inn for an undisclosed sum in a deal brokered by agent Christie & Co. The duo founded LucasGardiner in 2014, with the business growing rapidly since. Gardiner trained at L’Ecole de Cuisine Francaise in Sussex before embarking on her career in catering. Lucas has more than 20 years’ experience of fine dining cuisine having worked in restaurants and hotels, including the Mandarin Oriental. Gardiner will run the operations and logistics side of the Holcombe Inn, while Lucas and his team of chefs will focus on food production. They said: “The plan was always to move away from the hustle and bustle of London and create something unique and food-led in the countryside. We were lucky to find The Holcombe Inn, which is an established food-led business with a great team and ethos.” Christie Finance arranged finance for the purchase.
Puttshack makes central London debut with Bank launch: Mini-golf concept Puttshack has opened its first site in central London and third in total. The site at 1 Poultry in the City of London has capacity for 650 people and features three nine-hole courses using technology that combines automatic tracking with game-scoring via the golf ball. There is also a food menu exclusive to the venue, including vegan and vegetarian dishes, grilled sharing platters and cocktails. Puttshack said it was working with DJs to provide an “alternative late-night experience in the City”, with an aesthetic that makes it “perfect for social media”. The site, accessible through Bank underground station, follows Puttshack’s venues in Westfield White City and Intu Lakeside. This is the first opening since Puttshack announced rapid expansion plans following an equity raise of £30m in June with lead investor Promethean Investment. Puttshack has plans for further openings, including at Intu Watford in the summer. Last week the company secured its first US site, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Las Iguanas launches loyalty programme and pay-at-table option: Las Iguanas, the Latin American restaurant and bar group owned by Casual Dining Group, has launched a loyalty programme and pay-at-table option. The brand has partnered with loyalty and payment app Loke to offer the service at its 57 restaurants. Las Iguanas marketing director Lucy Harwood said: “We are delighted with our new loyalty scheme, which ticks all the boxes and enables us to reward regular customers with quirky perks and freebies – Las Iguanas style. The addition of pay at table, giving guests real-time access to their bill and a speedy way to pay and leave, has already proved a hit.”
Hull-based cafe and bottle shop opens second site, in Grimsby: Hull-based cafe and bottle shop Vittles & Company has opened a second site, in Grimsby. Owner Richard Rockett has launched the venue on the corner of Brighowgate and Wellowgate. Billed as an all-day cafe bar specialising in craft beer, cider, wine, premium gin and spirits, the range also includes ale from local, national and international breweries and home-made food. Rockett also plans to host kitchen takeovers by some of the town’s street food chefs. He is opening the site to take advantage of evening trade as his outlet at Hull Trinity Market, which launched in May 2018, is restricted by the market’s 5pm closure. Rockett founded the business after spending five years as a home brewer. He told Grimsby Live: “The plan was always to focus on the partnership between beer and food. Some of the beer we brew is paired to a particular dish. A second business allows us to spread our wings a bit.”
KFC launches Christmas burger across UK estate: KFC has launched a Christmas burger in the UK. The Festive Burger features an original-recipe chicken fillet, hash brown, sage-and-onion stuffing mayo, cranberry dressing and a layer of cheese. The burger is available for delivery exclusively through Deliveroo until 1 January. Kate Wall, head of advertising and retail for KFC UK & Ireland, said: “We know it’s not 25 December yet but we wanted to give some die-hard KFC fans their first Christmas gift of the year.”
Staycity launches property development joint venture: Aparthotel operator Staycity Group is launching a property development joint venture. Realstay Developments will be headed by real estate investment specialist Frank Dowling. As managing director, Dowling will work with Staycity Group chief executive Tom Walsh, who will continue in his role as well as becoming executive chairman of Realstay Developments. Dowling joins from Ireland’s National Treasury Management Agency, where he has worked since 2011. Staycity chairman Paul Dowling, non-executive director Stephen Vernon, and development director Barry Hickey complete the Realstay board line-up. Realstay Developments will acquire and develop freehold sites on its own or in joint ventures. Projects already under way include the £203m, 620-bedroom aparthotel and Premier Inn complex in Paddington, London, in which Realstay is a 50% equity partner alongside forward funding from M&G, and the €70m (£60m), 246-apartment Staycity development in Dublin’s Francis Street in partnership with global asset manager DWS. Both are scheduled for completion in 2021. Dowling said: “We are seeing a number of interesting opportunities in major cities in the UK and mainland Europe. The team and I are well placed to capitalise.” Walsh added: “Realstay Developments offers several benefits to Staycity. As well as helping grow the number of rooms in the company’s pipeline it will help us access attractive locations through a variety of channels and at an earlier stage of the development process.”
St Helens-based operator opens second site: St Helens-based operator Gary Wright has opened his second site in the Merseyside town. Wright has relaunched the Royal Alfred in Bickerstaffe Street in partnership with Steve Goodman. The pub has undergone a refurbishment downstairs with new furniture, cellar and dispensing equipment. The pair plan to add accommodation on the upper floor during the next couple of months. Wright also operates The Talbot Ale House in Duke Street. He told the St Helens Star: “I always wanted this pub – I think it has so much potential. We are going to have a partnership loyalty scheme with The Talbot.”
Maidstone leisure park featuring F&B tenants sells for £19m: A leisure park in Maidstone, Kent, which is home to sites from sector companies including Greene King, The Restaurant Group and Gourmet Burger Kitchen, has been sold for £19m. Lockmeadow, which also houses an Odeon cinema and Hollywood Bowl, spans 141,329 square feet. The site’s long leasehold interest was acquired by Maidstone Borough Council in a deal advised by ESH. The authority previously owned the freehold. Mark Green, director of finance and business improvement at the council, said: “The complex makes a huge contribution to the Maidstone economy and we plan to manage it effectively to ensure it’s a key destination. By investing in the site we’ll generate a financial return in line with our commercial investment strategy. In addition, taking control of a centrally located site that plays a key role in Maidstone’s leisure offer to visitors will help the council realise its priority of making the borough a thriving place.”